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Thistles And Ferns
The Memoirs Of Bob Walker Of Waipukurau, New Zealand

Waipukurau, New Zealand 25 November 1925 - Lower Hutt, New Zealand 29 March 2012

ROBERT LESLIE WALKER born November 1925, Waipukurau.

At the prompting of my children, I will endeavour to set down something of the history of myself and family as I know it including reminiscences from my point of view about my Father, Mother and Brother and Sister.

Firstly, my own personal details ….

I was born on the 8th November 1925 in Sister Anderson`s Nursing Home in Gaisford Terrace Waipukurau. As my mother used to say, I was a birthday present for her 26th birthday which was on the 15th November. I can even tell you that a girl called Joan Staines was born in the bed next to me but two days earlier. As can be expected in a small community we went right through school together.

My father Thomas Wilson Walker was born in Invercargill on 19th November 1895 and my mother Margaret Williamina Pemberton (known to everyone as Reta) was born in Stirling (just outside Balclutha) on the 15th November 1899. I have an older brother Ronald Wilson Walker born 19th August 1922 and an older sister Joan Margaret Walker (now McHardie) born 25th October 1923. Dad was a Pharmacist and had been appointed to Pukeora Sanatorium, which was a new TB Hospital for returned servicemen. TB was at that time a feared killer disease which was treated by giving patients lots of good air, good food and plenty of rest. As it was all very new Dad had to learn more skills such as bacteriology and radiography and as he said it was a great place to work and live.

Mum of course was a dedicated housewife and mother and a very good one at that. I can look back now and deeply appreciate the love and care Mum gave to all of us particularly as she was the disciplinarian. Dad never raised his voice or hand to us. Mum was totally devoted to Dad as he was to her. She always said how much she loved her children, had no favourites, but Dad came first.

My first coherent memories are of the house in Hatuma Road. This was about a mile and a half out of Waipukurau in the country. It seemed at that time to be a large house but in fact it was quite small. It had 4 large brick chimneys and a long hall running from the front of the house to the kitchen at the back. All the rooms opened off this hallway and I seem to recall that I was in a room to the left of the hall. Out the back we had a long corrugated iron shed that Dad used to keep wood in. It also housed his old square tank Douglas Motor bike.

Dad used to ride this bike to Pukeora every working day, a distance of about 2 miles, and as the roads were only shingle in those days, had quite a few "incidents" He did tell us about one which I think is worth relating.

Just up the road a farmer called Fairweather had a sheepdog given to chasing motor vehicles. In those days of course there weren’t many of these, but every time Dad went past the dog would come out and bite at his foot as he rode past. Dad got fed up so, in his dispensary he made up two small glass containers of chlorine. Next morning the dog did his usual thing so Dad reached down and broke one of the containers on the dog’s nose. As Dad put it, the dog disappeared over the ridge in a cloud of dust and was never known to chase cars again.

At about age 4 I recall my Grandmother Pemberton with her new husband John Clark coming to stay. I can remember insisting that he come with me to see all the Hawthorn trees, which were then in full fruit. Years later I learned that all he did when we got back was to complain about the distance I had made him walk. Apparently it was a least a mile each way and he wasn’t used to walking. I can also recall about that same period I had a wooden whistle and on trying to blow it one day, I got bitten on the tongue by an earwig which had taken up residence Still when I was about four, I can recall Dad and his West End Orchestra practising at our place and over the road at Davis`s place. Sandy Davis played drums, his brother (Jack) played Saxophone, Bill Rust the Violin, and a lady whose name I can`t recall played piano. Dad played Trombone. Dad and some of the others used to play for the Silent Movies and the West End Orchestra was very much in demand for Balls and Dances. Mum told me that when I was about three, the Orchestra was playing at the Annual School Ball and she was helping with Supper. They put me in a makeshift carry cot and put me down at Sandy Davis` feet right by the bass drum where I happily slept the whole night through. Perhaps that is why I love music and dancing.

At five of course it was off to school and what a dramatic welcome I got. Summers in Hawkes Bay, particularly to kids, were long and hot and 1930/31 was no exception. I remember that we had gone to Napier earlier on and I have a vivid picture in my mind of watching a large number of yachts sailing a regatta on the inner harbour.

We then went down to Wellington when Dad took his Annual Leave and came back home on the second of February. On the morning of 3rd February 1931, my school career got under way and history will tell you that this was the day of the Napier Earthquake. As we were only 30 miles away you can imagine we got hit hard. The quake hit at 10.30 am fortunately, as we were all out in the playground at the time for morning break and I can remember taking off at full speed to our teacher Miss Caughley. I was fast even in those days and I reckon I got to her first. She was only about 5 feet tall but I`m sure she had every Primer One child in her arms and I was in danger of being crushed. I have no real idea how long it lasted although it seemed a long time. A little later my sister Joan appeared around the corner of the Standards Block and we walked off down the School Lane to the Main Street. I seem to recall that my brother joined us there but I`m not sure. The most vivid memory I have is seeing a large pile of bricks in the middle of the road with the big town clock resting on the top. These bricks were the front of the Post Office and when you looked at it, it was like a dolls house with no front. You could see the Counters on the ground floor and the rooms on the top floor where the Brownes lived. He was the Postmaster. We then all walked the one and a half miles back home to Hatuma Road to find our mother very shaken indeed. It seems that when the earthquake hit she was by the back door. She ran round the house to get to the front gate and on the way a brick from a falling chimney just caught her heel and bruised it. She told us she then had to really hang on to the front gate to stop from falling over as the ground movement was so violent. In fact all our chimneys had fallen down but luckily all had fallen outwards and did not damage the roof Mum did the cooking for the next few weeks out in the wood-shed on a Primus stove.

Dad went to Napier on the day of the earthquake with the Medical Rescue teams and came home on the Wednesday night. On the Thursday he borrowed a brand new Ford Coupe from one of the San porters, a guy named "Dummy "Percival, and took me with him back to Napier. As we approached Napier along the Marine Parade you could see a three storey white building with a lean of 30 to 40 degrees which I think was a private hospital. My only other strong memory of this day was seeing a tramcar lying on its side in Clive Square with its woodwork still smouldering. (I have since located a picture of the hospital which was known as Dr Moore`s Hospital.) I have written at length about the earthquake because it was such a devastating thing to happen to anyone at such a young age and my memories are still vivid. Memories of my years passing through school are strong and numerous but I will in general deal with the important (to me) ones. Having survived the earthquake we were soon back at school which had had a great number of cracks plastered over and in all the years at primary school, I was never sure how safe it really was. As I said we had to walk the one and a half miles to school down the main road which was still shingle with a rough footpath down the side. However, later on that year we shifted into Waipukurau and lived in a house in Northumberland Street. This was a new experience of having lots of neighbours and some of them were a pretty rough bunch. There was another family of Walkers with a lot of kids mostly older than us and I can remember some of the boys, Ulie, Freddie and George. The girls names I can`t remember.

I have two strong memories of Northumberland Street. The first was around about Guy Fawkes Day and Dad had bought some fireworks. He had one powerful one called a "Double Banger "which was very powerful indeed. Well we were all sitting at the tea table and Dad was pretending to light the wick of this "Double Banger" to scare us when unfortunately he really did light it. He didn`t have much choice then so threw it into the open fireplace where it exploded and brought down a shower of soot and dirt. The room was a shambles. I seem to remember that Mum was less than pleased and I’m sure Dad copped it when they were on their own. The second thing I remember was being doubled on a pushbike by a boy called Dennis Bliss who was the son of a local baker. Never having been on a bike before I made the mistake of letting my foot hang by the front wheel, when my sandal got caught and we had a nasty fall. The skin was taken off the top of my feet and there was blood everywhere. Fortunately I was right outside home and Mum in her usual capable fashion soon had me cleaned and fixed up.

Shortly after this we moved again; this time to Racecourse Road and a rather bigger house. I was I think in the Primers at the time. The next year took me to Standard One where I had a teacher we knew as Miss Pussy Williams. I realise now that she was very young and probably just out of Training College. I have no idea where she got the nickname of "Pussy" but I had a real crush on her. She was lovely. My Standard Two teacher was Miss Marshall known to all as Ma Marshall. She was a tall angular sort of woman who was a strict disciplinarian, and whom I always seem to upset. It wasn’t about my lack of scholastic ability as right through primary school I was always first or second in the class, competing always with, Bernie Dowrick, Charlie Lum Jack and Margaret Gideon. I think I topped the class in Stds 2 and 5 and was first equal in Std 3 with Paddy Howlett and 2nd in Stds 4 and 6.

1932 was a significant year as we shifted to Pukeora Sanatorium, to a house on the farm below the hospital. We were to live there until New Year’s Day 1941. Besides the Hospital Pukeora had a 400 acre farm which produced everything required to feed all the "live in "staff and patients. Several staff families lived on the farm. They were McVicars (2 Boys Bob and Des) Abrahams (2 boys Nelson and Selwyn ) Fergusons (1boy 1 girl Peggy and John ) Howletts ( 3 boys Ray, Paddy and Monty) Walkers (2boys 1 girl Ron, Joan and Bob) Yanko 3b ,1g David, John and one younger brother and sister whose names I don’t remember) Mcleans (1b,1g, Alistair and Shona.

