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Joe Cella – Sawshop stalwart retires

10 Aug 23

Our Stories

Joe Cella started at the Jubilee Sawmill as a 14 year old stacking timber in his school holidays, eventually finding a career in saw doctoring. Almost fifty years later, Joe has been a mentor not only in the Jubilee Sawshop but to saw technicians across the trade.

It’s time for Joe to retire – but not without telling some of his story.

Joe started out stacking timber, and eventually became a Sawshop mentor

“I used to come here in the school holidays when I was 14, and earn pocket money out in the drymill destacking timber.

It was all done by hand then, nothing like now.

When I finished school, I didn’t know what I was going to do, so dad encouraged me to come and work while I was figuring it out.

I was 17, and one a manager came up to me and said “do you want a job?” I said “yeah” and he said there were two jobs going, including one in the saw shop – “Go and have a look, if you like it, it’s yours.

I guess I had a look, I liked it, and that’s what I’ve been doing for almost 50 years now.

I started my apprenticeship with Woods and Forests then Forwood Products. From there I’ve moved around a bit, I worked privately for a few years, worked in Millicent, Tarpeena, and have been back at Jubilee for the past 10 years. They used to call us witch doctors, magicians, because no one would know what we were doing or how to do it.

I’ve seen heaps of changes to the trade over the years. It was all manual originally, and to what it is now, you just can’t compare the two.

There’s a lot of technology now, but I wouldn’t say it’s taken over. You still need to know what to do, to properly tell the machine how to do it.

The changes have been gradual over the years, so I’ve just flowed with it.

It’s much less hard on the body, and more challenging to your brain which has been good as I’ve gotten older.

Joe and the Jubilee Sawshop team

I’ve seen a lot of people through their apprenticeships over the past 49 and a half years, including most of the guys we have in the saw shop now. There are less and less saw doctors, and we need more people to take it up.

I’d definitely recommend a trade, it gets you into the workforce, and if you want to change after, at least you’ve got it behind you. It’s a good starting block and it’s a start in life.

Work isn’t everything though.

Throughout it all, family has kept me grounded.

I like fishing and I like my martial arts as well.

Martial arts has been good for my mental health and has given me more confidence. I got bullied when I was a kid at school, being Italian, and I had some aggression to get out as you do when you’re younger. I started off with Taekwondo, did that for a year, then went overseas.

When I came back to work, the supervisor at the time would come around for a coffee and chat and would always bring a bun  – those buns were starting to add up and I needed to get fit again. I saw a kung fu school open up in Mount Gambier so thought I’ll go and give it a crack, and I’ve done it ever since.

It’s been more than 30 years.

It’s probably saved me a few times too.

To be honest retirement has sort of come too quick. From when I decided it was time, it’s flown. I’m excited for it though.

I’ve got a few friends that are retired so I’ll be paying them visits. I’ve got plenty of things to do at home too, I like fishing, I like travelling and I’ve done overseas trips to Japan, China, Egypt, Europe but not much of Australia, so I’ll be planning a few more trips.

I’ll keep training martial arts, it keeps me occupied, and my brain moving.

I’m technically retiring but, I’ll be doing jobs at home in the warmer months and in the winter, I’ll get a casual job and just do a few days a week – not sure what though, I’ll just be giving different things a try.

My advice is you’ve gotta give something a try – if you don’t try, you don’t know!”

OneFortyOne acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their deep connections to land, water, and community. We pay our respect to Elders past and present and extend that respect to all First Nations people today.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, Māori communities have a strong spiritual connection between people and the land – the wellbeing of one sustains the wellbeing of the other. We strive to build meaningful relationships with iwi as tangata whenua (people of the land/region), to be responsible intergenerational kaitiaki (stewards/guardians) of the land where our forests grow.