National Road Transport Hall of Fame winner John Franich enjoys the greener side of retirement

National Road Transport Hall of Fame winner John Franich enjoys the greener side of retirement

Welcoming the warmer weather is part of an annual ritual for retired truck driver-cum-market gardener John Franich.

When Community first caught up with the 73-year-old a few months ago, he was waiting for the ground to warm up at his Millendon property in the Swan Valley so he could plant water melons.

He was “hoeing out” weeds from under a row of vines next to the furrowed melon patch.

“They call it chipping,” he said.

“With a hoe; a lot of people just spray (the weeds) but I’m not a firm believer in that.

“I reckon it interferes with the vines, but everyone’s got their own ideas.”

The work is part of building his strength after a bout of prostate cancer.

“It pulled me down,” he said.

“I remember the doctor saying ‘We can’t operate, John. You’ve got the real heavy one; one little grain will kill you’.

“I said, ‘Just do what you want me to do’,” he laughed.

“But they got rid of it.”

The illness forced him to make a move on passing his general freight transport company over to his son Luke and came ahead of a special honour this year.

John was accepted into the National Road Transport Hall of Fame.

“I’ve had 10 trucks; 10 Volvos. And I’ve done a hell of a lot of kilometres,” he said.

“In the old days, 45, 50 years ago when I started, there were no roads at all. You used to just follow the creek beds.

“We got there; it was just something you enjoyed and I did it for 50 years. I was getting ready to get out and I got lumbered with this (prostate cancer), so I had to get out.”

He covered “all the Nor-West from Darwin down”, transporting “mining equipment for the gas pipes, anything they needed”.

As for the grapes he grows at Millendon, they are just for him and his family.

“I usually can’t sell these; this is an old type, not in demand anymore,” he said.

“Everyone’s into seedless now and these white grapes have got a seed. That’s the way it goes.

“See, they’ve got the Yankee stuff coming in from America and we can’t compete with them. They send hundreds of thousands of cases on a ship.”

His views on grapes aside, he still enjoys working the land.

“We still work it; it gives me a job,” he said.