The core of these families remained fairly constant over the next seven years but the McVicars and Mcleans moved away. No other families moved in. Each day we travelled to school by bus and this could be either a big Packard Taxi or a 20 seater bus. Later on the Packard was replaced by a new Hudson Terraplane car. Mike Udjur, a Dalmatian owned a Fish Shop, the local Taxi and the Bus Franchise, so we never knew what we would be travelling in. Later on during `39 and 40 I mostly rode my bike to school. I say my bike but it was in fact owned by one of our local butchers (Charley Wadman) and was a fully geared and equipped road racing bike.

Once again because we had to go straight from school to catch the bus home, we never got to be invited to people’s place or to birthday parties or such things. Similarly as a family we never had birthday parties and did not invite many of the kids to our place. There were enough kids living on the farm that we formed our own fairly closed society. What a wonderful life it was for a seven year old with literally thousands of acres to roam around in and miles and miles of rivers and river-beds.

The Sanatorium itself was situated at the top of the hill 4-5 miles west of Waipukurau and was surrounded by a 400 acre farm which as I have said made the institution virtually self sustaining. Our house was down on the farm and was about 200yards away from the Stables, slaughterhouse and pigsties which. It sounds pretty gruesome, but they were not visible from the house and we didn`t have a smell problem, Immediately below us down a steep hill was the remains of 6 fowl runs. All that was left were the concrete block bases about 30 feet by 30 feet and stepped down the valley like stairs. These proved a wonderful playground as they were so smooth and didn't turn to mud in the rain.

Within about two years however they had pulled up all the fruit trees, and, a little later had pulled the glasshouse down. I can remember 4 or 5 of us kids had been down raiding the orchard and we looked into the glasshouse on the way home to see what if anything we could eat. Berty Cullen the orchard keeper and his girlfriend (later his wife) Doris Hook were having a bit of a cuddle in the there and although he spoke a few harsh words to us he never ever mentioned the fact that we had been raiding the orchard. What it was to be young and innocent.

From the moment we went to Pukeora I spent every minute I could with Tom Taylor the Ploughman, Labourer and General Dogsbody. He was an Irishman about his middle fifties, unable to read or write but was a wonderfully competent man on all things farming. He loved his horses and they would do anything for him. I spent all my years at Pukeora learning everything Tom could teach me and by the time I was 12 I reckon I could handle any job on the farm within my physical limits. I could plough with a three horse team and do all the necessary things to look after the horses and harness them for work. One of my favourite jobs was in the winter, when we would harness Daisy our Clydesdale mare up to a dray, go and cut a load of ensilage and then feed it out to the cows. It really ponged, but I loved the smell, even though Mum reckoned she could smell me coming from half a mile away.

We had one bad accident and that was when Joan and I were riding on the footplate of our horse drawn spreader spreading superphosphate on the paddock in front of our house. The Super was quite lumpy and Joan and I were breaking down the larger lumps by hand. Joan when pushing down on a lump got her finger caught in the "star wheel" which rotated and let the super fall through to the ground. She yelled and old Tom who was driving stopped the horses so quickly that Joan only lost her fingernail and not her whole finger.

The farm also had a milking herd of 120 Ayrshire cows which were milked twice a day. They were so well trained that nobody ever had to drive them to their day and night paddocks, or go and get them when it was time for milking. They did it all on their own. I learned to milk by hand but it was not a thing I enjoyed doing. I always helped with cutting and stacking the lucerne, cutting and baling hay and ploughing and sowing. Old Tom entrusted me with helping him set up the guide markers for ploughing. We would take a measure from a fence at one end and make the same measurement at the other. We would put in a tall marker stake at each end and then I would walk the whole length of the paddock putting in stakes every 30 or 40 yards so that they all lined up. We would start the plough at one mark and and plough a dead straight furrow to the other end marker. After that it was a simple matter to plough the paddock with long straight furrows that were very much a matter of pride in those days.

Probably the most memorable incident of our lives a Pukeora was the night the Nurses Home was burned down. It happened that one of our local Taxi drivers (Stan Thompson) was courting one of the Sisters and they were parked outside the home about midnight. They noticed flames in the Matron’s lounge. Sister ran through the Home and woke everybody while Stan rang the Waipukurau Volunteer Fire Brigade and any other staff member he could find. I must say that I was not popular that night, as I wouldn`t answer the telephone when it rang in the middle of the night. It was in the kitchen right through the wall from my bed. Anyhow they kept ringing and Joan finally answered and called Dad and Mum who slept right up in the front of the house. Dad dashed off but Mum wouldn`t let us go and watch the fire so we didn`t see it till next morning. Then there was nothing but a pile of ashes. The only thing that survived was the asphalt tennis court for which Ron and I were quite thankful as we used to spend hours playing tennis there. I particularly recall that on the morning after the fire Joan and I spent a long time in conversation with two of the girls from the home. One of the girls was Winnie Cann and the other was ....Ford. (Can`t recall her first name).They were going into great detail about losing everything. A short time later they arrested and convicted Winnie Cann of lighting the fire. It turned out later that she was a known arsonist who liked setting fire to Hotels and Nurses Home. She apparently confessed to a number of fires but would not confess to a Nelson Nurses Home fire in which a girl was burned to death.

Another interesting part of life at Pukeora was our Wednesday night picture show. This was held in the Social Hall with strict segregation of patients and staff - patients on the left, staff on the right. It was quite laughable because everybody breathed the same air. We had a single projector operated by Doug Howlett and in between changing reels he played one of the five records he had. My favourites were ‘Road to the Isles’ and ‘Peg Leg Jack’. Coming up to the time when I was 12, I was beginning to appreciate the difference between girls and boys and had developed a real crush on one of my class mates called Gwen O`Connor. Gwen had started school with us in Standard 5 as she was from Wairoa. I think her mother had died and she had been sent to live with her maiden aunt, Miss Beacham. However I found out that like most young girls Gwen had a romantic streak and what she told you wasn`t necessarily the truth. So the reality was probably a bit different. That was a great time in my formative years as Gwen and I "went steady" until the end of our fourth form year when she returned to Wairoa. I also had two inseparable friends - Bob Johnston and Rod Chisholm. Bob was going steady with Kath Hubbard and Rod was going with Pam Smith. We all went to dances, pictures picnics etc and played a lot of tennis together …. just the usual teenagers of our generation. After Gwen returned to Wairoa I had a couple of brief romances with Sheila Walker and Edna Sparks, but it was never the same as our old gang. When I look back I must say that they were wonderfully innocent and protected days and the reality of making your way in this world were mercifully hidden from us. I should mention that in 1943 Bob Johnston joined the Navy as a Signalman and Rod Chisholm who was actually two years older than Bob and I joined the Airforce and became a Fighter Pilot. He did a tour of duty in the Islands flying Warhawks, while Bob went to England, trained as a sonar operator, and did his sea time on an anti submarine frigate in the English Channel. Rod married Isobel Munro and settled in Hastings while Bob married Nola Green and settled in Masterton. I had the good fortune this week (23/3/99) to catch up with Bob at the Carterton Golf Club where we caught up on a lot of history. I should mention that as at this time Rod, Kath and Gwen have died.

When Bob and I were in the Scouts together Rod gave us the framework of a 12 foot Indian style canoe which his father had kept in a shed. We covered it with a double skin of unbleached calico which we sealed with numerous coats of paint, finishing up with a bright red topcoat. We must have spent hundreds of hours paddling up and down theTuki Tuki River. Bob left school as soon as he was able to (I think at age 15 ) and went to work in the Hardware section of Hawkes Bay Farmers so Rod and I spent our spare time together either out rabbit shooting or riding our push-bikes all over central and southern Hawkes Bay. We both had paper rounds and on a nice Saturday morning we would meet up after breakfast and go riding. Our journeys (all one day trips) took us as far as Napier to the North and Woodville to the South and all points in between. I might say that at this stage of my life my bike was a Raleigh Sports given to me by Ron when he joined the Airforce. I have actually never owned my own bicycle in all my life.

One other significant happening in the era was when I was in the Third Form at High School (1939). Just at the start of the May holidays I had ridden my bike (on my own) to Dannevirke and back and the day after I developed a terrible earache. Dad took me down to the Hospital where they diagnosed an acute infection of the middle ear (Acute Otitis Media). Now it so happened that Dad had received his first supply of a new drug called M& B 693 or Sulphapyridine. (This was the first of the Sulpha Drugs of which Sulphanilimide became famous ) I was the first patient in the Hospital to receive this drug. One of the things about sulphapyridine was that all eggs and onion had to be excluded from the diet and they very carefully didn`t give me any eggs or onions. However I was a very sick boy and the only thing I could tolerate was soup so this is what they fed me. (loaded with onions). The infection just got worse and I rather think I was in a pretty desperate situation because without further ado they operated on me by cutting through the eardrum and lancing the infection directly. It took me a couple of weeks to recover before I went home and I remember feeling very put out because I had spent all of the May School holidays in Hospital . I felt that was a pretty raw deal. As a comment on this I should tell you that a girl called Evelyn Halford from my class developed the same complaint about a week after me, was admitted to Hospital, given M&B 693 and walked out cured after 3 days. I was rather annoyed.

[end of part one]

Part Two

I finished my schooling at High School passing University Entrance in 1942, and taking extra subjects in Plane Trigonometry and Drawing (Freehand and Mechanical) I passed Engineering Preliminary and qualified for Higher Leaving Certificate in 1943. At about this time a chap called John Pickie (our 3rd grade Football coach) chased me up to join Hawkes Bay Farmers as a Stock and Station Agent but I couldn`t see myself staying in Waipukurau all my life, so turned that down. At the same time I had the opportunity to apply for an Officer Training Course at Duntroon College in Australia. I wasn`t that keen but the recruiting Captain kept at me by visiting me twice at school and even asking the Headmaster to try to convince me. Dad put a bit of pressure on me not to accept so I didn`t.

