Fred Mayer Memorial

Memorial Book for Fred Mayer

Anyone wishing to leave a message or rememberance of Fred is warmly invited to do by sending an email to Robbie and/or Sam.n Tuesday 22nd September 2009 Fred Mayer passed away aged 81. From founding this company over 50 years ago and in his many careers before that he was known and loved by many people.



To dear Robbie and family, If I had known that your beloved Dad had passed away when we briefly spoke the other day I would have passed on my condolences.
I know you will continue to do him proud. Take Care regards Annette


Lui Garozzo

One year on!!! Can you believe it?
The memory has not faded but one iota!
Fred you would be proud of both your boys, they carry the mantle well.
I have one of your rusty candles that I stole from your office and have lit it in memory of my dear dear dear Venerial Friend.
Love Lui, Pam and Famiglia. XXX


Henri Kalisse
Fred was a man whose generosity knew no bounds.
He knew my mother worked hard to support her extended family after my father left, and could never take me to watch the footy (what is Footy?) on the weekend.
Fred would rock up in his big German car and with Sammy and I in tow take us down to watch the Roosters at the Sydney Sports Ground.
Always an eye opener to watch the big man support them (through the good, bad and diabolical)I have had since then never waivered in my support for the Red White and Blue.
I am sure he would have taken much joy out of them winning another GF long after the 1975 victory.
Robbie and Sammy were always big boys in my memory, BUT Fred was HUGE! One day he came over and mum had just purchased a wooden rocking chair -
Fred decided to try it out - next thing we all knew it was fire wood! Good laugh had by all (except mum).
To Fred - thanks you for all your support when I was a young man and no male role model. (Sorry I never learnt to swim)
To Sammy and Robbie - I wish you both Long Life.

James Mussak
I was good friends with Fred.... for more years I want to admit......say 4 decades..............
traded with him when I was exec chef for Sebel Town House
Gunther Hirsch, F&B manager, would be proud of me to mention his name
as well on this page.... we were photographed together with Anton Mosimann etc.
He was the godfather of all importers of fine food to Australia.
Long Live Fred!
Miss you...........


Shane Jones

I contacted Freds business today and was saddened to hear of his passing.
Like many others who will no doubt leave messages after I make a few calls, I had the pleasure of meeting Fred when employed with Craig Mostyn and then Frionor.Very sad news indeed.
The world has lost another legend. RIP Mate.


Mimmo Lubrano

I fondly remember delivering goods to the warehouse in Mascot and being called "SHORTTTY" - He would come up to me and say "HAALLLO SHORTTY" - a towering man - i was only new in the Foodservice Industry and intimidated by Fred. I saw his funny side when he found out I was Italian - Fred liked Italians as he saw them in the war - "VE ARE LOVERS NOT FIGHTERS" was his famous quote about Italians - he was spot on - The Italian pretty much thinks about 2 things all day - Food and another thing starting with F! The food industry will recognise Fred as a pioneer - a legend. A man who changed the course of eating habits and created an empire through hard work, dedication and a love of people in the industry. We all see our own fathers in Fred - those of us fortunate to have them still around cherish them as we know that they too one day will join Fred in that big wholesale warehouse in the sky - and yes - it will be CASH ONLY!.

Best regards from all the Lubrano (all SHORTIES) at SANDHURST FINE FOODS


Grace Lagreca

my warmest sympathy goes out to robi and sam. deeply sadden by Freds passing


Jean Oosthuizen

Sad to hear about Fred - my thoughts go out to Sam and 1995/1996 as young South African
venturing out to Sydney to play for Sydney Uni Waterpolo Club, Fred gave me a job.
Have some fond memories of working for the family.
Reading some of the comments above gave me a giggle about some of the funnier moments with the old man...
to this day i tell the story about Fred still playing waterpolo at his ripe old age back in 1996!! RIP


SMH article link about Fred

Newcomer was quick to pitch in...

Newcomer was quick to pitch in February 9, 2010.
Fred Mayer, 1928-2009.

In February 1952, Fred Mayer made the cover of Pix magazine with a coverline ''The first new-Australian lifesaver''. Inside, the tall and handsome young Bondi man, called ''Spider'' by his mates because of his long legs, was described as ''Sydney's first new Australian to qualify as a surf-lifesaver''.

