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Year: 2018

Keith Bernard was born in Quirindi NSW on 8thSeptember 1932 and lived in Willow Tree for the next 70 years. Keith's father Siegfried was a pioneer of the transport industry in the Willow Tree area. Keith began driving trucks for his father as a teenager and at the age of only 23 had to take over the business after his father suffered bad health, then passing away in 1957.

Keith's wife Bernice became a partner in the business two years later and they traded as BJ & KF Bernard Carriers until February 1980.

Keith serviced the rural area of Willow Tree and the Liverpool Plains carrying stock, grain, wool, hay, farm machinery and much more. He continued the Cattle Creek mail service, first started by his father with horse and sulky in 1922, until 1974.

Willow Tree was a thriving rail centre, particularly in the 50's and 60's. Keith and his staff carried large amounts of wool and cattle from properties to the rail siding in Willow Tree.

Although having no trade training, Keith was a good bush mechanic and built most of his own rigid truck bodies and stock crates.

Poor roads in country areas and bad access to cattle yards were often a problem. Keith would regularly have trucks bogged or unable to reah teir destination. Steep winding roads in places like Hanging Rock and Chillcotts Creek were also a challenge, with Keith not knowing if I'll make it up the hill or not.

About 1933, Keith's father became an agent for Atlantic Union Oil, later to become Esso Australia. Keith continued and expanded the fuel distribution, delivering bulk fuel to farmers and other businesses from the Willow Tree depot. In 1976 Keith, Bernice and eldest son Philip took over the Esso distribution in Muswellbrook, trading as Bernards Fuel Supplies. In 1981 the second son Peter joined the business and from 1983 to 1986 the Bernards were also Esso agents in Tamworth. In 1991, when Esso Australia was sold to Mobil, the Bernard family were the longest serving Esso distributors in NSW, probably Australia.

Keith now lived in Thornton NSW, but still enjoys returning to Willow Tree and reminiscing about the trucking days.

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