“A few months ago the number of Malvern Stars being sold throughout Western Australia necessitated the building of a modern factory at 647 Murray Street, Perth, and today bicycles are being produced at that address under ideal conditions for the workers who are employed there.”
The Sunday Times, 9th May 1937.
Margaret Martin, born in England, was raised in the WA wheatbelt town of Cleary in less than ideal conditions; the Martins were obliged to decamp to Perth in the mid thirties following a devastating drought.
In her twenties Margaret worked for Malvern Star in Perth truing wheels. It’s likely that it was here that she first met Bill Garavanta who worked in the frame building department, in 1943. Around this time Margaret and her sister, Nola, both bought Malvern Star bikes.
Margaret and Bill married in 1951 and moved to 5 acres of bush in Belmont. They lived in a tent for a couple of years until Margaret’s father built the family a house. Without a car at her disposal this bicycle would undoubtedly have meant a great deal to Margaret, granting her some freedom and independence; a clue perhaps to why she would never part with it, even long after she’d stopped riding.
After leaving Malvern Star Bill opened his own cycle mechanic business in the city and rode to work every day. On his “retirement” from private enterprise Bill took a job with the WA Government Stores, something he wished he’d done many years earlier.
Malvern Star opened in a small shop at 58 Glenferrie Rd, in the Melbourne suburb of Malvern in 1902. It was started by cyclist Tom Finnigan who established the shop with the prize he earned (240 gold sovereigns) by winning the 1898 Austral Wheel Race.
Finnigan retired and on 1 June 1920, the business was bought by 24-year-old Bruce Small. His brothers, Frank and Ralph, joined in the business, enlarging the shop (despite a number change, still the same shop - 185 Glenferrie Rd). Small offered prizes in cycle races, resulting in 17-year-old racer Hubert Opperman winning a prize in 1921, and impressing Small so much that he offered him a job. Thus started a long relationship, with Small friend and sponsor of Opperman.
Small began a successful credit scheme, revolutionary at the time, to increase sales. The retail business expanded in 1923 to Gardenvale, and in 1925, the headquarters moved to Prahran. In 1928 a team comprising three Australians, Opperman, Percy Osborn and Ernest Bainbridge and one New Zealander Harry Watson entered the Tour De France. Although they rode French bikes Malvern Star released a Tour De France model in recognition of their efforts. This model incorporated lessons learnt on the Tour including tubular tyres and wingnuts to attach the wheels.