Our History

Arrival in Australia

  • Norman arrived in Australia in 1939 with his wife Lavina, and three-month-old son Joe.
  • Like many other immigrants of their time, they arrived with little education and no knowledge of written or spoken English.
  • He soon realised that life on the Darling Downs was very different when compared to his life in pre-war Lebanon, and he met the challenge head-on.

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The Early Years

  • Norman spent six months in Goondiwindi working at Coorey's, a clothing store run by his brother who arrived in Australia 3 years earlier.
  • It was while working at the Goondiwindi store that he learnt the basics of retail business. He may never have taken a formal English lesson, but one thing Norman learnt quickly was the Australian monetary system. It was all an ambitious young businessman needed to understand.

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Branching Out

  • Norman moved from Goondiwindi to Toowoomba to sell fruit and vegetables from a horse and cart in town. Later he incorporated fabrics and clothing in his door to door sales.
  • Then in 1946 he decided follow a new path as a travelling draper. Norman purchased a Red Bedford truck from the Stephens family near Dalby. This red truck became a familiar site across the Darling Downs and Lockyer Valley.

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The Country Run

  • Travelling by truck meant that Norman was able to greatly increase his sales area, to the extent where he would spend up to a week in the country. These journeys became known to the family as the “Country Run’s”. Norman would camp on properties overnight, often sharing a meal with the family and then enjoying a game of cards before going to sleep in the truck.
  • The children would help stock the truck on the weekends, then Norman would leave on Monday and arrive back in Toowoomba on Saturday. Generally his weekly country runs would rotate on a three month cycle as he travelled throughout the Crow’s Nest, Bowenville, Pittsworth, Felton and Gatton districts.
  • To visit all the properties meant that a lot of the small towns around Toowoomba, which we now travel to in 1-2 hours, were overnight trips back then. The majority of roads were dirt at this time so if it rained you even had the chance of getting stuck in the mud.
  • In these years, it wasn’t easy for farmers to leave the properties so the Hannas truck provided an essential service across the region.

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The Ruthven Street Store

  • In 1956, Norman Hanna opened the doors of a new Hannas store at 565 Ruthven Street, which is still the location of the current Hannas store. The store was originally managed by Joe and John.
  • In the early years, after the day’s trade, the family would go home to have dinner and would then come back to the store to re-stock the shelves and sweep the floors, so everything was ready to go again the next morning. All ten of Norman’s and Lavina’s children worked in the store after they left school. 

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The Business Grows

  • In 1966 the family took over the Goondiwindi store which was named Cooreys. John, Anthony, Jimmy, David and Joe all took their turns managing the store in the subsequent years.
  • In 1977, a store was opened at the Wilsonton shopping centre to service the western part of the city. Customers today still tell us that they miss the Wilsonton store which was very popular.
  • In 1985, a store was opened in the location of the old ‘Mr. Michael’s’ store at 352 Ruthven St. This shop was the location of the Hannas Curtain Department.

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The Present Day

  • In 1992, the Wilsonton and North Ruthven St stores were closed and a major re-development was undertaken to expand the original site in Ruthven St.
  • In 1997, Joe moved to Goondiwindi to take over the Cooreys store. Joe and Judy managed the store until 2004 and they currently reside in Goondiwindi.
  • There are currently twelve family members that work in the store and John, Jimmy and Anthony are the current partners in the business.

Extracts supplied by Judy Hanna from the book "Stars Under the Southern Cross" 

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