I enrolled at Victoria University and came down to Wellington to live at a Bed and Breakfast boarding house at 120 The Terrace run by a charming lady called Mrs Baird. I must say on looking back on that period of my life, that it was not a very happy time. Here I was a callow youth from the country, with no friends, schoolmates or anyone in a big city, when I was used to knowing and be known by ev’rybody. I also had made a bad error in judgement deciding to take Chemistry as one of my subjects as I had not taken this at High School. I had taken Biology as a science, but this was not an option at University because I was taking Engineering Intermediate. I would have been better taking a Degree in the "life" sciences. This put a great deal of strain on me so that by the end of the year I had not taken "terms" in Chemistry although I had in Pure and Applied Maths. I must mention that I was only able to do this year at University because my brother Ron provided me with 3 pounds a week during the Varsity year.

At the end of the Varsity year I got a job with my uncle, Alan Pemberton working with the Maintenance Gang at C&A Odlins. This was an experience and a half. When I started, the gang had a project on, which involved pulling down the Sawmill and 4 Mill Houses at Hinakura (out behind Masterton) and rebuilding them all at Wereroa (Levin). All went well for the first three weeks and we duly dismantled the mill and houses into sections, loaded them up and transported them to Levin. This involved a number of round trips. We were working around sixteen hours a day and when we were at Hinakura the company paid for us to stay at the Club Hotel in Martinborough. This pub later became famous on TV as the pub at Pukemanu. Staying at this pub was another one of those life experiences that it would be hard to forget. Mick Quinn was the local Publican and he was from a family who had run pubs all over NZ (e.g. Quinns Post). He was a great guy and was one of the most entertaining fellows I`ve ever met. He had one particular trick I must recount. When Mick gave you change, if he had more than one coin, he would spin the largest one on end and make it run round and settle behind your glass. He would then bet a whisky against you buying a round that he could spin the smaller coin and make it land on the first one. He had a very high percentage of success, but I seem to remember getting a few drams… whisky was in very short supply at the time. Once, (I was about 19 then), when we had spent most of one evening drinking with a group of local people, I asked Mick whether he had any after-hours trouble with the Law. He replied that I had better ask the guy I was drinking with as he was the local policeman!

During the pulling down of these houses I had run a splinter of jarra into my right hand middle finger. I pulled it out and thought no more about it till about four weeks later when my hand became so painful that the firm sent me to their doctor, a Dr Hutchison. He looked at it and lanced the infection and referred me to Wellington Hospital Outpatients for regular dressings. After a week the finger had got worse so I asked the Hospital if I could go home to Waipukurau, and, after some debate they agreed. Getting home was an adventure in itself as then, about December 1944 wartime restrictions on travel were quite severe. It meant that you could not travel more than 50 miles without a travel permit and it always took a few days to get one. This meant that I couldn`t book on the Napier train so I bought a ticket to Masterton and caught the Wairarapa express. I got off at Masterton and bought a ticket to Waipukurau without being questioned, got back on the train and travelled to Woodville. I then waited at Woodville for about an hour before the Napier express arrived and travelled through to Waipukurau. I must say that at no time did anybody ask me for a Travel Permit. When I finally got home, Dad whipped me straight off to the Hospital where the Medical Superintendent gave me a real going over and announced that the infection was so widespread that if it couldn't be brought under control very quickly, he would have no option but to amputate the finger. Well he and Dad had a consultation, and, as a result, I was given a course of penicillin which fortunately beat the infection and left me with my finger. I then spent six weeks on ‘Workers Compensation’ at a higher rate of pay than the ordinary workers’ wages. They calculated ‘Compo’ on the basis of 2/3rds of the average of your last six weeks wages, and, as I had been working sixteen hour days my payment was very high. In fact I was called the ‘Compo King’ when I went back to work at Odlins for the rest of the vacations and also finished up in Levin for six weeks rebuilding the houses we had pulled down, as well as building a new Sawmill.

With the new academic year coming up, I returned to Wellington and decided that I had to get a full-time job to support myself; so I applied to the Manpower Authority as was required by Law in those days. They gave me a list of possible employers, who, for the most part, were factory companies. However, there was one Company I recognised called Watson Victor Ltd. It was the X-Ray and Electromedical equipment company that had installed all the X-Ray equipment at Pukeora, and, as Dad was the Radiographer there I had already met one or two its people. I duly fronted up and got a job, initially in the store, but with the promise that I would be given the first office job available. This opportunity came after a couple of months and I was put in the orders section under a guy called Andy Caverhill. From that point, with only a one year break, I spent the next thirty-two years working for them.

This really is the point where the direction of my life changed. I was 19 and pretty well able to take care of myself so I settled down to making it my business to learn everything about the medical fields in which the company was operating. I must say that my upbringing, and the fact that I had studied Biology, made this a relatively easy and painless line of learning, so I really began to enjoy my job. Our Managing Director was John M. Graydon, a very fine man, and one of the old school whose favourite saying was, "It is not who is right, but what is right"! He was a very ‘hands- on’ boss and would turn up when you were working and put you through a ‘catechism’ of what you were doing and why. It was amazing how many times in the early stages of my employment he would arrive as I was not quite doing things right and so I soon learned to think pretty hard about what I was doing and thus avoid embarrassment. I must say that I have always taken pride in my work and the work ethic which has guided it, and I am sure that this feeling could be attributed to the fine teaching that I received from John Graydon.

At the time I joined Watson Victor I was living in a ‘bach’ at the back of a house in Durham Crescent off Aro Street. Two of the guys at ‘WatVic’ arranged for me to get full board with a Mrs Jordan who ran a boarding house at 235 Ohiro Road, Brooklyn. This was not only a huge improvement on my previous digs because it was full board, but also, as there were about twelve of us in the house there was always company.

It was here that I met Nigel King who was to become Best Man at my later wedding. He was a wonderful pianist, and our mutual love of music was one of our main touching points. Thanks to my Mum I had learned all the old songs that she used to sing and we enjoyed many a good old sing song together. I must admit that I never thought that I might have a reasonable voice. I tended to think of myself as a mere warbler. Nigel, however, was a great one for playing by ear, and, when we first got together I would ask if he could play a certain song. Quite a lot of the time he wouldn`t know it and would ask me to sing it through for him. Next thing he would play it back perfectly with full chord harmonies and said that it was no trouble at all because my voice was so accurate for pitch and melody. There were some wonderful times at Mrs Jordan’s.

That same year (1945), because I was a keen tramper and dancer, I joined the Young People’s Club which was very active in both these areas. Another two friends of mine at Mrs Jordan’s who also joined the club, were, Gordon Carmichael, a lad who hailed from Dannevirke and who worked in the Railway Booking Office in Courtenay Place and a Murray Grey. The reason I mention these guys is because we were together when Victory over Japan was declared (VJ Day) and it became a true ‘Lost Weekend’. I was riding my bike up Willis Street that morning when all the windows in the Evening Post Building opened and showers of paper were thrown out. The armistice had just been signed. Instead of going to the Parkin Plating Co where I had been heading, I rode up to Courtenay Place and there joined up with Gordon and Murray to join in the celebrations. I won’t go into too much detail because an awful lot was quite hazy and the time factor became quite compressed. However, I do recall some parts of the pub-crawl we undertook, mainly the Pier and Post Office Hotels. These were the hangouts of a lot of the mostly Irish Watersiders. I recall that we spent most of our time singing all the Irish songs we knew and we came out loaded with bottles of beer without having spent a red cent. They were all so maudlin and home sick they wouldn`t let us pay for anything. Although we were in many pubs after that, the other one that stands out is the Duke of Edinburgh. This was one of our regular pubs as it had Cascade Beer on tap which, to our mind, was the finest beer in NZ at the time. The publican used to boast that a new barrel coming into the Hotel was in the cellar thee months before it came on tap. Well all that went by the board because by the time we got to the pub it was dry--all the draught beer had been drunk and they were down to their last few bottles. My last vivid memory of this episode was being stopped by Police as we walked home through Central Park about 11.00 a.m. next day and being told by the Sergeant to go home and sleep it off.

The next few months were uneventful being taken up with work, tramping, dancing etc. Many know that I love dancing and would go out of my way to go to a dance. One of the girls from the Club (Betty Barker) also loved dancing. If she didn`t have a partner she would ring me up and we would go dancing together. Indeed the whole YPC gang would go to a dance or a Ball at the drop of a hat. I always like to point out that I never "went out" with Betty as a girlfriend but just as a dancing partner. From about September ‘45 to January ‘46 I went out with a girl from the Club called Nan Marshall who, shortly after I went deer culling, married Betty Barker’s brother Eddie who at the time was Club President.

Although engaged in all these social activities I was still very much a lonely country boy, so, under some pressure from a work-mate of mine named Les Pracy, I joined up with him to form a deer culling party and joined the Internal Affairs Department. I resigned from Watson Victor with the assurance that, should I ever require it, there would be a job always available to me. So on the eighth of January 1946 I reported to the Otaki Railway station for duty as a deer culler.

