Barry Frederick Davidson & Janet Marion Davidson Interview

Today is the 22nd of the 1st 2016. I’m interviewing Barry and Janet Davidson on the life and times of their family. Barry would you like to start off by telling us something about where your family came from and we’ll go from there.

Fine – well I can start with my earliest recollections. I was born in Ashburton and we shifted to Dunedin soon after that. In Dunedin the family consisted of grandmother and my mother and my two sisters. My father left us quite early on when I was about three or four, and so I was brought up basically in a female house and had a very happy childhood. We made our own enjoyment and pleasures and of course during those days there was no phone, no television, no radio so we had ample opportunity to make up our own fun.

I enjoyed school and I enjoyed music. My mother was exceptionally musical as a pianist. She actually played the music during the early silent movies and was very adept at playing any tune one could imagine, resulting in many sing songs around the piano at night.

My experiences as far as school is concerned were one of enjoyment and I know the first major change to my early young life was a week before my fifteenth birthday. My mother said “Oh”, you know, “your birthday is next week and I’ve got a marvellous surprise for you. I’ve got a brand new suit for you and you start work on Monday with Hallenstein Brothers.” I thought ‘oh yes’. So I then had to tell the school that I was leaving. Every teacher I mentioned it to told me how silly I was and that I should never leave school so early. However that’s what happened.

Hallenstein Brothers when I arrived there hadn’t changed their office procedures in at least a hundred years. The office boy’s job was to be at the Dowling Street Head Office door – no veranda – and wait outside until the office manager finished reading the paper and was down to open at 8 o’clock, regardless of the weather … regardless what the weather was doing. So then I was introduced to this new marvellous opportunity with Hallenstein Brothers. The job started off with opening up the big safe up about four steps and lifting these huge leather bound journals, taking them to the right position, opening at the page, making sure there was clean blotting paper and ink and then putting the rest of the big ledgers and folders round in various places. Then it was a matter of running to the Post Office where all the incoming mail had been collected in a big canvas sack – bring this back, sort the mail and have it on the directors’ desks by 8.30 [am].

Could we go back – where did your mother come from?

I never knew my father that well because he left us so early, but I understand that his father was so broad a Scotsman that no one could understand what he was talking about. My mother’s mother … with the name of Bugden … I’ve seen her wedding certificate. And she used to tell me she married a ship’s captain who had a gold ring in his ear. But the wedding certificate didn’t really reflect that, it said that he was a seaman and I understand from talking to my grandmother that their first arrival in New Zealand was at the kauri fields digging for kauri gum in Northland, and how she came to be back in Dunedin I never really found out. But she had my mother and a son who died early after I came to know her, of leukaemia, so that just left my mother. I’m not sure that I know anything other than that about the origins.

Yes, a lot of families unfortunately didn’t record and things can be a bit hazy.

Well it was even hazier as far as we were concerned, because we came from the wrong side of the tracks and we weren’t encouraged to investigate our history too closely. I know that some of our relations we weren’t allowed to speak about because they had some very interesting experiences with the law, and so we weren’t really invited to become involved in that.

So just going back to your school time Barry … did you play any sport at school?

Yes, I played everything I could. I played rugby, cricket, hockey, soccer, anything that was going. In fact when I was early on working I used to go to the Caledonian ground every Saturday and compete in all the athletic and field events and that was all that was … all the running events, the field events. I just enjoyed doing that.

Yes, and this was still in Dunedin?

Still in Dunedin, yes.

‘Cause Dunedin then would have been a lot smaller city, wouldn’t it?

I was never conscious of its size. It always seemed busy enough to me and it wasn’t something that I’d be focused on.

The Hallenstein Brothers work procedures I thought might be of interest because once I got all these big ledgers down, the thing was to go down into the packing room. Hallensteins’ had twenty nine branches at that stage, and they had a constant service from the factory which was in Dowling Street to each of the branches, which means that there was a department with two storeman packing suiting and material to go to all the branches. I would collect the invoices for each of these deliveries and then I had to do the calculation. Hallensteins’ felt that if you are recording money you record all of it, so the sort of exercise I had on each invoice was 2 5/8ths yards at £2.11.6d 3 farthings, [chuckle] and it took me a while to come to grips with that. Once I had that extended we had an elderly man who would add up the ledgers by running his finger down and writing the thing in ink at the bottom faster than we could do it on an adding machine, ’cause we didn’t have an adding machine. So he would check these invoices by looking and grunting and giving them back.

And then I had to put them on a great big doubles chart with twenty nine branches one way and twenty nine another in alphabetical order. Auckland, Blenheim, Christchurch, Cuba Street, Dannevirke, Gisborne, North … you know, I could say the whole twenty nine still ’cause it’s burnt into my memory. And then having done that I would then put – I had pigeonholes for each of the branches, and I’d wrap those invoices up, on [in] to an envelope and take them to the Post Office before I finished for the day.

There was an equal amount of incoming mail from the branches and it all came through the post and it had quite valuable postage stamps on, and I was throwing them all in the rubbish as I was told to do. I thought ‘that’s a bit silly – they must have a value on these things’. So I carefully tore them off before I threw the wrapping away and took them home, soaked them in water and dried them out and then took them in and I went to a stamp dealer and said, you know, “I’d like to sell those”. He was thrilled – he said “oh, great!” So I was doing that every week and I was getting almost as much as my salary. 31/3d a week I was being paid, and I was getting more than that from all these stamps. So that went on for about a month or so and then I was summoned in to Mr Lawton’s office, the company secretary, and sitting next to him was the stamp dealer. And I thought ‘oh-oh, here we go’. And Lawton said “I understand you’ve been selling our stamps.” And I said “well hang on – you’ve been throwing them out ever since before I came here, so I’m just making use of them. It’s all my time, I don’t do any of it in your time.” So he said “well, it’s going to change. Now you can keep soaking them off and delivering them, but you’ll give them to me and I’ll sell them to the dealer.” I said “well, no – that’s not going to happen. If he wants them he can soak them off and do it. I’m not going to do it in my time.” So he got a bit grizzly about that. So that’s what I did, and it was interesting after that how paper tears, because every time I saw a valuable stamp when I was ripping it off it seemed to get a bit damaged. And after a while the stamp collector seemed to have lost interest.

The next stage or part of the cycle … the circus at Hallenstein Brothers occurred sometime after I’d been there a year. The secretary called me in and he said “oh, I want to see you.” He said “you know, you’ve been doing reasonably well here, we’re quite happy with you and we’re going to give you a raise.” I said “that’s good.” He said “however, now that you are fifteen you have to pay tax, and the amount of tax is just the same amount as your raise, so you won’t be getting any more cash.” I said “oh, yeah, right”. So the next year I was with them – whenever the head storeman was ill, I’d be called into the secretary’s office and he’d say “Davidson – you know how to run the storeroom don’t you?” “Oh, yes.” He said “well the storeman’s sick and the other guy doesn’t know how to work the stamps. You go down and run the storeroom today.” I said “all right”, so I would go down and be head storeman for the day. And then I said “what about all these invoices?” He said “oh,” he said “somebody might be able to do a few for you, so you won’t have to do them all when you come up when you finish.” So I said “righto.”

And about a year after that my mother had an opportunity to hire a little bach on a farm at Wanaka, and so I said “oh, that sounds marvellous, to take holidays there”. So I went and asked for holidays, and … “no, no – you don’t get holidays until we tell you to get holidays.” So Mum said “oh, have you got the holidays?” “No, just don’t worry, I’m going to take them anyhow,” so we went through to Wanaka and I sent a telegram ‘on holiday and won’t be back until a certain date’.

So when I got back my mother said “well, what’s going to ..?” I said “I reckon that, you know, I might be in a bit of trouble here so I better look around.” So I saw Sun Insurance was advertising for a junior so I applied for that job and got it to start the following Monday. So then I went back to work and when I walked into the office I can still see everyone at their desks with their head down – no one would look at me – here was the sinner come back. And into the secretary’s office. And he said “Davidson, you sent us a telegram instead of coming to work.” And I said “yes.” He said “is there any reason why I shouldn’t sack you?” I said “well, you please yourself, because I’m finishing today and I’ve got a new job tomorrow.” [Chuckle] So that was the last I saw of them.

What a start though.

You learnt to behave. And it was interesting then as I say it was so old world. All the storemen … the packers, they had warehousemen in the hat department, the tie department and the suit department. And about the first week I was there the manager of the suit department said “Davidson, I want to see you – come here.” I said “yes?” He said “people in Hallensteins’ wear hats. We rely on people wearing hats for our jobs so get a hat.” “I don’t wear hats.” They used to hate me, every time I walked through the department, and the same with others. One day on a hot day in Dunedin which is rare, I thought ‘bugger the tie, I’m not going to wear a tie’. Well that was the bull … the red rag. Everyone, everywhere I walked, wanted a piece of me.

‘Cause you were not much more than a boy, you were only an early teenager at that stage, weren’t you, really?

Yes, that’s right, yeah. So you learnt the hard way to get on with it and forget it.