Mayer had joined the North Bondi Surf Lifesaving Club 18 months before. The magazine claimed that his move to become a lifesaver showed that ''some of the best features of Australian life - the community service, self-discipline, mateship, sportsmanship of the surf lifesavers - has begun to make an appeal to new arrivals. A way of life of which we are proud is becoming a way of life for people who have been used to other ways.''

In later years, Mayer would say that when he started swimming at Bondi he had been offended when the lifesavers called him a ''bloody reffo'', until he heard what they called each other, and gradually he became interested in their work.

Frederick Mayer was born in Budapest on May 19, 1928, one of two children of Samu Mayer and his wife, Germaine Perl. In 1933, Samu, worried about the spread of anti-Semitism across Europe, decided to move. The family lived in Lisbon for nine years, but as the Nazis advanced across Europe, they moved to Africa, where they settled first in Mozambique and then in South Africa. After the war, though, the beginnings of apartheid was a new cause for worry, so they moved to Palestine, crossing Africa by train. There, they got caught up in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and decided it was time to move yet again.

A short stay back in Hungary convinced them they could not live under communism so they returned to South Africa before making yet another move, to Australia, in 1950. Mayer celebrated his 22nd birthday on the ship in Fremantle.

The family settled in Bondi and, to meet people and further his love of the water, Mayer joined the North Bondi Surf Life Saving Club, and remained a member for the rest of his life.

Through the club, he also met many water polo players. Because he was a good swimmer and was Hungarian, it was assumed that he would also be a great water polo player. Unfortunately for the many clubs he played with over 50 years, Mayer was probably the only Hungarian water polo player to come to Australia who had never played for his original country's Olympic team.

His style in the pool made him a danger to friend and foe alike and his favourite move became known as "the Spider" in honour of his nickname. This involved Mayer swimming with the ball up to a neophyte on the opposing team, throwing the ball over the player's head and with the arm underwater, grabbing and throwing his opponent behind him. But the move was well known to referees around Australia and they called a foul whenever he did it.

The other great danger when competing with Mayer came in surf races; every young swimmer joining North Bondi was warned to give him a wide berth on rounding the buoys because his uncut toenails could leave them with scars.

Mayer was also a competent runner and competed in many City to Surf races, including one when he had a broken leg - which he found out about the day after the race when he had it X-rayed because he couldn't walk on it.

In 1963, Mayer married Annette Wolstenholme. They divorced in 1977. Twenty years ago he met Simone Wybrow and they were together after that.

Soon after arriving in Sydney, Mayer started a business, importing ski wear, and then moved into food because he thought food in Australia in the '60s was inedible. The business thrived and now takes up 10 warehouses in Sydney and Melbourne.

One recent Christmas Mayer boasted that the company had imported 15 shipping containers of smoked salmon and he had lost count of the containers of cheeses and chocolate.

People lucky enough to be invited to lunch at his office were met by a mountain of food from the warehouses. The only problem was that inevitably a sample of a new product would appear on the table and Mayer would then eagerly await opinions on it. If it wasn't liked, he would sulk; if it was, he would give great loads of it to guests to carry away.

Mayer loved opera and, much to the amusement of his Italian food suppliers, taught himself to speak Italian from listening to it. He was fluent in 19th-century Italian, and also in English, Hungarian, French, Portuguese and German.

The first surf race to be contested at North Bondi after Mayer's death was swum in reverse direction, with the buoys to the swimmers' left rather than the right.

That same week, his name also mysteriously appeared on the player sheet for a match of his beloved Universities 6th grade water polo team.

Fred Mayer is survived by Simone, Annette, sons Robbie and Samy, stepsons Roy, Chris and Mark, surrogate sons George and Howard, and grandchildren.

Howard Roby and Harriet Veitch

Bob Bolger
my memories of Fred go back to calling to see him many years ago to ask advice on the selection of cheese and other special items for an important function.Fred made the selection and everything went very well.over the years i have seen Mayer'prosper and grow with Fred,Robbie, and Sam. I have always felt enriched by knowing Fred.