Perhaps I should give a little background to this deer culling business. Deer graze a bit like sheep and cut vegetation right down to ground level. They also like the bark of the Konini tree and without much trouble can ring-bark and kill it. This probably wouldn`t matter much if deer grazed in lowland pastures, but they don`t. They graze the mountain top pastures of tussock grass and the Konini grows in the head-waters of all the mountain streams. As they eat the tussock down they expose the soil to rain and snow and thus accelerate erosion. The Konini trees help to stabilise the land in the head waters of the rivers, but when destroyed erosion becomes a major problem. I firmly believe that the problems with deer were never as bad as was thought, but at this time (1946), because of the War, our mountains had not been shot-over for 6 years and deer , goats, and pigs had bred till they were quite out of hand.

With this background I arrived at Otaki Forks and was issued with an MLE .303 1902 vintage, long-barrel, open-sights’ rifle – known affectionately to all as a "Long Tom". I asked if the long barrel wouldn`t be a bit of a problem for "bush shooting "to be told by the Field Officer that I wouldn`t be doing a hell of a lot of bush shooting as I would spend all my time on the ‘Tops’ for which a Long Tom was ideally suited. He was right. I really came to rely on the accuracy of a long barrel when shooting at altitudes of about 3000 to 5000 feet. The SMLE short barrels were never quite as accurate.

I only spent one night at Otaki Forks as next day Les Pracy and I were taken to Eketahuna and then into the eastern side of the Tararua Ranges to a place called Putara. This is in the valley of the Mangatainoke Stream and is about 15 mile from Eketahuna and became our primary Base Camp. From there it was a two or three day tramp to get to our advance base Camp in the Waingawa Forks just below Tarn Ridge. We settled into the hut at Putara which was at the beginning of the Ruapai Track and for the first week spent all our time shooting the ridges and tops within a days tramp of the hut. We then packed up all our gear and supplies and moved on to the Ruapai Forks Camp situated at the confluence of the Ruapai and Ruamahanga Rivers. Here we had two ‘eight by ten’ permanent tents with well made bush bunks. These were made of punga tree trunks covered in deep layers of dry vegetation and were very comfortable indeed. After a couple of weeks shooting this area, Les Pracy had to pull out because of a damaged foot, and I was joined by a chap called Ken Purcell who only stayed a week then decided it was not the job for him. He was replaced by Ted Rye, a very experienced shooter and Bushman. Ted had a dog ‘Mac’with him, about 6 months old; a Bull Mastiff Blue Merle ‘cross’ who stood about 2ft 6 at the shoulder and had a jaw that would take your arm off.

Just as an aside, one day, when we were packing supplies along the track at Ruapai, we met a tramping party from the Tararua Tramping Club comprising about 6 guys and 4 women. We finally worked out that Mac had never seen a woman before. It appeared that having been born in the bush he couldn’t handle the strangeness. I should also tell you that about a month later, Mac went missing after a days shooting with Ted. After a week or so we gave him up for dead. Three months later on a return trip to Ruapai I went into the equipment tent and got bowled-over, literally, by Mac, who had obviously been living on what he could catch and kill and had probably holed up at Ruapai hoping we would come back.

Shortly after Ted had joined me, our Field Officer, Bert Barra came out to camp and told us we had to be up on Tarn Ridge in three days time in order to receive an airdrop of 3 months supply of food and ammunition. This was to be the first ever air drop of supplies to deer cullers and was to be somewhat of an experiment. We duly turned up at Tarn Ridge and laid out the drop signals on the ground and waited...... for three days. We then tramped out to base and Bert made contact with Internal Affairs to be told that the Public Works’ plane had engine trouble and to forget about an air drop. Thus we had to pack all supplies in on our backs. This we duly did by carrying these packs, averaging 100lb, 6 days a week for about 4 weeks until we finally had all supplies back at our camp at Waingawa. Thus, there was virtually no shooting for this 4 week period. In due course, the first successful air drop made comprised building materials for a hut being built on Mt Crawford.

The only real incidents in the remainder of my time in the Tararuas was being burnt out while shooting the head-waters of the Waiohine. We had just got a fire going at our overnight camp when we spotted a bunch of deer coming down a side stream. Naturally we took off and cleaned up the mob but when we got back to camp we found that a pair of trousers belonging to Ted had fallen from the tent rope into the fire. The fire had burned the trousers but one leg was lying against the side of the tent and the whole thing had gone up in flames taking all our sleeping bags, packs and spare clothes with it. It was a three day tramp out to base so we had to spend two nights out without any sleeping bags or shelter. The other was being turned round in the fog while shooting on Dorset Ridge and not being able to move or find my way back to camp until about four in the morning. Another cold night in the tussock.

[end of part two]

Part 3

After coming out of the Tararuas at the end of May when the Tops were covered in snow I spent two weeks on leave at home and then crossed over to the South Island on the Tamahine for the Winter Shoot in Marlborough. This turned out to be a very different kind of shooting. My old Field Officer Bert Barra was head of the training school they were setting up in Wairau River Head-waters and Ted Rye my shooting partner was assistant Field Officer in the Area where I was to report. I was due to report at 2.00pm on the Wednesday at the Adelphi Hotel in Kaikoura. By six o’clock that afternoon I still hadn't seen my new field Officer although I had asked around a few times. At closing time when I checked again with the barman I was told that I had been drinking with the fellow for the last two hours. The guy’s name was Les Owens a fairly feisty west Coaster and we had been getting on pretty well. He asked me how an educated guy like me had got into the culling business and I told him my friend Les Pracy had suggested it. Nothing was said but I was a marked man from that moment on. What I didn`t know was that before the War, Les Pracy and Les Owens were shooting partners over on the Coast, but one day Les Pracy caught Les Owens beating a horse over the head because he had baulked at a water crossing. Les Pracy had then given him the father and mother of a hiding and you can imagine that there was no friendship between them.

I teamed up with a guy called Buckridge and to this day I don’t know his Christian name. He was always called Buck. As experienced shooters it was our job to go into a shooting block after a team from the Wairau Training School had shot-over it, and then take-out any game that was left. As we had a large pack of dogs we invariably took out more game than the original party. Les Owens used to come down to our camps and grizzle that we weren’t making the tallies we should etc etc whereas in fact we tallied higher than any one. To make a long story short he niggled us to the point where we had an argument about a transfer to a block and a change of personnel. I had really had a gutsfull and resigned. It was only later that Ted Rye told me they wondered how long I would stick out against Les Owen because of my friendship with Les Pracy. Strangely enough, after all this argument with Les Owens he became, outwardly, very friendly and as a result he and Ted Rye and I drove an Internal Affairs van to Blenhein and stopped there for three hazy days at Barrie’s Hotel. Afterwards, I climbed aboard the Tamahine and returned to the North Island and it was an incident on this day that determined my future career.

I got off the Tamahine in Wellington in the late afternoon, wandered up Lambton Quay to an old haunt of mine, the Piccadilly Restaurant, sat down and had a meal. About halfway through, the Medical Manager of Watson Victor (Charles Masters) walked in and sat down at my table. After a lot of catching up he asked me what I was planning to do and said that there was always a job for me at Watson Victor and I only had to ask. Next day I travelled to Waipukurau to sort out what I should do, although I was very keen to join the Forestry Service.

It so happened that the first week I was home they had an Ad in the paper for Forestry Hands so I duly went off to Hastings for an interview which turned out very well except that I didn`t take the job. During the interview they were very impressed with my background and experience and said that on that basis I would have to be rated a ‘Leading Hand’. As I was only 20 they felt that I could have great difficulty running a gang of workers most of whom would be pretty large Maori boys. I felt discretion was the better part of valour and left ...quietly! It seemed to me that the best thing to do was to contact Watson Victor and see what they had to offer. So I got on the phone to John Graydon the NZ Manager who, I must say, was delighted to hear from me, and gave me a job on the spot. I duly returned to Wellington, became assistant to Dr Morice Fields who was then just setting up a new Scientific Division and settled back into things very well.

Being back in Wellington I of course returned to my old haunts, the first one being the Young Peoples Club (YPC). When I arrived I was given a very warm welcome and was told that I would be the Labour Candidate in a ‘mock election’ they were having as there was to be a General Election in November. Considering that prior to going "Bush" I had been in the B Grade debating team, it must be confessed that my speech was a total and utter disaster. First of all, I had never been politically minded; if anything I was National oriented. Also, I had been out of touch with people for nearly a year and frankly had no idea of Labours Policies. I was however elected with a good majority …. most of the members being staunchly Labour. In particular, one attractive young girl whom I had never seen before came up to me and said "That was the worst speech I`ve ever heard." That rather damaged my pride, but, as I agreed with her, I just turned to Betty Barker and said, "Who the Hell was that?" She told me that her name was Shirley Harvey and that she and her sister Olga were relatively new members. I must say, that apart from her comments, I thought she was a lovely looking girl and decided she would be worth getting to know. When her sister Olga found out I was an athlete of sorts I was invited along to a showing of the film of the 1936 Olympic Games and it was suggested I should join the Petone Amateur Athletic and Cycling Club. This seemed to me to be a good idea because I would get an opportunity to get to know Shirley. However, the night I turned up at the Athletic Club I was told that Shirley wasn`t an athlete, so I decided to walk Olga home on the off-chance I might meet up with Shirley again.

It seems that about then Shirl accepted that it was her I was interested in but unfortunately we never got any time to spend alone as Olga always seemed to be there. In the fact the first time we were alone was when we went on a midnight cruise on the old Cobar out to the Wanganella which was then on Barret’s Reef. As Olga was suffering from some painful shingles, and couldn’t move around much, Shirl and I escaped and had a wonderful evening.

