Charles Forbes (Charlie) Bax 1860-1938

Charlie Bax was a well recognised personality of Mount Pleasant in the early 1900s. There are photos of him sitting on a chair in front of his home and workplace, the two storey building on the corner of Melrose Street and Saleyard Road. Born at Wall Station, River Murray, his parents, George and Mary (nee Strapp), had married in Adelaide in 1850. George had been born in Sydney, with father Stephen, a convict, arriving in New South Wales in 1813 on ship Fortune, and earning his Ticket of Leave in 1828. Stephen’s wife, Mary had arrived in the colony on ship Kangaroo in 1815, with their eldest child. They went on to have six further children in Australia and Stephen, who was trained as a Baker, ran a successful business as a Baker and Confectioner, in George Street, Sydney. Son, George came to South Australia overland with cattle around 1840, and worked at Wall Station near Mannum, and later moving to Terlinga Station, owned by John Baker. After the death of George in 1867, wife Mary was left with several young children and became homestead cook for John Baker on Terlinga Station. George and his brothers were great horsemen, and George worked for the Bakers at Terlinga Station, becoming Overseer for Allan Baker before moving onto becoming a stock agent and auctioneer at Mount Pleasant.

Charlie Bax and Allan Baker were of similar age, and were great friends with a knowledge and love of horses. Charlie and his brothers, and then his sons, were regular participants at the Mount Pleasant Show, performing perfect riding displays often in a daring manner.

Charlie Bax was well recognised for his ‘booming voice’ as auctioneer.

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954) Wednesday 14 September 1938 p 31 Article Illustrated

…Mr. Yates recalled that more than 50 years ago his father bought the cattle at Baker’s Terlinga station. He went up there, and Charlie Bax helped him to get them away. Charlie said he used to drive the Misses Baker from Morialta to Adelaide behind a pair of greys. Still going strong at 79. Charlie told us that he sold 200 pigs in an hour last Tuesday, and then went and conducted a clearing sale. …

Chronicle (Adelaide, SA : 1895 – 1954) Thursday 25 April 1935 p 66 Article Illustrated

DESCRIBED by those who know him as a man with a tremendous heart, and one of the best chaps who have ever walked, Mr. Charlie Bax, of Mount Pleasant, is a marvel at 75. He is the oldest salesman in active Service in South Australia for Goldsbrough, Mort and Co.   You can always know when Charlie Bax is about by his powerful, resounding, high-pitched voice, which, in close conversation, though, is as gentle and persuasive as a doctor’s. He is one of   the best-known men in the Hills district. Meeting Mr. Bax recently, I asked him how he was getting on. ‘I feel wonderful,’ he said. ‘My ankle goes crook sometimes; I can sell all day long. I had a great clearing sale at Mount Torrens a few weeks ago. About 25 or 26 years ago. I sold for two days without a spell at the Talunga Hotel. I started at 11 the first morning, and sold until 1 o’clock, and never stopped. Then I sold from 2 till 6; started again at 7, and kept going until 10 o’clock without a break. Next morning I started at 11.30, and finished up standing on the bar counter at 3 o’clock selling imperial gallons. I have been auctioneering for 35 years, and of all the sales I have conducted I do not think I have missed four.’ Charlie Bax has been a good show ring judge. He officiated for 16 years continuously at Swan Reach, and. has acted too at Mannum, Woodside, and Tanunda. He recalls the time when he and Mick Guthrie on their way back from Swan Reach show, narrowly escaped driving into the River Murray at Walker’s Plat. But for a girl’s warning not to drive between two upright posts, the two men might have been drowned in 20 ft. of water. Here is a racing incident recorded by Mr. Bax:— ‘I rode in the Mannum Steeplechase one day.- Going to the first fence, the horse baulked, the girth broke, and I went over his head. I picked up my saddle, threw it on his withers, went the course, and ran second. ‘Oh, some years before the war I and my three eldest sons rode four chestnuts in the section fours and made hacks of the others! I sent three boys to the war, and lost the lot.’ Mr. Bax attended the Oakbank races for 49 years without a break. Mr. Lachlan McBean told me that he can remember when Charlie Bax, whom he admired greatly, shepherded sheep in his bare feet in the hill country for 5/ a week.