Baie Ferguson
My memories of Fred were one of being very supportive particularly when International Hotels were beginning to flourish in the early 80's.
Fred was a great advocate for fine foods and to his credit stuck with good quality product.
Robi it is great to see that the Mayer family name will remain synominous in the retail food industry. The Mayer family will always be known as one of the supreme food distributors on many levels.
Certainly a great loss.

Li Wang
mostly love and highly respected. much of the respect and always remembered. honored to have Fred Mayer in our lives.

Dirk W
Good morning Robi, Sami,
Thank you for sending me a copy of Fred's book and I finished reading it yesterday.
The reason it took me a while, is that, at the time you sent it I was reading Leon Trotsky's biography.
After I finished this, it was a surprising experience to virtually continue in the same vein (as Fred was also very much into Russian history - and his father's involvement during that exciting time).
Once I started Fred's book, it captured me immediately and I read through in 1 go.
Although I had a vague idea of his background, I was amazed by his lifestory. His boundless energy, lust for life and love for people blew me away.
In Fred's typical own style, he is able to boil down complex situations and explain them in clear, no-nonsense straight-talk.
His sharp analytical skills served him well as a natural entrepreneur.
I now very much regret that I had not read his biography whilst he was still around to share it.
I was not aware that we shared so many interests (history, politics, classical music, travel, swimming, . . . ) and I would have loved to ask him a million questions.
Thank you again and you can be immensely proud.

would have loved to known you, regards jack.

Chris W
Every day that Fred would come in to work he would sit in my office and talk for an hour. It was a rituual that I miss greatly. He would talk about anything, some conversations relative to business & some not. He would talk about the sales of the business, foreign exchange and what was happening with the Aussie dollar, discussions about the supermarkets & chain stores, the taxes the company pays, about water polo, our families, the surf, stories of his numerous trips overseas, the topics were limitless. Sometimes he would just sit there in silence as I continued my work.
Not meaning to be the "master of the bleeding obvious", but Fred was not technically minded, he thought that "IT" were the last 2 letters in a swear word, & even this year made comments that the company should still be hand writing invoices instead of using f@##ing computers. He called anyone that came in to F Mayer Imports that worked on computers as "computer vankers". Strangely no one took offense.
There are so may stories that can be told about Fred, like when he missed the turn to Macquarie Street from the Cahill Express Way in peak hour traffic, whilst trying to get to the Opera House. 300m past this turn, he decided to reverse back to the turn off. He told me that "people were svearing & beeping at me....& everything" as if they were in the wrong! Or the time when we all insisted that Fred should stop driving & start using taxis, so.... after leaving his mates from the surf club he jumped in to the back seat of a car and asked (who he thought was the taxi driver) to take him to Rose Bay. The police officer turned around & politely informed Fred that he was in a police car & not a taxi.

Many years ago, around 1980 Fred cooked dinner for me. Anyone who knows Fred would find this very hard to believe, but he made me an omelette......with truffles. He asked if I had ever had truffles before, which I hadn't, and then proceeded to cut up around $200- worth of truffles & put them in the omelette. He seemed to enjoy his, but obviously my appreciation for fine food had not developed at that stage, as all I could taste was this over powering earthy almost dirt flavour. (Strangely enough in later years I acquired a taste for truffles, albiet in much smaller quantities)!
It seems apt that Fred started a food importing company - GEEZ he liked his food. In the last couple of years every time Sharon & I would walk to Bondi, the second we walked through the doorway he would say - "where do you want to go for lunch" - it was only 8 or 9 in the morning!

These are but a few of my memories of Fred. He will always stay close to my heart.

Many people use the term "larger than life" too easily. If you're really lucky, you get to meet such a person once in your life.

In 1968, when I was 16 I moved to Sydney from Brisbane. My parents were worried that I didn't know anyone in Sydney so they convinced me to join North Bondi Surf Club. On my first day of patrol at Nth Bondi, I was sitting on the beach with my friend Michael when Fred walked by. Mike warned me never to get too close to Fred in the surf races especially around the buoys or I'd regret it. As chance would have it, an hour later I found myself in the B grade race starting about 20 secs after Fred. Keeping the warning in mind, I gave him a wide berth when I passsed him on the way out and was starting to relax as I approached the buoy when I suddenly felt a hand gripping my ankle. Next second I was 6 foot under with his foot (including his lethal weapon toe nails) on my shoulder. I came up sspluttering out sea water to see Fred disappearing off into the distance. I was determined not to let this passs so after the race i came up to him aand told him I wasn't very impressed with his cheating in the race. He lookeed at me shocked and said that it couldn't have been him as he never cheats. He then held out his hand for me to shake and stupidly I accepted it. I still had tears in my eyes minutes later from the pain of him crushing my hand.