By the time March 1947 came around I was certain that she was the girl for me and I proposed at eleven minutes to eleven o’clock one evening just before dashing off to catch the bus at Cuba Street. Looking back, I suppose that I had not really appreciated then just what a huge step it was to ask a girl to marry me, and of course I hadn`t even thought of buying an engagement ring. One of the first things I did was to ring my Mother and ask her to send some of the money that I had left with her after I’d come out of the Bush; and of course I broke the news of my engagement! This was a real case of putting the cat among the pigeons as, not only had Mum and Dad not met Shirl, but also Mum was worried about what her ‘baby’ was getting himself into. But, being a good Mum, she sent me the money as requested and I went into Stoneham Jewellers on the corner of Cable Car Lane and bought a very nice solitaire diamond ring.

Shirl and I decided that we would not make our engagement official until her 21st Birthday on 4th June 1947 and I carried the ring around in my wallet until then. Actually Shirl (who hadn’t seen the ring) used to look after my wallet and watch while I was playing football, but she was never aware that it had her ring in it. Just after I had told Mum and Dad of the engagement, they arrived down on a visit, mainly to meet Shirl and ‘check her out’. I am happy to say that both decided immediately that I had indeed picked the right girl.

Shirley lived at 64 Adelaide Street Petone, with her Father, Grandmother and young sister Olga. Pat, her oldest sister, lived down the street at the flats at 80 Adelaide Street. Apart from her job as a spray painter at Jeldi Lampshades, Shirley had to do all the cooking and housework and generally look after the others in the house. Her Grandmother was quite a tyrant and she could make her life most uncomfortable. At that time football was pretty important to me as I was playing Senior Grade for Victoria University 1st XV, and, if I wanted Shirl to come out with me on the weekends to football or athletics etc., I would go around on Saturday morning, boil the copper, and then do the washing so she could get time off. This need to help was always there but we coped and always managed to get out together.

Not long before we were due to get married, Alf, Shirl`s Dad, got himself into a bit of difficulty with the paying of the rent and the buying of food, so he asked me to come and board with them so that there would be enough money coming in to keep him solvent. I should say that Alf was a Sailmaker by trade and at that time was arguably the best single handed sailmaker in NZ. However the war had made it almost impossible to get sailcloth so he really had no regular work. This meant his only source of income was his War Disability Pension. He had been seriously wounded at Gallipolli and couldn't really do any heavy work. Anyhow the arrangement worked well and helped him out of what could have been deep trouble.

In the months before we got married, when I was not participating in team sports, Shirl and I spent our time down at the Hutt River mouth. We had an old friend called Ossy Ryan who had a boat building shed down there. He always had a dinghy available for us and we spent many, many hours rowing on the river. We both loved doing this and it was a very happy period in our lives.

It might be hard for the younger generations to appreciate how difficult life could be in those days, particularly in relation to earning and saving money. With marriage in view, although no date had been set, it became a question of how soon we could save up to afford to get married. Shirl working as a spray painter in a Lampshade Factory probably got about three dollars per week, and I got about four. We decided that the best thing to do was for me to give my wages to Shirl, less a little spending money for myself. All Shirl’s wages were taken up in keeping the house going for her father and sister. I doubt that she had more than a few shillings a week to spend on her self. Alf never had a ‘bean’ so if we were going to have a wedding we were going to have to pay for it ourselves. To cut a long story short, it took 18 months of saving before we were able to get married on the 2nd October 1948; and we, on our own, paid for both the wedding and honeymoon. We married at 4.30 p.m. on the day. I suppose it was a good wedding but being a mere man I was probably not qualified to judge!

Our Wedding party comprised Shirl and me, Nigel King (Best Man), Betty Harvey (Chief Bridesmaid), Scotty Mills (Groomsman), Olga Harvey (Bridesmaid), and Suzanne Sherratt (Our 4year-old Flowergirl). Unfortunately we had picked a day when the North/South Football match was to be played, and, as it got close to 4.30 there was hardly a male to been seen at St David’s Church. Apparently they were all down at the Central Hotel listening to the match on the Radio. My brother-in-law Alan who was an Usher was also getting worried at this stage as the Minister was nowhere to be seen either! Alan went next door to the Manse, and there in his gardening clothes, still unshaven, listening to the football was Frank Winton the Minister. I understand that activity in the Manse was furious with Frank arriving just a minute or so before the bride who fortunately was fashionably ten minutes late! The upshot of all this was that Frank Winton had forgotten his Book of Service but managed to do the whole thing from memory. Although he left quite a bit out of the service I guess Shirl and I felt we were really married, so no harm done. We had our photos done at Jauncey Studios and then had a wonderful reception at the Heretaunga Yacht Club. The honeymoon was certainly a wonderful new experience. We had booked into the Portage down in the Marlborough Sounds but stayed overnight at the Waterloo Hotel opposite the Railway Station, and. perhaps it says it all if I tell you that Shirl was the first of the Hotel's patrons to be down at breakfast in the morning. She said she was hungry or something!

End of Part 3

Part 4

We caught the Airport bus to Paraparumu where we got on a Lochhead Electra and flew to Blenheim.This was Shirls first ever flight and must have been a nerve-racking experience, but she never let on. From Blenheim it was a bus to Picton where we had to wait all afternoon for the launch to take us to Portage.

It so happened that Shirl’s father was very friendly with the Vercoe family who lived in Picton, and in fact ran the Federal Hotel. We duly fronted up at the Federal and were invited into the saloon bar where Mrs Vercoe was behind the bar and Mr Vercoe was in front of the bar drinking with a bunch of Waterside workers. It was a terrible day weather wise as they had had a couple of light showers and the Wharfies were on full pay so they couldn`t possibly work in conditions like that. Anyhow Shirl who had never been in a Pub Bar in her life had a cup of tea with Mrs V and I was plied with free booze by the Wharfies. It turned out a great afternoon and we finally caught the launch at about 5 o'clock.

In those days you went straight across from Picton Harbour climbed out of the launch and clambered onto the tray of a one ton truck of very indeterminate breed, together with all your luggage of course. From the jetty the truck ground up a very steep, winding, terrifying track, over the ridge and down a similar terrifying track to Portage. I was fairly mellow so coped with that all right but Shirl must have had her eyes shut all the way.

I think we spent a week at Portage and I must say it was a magical time. The setting of the hotel in the Sounds is superb and, because there was no access-road, it was very peaceful. Under normal circumstances I guess life there could be pretty laid back, but it so happened that there were three other newly married couples staying there. One was from Invercargill, one from Christchurch and one from Wellington. There also was a middle-aged couple with a 12 or 13 year old boy. I can`t remember their family name but the husband was called Neville. The last of the group was another middle-aged couple called Wilson who really contributed to a wonderful week.

It so happened that in those days Portage was a non-licensed Hotel so liquor was not available. However the Wilsons were regular visitors and had laid down their own private cellar of what seemed to be an unending supply of beer. The day after our arrival as we were getting acquainted Jim Wilson said to me that he had heard it was my birthday and that he would throw a party in my honour. I protested that it wasn`t my birthday, but he assured me that it was, and threw the party accordingly. I should note here that a birthday party was held each night for the birthdays of all the other men.

When I look back on that first party I am reminded that we were all in our late teens and early twenties and must have looked ridiculously young. I mention this because the morning of the party we were all advised that there was a Youth Tour Group party of about 20 arriving in the late afternoon and that we were being asked to dress for dinner in ties and jackets, as you did in those days. Imagine our surprise when we were all seated for dinner, that the doors creaked open and there on the threshold was the Youth Tour Group. The first person seen was at least 75 years old, supported by two women who must have been well into their 60s followed by the rest of the party, the youngest of whom would have been in their 30s. Youth Group indeed! Having got over the shock we thought no more about it and duly got cracking on the party which that night was held in Ray and Noeline Burtinshaw’s room which opened out onto the huge verandah around the Portage. It soon got under way with a swing, but, after an hour or so, Bill Lawrence, who was the owner of the Portage disappeared, only to return about 20 minutes later with a face like a thundercloud. He had been called out by the Youth Tour Group to receive a formal complaint about the disgusting ‘goings on’ of the young girls in our group drinking and going in and out of bedrooms with the young men!

They were put right by Bill in no uncertain terms and the party proceeded to rather loud roars of laughter. The other memorable day was when our Mr Wilson decided he wanted a days fishing. He hired a commercial launch and invited us all to spend the day with him. I should add that, as usual, although the others all caught some fish, I, as usual, caught nothing. I am still the ‘World's Worst Fisherman’.

I must say that we enjoyed our stay at the Portage but in due course we had to head back to Blenheim and the plane home via Paraparaumu Airport. This time our plane was a two winged Domini and I think Shirl was enjoying her second flight until some ‘know all’ pointed out to her the fuselage of an Airforce DC-3 that had crashed on the hills of the Marlborough Sounds. This quite upset her for the rest of the trip. The remainder of our honeymoon was spent at Mum and Dad’s in Waipukurau.

One problem that had arisen by the end of our honeymoon was that was we only had 8 pounds ($16) left and nowhere to live. Just as we arrived back I was contacted by a guy from work who suggested we go and see a Mrs MacMaster at 2 Nicholls Ave. Petone and this resulted in our getting accommodation to live in for the next nine months until Glenda was born on the 11th July 1949.

