It’s a week of celebrations for the Alagich family as they mark matriarch Millie’s 98th birthday, and 80 years of providing fashion for the Broken Hill community at Rudolph Alagich’s Menswear & Hire Service.
Started by Rudolph and Millie Alagich in 1943 in their southside home, Alagich’s has become an iconic Broken Hill business.
Although Rudolph passed at the ripe old age of 94 in 2015, Millie lovingly recounts their many wonderful years together working towards a common goal – to create well-made, stylish but affordable clothing for the community.
“Rudolph came here from Yugoslavia – which is Croatia now – at the age of 12 with his two brothers,” she told the Barrier Truth.
“They came to be with their father who was working on the South mine because he thought they’d have a better life out here than back in Croatia.
“When Rudolph was 16, he and a couple of friends he played soccer with, worked for an Italian tailor by the name of Ubani, so he got a job there to learn the trade of tailoring.
“Then when he was 22, it was time for him to go in the Australian Army. In 1942 he went to Adelaide and then to Darwin, and when the Japanese invasion happened, he called my house and asked to speak to my father and get permission to become engaged.
“In those days, you had to get permission from your parents to marry, so they agreed although I was only 16 and four months. I can still remember my mother saying: “If we don’t allow you to get engaged and if anything happened to Rudolph, we’d never forgive ourselves for stopping the engagement”.
“So, Rudolph’s father and aunty took me to Adelaide to see him before he went to Darwin. We got engaged on February 16 in 1942 and the first bomb was dropped on Darwin on February 19.
“He missed that one, but when he got to Darwin they were told to rush to the trenches and get undercover when the siren went off. So, he ran to the trench and threw himself in, but injured his knee and then couldn’t fight.”
After spending a couple of days in Katherine Hospital and contracting dengue fever, Rudolph was transported to Adelaide where he spent eight months in a military hospital where he received surgery on his knee leaving him with a stiff leg due to wearing irons in hospital.
“Even prior to passing away, he could only bend his leg half-way even though his father took him to see Sir Henry Newland, a bone specialist in Adelaide, who encouraged him to keep playing soccer which helped greatly but still slowed him down,” said Millie who turns 98 this week.
“When he was discharged from the army in February 1943, we’d been engaged for 16 months, so he asked my father for permission to marry me, which we did on June 19 that year.
“After that, we moved to my Uncle Steve’s house in Patton Street for a year, and we worked there before buying the house I still live in today.
“We struggled on, but we were very happy, and then our children Nancy and Richard came along just 17 months apart. I helped the two staff working at the house and we built the business up until we could afford to rent a shop, which we did for four years before we were able to purchase this block in 1958.
“We’d always planned to build a flat on top of this shop and sell our home, but with retrenchments at the mines at the time we decided to keep the shop as is, and the rest is 80 years of history.”
Rudolph’s father, Joe Alagich, served as President of the Napredak Club, established in 1928 as a place for Yugoslav migrants to gather in Broken Hill. Millie said that Rudolph helped many newcomers to Australia to feel more at home within the Broken Hill community.
To celebrate the 80th anniversary of Rudolph Alagich’s Menswear & Hire Service, there’ll be cake and a fun fashion parade out the front of the Alagich family’s shop at 182 Patton St Broken Hill this Saturday September 30 from 11.30am.
“Rudolph was a wonderful man – he would have been 103 now,” she said.
“We had a very happy marriage. I’m happy that the family are putting this on, but I also have some sadness. He was involved in everything and was always there to help people in need – nothing was too much. He was a great man.”
Three members from Community Voices, including proud ‘southie’, Don Mudie, dropped into the shop for a chat about the event.
“We’ll be singing two songs at the event that we’ve been rehearsing so we’re really looking forward to coming along on Saturday to celebrate this special shop and the Alagich family’s long commitment to the Broken Hill community,” said Mr Mudie.