Bert’s schooling ended abruptly, probably at the age of 13 or 14 around 1884 -1885. Most sons at that time would have been expected to work in their father’s business. Bert describes his first job in the Lone Hand Magazine of 1912.
From a newspaper report of 1883, we know Simon Levy (Bert’s father) had established a boot factory in industrial West Melbourne. (19 Howard Street according to a West Melbourne Heritage Review. Melb City Council)
That industrial action mentioned by Bert rolled on for nearly a decade after 1883 with Mr W. Trenwith and the Boot making union campaigning to end the use of ‘sweating’ where employers hired non skilled and non-union labour at much reduced rates. The term obviously referring to ‘sweat shops’. Simon Levy’s factory may have been in the firing line early in the dispute in 1883 however, it is not mentioned again in the Melbourne press. The focus of the strike action switched to Richmond and Collingwood boot operations and either the Levy Boot making operations came into line with union demands and banned sweating or there were bigger players that needed attention.
In moving from Ballarat in 1875, Simon Levy may have initially started boot making in Melbourne at 59-63 Cardigan Street, Carlton. Sands & McDougall Trade Directory lists Simon Levy, a boot maker at this address in 1880. There are a number of references in local and Jewish newspapers of the Levy children winning prizes etc and living in Carlton in the 1880s, possibly in Cardigan Street, however we do know the family later moved to a terrace house at No. 32 Story Street, Parkville.
Final paragraph of Bert’s piece in the Lone Hand Magazine in 1912. Bert’s father had passed away in 1904 not long after he had left for America. This was his first visit home to Australia in 8 years.