It so happened that shortly after our Wedding Shirl’s Grandmother became unwell and went into hospital that eventually ended up as a the long stay in Silverstream Hospital. This meant that Alf (Shirl’s Dad) and her sister Olga were now living by themselves back at 64 Adelaide St., so he pleaded with Shirl to come back and look after him as it was likely that Grandma was not going to be coming back.

With a great deal of reluctance we finally agreed to return to 64 but laid down some non-negotiable terms. The first, and most important one, was that Shirl and I would become the tenants and Alf and Olga would board with us. They would both pay board but at a very reasonable level. In the event we finished up taking over the Tenancy from State Advances after paying off something more than the $100 pounds of back rent that Alf owed. We were told at the time State Advances had been fairly close to evicting Alf because of rent owed.

I guess it was not the most promising of starts to our married life, but we were very happy and tied up with our new baby. As I said above we had been told that Shirl’s Grandmother probably wouldn’t come out of Hospital, but Shirl did worry about this. However, a few months after we had moved in, Gran died at the age of 87.

Things settled down very well and life moved along on an even keel. My job at Watson Victor changed over the next few years and I moved from the Scientific division to Orders, to Customs Agent, to X-Ray Medical and Surgical Division Administration …. each move a step up the ladder. By this time our second child Leslie had been born and at the age of seven and had drowned.

[ N.B. I have written a separate story of Leslie`s life which is associated with these memoirs.]

Five years after Leslie, Gregory came along, and two years after that came Trevor.

Glenda Elizabeth-11/07/49..Leslie Wilson-04/08/51..Gregory Robert-15//11/56..Trevor Alan-26/11/58

In 1956, when Shirl was expecting Gregory who was due sometime in November, I received an urgent call from the Matron at Waipukurau Hospital telling me that Mum had suddenly taken ill and that I was to get there as soon as possible. I asked to talk to Dad, but when he wouldn’t come to the phone I suspected the worst. Mum had died suddenly from a burst Aneurism of the lower Aorta. This proved a difficult time as Dad was totally lost and it was hard with us living in Petone. However, the hospital people were marvellous and Dad was given a fully serviced flat there and soon fell into the pattern of coming down to Petone at least every second week end. One of the lovely things to happen was Gregory’s arrival on Mum’s Birthday, the 15th of November when Mum would have been 57. Dad had 5 years to go before retirement and he lived at the hospital for this period. I went up to Waipukurau for his send off which was done in great style but I’m not prepared to go into too much detail, except that old friends of mine on the staff thought it would be a good idea to give me a send off too!

In 1959 came another tragedy when our Leslie was drowned in the sewer pit at the end of McEwen Park in Petone. I won’t dwell on this here, but it did trigger a need to get Shirley and the family away from Petone and we agreed with Dad that, as he was coming to live with us permanently when he retired, he would help us with the deposit on a house This deposit was to pay for his living costs and board for as long as he might stay with us. On this basis we looked around and bought the house at 25 Guthrie Strteet and shifted over there in March 1960. Dad finally joined us the next year. Poor Shirley ! …..a Husband, 3 Children and 2 fathers to look after! But what a wonderful job she did.

Dad died in 1964 and was taken to Waipukurau and buried next to Mum. His old Band turned out and gave him a full Band Funeral which was most impressive. Shirl’s father Alf died in 1966 at the age of 75, and, for the first time in our 20 plus years of married life, we were on our own. We settled down very well in Guthrie Street and over time became very involved in the Community, but now, rather than putting everything down in chronological order, I’ll ramble on about my work career and my interests.

When I was working for Watson Victor we were initially based at Kelvin Chambers at 16 The Terrace Wellington and had our Showroom, Offices and Workshop and Store on the Ground Floor. (Kelvin Chambers was almost exclusively occupied by Doctors). After I returned from the Bush we made a number of changes and our Workshop went to Vivian Street and our Store to Victoria Street. I had, as I said previously, been working with Dr Fields in the Scientific Division, but my preferences lay elsewhere, so when Andy Caverhill who was in charge of the Orders Section left, I was appointed to take over. About 18 months later I had to suddenly include all the Customs’ work as well because of the unexpected resignation of Ray Hill our Customs man who had taken up a partnership with a Customs Agency. This really put an intense strain on me as I had also to do all the costings of every shipment. We accordingly employed Doug Clark (ex Swan Electrical) to head up the Orders section and I took over Customs completely. Doug and I became firm friends, and although Doug has passed on, his wife Jean is still one of our closest friends.

There is such a thing, or so they tell me, as on the job training, and my time with Customs was a classic example. I got one week’s tuition from Ray Hill before he left, but really I didn't have a clue. I made out a series of Customs Entries for about 20 consignments coming through Parcels Post. With Shipping the entries were put in a folder and examined by Customs Examining Officers at their own pace and time. With Parcels Post however you had to front up and discuss each entry with an Examining Officer who would approve or disapprove of your classification. As I said I went down without really any idea of system. I felt sure I had classified all the material coming in under its correct heading with the correct duty (if any) worked out. Would you believe it... the chief Examining Officer at Parcel post saw me coming and said in a loud voice. “I will assist this gentleman.” Well, he put me through it. He made me change the order of the entry copies, queried every classification, checked every duty calculation, and asked for a description of every item and how it was used in the medical field. I recall that I spent the whole afternoon passing those entries and at the end of it Doug Earl, who was chief E O said. “Now you will be able to come in here anytime and pass entries without any trouble, as long as you know your classifications.

The early days of Hip Replacements were quite exciting as there was great rivalry between the English Surgeons. Mr John Charnley at Wrightson Hospital, develped his Hip on the basis of using a Teflon Cup (Later using high density plastic) but with a femoral head of only 22mm, whereas McKee & Farrar used a 35mm head. He also used a different approach to the operation. In the mid 1960s a group at Exeter Hospital developed a sligtly modified unit, but in the first instance the manufacturers limited its use exclusively to those trained at Exeter. You can imagine how interesting it was hearing about all the arguments and in-fighting that went on. This sort of thing was what made my job absolutely fascinating.

My particular interest and expertise later centered on Electronic Monitoring equipment of all kinds but particularly in the field of Obstetrics. One of our agency was for a company called Sonicaid who specialised in monitoring equipment for mother and foetus during labour and childbirth, which when used in conjunction with automatic syringes had quite a profound effect on many existing practises. At one time the country was about equally divided between those Obstericians who would artificially induce their patients with drugs (Syntosin and Oxytosin). In this way they could generally bring the mother into labour at a time suitable to the doctor. The other half looked on this as an unnatural practice and the argument raged on for a few years. However even in straightforward births our monitors were attached to the scalp of the baby (before birth) and also attached to the mother. This enabled the Medical Team to monitor whether either the mother or the baby were in distress and gave them the opportunity to do something about it. I spent a lot of time in maternity Hospitals and delivery suites in NZ and these were most wonderful experiences.

I was most fortunate to be working with a company like Watson Victor at the time because the War had really pushed scientific development, one of which is an absolute Godsend today. We brought the first Fiber Optic Equipment for Medical Diagnosis into NZ about 1961/2 Although the principles of Fiber Optics had been known since the mid 1800,s they only became practical when worked on by such companies as Bausch & Lomb who manufactured them for getting high powered inspection lights into such things as aircraft engines. Ours were developed and made by the AmericanCystoscope Makers and in the first instance came in the form of a bundle of Fiber Optics in the shaft of a rigid Cystoscope (for procedures in the bladder). A powerful light at one end of the bundle produced an equivalent amount of cold light inside the bladder and so enabled the surgeon to see much better without the disadvantage of heat generated by a conventional light source. Shortly afterwards ACMI developed what is known as a “Coherent Bundle “which not only transmitted light but you could actually see through it . From this came all those flexible Fiber Optic instruments you see today, Bronchoscopes, Colonoscopes, Gastroscopes, Naso-pharygoscopes etc. I might add that the process of making Fiber optics was kept so secret then that when you visited the ACMI factory you were not even permitted in the building where it was made. Our major competitor in this field was Olympus from Japan and they seem to have the field pretty well tied up today. The basic principle of fiber optics is to have a micro thin column of glass of one refractive index with another tube of glass of a different refractive index drawn down over it. If you put light in one end it has to travel all the way down the inner fiber as the outer fiber stops it escaping. I also spent a lot of time at Medical Conferences (up to 6 or 7 a year) and even organised the Medical Trade Displays at about three Orthopaedic Surgeons Conferences. The one I organised at Waitangi Hotel in the Bay of Islands was particularly memorable. Organising the display meant making about three early visits to the Bay of Islands to make all arrangements and this I enjoyed. However, some 6 weeks before the event, while having lunch and playing darts at work, I had severe chest pains and got whipped off to hospital where I was classified as a possible heart attack.

The Cardiac ward was No. 25 in Seddon Block and it was full, so I finished up in Ward 24 Gastroenterology. While I was lying there the Gastroenterologist (Brian Scobie) came through his ward checking on his patients and totally ignored me. However, he actually did a double take and came back to see me as he realised that he knew me. He wanted to know about my “Heart Attack” and after a few minutes wandered off. He was back inside 10 minutes with the news that I hadn’t had a Heart Attack and that he was pretty sure what my problem was and I’d better front up at his clinic on Friday morning. I did, and he was right, and he lined me up for urgent surgery to remove my non operating gall Bladder!