That was a long time ago but is as clear to me as yesterday.

Over the years Fred became a surrogate father to me and I loved my trips to the office for luncch with him whenever i copuld sneak away from work.Every lunch wwent the same way. At some stage in the meal, he would turn to Robbie or Sammy and ask them ttoget some cheese with an unpronouncable name. then he would slice up the cheese, giving me more than I could eat and a huge chunk for himself. He'd then look innocently at me and say that the doctors said he could only have 30g a day. Looking down at his kilo sized lump he'd say "i don't think this is more than 30g". When i'd eaten more than i should have, he'd look hurt and say 'What's the matter? Don't you like my cheese?" This was one of those "Does my bum look big in this dress?" questions, if i said that i didn't like it, he'd look like I'd insulted his wwhole family. If i said I did like it then when i got back to my car the entire back seat would be piled up with the cheese.He was generous to a fault. Fred would often call up for a chat and my boys used to run into my study and say "The saLmon man is on the phone. It must be Vednesday.(pronouncing every syllable) In fact, out of deference to Fred,our family have changed the name of wednesday to Vednesday for ever.

The last few years weren't kind to Fred and he went through a kind of hell watching his body decay around him. at least he won't be troubled by that any more

He was a great friend, mentor and surrogate father to me and I continue to miss him greatly.

Charlie Christensen
A man to be remembered.
The recent death of Bondi Beach resident Fred Mayer, aged 81 will be keenly felt in a wide field of our community.
Born in Hungary in 1928, Fred arrived in Sydney with his family & 2 suitcases in 1950.
e was invited as a product of a great water polo country to join the Bondi Amateur Swimming Club, completing 61 years as a player, official & sponsor.
His service as "The First New Australian Surf Life Saver" at North Bondi won patrol awards, surf races, 25 & 50 year awards.
From a one-van smallgoods salesman he built a food supply company that brought world-class cuisine to Australia.
A man of great compassion, he employed people from 21 different cultures & countries, becoming a father figure who understood their problems
His mottos "Honest Weight" & Everyone's a Mate" made him one to be remembered.

Stephen Goode

At my first meeting with Fred he told me when he had to prepare his first tax return in Australia the accountant said, first thing Fred how much tax do you want to pay?
When I told him that it is a sign of a healthy business that needs tax planning, Fred responded with we pay too much foorking tarx!,
at which time he stood up and reacting to the pain in his knee and hip said, foork sheet! and limped out of the board room.
Fred could be very direct at getting his point across.
Thanks for all the stories and your quirkiness...miss you Fred.

Terry Carver
I had the pleasure of meeting Fred with Tsvi Vered Rosenfeld who owned ABC CONTAINERLINE NV and we become his major carrier from Europe for some 15 years.
Fred made frieds of all the young salesmen, Rod Hamilton and William Allen, and there were great tusseles when he and Rosy got to annual rate negotiations, some times in the sauna.
We have some wonderful dinners with Fred and Rosy, whoes table manners ment you had to watch your drinks for flying crumbs.
Fred was ABC'S best customer and an absolute pleasure to deal with in any circumstances-a wonderful character who will be missed-vale Fred

My Dear Friend Freddy a legend by any definition.For his brilliant mind,his generosity of spirit and kind.Every one was his Mate.
I remember well the day that Fred and I had one of of our many swims at North bondi spanning over 59 years.
This particular day Fred went ahead into the Locker room at North Bondi Surf Club whilst I had a long chat with an old friend I had met.
On entering the locker room Fred was bent over complaining that he felt uncomfortable.I looked at him and said so you should be you have got my clothes on.True story
Fred 6 feet 4" plus me 5 feet 6". We both burst into laughter.More stories to come.John R.