The only other funny thing that happened when I think back was, I was walking through the warehouse to go to the storeroom and there was a whole huddle of storemen rushing round, rushing … I said “what the devil’s going on?” “There’s a cat in here. Catch it, catch it.” And everyone was sort of dodging it, and they wouldn’t touch it and the thing was cringing on the counter there. And they said “oh, we’ve got to get rid of it”. So I reached over and grabbed it and it turned – it just bit me just in the fleshy bit there, but I held it and it was taken out. I got back to the office and the secretary there looked as though lightning had struck him, and he said “Davidson, come in here.” He said “I understand you interfered in the warehouse.” I said “what do you mean?” He said “you got a cat bite and make sure that’s not our responsibility. It wasn’t part of your job and we’ll take no responsibility if that thing is a problem.” I said “that’s all right, I don’t care about that, it’s only a little bite.” So that was their total attitude. Money – means money.

The other interesting job I had was – they didn’t post out all the invoices for goods that they’d bought. On the 20th of the month I was given a bag of money and all these invoices, and it was for Dunedin – you know Dunedin, it went from South Dunedin to Opoho. And they said “go and pay those accounts”.

On foot?

On foot. So I struggled, and I’d get back, you know – absolutely worn out. And then there’s all these invoices. They said “you haven’t done the invoices.” So after a few bits with other people who had to help me finish the day’s work on the 20th the secretary called me in and said “Davidson, we’ve solved your problem, we’ve bought a bike.” ‘Oh, hell, that’s good.’ He said “look, you are not allowed to take it home. It can only be used when you’re working for us.” So I went in and this old bike was there and that made life easier because it meant I could do more work because we got round the payments faster.

Right, so Sun Insurance, they were very nice people there. There was a very helpful fellow who told me all about how … he had a big chart of all his insurances … explained how with some because of proximity of buildings, he would re-insure it with other companies. I was supposed to be given a look – ’cause I was going to night school at that stage – I was supposed to be given a look at all the other things, but the lady working the ledgers said “you’re not looking at these”. She said “it’s only insurance people that can understand insurance accounting, and it’s too complex for anyone else to understand so I’m not going to bother showing you anything like that.” I said “well I don’t care.”

So at that stage part of the deal of my starting work was I had to go to night school, so yeah, I went to night school. And the first year I played silly buggers and achieved nothing, and drove the accounting teacher nuts. Jack O’Dea – he was a good fellow. During that year I saw that the accountant, Neil Donaldson … he didn’t seem to be any brighter than me but he seemed to be getting a good soft job. And I thought ‘I’m a bit of a mug – I should get a qualification’. So I learnt that I couldn’t go to University or anything, but at night school I could qualify under the Chartered Institute of Secretaries examinations. So I thought ‘that’ll do. That’s just about the same programme.’ The first year was arithmetic and English which I sailed through. And then … and I staggered Jack O’Dea … he told the class that last year I was the biggest drone in the class, and this year I was the top and it was a miracle. I don’t know what happened to me but however, I suddenly recovered my sense … and gave a long lecture on that. So that was during that period.

From Sun Insurance – I got a bit bored there – I didn’t seem to have a real job but New Zealand Paper Mills was advertising for a shipping clerk and it was quite interesting. They were making the paper in Mataura, and in their office in Dunedin they did all the invoicing for the various customers. They had branches throughout the area and the job of the shipping guy was to assemble the orders from the various depots and work out the total space required, go to the shipping company and book space on one of the coastal vessels and then get the carrier to deliver them to the ship. And that was quite a good job.

From that I was promoted to a sort of store keeper – account keeper – for each of the branches, keeping a record of the ins and outs of all the paper. And it was a bit of a mental struggle initially, because you had tons, hundredweights, quarters, pounds, all in columns, and you had to add them up and keep adding, and doing all the rest. So then the magic arrived. A guy with a Friden electric machine, and for a reason that still escapes me mathematically, if you separated the keyboard – it was all just keys – into sectors, so you had about three lots of keys for tons, three for hundredweight, three for pounds, and then you just put the various things into those various positions. Then with the pounds, if you kept adding twenty eight ’til it arrived at a figure less than twenty eight, that meant it was in the next column, and it worked. I can’t understand why, but however – it did. So it made a huge difference. And I was enjoying the life at New Zealand Paper Mills. I can’t remember the income there but it was enough for me to be pretty happy. It meant that I could follow up on all my other interests at that stage of wandering around the beaches and hills and all the rest.

What about your brothers and sisters?

Yes, I had two sisters one older and one younger. Shirley, the eldest, was a very good pianist and she used to accompany me. My mother was very keen that we played on radio with the children’s hour every night, which we did pretty frequently. And my grandmother decided that because in Old People’s Homes the old people had no fun, that it would be fun for us to go visiting on a Saturday or Sunday and play to one of these old people’s homes, which we did. And she was a very fine musician.

You would have been playing the piano as well?

No, no. I never played piano, just the violin.

Janet: He was in the orchestra.

Barry: Yeah, I was in the Tech Orchestra, and in the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra. I was quite highly rated there. In fact when my teacher had left to go to the National Orchestra, she arranged for Frank Kellaway to listen to me every Saturday morning. He’s now Sir Frank over in Australia – the musician – and they were very keen for me to continue playing. As was Janet, but I found that I had other things to do – I just didn’t have time. I was going to night school three nights a week, orchestra on Friday nights and I used to have to wing it there because I didn’t have much time to practise as I should have. And then I’d go and do athletics on the Saturday, and Sunday I’d have to do all the homework. So I wasn’t bored at any stage, put it that way.

Now you said one sister was very good at the piano.

Yes. The other one wasn’t given the same opportunity. She got a viola to play and she could play quite competently and at least she earned her place in the orchestra. But it was never a big thing for her …

Janet: It was Freda.

Freda, and Shirley left to get married in her early twenties I suppose.

You mention wandering around the hills. Was this tramping?

Well initially we sort of made our own fun. We used to go just looking, and Sideys – the lady Sideys had a big farm up above Forbury in Dunedin – and they had these big grassy slopes and they had cattle and things on there, but we reckoned those slopes would be pretty good as a sort of sledge track so we made sledges. We managed by going to the tip to get some 4×2’s and some stuff, and we made sledges and polished them up, and then rubbed them with fat until they were slippery as hell, and then we’d go hurtling down these grassy slopes and stop before the gorse bushes at the bottom … sometimes. And it was a great activity.

I was also at that stage interested … someone had given me a set of books on nature study and I got terribly interested in insects and such. And we used to study ants and tracks, and then other things like lizards. And we found that at the cemetery there were all these little brown skinks sitting in the sun, and we found that if you were fast enough you could grab ‘em. And I made a sort of cage thing out of my mother’s old silk stocking and we put them in there. And after a time, suddenly the populace in the cage increased and there were lots of little tiny ones everywhere. It was obviously a very successful breeding camp and I was collecting beetles as a specialty and going everywhere, and the nature books told me how to make a dent. I started butterflies but they got a bit … yeah, fiddly. And I had a killing bottle for these things made up of laurel leaves. So if you crushed up laurel leaves and put them in a bottle, anything you put in it died without breaking anything. It was cheap. They said carbon tetrachloride but I didn’t have any money for carbon tetrachloride, but there were plenty of laurel leaves. [Chuckle]

The other activity we had – there was a bottle yard at that stage – so once again by a few good trips to the tip I managed to get some wheels and some wood and made a trolley. I mean I knew where all the drunks were ‘cause we used to watch them coming home. So I used to call round there and say “any bottles – I’ll take them off your hands.” I did and filled up the trolley, went to the bottle yards and got cash money for the bottles which was another interesting activity. We were always well received by fellows in those days.

Shall I follow on from the paper mills?


At the paper mills I was getting well through my Chartered Secretary’s exams and I thought well later on I might like … well I knew that when I was twenty one I could get a professional matric and start university and I could do the accounting degree. So I thought ‘well I’m coming up fairly soon’ – you know, a couple of years’ time – to being in that age bracket so one of the requirements of the Society was if you wanted to be a public accountant you had to have at least two or three years in a chartered accountants’ office. So the company Mitson Bell at that stage were asking for someone. I applied for a job there and got it and then I was there doing their ledgers for them. And they had an interesting system of shortcut where the partners would only do the final accounts – no journal entries – and they just juggled figures round and all that. And they just present me with the accounts and I had to do all the journal entries that got them there. So I had book after book in the big storeroom there and I never ran out of work. Then they bought a couple of ladies’ dress shops, and then – extra part of my job was to go round every morning and collect the cash and balance the books and bring it back and then get back on to the ledgers. They also had a very profitable fish shop as a customer, which must have encouraged them to buy and develop a fish shop with a manager in it, and I had to include that one too – go round and balance the books. Then Bell, one of the partners, discovered that the profit margin for the fish shop wasn’t what it should be, and so somebody was fiddling. So they said to me “you’d better go round and straighten this up”. So I went round and the fellow wasn’t very happy, and finally that place was closed down.

