Neville Preece

B. 1938

When I was 12 years old, I’d ride my pony to the racetrack at 4 o’clock in the morning, leading two racehorses from the stables to the track. I’d keep leading horses until 7 o’clock when I would jump on my pushbike to get home for a quick breakfast before heading off to school. After school, I worked at the chemist until 6 o’clock, stacking and washing all the pill bottles. I got married and worked on the family farm before getting a job at Beef City where I stayed for 25 years. For extra money, I cleaned at night and mowed lawns on the weekend. I saved as much money as I could. The bank gave us a 25-year loan for our first house but we paid it off in 10. I didn’t like debt over my head. When I retired, I joined St Vincent de Paul and volunteered there for nine years, organising deliveries, stock and other volunteers. One day, Senior Sergeant Scott McGrath knocked on my front door and asked if I’d like to be a Volunteer Policeman. I didn’t even know a role like that existed. I’d do security checks and comfort older people who had been robbed – all sorts of jobs. I met a lot of people and enjoyed what I did. People say I’m a likeable bloke but I think it’s because I like people. I started the first community street library in Toowoomba. People embraced it and donated their books – we didn’t have to buy one book over the years and it’s never been vandalised. It got that big that I had to build a second book cupboard just for children’s books. A six-year-old girl wrote me a letter once to tell me she found the fairy book she’d been searching for. I told her to keep it. Another man borrows a different book every second day. It’s helped a lot of people to access books. More have popped up over town since then. Nineteen years ago, I said to my neighbour, ‘why don’t we have a Christmas party?’ We started off with six people and now we get over 40 people to our annual street Christmas party. It’s a great chance to get to know people including the newcomers. When I meet people on the street, they’ll say ‘when’s our next party, Nev?’

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