From Hippie to Hipster: a "retirement" less ordinary

5 min read

In the late 1960s Phil Chegwidden was a teenager fully absorbed in the hippy culture sweeping the globe. Now, at 64, he should be getting ready to retire but instead has embarked on a new career - with a mobile speakeasy bar.

Based in Newcastle in NSW, Phil launched the new business last year alongside his daughter, Kate, and son-in-law, John.

Phil’s new career trajectory was sparked when John spoke to him about an idea he had to turn a 1960s’ Carapark vintage caravan he’d stumbled upon into a mobile bar. Phil was keen to help: “I’ve always liked things with points of difference. It was new and fresh and something I hadn’t done before. For me, it had an immediate ‘wow’ factor.”

After months spent customising The Roaming Eagle, the business is now steadily picking up event bookings including weddings and birthdays, in Newcastle and beyond, from Seal Rocks to the north and Sydney and Berry in the south.  While Phil says he was always interested in entertainment (he worked as a band promoter in his late-teens) but never dreamt of opening a bar. Instead, he was drawn to the thrill of new opportunities.

This is reflected in a rich life spent working in different parts of the country. Phil has worked in irrigation and water supply for most of his career and is currently self-employed as a consultant and project manager.

The father of four and grandfather of five has worked hard his entire life, and been smart with his money. He owns his home and has investments and superannuation. Ideally, he should be counting down the days until he can cash in his super, kick back and wind down. But that’s not going to happen any time soon.

When asked what he thinks of the word ‘retirement’, Phil says the traditional notion of it doesn’t really appeal to him. "My picture of retirement is something fairly bleak. I know a lot of people who are counting down to retirement,” he says. “To them it’s like: ‘I’m sitting around waiting to park the car and then I can stop’.” But he isn’t one of them and wouldn’t know what to do with himself if was. He wants to stay active, be useful, creative and continue to discover and enjoy new things: “I just want to keep living and doing stuff that’s interesting,” he explains. “For me it’s the van but if I also went and did some volunteer work overseas somewhere that would be fine."

He enjoys the atmosphere and buzz of The Roaring Eagle, the feel-good vibe of guests celebrating and says his plans for the venture are only just beginning. He wants a dance-floor, more Australian craft spirits and beers which he sources from places such as Tasmania and his own neighbourhood in nearby the Hunter Valley, and to team up with his sons’ restaurant business, Sprout in Newcastle, for future events.

“I’m not out to build an empire but I do like challenges, a freshness of new things that gives you mental stimulation.” He adds, “There’s nothing you can do about your age. That ticks over, but there is a lot you can do about getting old. You might as well keep living, if new opportunities come up and you enjoy it, get into it.”

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This Information current as at 21/11/2016.

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