Memories of Lizzie

Steve Ristic
July 2000 was the time I joined the F. Mayer empire, it was soon after that I had the pleasure of meeting the great man on one of his rear visits to the newly established warehouse in Melbourne,
Shook his hand and introduced my self, first thing he ask was, beszelesz magyarul? (do you speak Hungarian) I answered yes, little did I know at the time he loves telling jokes,
an hour later he was still at it while every one else around us was wandering what we were laughing about. Nevertheless, whenever I tried turning the conversation around on to busyness he quickly replied
"busyness is good but customers don't pay on time" and then it was back to telling jokes, this went on and on and on.. all the way to the airport,
from that time on I was his nominated driver when ever he visited Melbourne and subjected to the same jokes again and again, but eeeeeh that was Fred.
One could tell from the first meet, Fred was a loving caring man, made me feel I wasn't just an employee but part of a team,
team he has created put confidence in to concur and prosper as he has,
Fred you where a great man, a creator with a vision and through it all remained the Fred everyone loves and will love forever.

Barry Page
Freddie was one of my first business contacts in Australia. He impressed me as a straight and honest and warm man. Over many years I have never had any reason to change my opinion. He will be sadly missed in the business world but especially by the family. They have my prayers.
Garry McILWAINE, Cheetah's Swimming Club

Dear Robbie and Sam
I have very fond memories of your dear departed Dad.
He was an active member of the Cheetah's during the time when I served in the NSW Parliament.
Fred was always offering me helpful advice and was a regular supporter of mine at various functions and the like.
He will be sorely missed. My best wishes to you and your families.
Kind regards,

Claude The Wog
Fred is a man that will be remebered in our hearts forever as one of those true migrant stories that came to this lucky country to find a better life
for his family by working hard and follow his passion- good quality food! I am better man knowing Fred and here is one of my most memorable experience's that I have of him.

Once leaving school, my first full time job was working for him at Mascot. During that time I didn't yet have my drivers licence.
o, after a day's work of unloading containers ,Fred would always offer to drive me home as he lived in South Coogee and we lived in Coogee which was perfect.
I'm not sure if you have ever had the experience and pleasure of Fred driving you.
Well for the odd 20 minute drive home ,it was the most hair raising experience I would encounter.
First of all, getting into his brown statesman there would always be classical music on full volume ,that's why these day's i don't hear very well,that's what I tell my wife Lucy when I don't hear her.
Anyhow,then the real adventure began, rule no.1 -never get into a conversation with Fred while he is driving, through the whole journey home he would talk and eye ball me
and occasionally may look at the road when I would scream "Fred watch that cyclist"- 'OHHHH Shiiiiit' he would say as we swerved just in a nick of time or
I would have to wake him as he had a quick cat nap at the lights-'Oh Freddy the light is green, we need to go'-'Okkkk,Okkkk' and car horns going off everywhere.
Thanks for the memories,laughs, warmth and happiness you brought to us all.
The Encina's and Lisbona's.

John Ross
Fred, I will always remember your quirky sense of humour and I will always be grateful for the support you gave me in my early publishing days in the Food industry. I will always remember the day I arrived at Princess Street and you were unloading a container full of large bottles of Ogorki gherkins. Most of the bottles were broken and when your boys opened the container, broken bottles and gherkins went everywhere. It was quite a day. I will always remember you Fred with great fondness. You will be missed along with Vic, Caesar and all the other food importers from around that time. Where have all the characters gone?

Chris Wild
I always called you 'Uncle Fred', you were that type of guy.
As an Aussie you were my first encounter with the Jewish culture. I remember your mother coming to Princess Street on Fridays,
"Victor, get my muther a double smoked ham sanvich"
Robbie and Sammy, you can rejoice in Fred's life. Truly he was larger than life.

Fred Mayer's  50 year Long Service Member
Fred Mayer passed away Tuesday afternoon and the club sends condolences to Simone, Robby, Sammy and family at this sad time.
Fred was a fantastic member and benefactor of our Club. He will be a great loss to the surfing and water polo community.