I got to the stage with Mitson Bell where I had completed my Chartered Secretary examination, got my certificates, and thought ‘right – I’m going to go to University and start the accountant’s’, so I had a talk to Bell who was the main partner. I just waltzed up to him, I said “look, I want to go to University, and whereas before any time off was outside working hours, I now have to be there – a couple of times early in the morning and I’d be back here by about 10’ [am]. He said “oh no, no. We’re not going to waste time on that”, he said, “you’ll never get a degree. No you can’t have the time off.” Then I saw Remington Rand was advertising for a salesman. I thought “bugger it, I’ll do that”, so I went and got that job and then I gave in my notice and Ian Bell came to see me and said “no, I’ve been thinking” he said, “no, it’s fine for you to go attend University”. “I said “well you’re too late .” Too late – I’m off.

So I left and went to Remington Rand. It was a very relaxing place at Remington Rand. I got to know every office in Dunedin – called and saw whoever was there, the accountant or whatever – sold a couple of machines – no one seemed to care whether I sold anything or not, they just liked having me round. And at that stage I progressed through the Tramping Club to the Alpine Club and I was actually running the Alpine Instruction Course for new people and … we had a lot of old notes – very good notes – on how to detect different snow conditions and all the rest, and they needed redoing. So I had all the facilities at Remington Rand with gestetners and all the old fashioned stuff there to print off and do that. And they were very generous – I could spend as much time with time on selling, as I wished. However that got … I got a bit guilty I suppose about taking money for nothing, and so I saw Shacklock’s was advertising for an accountant. So I thought ‘well that sounds all right’, so I applied for that job and got the job as accountant.

And the secretary took me in to the accounts – accounts was a large enclosure there – and said you’ve got a desk here. And I didn’t know beforehand that they were under receivership and Fisher & Paykel had an option to buy them before the … cutting out the cream. So Lloyd Graham, the secretary, said “you see that drawer there? They’re the really urgent ones who’re making a hell of a fuss about being paid. The next drawer will wait a bit longer, and the bottom ones seem to be quite relaxed. But when you get any money start at the top drawer, pay off those.” So I said “yeah, that sounds a good idea”. So that was working quite well. And then I found that they didn’t do their own debtors accounts, it was done by an accountant next door, and I thought that’s a bit silly. So I went in and I said “I want to see what you do”. And he had an accounting machine but he had no control account, nothing – it was a big mess. He wasn’t half an accountant. So I said “look, we need our own machine – that’s absolute nonsense paying this fellow for that”. We got our own machine and I converted everything on to that, and so we got rid of him.

So then after I’d been there a few years we had a visit from the Fisher & Paykel consultant and he was there having a look at Shacklock’s deal. I enjoyed Shacklock’s because they had a big moulding floor with these huge men with shoulders … hardly walk through a door with … who were doing this floor moulding with the moulding gear. And I used to go down and chat to them, and I thought ‘great blokes’. He said “look, you know – I’m here, and I’m looking for someone to become our production manager here and straighten up all these lines, modernise all these lines, are you interested?” And I said “I don’t know much about that”. He said “I’ll show you a new system”. He said “this method time measurement thing, we have a chart and you just measure every movement, every stop and every start, and work out and you re-plan the line and do this.” I said “that sounds interesting – yeah, I’ll have a go at that.” So he said “righto – you’ll have to come to Auckland for three months under my tutorship and I’ll show you how to do it.” So I went to Auckland for three months and learnt how to assemble electric razors and stoves and washing machines and all the rest – work out times and distances and strategies, and then went back. And then Will Fisher said “look, we’ve got a new project. We’ve found out a big new exciting heater called a Conray and it’s with Vulcan Industries in Australia, and we want you and the other factory manager to go across, find out how to do it and set up a line in Dunedin.

So I went to Australia and sure enough there’s this great big heater and worked out all the times on the line and how to set it up and was then back in my new role on setting up a line. I worked out that we could do … with the right staging and crewing I could turn out thirty a day. And the company secretary said “oh, that’s nonsense”. I said “well, I reckon we can do it”, so we set up the line and in a month we were doing thirty a day. And so I happened to see his report that he sent off to Fisher & Paykel. He said “oh, well – the line achieved that but Davidson’s down there doing most of the work most of the time”. I said “what the hell did you say that for?” And I gave him raspberries but … He said “you’ve no right reading my reports anyhow”, so …

Then they were so successful I had the sales manager Bill Chopping came to see me and he said “we want a lot more than this”. I said “what do you mean, a lot more?” He said “we want two hundred a week.” Oh, right. Right – two hundred a week – we’ll do that, right – so I had to rework the line and stretch it a bit, and we were going flat stick with this line, increased the staff a bit, and a funny little twist that we’d worked out, and we got up to about two fifty a week of those and the money was just pouring in. So I went through the drawers pretty fast after that. Fisher & Paykel did the final of their takeover and bought the place, so it was going along quite nicely.

I had quite good fun there but then a new change to life this gorgeous girl came into it and I decided it was too good to miss out on and so we agreed to get married.

You’re talking about Janet.

Yeah, Janet – I didn’t miss out on any.

Janet: You didn’t say you were factory manager at Shacklock’s, Barry.

Barry: I was production manager.

Okay well at this stage you maybe could say how you met, and then we’ll ask Janet to tell us something about her background and her family.

Okay. Well I was pretty keen initially in girls and tramping, and I joined the tramping club earlier on and used to go on Sunday tramps with them. As with almost everything I became involved in, I wasn’t at tramping club very long before they needed an accountant, so I became their treasurer, and the tramping club – well, I was enjoying it, but however – I had a problem inasmuch as we were away at a hut, and one of the trampers got carried away and came storming back more than a little drunk and starting kicking the door in of the hut and all the rest. The President at the time said “right, well he’s got to go – we can’t have that sort of person in the tramping club.” So I said “well I’ll have to support you because I was there, and I thought it was a bit disgraceful.”

So then we head back … and the Otago Tramping Club has a very long history of … very long … well positioned people have a very high regard for it. And they were really the hidden force behind it. And then the word came through that they did not agree with the President sacking. And the tramping club doesn’t sack people – he had to do it. So Albie said “I’m going to resign”. So I said “oh, well, if you resign I’ll have to too, ‘cause I was supporting you”.

So I resigned and I went and joined the Alpine Club and went on their instruction courses and as with all the progression of things, the guy running the instruction course decided that he had to retire and that – would I take over running the instruction courses. So I said “oh, well, I suppose so”. So I had a lot of fun taking new people through and pointing out the possible risks and the methods of river crossing and all the rest. And then at that stage the dentist Paul Pal who has written a book, was running the Search and Rescue Organisation because it wasn’t a Police function in those days, it was … privately. And he said “look you know, I’ve got to give up but would you take over the job of running the Search and Rescue?”

So that meant that usually in the winter at about five past twelve at night you’d get a ring to say someone’s jumped over a cliff, or someone’s lost in the bush. So then I ring up my team who were tremendous people, and we’d all gather together and try to keep a lot of the other voluntary services like the … I could use the Army – we used them for transport. I could just ring them up and get them, but then other people get involved and you find that tow trucks would turn up at some unexpected time in the middle of the night, and the ambulance would turn up. Everyone wanted part of it. I know we were up at Blackhead just below Cargill’s Castle where a girl had jumped over the cliff. It was pitch dark and snowing – bloody awful – and all these onlookers arrived at the top, and it was very dangerous, very shaley, horrible rocks, and this tow truck starts letting out its crane thing. I said “what are you doing that for?” He said “oh, we’ll lower somebody down”. I said “like hell you will. D’you know how many overhangs are down there? Which half of the person do you want to bring back up? Because if it jams under an overhang and you keep towing …” I said “leave it to us, we’ll do it.” So we just got a big metal stake from the Council guys who had turned up and hammered into the soil and one of the guys, Boyd, just double roped down. And then all I could do was try and stop the others trying to run down to see what we’re doing, skittering down in the pitch dark, and slippery … it was a mad house. Anyhow, we couldn’t find the girl – we found her shoe.

But one of the funny ones we had on Search and Rescue was just after Flagstaff an elderly man had gone missing in the bush. And it’s all gorse country there, terrible country, so … took the team up there and split them up into fours and cut the area up into groups, where to search, and come back to that point. We didn’t have a radio at that stage. So that went on for most of the night, usually the same sort of bitter night, and I was there, the teams would come back and – no result – no result they recorded. And this team came back and I was looking at my … “look!” And there was a fifth person at the end. I said “hang on – who’s that?” This old guy said “hello, how are you?” This was the missing guy. And I said to the guys “how long has he been there?” They said “oh, we don’t know.” I said “what did – how did you join this?” He said “oh, I saw these people walking through and I thought I’d follow them”. He’d been follow … [Chuckle] Yes, so that was the fun part of the exercise.

I can imagine.

