Ron Dorman introduced the Woodside in 1950 under R.V. Dorman and Co., manufacturing engineers of Mentone, Victoria and was produced from 1950 to 1951 with 200 reels being manufactured. R.V. Dorman also made Super Duper Lures for J.M. Gillies Pty. Ltd. Melbourne. The Woodside was produced to show that Australian reel makers could design or produce reels of considerably originality. Like many others, Ron took up surf fishing after the war. The Woodside was named after his favourite fishing spot, Woodside, a small town at the western end of the Ninety Mile Beach in Gippsland, Victoria. He found that the few imported multiplying reels available at the time suffered from two main faults. The spools were heavy and prone to overrun and the ‘birds nest’ often caused line to get caught between the spool and the end plates. Dorman set out to design a reel which eliminated both of these faults.
The Woodside, featured a spool made of light aluminium alloy which lipped over the single side plate, making it impossible for line to get caught behind the spool. It also included a clutch drag operated from a knurled thumb wheel on the endplate, as well as a free spool lever. The spool ran on two ball bearings mounted on a stationary spindle. Spool overrun was controlled by adjusting the viscosity of the oil in the ball bearings which was applied through the end of the main spindle. The reel had a unique side- mounted reel seat. The side mounting was designed for the adjustable winch clamps commonly used on homemade rangoon cane rods. The reels appeal to anglers was limited as it could not be easily used with factory-made rods with pre-fitted winch fittings.
An advertisement in the Australian Shooters and Anglers News magazine, March 1950 states:
‘This is a novelty, Australian design and Australian make, with bearings on one side only. The makers, R.V. Dorman and Co., claim that their design of bearings make for easy long casting without back lash. It is a free spool reel with line capacity of 250 yards of 9 therad cutty-Hunk, and is on the market in Melbourne at £7/19/-. Production has only just started, but the makers expect to be supplying all states within a month.’
Ronald Vincent Dorman, the son of a Victorian Railways station assistant and the eldest of three brothers and one sister, was born in Newstead Victoria. The family eventually moved to Melbourne where Ron attended Cheltenham State Primary School. His secondary education was at Caulfield Technical College from where he graduated dux of his final year with a certificate and scholarship to attend the Melbourne Technical College (MTC). In 1939 he graduated with a Diploma of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and was accepted to the Institution of Engineers Australia.
During his MTC years he worked part-time for Elcon Fans. His first significant early engineering work was with Bearing Service Co. In 1940 he used the term draughtsman rather than engineer – a reserved occupation, to enlist in the AIF. This was quickly exposed, and he was refused entry, but shortly answered an RAAF advertisement for engineers, becoming a Commissioned Pilot Officer Engineer in 1941. After having served in Australia and 18 months in the South West Pacific war zone, he was demobbed in 1946 as a Squadron Leader. Dorman returned to Melbourne and joined HV McKay Massey Harris Ltd. as an engineer designing farming equipment. In 1948, he formed a partnership called ARC (Athol Ron & Cec) with youngest brother Athol and pre-war friend Cec Palmer. Together they built a small jobbing machining facility in Mentone Victoria and began machining plummer bearing blocks for Bearing Service Company. This was supplemented with ARC’s own products, such as a multiplying surf fishing reel with the brand name of Woodside Surf Reel RV Dorman & Co. Melbourne.
In 1958, the partnership became a registered company and the volume of product output increased. By then it was clear the company would need room for expansion and a land was duly purchased at 78 White Street, Mordialloc and a basic factory and offices were built. In 1972 Ron retired as Managing Director of DORMAN, but retained Chairmanship. Ron moved with his young family to Prosephine Queensland and continued to act as a consultant for DORMAN Pty. Ltd. DORMAN was eventually sold on 1 April 1981 to Inductotherm Australia Pty.Ltd.
Concurrent with this activity Ron Dorman set up a new enterprise, Shute Harbour Industries (SHI) Pty. Ltd. A subsidiary company, Cannonvale Marine Centre (CMC) at Airlie Beach Queensland, was opened in 1973. The business activity was boat and outboard motor sales. As part of this business Ron also operated a 11.3 metre aluminium cruiser for game fishing charter. To do that Ron had to gain another qualification, Grade IV Coastal Ship’s Masters Ticket. Ron and his son Peter managed the CMC. In 1988, yet another new product appeared, the DORMAN Marine Fuel Filter. The CMC was sold in 1993, but the jobbing shop/fuel filter manufacturing facility remained in business until 2005, when Ron’s advancing years brought about the closure of SHI.