When the Bakers sold Terlinga Station in 1899, the Bax family moved to the township of Mount Pleasant, renting the Union Bank building on the corner of Melrose Street and Saleyard Road. They ran cows in the back yard, with Mrs Bax making cheese and hawking it around the neighbourhood.

In 1901 stock sales were being held twice monthly at Mount Pleasant, by Henry Giles, and monthly by John Paltridge and H. C. Mengerson, with Charlie Bax  conducting a sale on behalf of Henry Giles in October 1901, but bad weather caused the sales to be poor. Not daunted, however, Charlie bought Henry Gile’s stock agency in December 1901, and conducted his first sale in January 1902.  By May 1902 he was conducting sales for Bagot Shakes & Lewis, being appointed as manager. His reputation built, with the skill of the auctioneer at both sundry and stock sales. Bagots built new stock yards on the property of the Show Society and these were used for the regular stock sales. In the meantime Elders also set up a branch in the Mount Pleasant district, but not until 1914 did they conduct sales.

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954) Wednesday 9 November 1938 p 27 Article Illustrated

Charlie Bax Passes.

AND so Mr. Charlie Bax has passed on; died in his sleep during an afternoon siesta yesterday at his home at Mount Pleasant!  Miss Bax telephoned Max Flannagan to ask him to let her brother George know. Max thoughtfully passed the news on to me. Well, I must say that South Australia has lost a striking personality. Last time I met Charlie Bax was at Adelaide Royal Show when he came up to shake hands with his old friend Tom Yates, and have a chat with us.

He told us how he had had a busy week, sold stock in the morning and conducted a clearing sale in the afternoon. He was a loyal servant of his company, Goldsbrough. Mort & Co.. and had an honesty of purpose which we admired. His quiet voice, rising to a crescendo when necessary, his breezy individuality, made him friends of everybody. No longer shall we see him relaxing on a bentwood chair on the footpath in front of his two-storey office and home at Mount Pleasant. No longer shall we hear his quick and humorous repartee at sales and shows. Charlie Bax was a genuine son of the country, liked far and wide for his naturalness. There is a story that once when a former Governor was visiting “Rosebank.” Mount Pleasant, His Excellency expressed a wish to meet Mr. Bax. Mr. R. T. Melrose took the King’s representative into the township, and Charlie was found. Invited to enjoy informal hospitality, Charlie saw one of his old friends nearby, and shouted as they entered a local hostelry, “Come and ‘ave a drink with the Boss of the State!”‘

The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 – 1954) Monday 14 November 1938 p 21 Article Illustrated

Tributes To Charlie Bax

FIRST thing we spoke about when I met Ben Bartholomew was the passing of veteran Charlie Bax, than whom there was nobody more widely known in the hills district. ‘He was a wonder,’ Ben said. ‘I saw him sell all the calves and pigs at Goldsbrough’s last monthly sale. At his funeral the other day, I have never before seen so many men at a grave side. ‘After the funeral I went across to Rosebank to have a look at Mr. R. T. Melrose’s experimental oat crops— 16 varieties. They were beautiful.’ We walked across to the centre of the ring to shake hands with Mr. Herb Tolmer, who, with Mr. Tom Downer and Mr. A. Morcom. was acting as steward. Mr. Tolmer immediately referred to Charlie Bax; said he would miss his old friend. ‘He was a top-notch rough rider in his earlier days,’ he added. ‘Used a saddle with ordinary small knee pads, and no monkey strap. He used to break in thoroughbreds for the Hon. John Baker.’ Ben Bartholomew recalled when Charlie Bax used to bring a change of horses to Mount Pleasant from Allan Baker’s Terlinga station to go down to Morialta. ‘Bill Hoad told me that the old cottage the Bakers built for Charlie at Terlinga when he got married is still there.’ he said. ‘And do you remember when Charlie and his three sons rode in a hurdle race at Boundary Farm, out from Mount Pleasant, one Boxing Day?’ Mr. Tolmer remembered. Leaving the ring, we met Mr. Tom Yates in a car with Mr. A. J. Whiting. Mr. Yates said he was sorry he would never see Charlie Bax again— a really remarkable man.  Mr. Whiting said that Charlie had  a big following right up as far as Loxton.

References – The Quiet Waters By, by Reg Butler; newspapers