But others weren’t as pleasant as that. You know, we’d get called up with … deerstalkers would break an ankle or break something and we’d have to go way up the Tukituki valley there, and you’d talk to the guy who sent out the alarm, and I said “where did you go in?” ‘Cause there are all sorts of tracks up the Tuki valley. He said “oh, I can’t remember.” And he’s still got his rifle. He said “oh, no I brought that down.” I said “well what’s he going to signal with if you’ve taken everything away?” We did find him but it took ten times longer than it should have, ‘cause we had to go up every track to …

Sorry – heading back to the question you asked: How I met Janet. In the tramping club obviously. The tramping club had a picnic at Pipikaratu beach in Dunedin and it was a lovely day. We weren’t swimming but it was good enough to enjoy … we were playing rugby. It was a mixed field and one of the faster opposition females grabbed the ball and started sprinting off with it. And I thought ‘well it’s rugby, she’s got the ball – into it’, so I tackled her and grounded her and then dusted her off and found she was really quite something. So that was our introduction and we saw quite a bit of each other from then on. Janet was then a lecturer at the physical education part of the University and I thought ‘what a great find’. So that’s where we started.

Okay well, I’ll let you have a rest now and Janet would you like to tell us something about where your family came from and about what happened to you to this point?

Certainly, I’d love to. I have to say that when Barry and I met at that picnic he came in behind me and pulled my ankles out from under me because I had the ball, playing rugby. I fell flat on my face and that was our introduction. It was the only way I think he could get to make me take some notice.

It worked didn’t it? [Laughter]

Well, I came from a farming background. My mother Myrtle and my father David Brown farmed at Milford, Temuka, South Canterbury. And I was the fourth daughter. Imagine that wasn’t very well received to have four daughters to a farmer, but they didn’t make me feel unwanted or uncomfortable. I had a very happy background – very happy childhood. It just seems ages ago that we milked cows and fed calves and fed twelve stray cats that had been dumped down at the beach. ‘Cause we lived by the beach, and we lived by a lagoon called Rurumataka that my father turned into a sanctuary in his latter years, and where he and his friends used to go duck shooting in May when we were kids, and the Orari river where we swam and fished – my father fished quite a bit. And we had lovely picnics with our family – the Browns were around us so we’d gather together and had some wonderful family times.

I remember my schooldays, and I loved school. We used to walk to school when Mrs Hannan’s old Ford car broke down, which happened quite frequently. And we used to skate on the water races, because the ice was quite thick – the winters were very cold in South Canterbury at that stage. I was born in 1933, so in the 1930s/40s it seems much colder than it is now.

We amused ourselves. My older sisters and I used to go to … sometimes we’d bike or walk or however means … get into Temuka to the odd film, the movies which we – we used to get scrapbooks and find all the movie stars, and all the war families. So our interests were simple but they sort of lasted. Our interests are still with us to this day.

I went to school at – just on about twelve / thirteen years of age and I went to Timaru Girls’ High School as a boarder so all my formative teenage years were at school for five years. And I loved school because by this time my sisters were – one was helping my father farm. We had a mixed farm of sheep, cattle, cropping, small seeds, so it was a real mixture and I learned to get the horse and dray harnessed up, harness the horse to the dray and drive that right through to the tractor days which came later. So we used to have a horse … Dad would buy a horse every now and again so that we could go round the sheep, we usually walked round the sheep. And they had a habit of falling into the creek, because we also had Ohape Creek as well as the Orari River, so we had quite a lot of water in the lagoon, as I mentioned full of eels, that is, and the sea – although they didn’t go on to the beach like we did. Dad would get a horse and I remember one horse that backed into us every time we tried to harness it and another one who used to blow its stomach up as we put the girth round. I remember riding round the lagoon and then it would let the air out – round the saddle would go and I’d go flipping into the lagoon. There were lots of tricks with those horses – they never seemed to be well behaved.

At school I was mad on sport. In fact my father remembers me setting up hurdles around our paddock to hurdle in the holidays, because I always went home for the holidays and helped on the farm where there were lots … lots of work to be done on the farm so you never had a dull moment really. But sport at High School was just, you know, an exciting episode one after another for me. I did achieve a lot in sport. I was I think, captain of every team there was, you know, there was hockey, basketball, softball, athletics and so on. And I also got involved with the South Canterbury Sports Club and did some eventing in that – high jumps and sprints and long jump and so on and met … when Duncan – oh, he was a Scotsman came out – his name’s gone.

One question just going back – you were tackled in a rugby tackle playing rugby. You haven’t mentioned that you were playing rugby as well. Were you a rugby player?

I wasn’t playing rugby at school. Rugby was a boys’ game.

This was a fun game.

Absolutely, that was an absolutely fun game. In fact I thought it was touch rugby but Barry has enlightened me – he said no, it was straight rugby – it was quite a rough and tumble game. Barry, he was still with the Tramping Club when I met him and he was with Shacklock’s.

So school was marvellous and I got responsibilities. I suppose I had an outgoing sort of nature. I don’t know what it takes, but I did have the responsibility of being head of the hostel, head prefect of the hostel and also head of Kowhai House. And so I had quite a lot of responsibilities. So my academic side of things wasn’t too brilliant however I had to pull my socks up when I went to University and I did get a scholarship to go to University. It was called something else at that stage. I was interviewed by Philip Smithells, Director of the school of Physical Education because I had an absolutely – I was crazy about sport and I had to do that – although the guidance counsellor said “no, you should do something else”. There was no way I was going to do anything else other than something involved with sport and physical activity. So I went to Phys Ed School in 1951/2/3. I was a student – I did pull my academic socks up and became top of the class because I did work very hard and absolutely loved it I could go on at length about the activities we had there. We had both physical and academic subjects to fulfil and they ranged from physics and chemistry to anatomy and physiology at Med School and dance in the latter years which I became very interested in and was part of the University dance group. And then when I left we had a post graduate year at Auckland University which we thought was loafing year. It was the year before the storm – the calm before the storm as it were. We were so intense in our work at the school of Physical Education that it did seem a bit of an anti-climax, but it did give us a chance to – I guess have a breather if you like before the real business of being school teachers.

And my first teaching post was at Nelson Girls’ College, although I had had teaching sessions during our senior years. We had the 3rd year at the School of Physical Education, and at Auckland University we had sessions of school teaching and I had some lovely encounters with the New Plymouth girls at New Plymouth Girls’ High School [?] one there. But at Nelson Girls’ College I was well on to the end of my first year and I was contacted by Philip Smithells who was the Principal of the School of Physical Education to say would I come and join their staff. So that was pretty exciting. So I left there and went – towards the end of 1955, I think I actually started in 1956 – at the School of Physical Education as Assistant Lecturer, and I lectured in health education. I took physical education, gymnastics and I did work with a clinic, which is a clinic set up for individual physical education for pupils – they were school kids that had some form of disability or deviation in foot problems, postural problems, other problems of cardio vascular or slow learning, or you know, psychological problems so it was quite a range of problems that doctors sent to us with co-operation with their parents. So we had quite a number of students come to that clinic, and that became my forte really in the later years. And it was in 1956 that I met Barry … or 1957 … might have been 1957 ’cause I started there in 1956. I met Barry because of this episode at the Tramping Club picnic.

In fact it’s rather interesting hearing you talking about this – you must have been very fit those days to have caught this girl ’cause she was obviously very fit too. [Chuckle]

Barry: I had all those [?] about fitness. I know when I went to University I thought well, you know … I hadn’t had a spare moment any time … if I’m going to do this fast, because I wanted to do three subjects a year, and Tom Cowan, he was very good to me, he said “there’s no way – you haven’t had enough education to do that”. I said “well I’m going to do it. I want to do it, and if I get three I’m in and I’ve got my provisional matric. He said “okay I’ll let you do it, but I’m warning you – if you don’t get it you’re out.” So I had to work pretty had to sort of catch up on those who’d had a few more years education than I had. So I thought ‘well, I can’t get any exercise in’, but there was a gym on the way to University, Baldock’s Gym. So I thought ‘that’ll do, I can go there before I go to lectures and I can have a good half an hour or three quarters of an hour on weights and all the rest, and then I can pick up a pie and go to University. So that’s what I was doing, and I was there doing exercise, and Harry was very good, he gave me all sorts.

And then one night I was there he said “look, would you mind having a roll round with a couple of these guys?” I said “what d’you mean?” He said “well they do wrestling – would you like to do some wrestling with them?” So I went there, and – there were all these quite big block layers or something, these people who wanted to do wrestling – and all they want to do is tear your head off. So I learnt that, and I got quite interested in it and I got books on it and learnt about the great Greek wrestlers and all the steps they’d taken – had diagrams and all the rest. So then – I’d been doing this, and then I’d generally do a lot of work with the weights and then wrestling and then have a shower and then a pie, and University. And then Harry said to me “look”, he said, “I need you to”… we had all the professional wrestling in those days in the Town Hall. He said “they need preliminaries – would you go and do a preliminary for us. So I said “oh, yeah, I suppose so.” So I was doing that and enjoying every minute of it, and actually in the competitions they hadn’t been doing that well. I found it helped me a lot in a place like Shacklock’s – there were several choppy people there, and they used to threaten them, and – you know, the big manager of the floor would come in and he’d have a great bump on his head, and I said “what happened?” “Oh, we had a disagreement”. And they were all those sort of guys. But I found that they followed my antics in the wrestling very well and always supported me too – in fact when they heard that I was going snow caving they presented me with a specially designed shovel that they had made to shovel snow and all the rest.

