When you first walk into Richard ‘Yok’ Snedden’s shed, you get the idea that a lot of work has gone into it.
The Aberdare man who works at Maitland Gaol has spent more than two decades tinkering and toying with what is simply known as ‘The Shed’.
His work has paid off – The Shed cinched the number one spot in Gold Logie winner Scott Cam’s Top Aussie Sheds book, which comes out Wednesday.
Proclaiming himself the book’s ‘Mr January’ with a big laugh, Yok said it was a huge honour to win the title over the many awesome sheds that are out there.
“The Shed had always been a dream of mine,” Yok said.
“It means everything to me, it’s my whole life.
“I still do something to it everyday. It will never be finished.
“It will be nice to be able to leave it to my kids.”
Yok talks about The Shed like it is one of his children, and his kids were actually one of the driving forces behind the project.
He wanted a space to restore furniture, but also somewhere for his kids to have their birthday parties.
“We’ve done all that tenfold,” he said.
And you can understand why it’s a party haven when you see it.
The two story building is strewn with memorabilia – antique Coca Cola signs, cardboard cut outs and funny personal trophies including ‘stickybeak of the year’.
There is a designated dance floor, a swing, a work space, a bar, a pool table, a great sound system and enough collectables to keep anyone entertained for hours just looking at them.
But despite the obvious value in many of the items, Yok has collected most of The Shed’s contents from garage sales, auctions or people throwing stuff out.
“I’ve done it with not a lot of money,” he said.
“There were things people were throwing away as rubbish, and I saw something in them.
“There are a few valuable things, but I’ve just been lucky to pick them up at the right price.”
Every item has a story. Yok points out an ATM sign he picked up from an auction and says someone saw it and asked if he actually had a working ATM.
“I told her they’re just stocking it up,” he said with a laugh.
It’s these sorts of memories that make The Shed so special to Yok.
“It’s the people I’ve met through The Shed – and I mean that.
If the walls could talk about those people, boy would they have some funny stories to tell.
“I’ve had some really, really good times here. Some great parties.
“We’ve had fundraisers for people doing it tough. We’ve had taco eating competitions, pie eating competitions, hand shaking competitions.
“We had a wheelbarrow show with 50 barrows all done up.”
But despite all those shindigs – some with about 150 attendees – there has been little drama.
Yok even said the cops who had turned up to some of the parties about the noise were “all good people”.
“I’ve never had any trouble,” he said.
“Everybody that comes here enjoys the place, loves the place and I appreciate that very much.”
Yok is quoted in Scott Cam’s book as saying ‘I don’t have to invite anyone. People just turn up.’
“Ain’t that the truth!” he says while flicking through the pages.
The great neighbours over the years have helped with that too. When Yok first built The Shed, the couple next door were in their 80’s.
He told them he might host a party or two.
“She said to me ‘you do whatever you like Rich. You were sent down from heaven to build that shed’.
“I’ve been pretty lucky to be able to do it.”
The Shed project all started after Yok bought the house 21 years ago.
Yok, with help from his brother Robert and friend Paul ‘Ollie’ Oliver, converted what was an old bus shed with little but a roof and a wall, into a masterpiece.
Most of the materials came from an old house Yok and Ollie were pulling down at Lovedale. The house was set to be bulldozed, so Yok took the materials... and the rest is history.
The place has turned out exactly the way Yok imagined it, and for that reason he said it was amazing for it to be appreciated by someone like Scott Cam.
“It feels really nice,” he said.
“To think you’ve been acknowledged by someone like that, it’s pretty good to me.”