Even in those days it was who you knew so Jimmy Walker the Abdominal Surgeon agreed to fit me in pronto. This duly happened …out came my Gall Bladder, and three days later I was dictating letters etc. to keep the organisation going for the Orthopaedic Conference. It is also on record that four weeks to the day after my operation I stepped onto the first tee at the Waitangi Golf Course and had a splendid round.

Apart from this sort of work I did a lot of travelling with my representatives in all the Branches. At least once a year, along with the local rep., I visited every Hospital in their area, mainly so that the locals could put a face to me when talking directly to Head Office. In addition, at least once a year, I visited all hospitals on my own as a good-will gesture. Up to a point this was a very enjoyable experience except that I found living in hotels and motels a lonely experience, and, if I was away for more than I week then I wasn’t very happy.

Thinking about Watson Victor in general I must say that my thirty three years with them were most enjoyable as I had the advantages of a most interesting job and the growing and development of my own family. I met and worked with a lot of great people. They are too numerous to mention, but I would make an exception for a young lad who joined us when he was about 16. That was Bernie Richmond , a very shy lad, who had joined us straight from school and went on to habe an even longer career with Watvic than I’d had. He worked in the Scientific Division as my Assistant, as Admin Officer at Dunedin, and then later as a specialist in the field of Funeral Directors’ supplies. In addition, I must remark that I helped Bernie in his courting. We had a young lassie named Elaine McKenzie who worked as a typist in our Medical Dept., and Bernie rather fancied her but was too shy to ask her out. Well, I managed to arrange that, and they in due course became engaged, and then married, and are still today living in Tawa. It was Bernie and his father George who proposed me into Freemasonry so we still meet frequently.

In 1976 it seemed that I was getting into a rut and that I should do something about furthering my career. With this in mind I applied for, and got a job as, NZ Manager (Medical) of a company called Medical Supplies. This was a much bigger company than Watson Victor and seemed to offer a good career pathway. However, about a year after I had settled down to the job, rumours started to fly around about a proposed take over by Kempthorne Prosser, another big Medical co-owned by Brierleys. A lot of you will remember that at that time Brierleys were renowned for asset stripping. Although it was said that it was to be a merger between the two companies, I was fortunate to be very friendly with Our Managing Director, John Stevens. He was quite apprehensive at what he thought was a hostile move and after 18 months with the company I looked around for a suitable business to purchase. With my superannuation from Watson Victor, and a generous final payment from Medical Supplies, I had sufficient cash to buy the Naenae Delicatessen. It should be noted that within 6 months of my leaving Med Supplies , the General Manager and Managing Director had resigned and moved on, and when the takeover came, only one member of the Med Supplies staff retained their job. I classify this as a narrow escape.

‘Naenae Delicatessen’

Well this was a bit of a blind leap of faith. The business was being run by a woman with the part time help of another and I reasoned that with a bit of application we could surely do better. Shirley and I formed a Legal Partnership and jumped in at the deep end. I can well remember the first six months when I wondered what we had taken on. However, it wasn’t rocket science, so we just kept our heads down, worked hard and very soon started to make good progress.

One of the first things we did was to do the NZ Trade Certificate in Food Hygiene to learn about actual food handling. This was of tremendous help. However, the real secret for making the business successful was finding out what the customers wanted, and if possible, providing it. A very simple example was the humble sandwich. About 50 percent of our turnover came from our popular Lunch Bar with the usual range of Ham, Egg, Tomato, sandwiches etc. but then one of the girls next door at the Lamphouse said she would love a Bacon Sandwich. No sooner said than done and they became one of the most popular of all. We also provided a delivery service to local businesses, and this over the years developed into one of the strong features of the business. We always had an eye out for the unusual when buying from the wholesalers and we had a few notable victories in tying up the local market in Shredded Wheat, Suimin Noodles and Organic Honey. We ran the business for seven plus years and never failed to increase our turnover and profit every year. It gave us a much better standard of life and sufficient capital to enable us to buy good cars and to travel overseas. We stayed in the business until mid-1983 when Shirley got a ticking off from her Doctor about working too hard, so we immediately put the business up for sale. We sold it so quickly at our asking price that I wonder what would have happened if we’d asked more. Still we weren’t greedy and did ask a fair price.

This left me at the age of 57 with no job and three years to go before I was entitled to superannuation. Anyhow I certainly didn’t feel like retiring, so went down to an Employment Agency and they immediately came up with a position at Robert Bryce and Co. down in Seaview. They were really big raw Chemical importers and wanted a Customs and Shipping agent. This seemed really up my alley so I popped of down for an interview. Well the young chap who did the interview said that he couldn’t possibly appoint me because my experience meant they would have to pay too much. I assured him that wasn’t a problem and that I really wanted the job to keep me occupied and sane!

I worked for Robert Bryce for the next nine years, first of all handling all Ports in NZ except Auckland and Tauranga and then taking over those two Ports exclusively. I really enjoyed this work because athough it was very busy I was able to handle it without any stress or strain. When I joined RB I was told that the company had a policy of retirement at 60. However, no mention was made of this again even though our Managing Director was made to retire as soon as he turned 60. At age 67 I finally had to write a letter of retirement. They gave me a great send off and presented Shirl and me with a magnificent Canteen of Cutlery. Hence ended my Working Career and I entered Retirement.

At this stage I will digress a little and discuss various other activities in my journey through life.

Taxi Driving

From 1954 until 1965 I had a secondary career-- I became a Taxi Driver. Money was not easy to come by and when a neighbour of ours (Bob Wigmore) asked if I would join him as a relief driver in Petone Taxis I jumped at the chance. In 1954 I passed my driving test for a Taxi licence and signed up with Petone Taxis as a Casual Driver. At first I filled in by driving for a chap called Fergusson who owned three cars .. a Dodge , a Chev, and a Ford 49er. I signed on for Tuesday and Thursday evenings and also Saturday and Sunday dayshifts. I sooned settled down to driving for one owner Jack Pickles on Car 80. We went through a range of cars from 1953 Vauxhall, Holden, 55 Chevy and back to a Holden. I must admit that I loved driving taxis but if I stopped to tell all the stories and incidents it would run to a book.

However the most important incident during this part of my career was in 1965. I was sitting on the stand by the hospital and got a call to pick up at the Casualty Entrance. My passenger wanted to go home to Belmont and as he had blood down the side of his face I asked him if he had been in a fight. He told me that there had been a car crash outside his home and he had helped get four teenagers to hospital. He said one girl was dead the other looked very close to it and two boys were badly cut around. Imagine my dismay, when, arriving at his house I saw a wrecked car which I recognised as my daughter’s boyfriend’s car, and I knew she was going out with him that evening. I just threw the guy out of the car, no fare, no nothing, and called the Office on the RT.They checked with the Hospital and just as I arrived back at the Hospital they told me that nobody knew who the people were, but if I could identify them I should get there as soon as possible. I shot into casualty and asked the duty Sister, who I knew through work, where the accident victims were. Before she could answer I heard Glenda call out to me. She was in a terrible mess and had the flesh on the right side of her head from her eyelid up into her hairline peeling off. As the casualty staff were desperately over worked I spent about 3 hours cleaning up and dressing Glenda’s face as well as I could before I took her up to X ray to see if she had any skull fractures (fortunately negative) I then took her up to the ward and helped them to put her in bed. The worst thing of the whole affair was going home to Shirl about one o clock in the morning and having to tell her about Glenda.

The other girl in the car had been Lesley Quayle from Point Howard and she had been killed. The two boys, Graham Anderson and Kevin Whitehead, had broken limbs and severe cuts and had to spend several hours in theatre. They had been hit by a NZ Brewery truck driver who had been extremely drunk and who had never stopped. He was subsequently charged but got off with a mere 6 weeks sentence.

Over the years since then Glenda has had numerous operations to help improve matters and has been quite wonderful in the ways she has coped with what so easily could have been a soul-destroying situation. Later she married Graham Anderson and raised a family.

Not long after we moved back into Adelaide Street in 1949 a notice appeared in the Petone Chronicle about the re-formation of the Petone Citizens (later Municipal) Band. It happened that Alf was a very talented cornet player and in fact had been a Lieutenant Bandmaster in France in World War 1 and had also attended Kneller Hall, the Army College of Music in England. He had taught me the basis of playing the cornet so we both decided to join the newly formed band. He dropped out after about 6 months but I continued my Brass Band playing for the next twenty odd years.

The new Petone Band was conducted by Bernie Zinsli and I must admit as a new chum I learned a lot from him. I started off playing second cornet until I was a reasonably competent player. The next Conductor was Bob Purcell, and, under him, I moved on to playing flugel horn. Bob was followed by Frank Lapham who, although a rough character, was undoubtedly the finest Brass Band conductor in NZ at the time. The tales of his exploits at contests and particularly when he was overseas with the 1st National Band in 1956 were talked of by every bandsman in NZ. He did however have an astounding ability to ‘tune’ a band and to meld together average players into a winning ensemble. Under his baton the Petone Band went from D Grade to B Grade in the space of about 4 years.

Our first contest under Frank was in Napier shortly after he had taken over. As I recall it we were quite well placed after the Test Hymn selections, and the Quickstep. Then we turned on a slashing performance on the march doing the 100yards in 120 paces and never putting a foot wrong in the diagonals and counter marches. However a loudspeaker announcement informed everyone that Petone Municipal Band had been disqualified! As I was Bandmaster, I shot across to talk to the senior officials and was told that we had been disqualified because our Conductor (who was not marching or playing) had been seen talking to one of the military judges earlier in the day. What it actually boiled down to was that Frank had not been popular with the Belgraves who were the senior people in the Brass band administration and everybody felt that they had jumped on a non-event out of spite.