So little did you know during that time you were really conditioning yourself for the supreme tackle.

No I wasn’t. [Chuckles] No, I wasn’t.

Janet: [Chuckles] He was.

Barry: It came in very handy and my previous experience on the track and field scene gave me that extra knot I think I needed.

Janet: But you were a wrestling champion weren’t you?

Barry: I was heavyweight champion of Otago, yeah.

Janet: Yeah. Don’t down play yourself my love. [Laughs] Even if you downed me. [Speaking together]

Barry: It was a form of exercise. [Chuckle]

Well we’ll just move back to Janet.

Janet: Did you want to know where my parents came from?

Yes, you were going to tell me that.

Oh, I didn’t tell you that David Brown was one of eleven children. His father was John Brown and he came over in the ‘Blue Jacket’. He was born in Aberdeenshire in Scotland. He was born in 1846 and in 1867 he came to Lyttelton by the ship ‘Blue Jacket’. The ‘Blue Jacket’ has quite a bit of history – some parts of it were found way off in South America some years later. He bought several farms, but eventually bought Riverslea Homestead where my father was born – five hundred and ninety seven acres of rich soil. And he married in 1878 Miss Louisa Kerdy, and she was daughter of one of the early Akaroa settlers. And they had their eleven children, so my father was, I think, the second youngest. He went to the First World War and he was a very good farmer. He was successful during the year I was born, and 1933 of course was the middle of the depression. And I remember him citing the fact that he ripped up the cheque book and said to my mother “no more cheques to be written out”. And they survived very well and came out very well, where others had to sell up or went bankrupt. So he was a very good farmer and my mother was an excellent partner and an excellent mother.

I always remember Temuka. When we were dairy farming in the 60’s, I bought all these special animals that I had selected and brought them all home and they were all donkeys. Not one of them bred.

My mother’s parents came from the borders of Scotland, and they lived up in Geraldine. They … I’m not sure how my mother and father met but we’ve got some lovely old photographs of them in the early days.

You were certainly South Cantabrians, weren’t you?

Very much so.

Through and through. Both of you.

Yes, well Barry’s mid-Canterbury – Ashburton, and I’m South Canterbury. I met Barry in 1957 and – I think it must have been 1956, at the end of 1956 that I met Barry, ’cause I know we’d been sort of dating for a while, and your mother said “well, you know, if she’s not going to do anything you may as well go and find another nice woman”. But anyway I went overseas for my overseas trip in 1958. I went over on the ‘Rangitikei’ and sailed back on the ‘Oronsay’. Those were good old sailing ship days – five weeks to get there and five weeks to get back, and spent about fifteen months or so all over Europe doing lots of hitch hiking in those days when it seemed to be a lot safer, and met some lovely girls that remain friends too. So when I came back I went back to the School of Physical Education and Barry and I were married in 1960, on the 10th of December 1960, and we had our first child 3 years later, Scott. And he was born in Dunedin of course, and didn’t start kindergarten until we went … Barry has got a career path that goes on of course from the then Shacklock’s, on to the next stage or so. We’ve actually shifted seven times since we were married. So Barry did have a few calls to somewhere else.

You certainly found paradise though, didn’t you?

[Chuckle] Well, we had the pioneering spirit Frank, I have to say. And we loved doing things together, like – we built a house. When I finished teaching … and when I was pregnant with Scott … finished teaching, we decided that we would use my superannuation money to buy three sections at Lake Hawea. And they were covered in gorse, broom and matagouri and tussock, and we put this section into shape – first of all I think fenced it, and then we grew pine trees around it, and then we grew …

Barry: Douglas fir.

Janet: Douglas fir all round the inside of this – you know, ’cause three … was a big area, three sections. And we fenced all that, and then my father helped Barry do proper fencing so the sheep wouldn’t get into the trees. And then we grew other trees inside – it sort of turned into a park. We had all sorts of beautiful trees, both native and old cedars and …

Barry: Taller gums.

Janet: Yes, and we started to build and we’d come up from Dunedin and we lived at Glenpark Avenue in Mornington, and we’d come up after work and we’d build this house and in the weekends. So we started from scratch, and that’s a big story about how we built it, but we built it. And it’s … solid as it was – we’ve seen it several times quite recently – solid. It’s called ‘The Knoll’. ‘The Knoll’ is still on the gates which I carved out of driftwood, and the house is just a beautiful solid house, the trees have turned into a park. And you know, we love it still ,but of course it’s long since gone to other people.

Well, now back to Shacklock’s – the Production Manager.

Barry: Right, well that’s about as much as I need to say about that and I did manage to revise quite a bit of the previous procedures for electric ranges. And then dishwashers were just being created then by young Shacklock who eventually ended up in Auckland designing and continuing to design their dishwasher and so obviously everything was going pretty well. However, marriage was coming up and money became a lot more important so I saw that Gregg’s were advertising for a company secretary so I applied for that job and it was paying £400 a year more than I was getting, and I thought ‘geez, there’s no decision here’, so I accepted that job and then I went and gave in my notice. Well then all hell broke loose. And Jack Shacklock came to see me – he said “what do you mean, you’re resigning? We’ve just given you this big new job here and Woolf Fisher wants to know what’s going on and all the rest.” I said “well, it is another 400 dollars [should be pounds] a year.” So Frank said “oh, yeah right.” So he came back next day, and … “Woolf Fisher said anyone who leaves him for 400 dollars is not worth keeping.” Well I’ve just found one. So they were quite upset. He said “do you know he’s going to give you the whole thing – you could run the whole thing? That’s what you were here for.” And I said “but I’d rather have the 400 dollars and the new position”.

Janet: It was a lot in those days.

So Gregg’s – it was quite good timing because they were at the start of an exciting future. The first job I had there was to supervise the writing of the hundred year old history, and then arrange a banquet for all the customers. So I had to work very closely – apart from other duties – with the guy writing the history, and we had to eliminate some parts where the Baker family – old Baker was the company secretary under the Gregg’s ownership – and old Gregg got so tired he left everything to the company secretary. And then at the stage where they wanted to retire and do something else the company secretary said “look”, you know, “I want to own this company and you can’t have anything – without me you’re useless anyhow, so I’m going to have it”. And so he did, and I had to cut that part out of the history and then arrange the dinner.

The dinner was another exciting event because we had the executives of all the various shop outlets invited free to a big flash dinner in the Savoy Hotel, run by the owners of Glen Falloch. So I did a very careful plan and we had positions. We had our sales rep looking after one very important person all the way through, and I had arranged with the owner of the restaurant a certain seating arrangement so that we had it right. So then everyone arrived, and the hotels and all the rest. I was down there just checking last minute till about 3 o’clock in the afternoon. I walked into the Savoy – all the seating was different – every bloody one. Oh, God! Never mind – we’ll have to do something, so we had names and part of the memorial thing was a wee teaspoon with Gregg’s on it which they could take away, but then the menus had names on and I had arranged to put them round the tables and of course that wasn’t possible. So I got all the sales people together and said “look, there has been a bit of a problem here and you’ll have to wing it. And when all these people come in get ’em seated and tell them it’s a temporary seating, and then find who they are supposed to be sitting with and shove ’em round, and make it sound as though that’s part of the plan. And do it properly otherwise I’m in trouble”. So that’s what happened. And then half way through the meal everything stopped. So Charles Baker – not Charlie, not allowed to call him Charlie – Charles Baker, says “something wrong there – fix it”. So I went out to the kitchen and it was utter chaos. And I said “what the hell’s going on – we’re waiting for the next course”. And they said “oh, we’re having trouble with the chef”. I said “well if the chef wants a thick ear he’ll get it, but you are going to serve the dinner on time and it better be pretty soon”. And I gave them hell out the back there. And so we got that started and then the there was the haggis came in, and the reading of the Bard’s ‘Welcome to the Haggis’. And after it was over Charles said “I’ve had several approaches telling me how well run that event was, how beautifully it went”. I thought ‘oh, my God – if you only knew how the sticking plaster held’.

So following that as a sort of starter, Gregg’s were doing two big things. They’d previously been spices and jellies and those sweet sugary syrupy drinks … were the main products, but then they had the opportunity to set up a juice factory in Rarotonga. So that was there, and so Don Baker who was a food engineer had spent time after they got permission to run the factory, he got permission to set up a factory with a canning – reforming can – operation in Rarotonga. And so Charles Baker said “well, we’ve got to go over – you’ll have to come with me, we’ve got to go to Rarotonga”. So we went over in – I think it was an Air Force Hercules or something like that, in those stiff back seats. The Government took us over there, and we had to do all sorts of things and talk to the Government. He had to introduce me to the Government and all the hierarchy over there and meet the tribal owners and all the rest of it.

