Bruce Cole – Local Legends

Comments (4) Interviews

Bruce Cole, owner of Hills in Hollywood and organiser of the United Disability Resources Expo tells us about his life.

Where were you born?

Paddington Hospital, August 1952.

What school did you attend?

After missing out on reform school, I attended Sir Joseph Banks Public; Mr. Barter was the boss. We used to chat regularly. He’d say hold out your hand Cole … higher. I’d pretend I never heard him.

What was your first paid employment?

I began an apprenticeship as an Auto Electrician. After 3 years my ohms and volts were not really suited, so I left and joined the NSW Police.

What were your aspirations when you were younger?

My cousin Warren Goodall was my idea of success. A biker, hot rod builder, Auto Electrician. He stuck it out – 45 years on he is still building hot rods at Rainbow Flat.

How did you meet your wife Margaret?

On the phone via my sister. Sandra worked for a carton company. Margaret was the purchasing Manager at Sara Lee cakes. Guess you need to ask them the details.

You operate two businesses … tell us what they are?

Hills in Hollywood is a bridal, bridesmaid, school formal dress shop, started by our sister in-law and twin sister. What makes us unique is we only stock Exclusive Gowns from designers in Hollywood. Our prices are competitive. Our bridal gowns were voted number 3 in the world.

We have dressed a lot of celebrities, including Miss Universe, Miss Teen Australia, television stars attending the Logies, Candice Rose, the Editor of Focus at a red carpet event.

What began as a home business has grown. We have sold gowns all over Australia, England, and Jakarta. Try www.hillsinhollywood.com

Our second job is organising another expo for people with disabilities and special needs.

Why did you and your wife Margaret decide to base yourself in Old Bar?

We had a hobby farm at Burrell Creek. I found my overall condition was deteriorating. An MRI x-ray found a Syrinx or cyst in my spine called a Syringomyelia. My original injury was diagnosed as incomplete fracture of the 5th and 6th cervical or C5/6. I had crushed the cord after diving into a pool. This cyst had grown, and the injury now started from C1 brain stem below my shoulders. I have had it surgically detethered a few times, but the odds aren’t good. In fact … they’re bloody awful. After a cervical injury, the persons suffers from Autonomic Dysreflexia. If not monitored, it will kill you.

My wife Margaret, children Cameron and Amanda were doing more and more for me. Cameron, a young builder should have been out enjoying himself on weekends; instead he stayed home and did farm stuff. Amanda the family scholar was either practicing music with Richard Crooks in his studio in Old Bar or working on her HSC. She obtained a terrific UAI. After a successful university degree she was invited back this year to do honors.

Infrequently Crooksie and I had a little drink of the amber. He mentioned that a friend had a house for sale down the road from him in Wyden Street, Old Bar. Wal Humphries was a complete quadriplegic and had sadly passed away. Sheryl, his wife and children decided to move on. After Wal’s accident, their house was renovated to be wheelchair accessible. All we had to do was move in. As usual I sat back like Old King Cole giving orders.

Your favourite places in the MGL?

I do have a little spot. Martine’s Café in Old Bar; it’s wheelchair friendly. John makes great coffee, roasting his own beans. Martine, his wife, is from Mauritius. They have a nice selection of wines, and on the odd occasions we have tried them. I also love the blue water from Tuncurry to Forster. Margy has taken me there for fish and chips. We just sit and enjoy the view, sharing our chips with the gulls.

Home; I like our home. We have made some great mates in Old Bar. In five years we have met some of the nicest people. Across the road Andrew and Louise (the evil one) support us always, as do all the neighbours. I was disappointed recently when they tossed a coin and we lost. The bet was to see who moved. Old Bar is a friendly little town.

You are also head co-ordinator of the UDR Expo … a project close to your heart. Tell us more.

I broke my neck in 1976, becoming a quadriplegic. Living here made me realise what people in the MGL are missing out on compared to what is available for those with special needs in the city.

The expo last September had local support but we also had exhibitors from Victoria, South Australia, Queensland, Tamworth Sydney, Coma, and Raymond Terrace to name a few.

How do you hope to see it grow in 2010?

With better advertising we hope for a greater attendance of the medical profession and members of the public. We had specialist Occupational Therapists from Sydney carrying out lectures on all types of special needs. Some lectures were cancelled. They were not only for patients, but carers too.

The exhibitors are willing to return; we as a community need to support them.

Most challenging part?

Getting it right.

Most rewarding part of your work?

