When Mark Bennett was 13 years old his mother bought an old brass bed that had seen better days. It cost her $32 and she envisaged it as a spare bed for visitors. It turned out to be so much more. Where the average teen may have seen nothing more than a rusting relic, young Mark saw opportunity, and began restoring it. “I enjoyed polishing things,” Mark recalls.
“Two weeks later I sold it for $500. Mum was raising my brother and me on her own and we did not have a lot of money, so for a bit of polishing time, it was worth a lot to us.” From that first sale a young entrepreneur emerged. Mark hung an advertisement in the local CWA hall in his hometown of Oakey on Queensland’s Darling Downs, offering lawn mowing services in exchange for old furniture. “The ladies thought it was great because they got the lawns mowed and the old stuff they didn’t want removed from the sheds,” he says. Throughout his teens he continued the hunt for diamonds in the rough. His bicycle was often weighed down with worn and wonky finds as he hauled them home the only way he could.
By adulthood, his hobby had morphed into a passion that would captivate him for life. Through the years he has gleaned knowledge and expertise from anywhere he can find it and become a deft craftsman, restoring everything from antique cash registers to a 1923 Studebaker that once looked ready for the junkyard but now sits proudly and perfectly in his garage. But old brass beds dating back as far as the late 1800s are his holy grail.
“There have been some incredible and unbelievable places where we have found them,” Mark says. “We’re sure some people may not appreciate that their beds were once used as a pig pen, poddy calf feeder, chook roost or sweet pea trellis.”
The complete story was published in Australian Country issue 19.6. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.
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Words Tamara Simoneau
Photography Anastasia Kariofyllidis