And then I had to keep going over quite frequently because Rarotonga was a bit short on anyone with any sort of education at all and you know, you can’t be too slack about food processing. So I had to go over and I found a guy who had been sent to New Zealand and got his School Certificate, Tamata Andrew, and I took him through and set up the procedures there. We actually brought him back to New Zealand and took him through to Hawea and he said “oh, there’s a sea there”. I said “no, it’s fresh water”. He said “oh, no, no”. I said “follow me”. So I took him down. I said “try it”, and he couldn’t leave it – he couldn’t believe there was this much fresh water … [Speaking together]

There was all this fresh water.

in the world. So it was exciting for him but then following on from that Charles Baker’s … brother-in-law I think he was … was writing a system called TW … Training within Management, and it was a training course to tell people how to organise, plan and all the rest, and of course I’d already done a lot of that with Shacklocks. So Charles Baker had another brain storm, and he said “look, I’ll get all the notes – you go over and take them all through the TWI course in Rarotonga”. He said “I’ll give you all the notes, just go and do it, go and do it”.  Right, so away I went with these notes and I ran a course and it was very well received – the boys there received it very well.

In Rarotonga the fun part was … when first going there, was they always met you off the plane and your first job was to go to a doctor and he gave you a prescription that says that because of possible tropical debility you had to have at least one large bottle of spirits. So you then took this certificate to the Police Station and then they asked you a few questions and stamped it, and then you went to the bond store and presented it and got one bottle about that big of spirits. And you took it to the hotel, and there were people waiting there and they wanted to see if it was all right or it had gone off or something, and so a sort of party developed instantly. The thing in the hotel was there was a big fridge and you could put your beer in there, and it always seemed to be less than what you thought. No one seemed to worry much about it, it was all nice and friendly. And the evening games there … we had Pads, the writer of the newspaper of the gestetner, and we had old Dashwood, the Police chief who said that he was our remittance man. And he had to come over and hide in Rarotonga because someone got the lady pregnant and he thought it was his father, and father thought it was him, so he’s got this, and now he’s the policeman there and he’s running the roost. And then there was the owner of the [name of ship], the ship that brought the pineapples down from Aitutaki, and they’d all sit round a jigsaw puzzle and that was on every night, and I was never allowed to play it – I was allowed to look at it. They were all guessing as to what the thing would turn out to be and all the rest, so they knew that I was coming and going and they said “would you do us a big favour? Would you find out if there’s a jigsaw club in New Zealand?” I said “oh, yeah, I’ll try that”. So I came back and I went to Whitcoulls and they all thought I was mad. They said “no, there’s no such thing as a jigsaw club”. So I went back and I thought ‘what am I going to say?’ And I went back and I said “well I did try very hard, but no there’s not, but” I said “I’ve got a good idea – I’ll get involved with the maker. I’ll get it printed on both sides and I won’t tell you what the picture is”. They hardly spoke to me for a week. They thought it wasn’t such a smart idea after all, but I thought ‘what a great …’ – kept them quiet for a while.

So then with the constant to-ing and fro-ing on the orange juice they set up the instant coffee. They bought the big building next to us which had being vacated by Reckitt & Coleman, and in the gap in the middle – air gap – they put a great big milk dryer. And they were already into the coffee bean business so they started coffee. And at that stage [background noise] to get a can of Nestle’s instant coffee you had to know the grocer just about, it was as scarce as hens teeth. But all of a sudden we had all this coffee, and I was involved as company secretary I was supposed to be doing some of the marketing sales information and all the rest, just because everyone knows how to do that. So we had a look at design of bottles and labels and themes, and interviewed the Charles Haines advertising people who come down with their bright ideas and all the rest.

And then they decided to do a takeover of the Central Otago Fruit Company and Irvine’s the jam maker, so I was involved in all that, sending out the notices to shareholders and keeping the stuff coming in and then alternating round various places. I was there for seven years, and then it was getting to the stage where Charles was very edgy about how much I was involved in the company. And so arguments started developing and he started to close up and all the rest. And it got to the stage where it became, you know, quite difficult communicating with him. And I had a very great friend working as Chief Auditor for Barr, Burgess & Stewart, and I went and had a yarn to him and said “look, you know, it’s just not working any more and do you know of any other opportunities?” He said “yeah, here – we could do with you, we could do exactly with you, so you could join here as one of our consultants”. So I left Gregg’s – on a good note, they gave a nice presentation and all the rest.

So then I was all of a sudden a consultant, and one of the early jobs was for Mosgiel Woollen Mills. And they had two managers sort of fighting each other there, an accountant and the general manager, and so I went there and it was a bit of a shambles. And so I redesigned their whole reporting and recording systems and then set them going pretty well. And there were other sort of small jobs kept cropping up, you know, advisory and all the rest. And then I’d been there I don’t know how many years – a few years – and I had a talk to my great friend Scott, and I said “look, I – lovely of you to give me a job here, but unless I can be a partner – what the hell am I doing here? And you’re already full, you know, you’ve got more partners than you know what to do with.” And he said ‘ oh well, something might crop up”. Well something did crop up because one of the senior ex members of Barr Burgess was a director of Dalgety’s and he made it known that Dalgety’s were looking for a Chief Planning Officer for New Zealand. So this was mentioned to me and I went through to Wellington to see one of their deputy general managers, Eric Miller, and got the job. So that meant moving from Timaru to Wellington which we did, and bought a house there and had another child there. And it was quite an interesting job, I quite enjoyed that. And I went through everything from sort of gamma radiating … hospital … all the rest there. And then they said that they had this big problem with Haig’s in Timaru.

Now could you just stop there for a second – Scott at this stage was how old?

Janet: Well, to go back to Barry’s days going to Rarotonga, Scott was two. We went over on one of the trips and Scott sitting on my knee in these little planes these little tiny …

Barry: Yeah, single wing things.

Janet: Yes – and they were a bit frightening. But you end up with orange juice going up to the ceiling and down all over you. And we had lots of fun there though – Scott was just a little toddler and wouldn’t let me swim out in the lagoon if he wasn’t on my back, so we had a bit of fun. And Barry also contracted hepatitis after one trip there, I think it was that particular trip, so he wasn’t a very well boy for a while. Because they were just beautiful, the Rarotongan people – they used to treat us like King and Queen and little prince, with their Umakais – they’d bring everything, you know, they’d kill all the animals and all their best produce brought to this Umakai for us, and it was just amazing. So he was two at that stage. When we went to Wellington he started primary school, so that was his first primary school, so he was five then. And Diana was born just in that year that we were in Wellington – we were only in Wellington one year, and they said “well hurry up, because you have to get back – Barry has to get back to Timaru”, because he’d got a position in Timaru then. So Diana was born at the end of that year in Wellington.

All right, well we’ll pick up the story going back to Haig’s.

Barry: Okay so I went and did a review of Haig’s and came up with a lot of suggestions as to what should or shouldn’t be done. So when I got back they said “oh, that looks good – you’d better go and do it”. So I said to Janet “well, what about another ship back to the old home town?” So we did, and sold up Wellington and went down and for the first year they said they would provide accommodation – they had this house, and we were there for quite some time and then when it became permanent they said “we’re sick of owning that, you’d better buy it”, which we did. We were in there for a while and then Janet saw one across from us which she preferred so we shifted there.

Haig’s was very different in as much as it didn’t need a lot of straightening up, it needed a lot of extra work as far as quantities were concerned. And that was approved by Dalgety’s. And we were looking … they didn’t have any quality control staff – and it was getting any in New Zealand – even though I advertised. I wouldn’t work for that. So I heard there was surplus in London, so they said “well go across to London and employ a couple”, so I did. And I went with Eric Miller who was due to make a [?], and we went up through America and then he said “oh, I’ve got a friend in Russia, we could go there”, so we went there on the way to London and had a good look round there for the first time. It was very different from this last visit in as much as there were armed soldiers everywhere, everyone looked pretty unhappy and it was a very tense place. I was warned not to take photographs and the rest of it. When I was leaving – I was going to go to London – the guy we were staying with at the Embassy took me down and put the passports and papers up on the table and he just threw it back – “nyet”. I said “what’s that fellow on about?” He said “oh, he won’t let you on the plane”. I said “well, that’s charming. Is it the salt works from now, on or just what … what’s the next stage?” He said “oh, just wait”. He said “it’ll sort itself out”. So then we sat and waited, and then all sorts of different people in different uniforms would come and discuss this terrible fellow who was leaving the country, and then finally the consulate fellow said “go up now, go up now”. I said “what’s happening? Just do it”. So I went up and I put it across, and I said “what’s happened?” And he said “well they’re just pulling the gang plank up on that plane over there. If you can get up it before it takes off you’re away”. So I sprinted, jumped on board and sat down. And I was travelling first class, there was only one other passenger on that, and obviously we were in the wrong part of the plane because the hostess hated us – made it quite clear, and so eventually said “would you like a drink?” I said “yeah – need one thanks”. So she brought back a bottle and a glass about that big and that was vodka in it. So I thought ‘oh, that was not a bad way to do the trip anyhow’.

So – arrived at London. London was a different experience – went to the Head Office and I got there about eight o’clock and there was no one there.

Just a point. Is Haig’s an English company at that point?

