#ThrowbackThursday: Bega's Beekeepers on the Move identified

AS PART of Throwback Thursday recently, the BDN put a call out to anyone who could shed light on a 10-minute film that had surfaced in the National Film and Sound Archive made in 1947 called “Beekeeping on the Move”.

Specifically we asked if anyone could identify the two apiarists in the film, who with short pants and sleeves go about the business of bee keeping surrounded by the beautiful countryside of the Bega Valley.

The only identification of these two men was the name EE Abram, Calimpa Apiaries, Tanja Road, Bega, on their truck door.

A breakthrough was made when we spoke to veteran apiarist and ex-school science teacher Jim Collins, 86, earlier this week.

The two men are Ernie E Abrams and Ron Shuhkraft, both ex-servicemen and locals who worked at Calimpa Apiaries, which was owned by Abrams and was near the lookout on Doctor George Mountain.

Beekeeping on the Move (1947)

Abrams is the older man in the film, who was a digger in WW1 and was described as being a bit “wild” by Collins.

“He was big, tough, he was a real character,” said Collins.

Collins never knew Abrams’ wife, however Abrams did have a son who was sadly killed in WW2.

There were once plaques on memorial trees to youngsters killed in WW2 outside the Bega council chambers, which included Abrams’ son, however now unfortunately the trees and plaques have been removed.  

Abrams moved from the Bega Valley to an area outside of Sydney, before he passed away.

The younger man in the film is Shuhkraft, who was of German descent and fought in WW2 as one of the infamous “Rats of Tobruk” before moving to the Bega Valley and settling on Murrays Swamp Rd.

While Shuhkraft passed away about two years ago, he is survived by his wife Edna, son Graham and his daughter Fay.

Collins moved to the Bega Valley in 1950 before starting beekeeping two years later, and has fond memories of tending to hives alongside Shuhkraft, also of spending time at Calimpa Aviaries in the 1950s.

Collins began his hives with John Hodgeson, an English teacher from the UK, and they almost began a commercial business when together at the zenith of their beekeeping they owned 30 hives.

In the film, what seems remarkable is that both Abrams and Shuhkraft are wearing no protective clothing, but that is less remarkable to Mr Collins.

“We got used to getting around in shorts,” he said.

“When bees are full of honey they don’t sting.

“But if times are hard, and if you do something stupid like bump something, then they will take to you.”

It was passion, not dreams of wealth, that drove the apiarists, said Collins.

“It is a sophisticated form of animal husbandry, but there is no money in it,” he said.

Collins laments how today, commercial beekeeping has changed and not for the better.

“These days, the way they do it is pretty destructive.

“Some blocks have 3000 hives.

“I think it is environmentally destructive.”

Collins thinks the Bega Valley is a superb place for keeping bees as the flowers from eucalypt trees yield lots of honey, and a decent amount of honey has been collected from local apiarists for the last two years.

Collins keeps bees to this day, and has 20 hives on a property at Nutleys Creek Rd, Bermagui.

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