Dads Army
The twilight of Fred's water polo playing days was spent with Sydney University in a team that included his sons Robbie and Sammy.
Fred was in his 70's when he played in his last game - a grand final no less which, of course, the team won!
Playing for most of the game, it was great to have seen Fred finish his playing career on a high.
The Sydney University M5 Water Polo Team ('Dads Army') has been playing together for over twenty years and continues to play together - the Mayer name lives on through his sons.
Fred, you will always be a player on our team.
To Fred's family we offer all our love and support.
Dads Army and their families

Famous Fred Quote
" Whaat is theis Sheat? "..... Famous Fred Quote

Lui Garozzo
Fred, How I will miss the hungarian greeting:
"Ullo my venerial friend".... I am the luckiest guy to have the dearest friend in Robbie Mayer, but beyond that, a father to Robbie that treated me with such warmth and like one of his adopted sons
I was fortunate to travel overseas with Fred, and also show him many times, the beauties of my home, North Queensland.
However Fred's passion for family,friendship and food out shone any vistas or sites we ever visited. I can honestly say I have never laughed as much as being in Fred's company.
His ability to simply say it the way he thought, showed his honesty and toughness to life and business.
His concerns to Robbie and me being homosexual always made me laugh. The Italians from up north salute the Mayer family. We will always have Fred in our hearts.
He would'nt have it any other way. Robbie & Sam, it is now your time to keep Fred's dream alive.
Family First.. ever thing else second.. Love Lui,Pam Damian & Bec Garozzo.

Brendan Horan
Arohanui is Maori for a huge love and to me that was Fred.
A huge love of life, infectious dry humour and a great intelligence.
His passing leaves a massive void, I can only imagine how hard it must be for Simone, Robbie, Sam, Mark Skis and all the Grandchildren,but Fred lives on in the values and love that he's left behind. His indelible mark is the positive contributions that he made in the lives of so many people. I learn't plenty from Fred,so grateful that he was in my life and I proudly pass his teachings on to my children...except for the swearing in 10 differant languages!
Arohanui from the Black Kiwi Bastard.xxxooo

Fred Mayer: a great man has fallen ! Fred Mayer: nagy embert vesztettünk el !
Wishing everyone who loved Fred every strenght during this difficult period.

George Venardos
when fred spoke about military victories in ww2 he refered to the term "mousarkared" which we all learnt wasnt just a greek eggplant dish , but he was meaning to say "massacred"

I am very sad to hear about Fred.
I have happy memories of him, some of them being:
- working for him (for 6 weeks when I first moved to Sydney in 1977) when we followed him around on his tasting strolls, eating his leftovers;
- training at Sydney Uni Pool when he took all the shots during shooting practice; and
- dodging flying food particles when eating Chinese with him which he always tried to do as fast as possible and speak at the same time.
Best wishes to you and your family


It's hard to farewell Fred Mayer,
All our lives we have known him.
So here's a few of the Laing's memories,
In the form of a short poem.

He came to North Bondi - with Germaine and Samuel,
And his love of water-polo led him straight to the pool,
Where he met Douggie and Joyce and other life-long mates,
And earned the nick-name of Spider for his long-limb-ed traits.
The first 'Euro' life-guard in the red, white and brown,
He was 'Ready aye Ready' and the talk of the town.
'Pics Magazine' ' with a model ' in cozzies!
It didn't take long to become a celebrated 'New Aussie'.
My first memories of Fred are of a tall, friendly gent,
Who had thick, dark-rimmed glasses and an even thicker accent.
He'd arrive in a big German car with bumpers that were bent,
And it was always 'Mitchell - Andrew - I mean Cameron',
That's just how it went.
There were summer Christmas parties we spent round the pool,
Where Fred would present us with thick jumpers made of wool,
Or all things Continental, like pates and cheeses,
And loads of smoked salmon and other crowd - pleasers.
Before long a game of polo would always commence,
Then end when Fred's backhander flew over the fence.
Fred loved his food as I'm sure we all know,
He'd circle all the tables and taste everything on show.
One time when we thought he must be full to the seams,
Vicki caught him in the kitchen - drinking all of the whipped cream!
On week-nights at our house - a regular thing, Was a phone call from Mrs Mayer - always at dinner would she'd ring!
When she left us the phone calls were still to continue,
Only now it was Freddie, with the same 'Hallo, how var you?'
Dad would listen as Fred's stories about who was un-well were told,
And after an hour or so he'd return to a dinner that was cold.
He and Dad were best of friends - of that there is no doubt,
Even though it was 'Hallo Douggie you fat bastard' on greeting that he'd shout!
They'd drink beer and red wine and jokes they would crack,
Then argue - Labour or Liberal? Over an evening cognac.
There was singing 'The Three Tenors' - and conducting the classics,
It was always the same for these two Opera 'tragics.
There was always a drink spilled as the hands became un-steady,
We would never have known the term 'Schloompf' if we hadn't known Freddie!
Fred was simply a LEGEND of that we all do know,
As the stories this evening are most certainly to show.
Generous, Kind, Funny - and understatedly self-made,
We all love and miss you Freddie - may the memories never fade.