Dalgety’s … Dalgety’s owned it. They had to buy it because it owed them so much. I’d arranged to interview these quality control people from Head Office – went there at eight o’clock – no one there except the cleaner. He said “what do you want?” I said “where is everybody?” “oh, they won’t arrive yet – they won’t arrive ’til about ten o’clock.” I said “oh, great. I’ve got appointments coming in so I’ll have to be the receptionist and the interviewer and all the rest”. So I did that. And then about ten o’clock they came in, and – “oh, you’re here already”. I said “yes, I’m here already”. Right. So they said “right – follow us, it’s morning tea”. Right, so followed them – go into this morning tea room and they had all their napkins in silver holders all round there with the names around the sides there. And so we had morning tea there and it seemed to drag on a bit before you could get away.

So then I get back to some more interviews, and then “lunch is now – let’s have a jolly good lunch”, so we go in and have lunch. That would last for about an hour and a half and then I managed to get back to doing some more contacts. And then about three o’clock they started coming past – “we’re off now. We’ve got to get on the M4 before the traffic starts”. So, oh yeah, great go for it. So off they would tootle and it was the same every day I was there. Unreal.

You got your quality controllers obviously?

I got them, yeah. One worked out all right; one worked out an absolute half wit, but however he did have graduate qualifications. What he started doing … Doug Hay was … couldn’t stop doing things. Then he sort of took time off and he started setting up a crayfish factory in the Chathams. So they needed money and so I had to go and have a look. So I had to go across the Chathams and had a look at the set up there – it was only a wee tiny set up.

Then a guy who owned quite a large operation in Port Hutt came to see me, Albert Mayo, and said “look, I hear you’re interested there, and I’ve got this nice house and this set up in Port Hutt which is much better place than Owenga where this other factory was, and you know, its for sale and we could do a deal”. So I had a look there, I went over there and had a look there, and it seemed to make sense to have that factory too. And Dalgety’s were very keen because it was export money for them ’cause they could export the crays as well as the peas and beans and all the rest. So we acquired that.

And the most exciting time I had there, and I was visiting with Doug Hay, and he said “oh we got a visit from the local New Zealand Government officers to have a look at our set up here, and they’re coming across with their family, they’re here on holiday”. And they came across, and he says “we’ll take them out fishing”, ’cause he bought a big oil barge moored just off Port Hutt. And you could just drop a line over with six hooks and pull up six big blue cod. And so I said “well that will keep them thrilled”. So we welcomed them and took them down to this little runabout, and got some bait and rods and things, and off we started, and we were about half way through to the barge when the engine stops. And Doug opens the hatch and dives down underneath. And he came up, and he said “we’ve got a problem” . I said “can you fix it?” He said “no, there’s no fuel”. He said “I’ll fix it – I’ll swim to the barge. Here”, and he picked up a rope and tied it round his waist and he dove overboard – he stripped down to his singlet and underpants and dove overboard and he started swimming. And I was holding the rope, there was only about two metres, and there was other bits and pieces lying on the ground, and so I was holding him with that, and he said “let me go, let me …” I said “just hang on a minute”. So I get another piece of rope and tie it on … [speaking together]

Oh, you’re joking!

and feed him out a wee bit more, and then I did this several times and he’s still not at the barge and he said ‘I’ve had it – pull me in, pull me in”. And there were sharks and all sorts of crap out there. So I pulled him in and ropes held. Got him back on the boat and then he said “look, we’re going to go up on the rocks there.” He said “you look after the kids and I’ll take the other two”. “Oh yeah, that sounds a workable idea – better do that”. So then we’re just getting nearer and nearer the surf and another boat comes out from the factory. They come up, they said “what’s going on? We thought we saw someone swimming”. I said “let’s get on with it and get everyone back home, and talk about it later, because I’ve had enough out here”. So they took us back to the factory and we didn’t lose anyone.

They left the barge out there did they?

It was permanently moored there. It was their supply for the factory. They towed it back and they towed the little runabout back in. So it was a real fun time, tell you that. And all sorts of interesting things there. They used to get all the meat, they used to feed all the crayfish fishermen in a kitchen there. It was always prime stuff. I said “why don’t you have some of this local food here, like fish and crayfish and that sort of stuff? It’d be cheaper than buying all that stuff and getting it landed from New Zealand”. So the Chef said “right – right”. So the next morning we had crayfish and fish, and the next morning we had fish and crayfish, and it went on for about a week. And I said “fair enough, righto – we’ll forget about that idea”.

Message understood. [Chuckle]

Back into Wattie’s and all sorts of interesting things there except that Dalgety’s were getting pretty disenchanted with the performance there, it was never up to their expectation. And I had a ring to say that Ray and Gordon Wattie were coming down to view the plant, and I knew then that things were going to change hands.

We had a security system with all the keys so that I had a master key – could open anything, and the others had selective keys. So I thought ‘it’ll be on a Sunday – last thing I want is someone deciding to visit the plant when we’ve got the two Wattie’s here’. So I said “we’re doing an audit of all the keys with the key manufacturer and we want all the keys returned on this Friday”. So I got all the keys back, and picked up Ray and Gordon and Tom Wyatt from Dalgety’s. Then there was the messy bit of the change because obviously I had different ideas … we didn’t need all our sales people for example. We had to establish a list of those who would stay and those who would go. And just before the announcement we happened to have our … it was a party of some sort down on the Caroline Bay area there. And the next morning I had to tell all the staff whether they had a job or not, so I went down …

Janet: That was terrible.

Barry: … with Janet …

JanetVery hard for Barry.

Barry: … trying to be friendly and nice with everyone. And I don’t know – I didn’t think I had much to drink, but we got through that night all right. And I was coming out in the dark and all round the car park they had a foot high lot of logs, and I managed to trip over one of those and fell on my face in bracken that high.

Janet: There was snow, it was ice all round. It was ice, yes.

Barry: Oh, it was ice and snow and all sorts of grit there – I went over. And so then I had to make the announcement the next morning, and the photographer from the paper came in and there’s me in the paper …

With a black eye.

with a bloody black eye, which I thought was quite fun. And no one was game to ask me how it happened, so I got away with it pretty well.

And then we just kept going on and following the production requirements that were set by Hastings, and I had to get rid of quite a few people, and I said to Ray “look, I know Janet doesn’t want to leave Timaru ’cause we’re having a ball here – I’d like to stay on”. He said “well that’s good but remember that Colin White” … who was just in a new factory in Christchurch … “is in charge of the South Island”. I said “I can live with that – that’s all right”. He said “there’ll be no change to anything else” but I had to put up with that. And old Colin would have come down once a month just to prove he was around, and he kept telling me to sack this one or sack that one for being rude to him. I Just always ignored him. And so we just worked our way through that.

That went along quite merrily until Ray said – oh, they had this new … trainees, they had two trainees in Hastings – one Murray Wigg and one other fellow. And Murray Wigg, he said “would you take him as your deputy into the factory because he’s at that stage of his training, and you need someone else there as backup” . I said “yes, no problem”. So he came down – gave him a job there. And then about I suppose two or three years after Murray came down, I had a ring from Ray and he said “look we’ve got a bit of a problem up in Hastings with the managers here. One’s retired and the other wants to retire. Would you come up and manage the Hastings branch for us for at least three months?” I said “yeah”. He said “I’ve discussed it with John Coulter and he’s happy too”. So I said “righto, I’ll come,” and I said “I’ll come permanently”. So I went up there and we put the house on the market and had to buy another one. And I said “well I want a loan to buy the other one until we sell the Timaru one”, and so they provided the cash for that as part of the deal.

So I started in and instead of it just being a three month job – oh I made it a permanent job, ’cause I kept changing everything. A lot of things needed a change. They had incredible lack of science there compared … because the guys they should have listed to … they listened to a couple of English guys who were managing it, and with things like tomato paste which is an international product, I wondered what the hell was happening first off ’cause he had to go and taste everything every morning to check on it. And they’d get the paste and some of last year’s and some of this year’s and hold it up and say “oh, it’s a bit lighter, bit darker, bit that …” I thought ‘there must be a better system than this. God dammit, how can you say oh it’s the same as last year or better than last year for someone to sell it”. So I was having quite a contact with Cedenco in Gisborne and they were really smart on their operations. And I said “how do you check the paste?” He said “well, you just put it in the machine, it tells you exact reading”. I said “that sounds good”. So I went back and saw our chemist – he was a good knowledgeable fellow. And I said “how much are these damn machines?” He said “oh – well we’ve never needed one”. I said “well you do now. We want one, so get one”. So we got one, and we finally found we knew what colour the paste was.

So other small changes – I know we started doing that savoury tomatoes, and that included peppers. And I was down looking at the line and here were all these women, and they were cutting open the peppers and scraping all the seeds out. I said “what are you doing that for?” “Oh because they’re very bitter”. I said “give me one”. So they gave me one, I cut it open and I chewed it … “you tell me what flavour that is”. And they said “oh, we thought peppers had …” “It’s the red pepper has the seed like that, not the green pepper”. So I said “right – chop ’em all up as is, and get rid of all those women picking seeds out”. Which they did, and it was as simple as that.