A bride or bridesmaid sends you photos of her special day. A young lady attending her first formal looks and feels beautiful, a mum from Kalgoorlie rings in tears thanking us for making her daughter look like a princess.

Or seeing someone I know has incontinence problems have the courage to speak to a specialist supplier of products that will assist in day to day living.

Who inspires you?

Thinking about it, quite a few.

I am very proud of all my children. Cameron, Amanda, Terri-Ann and Danielle. They have all excelled in their chosen fields.

Richard Crookes and his partner Di. Both lost their loved ones and never stop working for the community.

My wife. Until someone is a full time carer of another person in my situation, it is hard to understand. From first thing in the morning to last thing at night, she is doing something for me.

Just imagine you run around all day: washing, ironing, cleaning the car, feeding Bruce, cleaning house and you’re exhausted. Can’t go to bed, catheters to clean, have to help Bruce into bed, put the electric chair on charge, make sure he is straight, no pressure marks, medication, cover Bruce, with a smile, gently kiss me, whisper, “I love you no matter what”, the day she had, then and only then go to bed. Knowing that anytime in the next couple hours, he will need to pee!

Thank you very much Bruce.

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4 Responses to Bruce Cole – Local Legends

  1. Faye Rose says:

    Hello Bruce ~ my husband Brian and I bought your house in Engadine, moving in in February 1978 ~ we have recently sold and are moving to the US to live with our daughter and her family. This huge decision was made after we lost our son 3 years ago…he was killed in France on his way home from working abroad for 8 years.
    It is interesting that you are now living at Old Bar…..I grew up in Wingham…….
    We came to here from Ballina and the new owners also came from Ballina and he is in the police, so it has all gone full circle.
    We are renting until our visa comes through, hopefully very soon. We will be very sad to leave after 33 years here….some of the old neighbourhood are still here….the Willigers, the Tooheys and Clive Byrne. Pam moved last year to Bligh Park to be hear David and his family.
    I am so sorry to read you became a quad….I work at Southcare at The Sutherland Hospital and until recently worked in a department called PADP who supplied equipment to people such as yourself….now I work in medical records but only for 2 more weeks when I will retire after being there for 10 years. I have tried to find a photo of the house, you would not recognise it…we clad it, put on a bullnose and railing etc. out the front….verandah on the back and turned the long back room into a bedroom at one end. We also put an attic ladder in the hallway and turned inside the roof into a fully lined loft with openable window etc.
    Mrs Murray’s little old cottage is now a Macmansion and the Needhams old cottage is a two storey as well, they moved out about 10 years ago.
    Anyway whilst culling our stuff I got to thinking about you and wondered how things were going…never realised your health situation (I did know you’d dived into a pool and injured your neck, hence the toilet being in the bathroom) or that you were up in my old area.
    I send our best wishes
    Faye (Rose)
    127 Banksia Ave

  2. Andrew Kerr says:

    Bruce i have known you for nearly 20 years now. After welcoming me into your family as Danielle’s partner. You have been an inspiration to me since the day I met you. (Firstly our arvo drinks on the balcony when Danielle was having a afternoon nap. And still today a thing i still look foward to, peace and quiet.) You taught me how to use a chainsaw among many things. A feat that people who have full use of their bodies probably hate. Over the years i have loved the times we have spent together and look foward to the many more. Yours and Margaret’s relationship has and should be an inspiration to all that have met you and spent some time in your house. Thankyou Bruce for a lovely daughter and a great family that has made me laugh!! Here’s to you Bruce! You and your family has made my life full!!!

  3. Jenny Blake says:

    Hi Bruce and Marg,

    Fancy finding you on the Internet! It sounds like things are okay with you both. You really are an inspiration to others.

    Brian and I have been living at Wangi Wangi since 2010. I retired in 2007 as Principal at Cessnock West Public School and saw Brian going downhill. So we live in a Retirement Village on the Lake with a beautiful view across to Swansea on the east side. Life is good here, very friendly, 40 minutes from Tim at Tumbi Umbi and 40 minutes the opposite way to Sonali in Gillieston Heights. Tim has 2 beautiful boys and Sonali has 3 boys. Tim is a paramedic and Asst Manager of Newcastle Ambo Control Centre, and Sonali an RN/ midwife. Brian turned 80 in May, has almost
    died twice. He suffers from COPD and Late Effects of Polio which he had as a child. I’m his carer
    – he can’t walk without a walker and then only about 15 meters, needs oxygen, etc.

    Fond memories of you all.
    Jenny

  4. Brian blake says:

    Reading all about you..

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