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Belongings Post-WWII migration memories & journeys back Frederick Mayer View cultural background Hungarian-Jewish origin Budapest, Hungary start of journey Cape Town, South Africa in April 1950 place of arrival in australia Fremantle on 19 May 1950 first home in australia Rented rooms in Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill, Sydney first job in australia Despatch clerk at a cardboard factory in Botany, Sydney | other jobs in australia Small business partnership transporting and selling continental European small goods; David Jones' food hall; own importing business, F Mayer Imports.

Frederick Mayer's migration memories

My journey of migration to Australia could be said to have started well before World War II, when in 1933, disturbed by European political events and the wave of anti-semitism in Europe at the time, my father thought it best for our family to leave Hungary and head for a European city as far as possible from central Europe. We decided upon Lisbon in Portugal. In 1938 my family moved back to Budapest, Hungary for a short while but were increasingly dismayed by the scrutinisation of Jewish citizens that was happening there. After the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia and Austria in 1938, we made arrangements for my parents, my sister Renee and I to return to Lisbon which we did in 1939. We lived there for the next three and a half years after which we decided to try to migrate to Palestine.

I remember we left Budapest in 1939 with 32 suitcases holding all the belongings we could manage to carry with us.I remember we left Budapest in 1939 with 32 suitcases holding all the belongings we could manage to carry with us. This was not a fun way to travel, someone would always have to be looking after the cases. By the time we left South Africa for Australia in 1950 we had reduced the number to 26 cases - which in my opinion was still too many. I now travel light.

That trip was a memorable one for us as I almost died. I was struck with typhoid fever. We spent the years of World War 2 and a couple of years after the war travelling through Africa, South Africa and Palestine where we lived for a time. After the war we went back to Hungary where we stayed a year from 1947 to 1948 but Communism had changed the way of life there. By late 1948 my father, my mother and I decided to join my sister in South Africa. Renee had married while we were in Palestine, she and her husband lived in Johannesburg, South Africa. That trip was a memorable one for us as I almost died. I was struck with typhoid fever on the last leg of our trip to South Africa. After weeks of misdiagnosis I was finally treated appropriately at a hospital in Mombassa and made a full recovery before continuing to Johannesburg.

and after witnessing the evils of racism during the WW2 just could not accept such attitudes and practices.I found work in Johannesburg relatively quickly despatching small goods. At first my parents and I expected to settle in Johannesburg. But the government condoned terrible attitudes to the black South Africans and after witnessing the evils of racism during the WW2 just could not accept such attitudes and practices. We looked to Australia as a safe and humane place to live and were doubly happy when we found that Renee and her husband were planning to move to Australia too.

In April 1950 we left Cape Town on the English ship, the Wairangi. After a rough crossing we reached Fremantle on 19 May 1950 where I spent my 22nd birthday in fact I spent the day on the ship, moored at sea off the port for there was a waterside workers strike on the wharves at the time and we could not dock and go ashore. Fortunately there was lots of lively company on board so I could celebrate my birthday properly. After Fremantle we sailed to Adelaide and then Melbourne where another waterside workers strike meant our ship would be delayed for weeks. So we accepted an offer of a train passage to Sydney where we arrived in June 1950.

Our wandering days were finally over but my experiences of those years have been recorded in my photo albums. I have photos from every leg of our journey since 1939.

