THE AMAZING STORY OF JULIUS HENLEY, FOUNDER OF WAPROO
Julius Henley was born in Hungary on 3 June 1892. A bright child from a large, poverty stricken family, Julius completed his secondary education by coaching the children of wealthy parents.
Matriculating from Commerce School, Julius became an accountancy clerk and then Chief Accountant of a large firm. In 1914, he left for an accountancy job in Vienna and became a man of culture.
In 1917, a homesick Julius returned to Budapest. An accountant in the fat industry, he met an imaginative and wealthy businessman, who offered Julius the foundation of a soap factory. The offer, a partnership with the man’s son, was for equal rights and income. In lieu of capital investment, Julius would contribute his talent and hard work. He embarked on an intensive study of fat chemistry and the factory prospered. However, in 1925 Hutter & Lever, (subsequently Lever Brothers) entered the Hungarian market, selling soap under cost price. Julius and his partner sold up, and Julius left for Paris.
Julius worked at manufacturing shoe cleaners, while enjoying the cultural life of Paris. Developing his knowledge of industrial chemistry, he prospered. Two years later Julius sold his business, returning to Budapest and a critically ill mother. He recommenced manufacturing shoe cleaners and studied fat and wax chemistry. Julius travelled extensively, learning from other European manufacturers and utilising his chemical expertise to refine and wholesale led lights develop the quality of his formulas.
In 1929 Julius married Cornelia, the third female graduate from Budapest Medical School. A year later Julie, their only child was born, and their home doubled as Cornelia’s surgery. Julius stopped travelling and concentrated on developing his business. In 1939, with WWII imminent, Julius, Cornelia and Julie fled Hungary for Australia.
Julius conceived the name Waproo, short for waterproof, as the name of his fourth business. He began working in a small basement, developing his chemical products, manufacturing and distributing in Melbourne. He then moved to a factory in Brunswick where he developed the first waterproof glue for the Australian Air Force. During the 1940s, Julius’ daughter Julie studied Law at Melbourne University. There she met Ray Dahlitz, who was studying Commerce. They married in 1949 and at Julius’ persuasion, Ray joined Waproo. Ray became an enthusiastic apprentice to Julius and the two men worked well together.
In 1957, after a brief illness, Julius died at age 65. Ray took over the reins of Waproo, and built a larger factory in High Street, Kew in 1959.
Waproo subsequently acquired Joseph Lyddy Horse Care Products as well as additional Australian formulations, including Solomon’s Solution, Raven Oil and Blac-It. Waproo expanded and the Kew factory was extended. Continued growth resulted in the sale of Kew in 1972 and larger premises acquired on Canterbury Road, Canterbury. Subsequently, export into South East Asia became a significant part of the business.
Julius Henley, the founder of Waproo, is remembered as a modest, thoughtful and principled person. Many have benefited from his knowledge, dedication, diligence and legacy: Waproo has remained an all Australian family business and has continued to be a manufacturer of exceptional quality shoe and leather care products.