As an example of this sort of jealousy, I would mention one of the best known people in Banding over many years, Ernie Omrod. He had been instrumental in organising the 1st National Band tour of UK but for some reason had fallen foul of the Association including the Belgraves. As a result he was dropped from the ‘B B Assn.’ and seemed to be in the wilderness permanently. Frank and I at three consecutive annual meetings proposed Ernie for the ‘Assn’ again and eventually got him back on. He never looked back and gave great service until he was into his 90s. In the nineteen-sixties I wrote a letter on behalf of the Band proposing Ernie for the New Years Honours List and he was awarded an OBE. Obviously there had been many who thought he had earned it.

After Frank left as conductor I took over for two years but insisted that we obtain a permanent conductor so that I could return to playing. As a result we appointed Eric Lapworth, an ex-lead cornet from Hutt Civic. This proved to be disastrous as he was far from being a competent Conductor. He was invited on numerous occasions to resign, but at the end of 18 months when he still wouldn’t agree to resign, we were obliged to put the band into recess. This in actual practice then meant it totally ceased to exist. Those of us left joined up with Hutt Civic and for the next few years I very happily played BB Flat Bass for them. I finally left this Band when I could no longer afford the time needed to be in an A Grade Contest Band. From then on I put my musical talents into singing and conducting choirs.

Singing & Entertaining

One of the other major interests in my life has been singing and stage performances. When I retired from band-playing I concentrated on choir singing and conducting with the choir at St Lukes Church in Waiwhetu. Shirley was our leading soprano in this choir and she encouraged me to start singing with them too. I was reluctant until one day I agreed to take her in to St Johns in Wellington to a workshop on choir singing conducted by a professional conductor from America. When we got there I sat with Eric Stead who sang bass in the St Lukes Choir. He said that I may as well join in what was going on and I suddenly realised that I could read the music without difficulty and could actually sight-read the harmony parts in Hymns. Well there was no looking back; and after many years of choir and stage singing I am still (at age 82) singing in an entertainment group.

In 1983 I was approached by Lawry Sutherland whom I had known since he was a lad in Bible Class. He wanted some help in starting an Operatic Society in the Hutt and as a result became a founding member of the Lower Hutt Operatic Society (now known as the Hutt Musical Theatre). Since then I have appeared on stage in between twenty and thirty stage productions such as Camelot, Calamity Jane, Sound of Music and Kismet. I also belong to the Wellington Gilbert and Sullivan Society and have appeared in all their shows for the last 10 years. At the same time I belonged to the Harbour Capital Barber Shop Chorus for about 5 years and learned a lot about this great singing art form. This was the Chorus who went on to rank as one of the best Barbershop Groups in NZ.

For the last eight years I have belonged to a singing group called Cadenza and we sing professionally for anybody who wants us and can afford our fees. When singing for the Hutt Musical Theatre some years ago, my friend Cliff Hendry, who has a truly wonderful natural tenor voice, suggested that as we didn’t get an awful lot of harmony singing why didn’t we form our own singing group. We approached the girls in the Society who we knew not only had good voices but were well-natured as well and they agreed to join. Then Jill Greenfield who ranked as one of the best pianists in Wellington also agreed to play for us Our group now comprises, Jill Greenfield (Pianist), Chris Stratford (Soprano),Yvonne Gray (Mezzo Soprano), Sue Burdett (Contralto), Cliff Hendry (Tenor) Bob Walker (Bass), Brett Childs (Bass) and David Skinner (Baritone). Although I say it myself, this is a very professional group and to maintain our standards we practise at least three hours a week. But most important of all is that fact that we are all close friends.

Since we moved to Trentham I have joined a group called the Hutt Singers who were originally known as the Upper Hutt Choral Society, and thus I have got back into some fairly serious music and have needed to brush up my sight reading skills. However, it’s all a lot of fun!


This has been a big part of my life from early childhood to old age. At Pukeora we had a whole river system complete with deep pools etc. available to us and it’s now very hard to remember when I couldn’t swim or dive. As there were no swimming pools in Waipukurau in those days I never got the chance to take up swimming competitively, but I used to swim at least three times a week up until three years ago for fitness. In my early days at school I played rugby and cricket, as did all the other boys. However, we were lucky to have a tennis court at Pukeora and brother Ron just happened to be Top of the Ladder at High School. Although he was older and stronger than I was, we were fairly evenly matched. When I moved up to high school I was able to get in two challenges against anybody on the Tennis Ladder and must report that I got soundly beaten both times that I played Ron. I did however make it to third on the ladder in my first year at High School, and, after Ron left, I took over the top spot. Rugby became my passion in Winter and, as well as playing for the 1stXV for the School, I also played for High School Old Boys 3rd Grade. In 1943 I was selected for the Central Hawkes Bay Senior Reps and played a couple of games against Hawkes Bay. When I came down to Wellington I played as a wing-threequarter for Senior ‘A’ Poneke Oriental and University.

I also carried on my running career as a handy but not brilliant sprinter and became secretary of the Petone Amateur Athletic and Cycling Club for a number of years. When I married I decided that it was wise to give up Rugby, so, for a winter sport, I played indoor basketball and really enjoyed it.

When I was in my 40s I joined the Judgeford Golf Club and have continued to play golf up until March this year. For the last 25 years I have been at the Manor Park Golf Club where I was Veteran Club Captain for some years. My lowest handicap was 11 and on retirement my index was 23.5.

In 1975 I joined the Woburn Bowling Club and spent many happy hours pursuing that sport. I served on the committees of all the clubs I have belonged to and was President at Woburn.

I think most people would rate me as at least a competetnt player in all the sports I have played!


My history would not be complete without mention of my association with Freemasonry. I joined Jellicoe Lodge No 259 in Petone in November 1963 and progressed through the various Offices to become Master in 1975. Since then I have been active both in Office and out. In 1991 we formed a new Lodge Hutt Valley 176 of which I am a foundation member, but about this time I found that going out at night held few attractions and I joined the Petone daylight Lodge No 458 in 1999 and became Master of that Lodge in 2002. For my sins I am currently Secretary of Petone Daylight. I was appointed Roll of Honour in 2004. I also belong to the Order of the Rose Croix and hold 32 degrees in this. As well I am a Past Grand Guide in the Order of David & Jonathon, also known as the Secret Monitor. I have always found that the precepts and practices of freemasonry represent the best that is found in our Society today and have been honoured by my association with it.


When Greg was old enough he decided that he would like to join the Waterloo Cub Pack which at the time was being run by my best friend Nigel Graham. We duly allowed him to join and Nigel asked me if I would come along for a couple of nights to give him a hand. This I did willingly. He then suggested that it would help him if I would become a uniformed Asst. Cub Leader to help him even more, to which I reluctantly agreed. My mate Nigel after about two months decided that he needed to do something else, so yours truly was left with the whole of the Waterloo Cub Pack. About a year down the track I was approached to see if I would take over the Eastern Hutt District as District Cub Leader … and being weak, I did just that. Two years later an approach was made by National Headquarters and I was appointed Wellington Area Cub Leader with responsibility for 4000 plus Cubs and 600 plus Cub Leaders. As s msjor part of all this I had to join the National Training Team and set up Training Courses for all the Leaders. I must confess I did enjoy that and only left Scouting when Shirl and I bought the delicatessen. I just had no spare time available!


This pretty well brings me up to 2010 here at Summerset retirement Village at Trentham. As can be imagined eventually the maintenance of the house at 25 Guthrie Street became too much for me so it was suggested that we should look for a small maintenance free place. This seemed to be OK, but the problem really was to get a place at a good price in the local area where we wanted to stay. I think it was Trevor who first suggested a Retirement Village but I had a very wrong idea of what this was. After a bit of thought and discussion I could see possible advantages in the Village idea so we thought we should investigate.

Although there was Shona MacFarlane up in Avalon both Shirl and I for various sound reasons would not have a bar of it. We therefore looked further afield and looked at places up the Kapiti Coast. We quite liked the style of the Summerset Village up there, but were not too keen to shift so far away. After all we had spent a lifetime in the Valley and it seemed pointless to move away.

We had almost given the idea away when we attended an afternoon tea at a friend’s place in Upper Hutt when an old colleague of mine and his wife said that had just been at Summerset Village seeing an old friend. When I remarked that they had come a long way back from Paraparaumu for afternoon tea I was told that they were talking about Summerset down at Trentham Racecourse.

We had no idea that there was a Summeset Village there, so we shot over to have a look see. From the moment we drove in the gate we were convinced we could happily live in this Village as it was a most attractive place, beautifully laid out with lawns and gardens. I had already seen their type of villa up at Paraparumu and liked the look of them. Andy knew the Village Co-Ordinator as he played Golf at Manor Park, so we came up and put our name down for a villa. This was in the March, and by September we were advised that a villa had been allocated to us. We sold the house in Guthrie Street and moved into our villa at 44 Summerset Trentham on 26th November 2004. We have never had a moment of regret over this move, as the Village has lived up to all our expectations. You can be involved as much as you want to or not. It’s entirely up to you. We have met some great people and hope that we will be able to enjoy a long and happy stay here.

{Bob died on the 29th of March, 2012, predeceased by his beloved Shirl on the 6th of February, 2012}

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