My parents and I found accommodation with a rather eccentric lady. My parents and I found accommodation with a rather eccentric lady in Victoria Road, Bellevue Hill. She spent hours seemingly playing the piano - but it turned out to be a player piano, a pianola which she skillfully imitated playing! A few weeks later we found a holiday flat to lease at Bondi which was where I joined the Bondi North Surf Club and re-established my lifelong involvement with playing water polo. I had started playing water polo when living in Johannesburg and over the two years playing in competitions there I had quite polished skills at that sport. In 1952 I was interviewed by Pix magazine, a popular magazine in the 1950s and 1960s. The magazine photographer took all those pictures of me training and at the beach. I featured in the magazine as - Fred Mayer, First New Australian Lifesaver.

Here was the old bane of racism once again.Finding work was a priority for the family at that time and because I had had some experience I decided to look for retail work. I went to Anthony Horderns, who claimed to only employ Protestants. I went to Mark Foys who claimed to employ only Catholics and then to Farmers who only wanted people of English descent. Here was the old bane of racism once again. Anyway I finally spotted an ad for positions at David Jones where I ended up working in the food hall.

I stayed there earning good money for about five years. Then in 1956 I made a tour of Europe where apart from enjoying life as a tourist I established many future business contacts. When I returned to Australia I began the process of setting up my own importing business, F. Mayer Imports. My first consignment of imports was ski wear and it was not until the rigorous import restrictions of that time were lifted that I began importing continental food stuffs in earnest.

When we first arrived in 1950, Australian food was a real oddity.That was another thing about Australia in those days. When we first arrived in 1950, Australian food was a real oddity. You would go to a restaurant, it would look great, clean and tables with white tablecloths etc but all that was on the menu would be meat pies and sausage rolls. But this all began to change during the 1950s and there was a strong fledgling market for continental foods by 1956/7 when I started my business. Today Sydney's restaurants have some of the finest food in the world.

I started my business in my garage at home in Bondi where I housed the imports. Then when I started importing cheeses and more perishable goods I rented cool rooms at Ultimo. Gradually I built the business up and bought land in Rosebery for premises and then later in Alexandria and then finally I bought this property here in Mascot. Now I have nine buildings in this street, all warehouses and offices. These days I still work five or six hours five days a week and my sons and step son all help run the business.

Interviewed by: Mary Ann Hamilton

This Belongings record is part of a collaborative project between the Migration Heritage Centre and City of Botany Bay Council.

Blair Mayer
Pa my Grandfather
Pa was born in Hungry in 1928
This land would soon be full of hate.
So began their life as refugees
Travelling to many countries overseas.
To Portugal, Israel then South Africa they went
Eventually arriving in Australia in 1950 quite spent.
Pa went to North Bondi and met some lifelong friends
Where his love affair with the surf never ends.
Pa was the first new Australian Lifesaver
Where he did Aussie beaches a huge favour.
Water Polo was one of his great loves
He played hard and used his signature shoves.
His first job was being a small goods delivery driver
Where he scared people with his chaotic driving.
Pa opened the first Kosher counter at David Jones
But we all know he did better on his own.
So he started a business called F. Mayer Imports
First with ski-wear and cheese from Norway
It rose to the great heights it is today
Pa has 2 sons and 5 grandsons, he was extremely proud of us all.
Pa loved the Symphony & Opera. This was his favourite music by far,
If we were listening to the latest hits pa would say
'what is this shit?'
Even though you are gone you won't be forgotten. You were everyones mate.
Love You, Pa.

Fred Mayer
quote - "the sales not finished till the moneys in the bank"
quote - "I have no interest in anything mechanical"
quote - "I have an official agreement in place"
quote - "mechanics dont sell cheese i dont look under the bonetts of cars"

John Whitehead
on many occassions i had the opportunity to skipper phantom one day after taking out customers for fred and robbie,
robbie and i were cleaning up the boat and fred was in his usual helpful position,on the lounge with a glass of wine,
when i brought out the vaccume cleaner to do the main cabin, fred looked at the apperatus in my hand and said \"john what the f**k is that thing\"
i pissed my self laughing \'what a legend a man in his seventies didnt recognise what a vaccume cleaner was !!!