Other silly little things. I used to go down and see a big old Greek fellow on the rubbish pit – he was a delightful character. He was so – he loved his job, and if the effluent pump blocked he’d strip down to his singlet and underpants and dive in. He was, he was incredible. Most important. He said “I am most important – if the pump stops the factory stops – I don’t work, the factory doesn’t work”. I said “I love you Spiros”. And I said “what other problems do you have?” He said “why, is the manager worried?” He said “well, he collects all his grass clippings, and comes in and tips them into my pit, and it blocks the pump”. I said “well, didn’t you tell him that?” He said “yeah”. I said “well don’t worry about it”. So I went and saw Walter, and I said “Walter, we know you have grass clippings but don’t bring them to work. Leave them where they are”. He said “oh well, if you want to go that way”. I said “yeah, I do”. So old Spiros was – I was his hero from that day on.

I can imagine.

I’ve had several great trips with both Haig’s I suppose, and with Wattie’s because after much remodelling and all the rest I became Logistics Manager, because when the Consultants came back and David Irwin said “you know we want you as Logistics Manager”, and I said “what the hell is that – what does that do?” He said “everything. You got everything you like”. I said “well that sounds like a good job, I can do anything I like”, and he said “yeah, but you’re responsible for all the purchasing and all the supply and the distribution and all that sort of stuff”. And I said “well that’s most of it – that’s all right. And the field site”. So – right, so I became Logistics Manager, and of course as such I had to travel the world buying tin plate and all that sort of thing. And if you go over … I said “I want to see these people”. And so we would go over to Australia, and Japan and America and Vietnam to the various places, and be welcomed by them and talk to them about supply. And had some great trips. Took Janet with me on one of them and yeah, so it was a good time. So I left there as that.

When they were doing all the restructuring I wasn’t very happy. They were doing some silly things, and they had a new guy up from Dunedin, he’d been the chocolate Manager at Cadbury’s, and he had all sorts of – I think unusual ideas, expensive unusual ideas, and I wasn’t terribly happy with the way it was going and then they started on a lot more redundancies. And the people that this guy was picking as redundant were the key people. I couldn’t believe it. So I mentioned that to David, I said “you don’t know what you’re doing”. “Oh”, he said “no – the consultant’s with me and he’s right”. Then about a month later he came up and he said “look, you know that engineer, he’s the only one who can work the machines for the planning that we had”. And I said “but we’ve just paid out his redundancy”. He said “well, can you get him back?” I said “well – money will get anything back, I can get him back but you won’t get your money back”. He said “well that’s all right, that’s all right”. So I had to go to the guy, and he said “what do you want?” I said “well I’m here with quite good news. How would you like your job back?” He said “no way”. I said “hang on, it means you keep your redundancy, you go back on your old salary and you do the same thing you’ve always been doing”. He says “you’re joking!” I said “I’m not joking – it’s hard enough telling you this without me making a joke of it”. So I got him back. It happened on a few other occasions, so then – I forget, it had to do with a deal with the railways because I wasn’t satisfied with the freighting arrangements we had with Freightways, thought it was far too damned expensive.

So I went down to see the railways and I’d worked out how much they had to come to to make them really competitive. I went to David and said “if I can get that down to that level, which saves you about $750,000 a year, can I sign them up?” He said “’Course you can”. So I went down and I spent the day with the engineers there, sent them back to redo their sums and all the rest and finally got there. And I said “I’m pretty confident now that we’ve got a deal … I’ll let you know”. So I came back, saw David – he said “oh no, that deals off”. I said “what do you mean it’s off?” “Oh”, he said “I was speaking today to Tony Dallimore who knows all about transport and he says we’re very unwise to go to rail”. “Oh” I said “it’s nearly a million dollars better”. He said “no, we’re not going to do it”. I said “well you bloody ring them and tell them because I’m not going to”. So I went home and I came back the next morning and David said “I better talk to you”. And I said “well I’ve told you what I’m going to do – I want redundancy, I’m going to go, ’cause I’m sick and tired of this wretched place”. And he said “oh well, you know – will you give us at least ’til the end of the year?” I said “oh yeah. I want my salary at this level and I’ll be leaving at Christmas in a year’s time”. And he said “right”. So that suited me quite well, it suited Janet and me both very well, and so I retired and took their money.

That’s how it finished? That’s incredible.

Well going back, it’s interesting when you hear someone talking about … you had an association with the growers too, because you were the negotiator for the crop levels. It’s interesting over the years there’d be very little of the field staff who were the people …

They were the guts of the company.

And of course they were the only contact we had except the people at the weighbridge. Well isn’t that amazing how that …

They were very flexible. [Janet speaking on phone] I know with the tomatoes they always a very difficult crop because of overseas competition in their products, where – I got some information on Italy and their Government subsidy was more than we paid for the tomatoes, and yet the local businesses thought it was smart to import cheap tomato products from there. And so, we had better and smarter, and I was talking to Ken Apatu, and between him and Brian Nelson they were always getting far more results from their crops than others. And I said “look, for the sake of the industry what about us forming a sort of information exchange between selected good growers, and that’ll be good for the industry, good for us and good for those growing, because everyone will do better and you’ll be able to keep the price down a bit too, because you’ll all get a higher yield”. And he thought it was a great idea, and I went round and the field staff helped to select the growers that we should have. And I remember going on with this suggestion of doing that with other crops, to the Hills, who were quite large, and their family – very interesting to deal with. And I went out and I was explaining to … Ted – Ted and his son, not the elder son, the other one – and I said, you know “I want the Hills to be on this”. And young Hill said “let’s get this straight, I’m this Hill, not one of the Hills”. I said “righto, whatever way you like it, I don’t really mind”. But they were always a bit …


I know was warned never to drive up their driveway in my car because she would come out and tell me how wrong it was to drive on their noisy driveway, so I never did.

No, a lot of fun, we enjoyed the growers very much. We had a great relationship with them in Timaru because we started a suppliers and growers golf game, and we went to all the suppliers and said you might like to give us a prize and play in the game And we did, and it was a great day out. And we had growers going and buying a set of clubs to come out and play at our annual golf, and it was great fun.

So, when you retired, you saw out your time. See that’s a fair while ago now …

It is, yeah.

What year was that?

Janet will probably know better than I – I’ve really forgotten that.

I had one consultancy job for a friend after that, he wanted to set up a fish factory and I did all the information there and charged him consultant’s fees, and there’ve been others. I don’t want to do it any more, I’m sick of it. I just want to count seagulls.

It’s interesting looking back on your life in commerce or in industry. You’ve always had a leadership role you’ve always forged, you’ve always driven.

I always had to keep doing something different.

That’s right.

See – I didn’t stop at the Chartered Secretaries, I went on to University and did accountancy. And then in between that and our marriage I thought ‘well there is a specialty in cost accounting’, so I did the cost accountancy qualification by correspondence, which … well worth doing … enjoyed that. And I could always see something … having another crack at, you know, anything different.

Well, coming back from Rarotonga where did you go from Rarotonga? No, not to Hastings – you went to Timaru, and then from Timaru to Hastings?


And the children…

Janet: They went to Waimataitai School – primary school, and then Scott went to Timaru Boys’ High School. And he reached his senior level and Diana reached her senior level at primary school and that’s when we shifted, so they came to schools here. [Speaking together]

Okay, so you had one left to go to school …

Yes. Well Scott left to go to Hastings Boys’ High School for his final year; Diana to intermediate – Havelock North Intermediate, and then onto Woodford.

And then of course Janet, you got out of the frying pan into the fire didn’t you? You started selling real estate.

Well in Timaru – in the early years in Timaru I played golf and I … because Diana was a little toddler, I’d get up very early in the morning, I mean five o’clock, and I’d go out and play a round on my own. So when I came to play competitively I had a pretty good knowledge of it, and Barry played golf too so we really enjoyed our golfing years in Timaru.

But I started back teaching in – did some relieving work at Timaru Girls’ High School and Timaru Boys’ High School, and then part time work, and then took a job full-time at Timaru College for two years until 1979. And that year I finished teaching because they had appointed me as the Timaru High School Old Girls’-Old Boys’ Reunion President. So I did a full year of work getting that together for the 1980 centenary. So that was a big – big, big job. So after I’d done that it was not so long after 1981 that Barry got this shift – this call to Hastings as Manager of Wattie’s, and so off we went – rather reluctantly. But when we got here we got our heads down, Barry got into his job of course naturally took off like a rocket, the children took off to their respective schools and then with me … what did I do with my life? So I went to an Employment Agency to ask what jobs were available and the guy who was interviewing me was about twenty three … twenty four? And after he’d listened to my background he said “oh well you’re really quite presentable”.

Oh, how nice. [Chuckle]

So I could have thrown something at him, but he was unable to find me a job so I thought I’d … always thought like many people of that day and age I’d like to work in real estate because that was the sort of glorious job that one did. So I went and knocked on the door of Robert Cox, who was G J Cox at that stage, and he was – he had two salespeople working for him – and said “I’d like a job in real estate”. And he said “oh well I’m sorry, we haven’t got any position available here, but maybe at a later stage”. So I went to de Pelichet McLeod and they said “come in, we’ll welcome you, and we’ll help you get your certificate”.

Coxon was there wasn’t he?

So – yeah, he was. But he wasn’t responsible for it. But they were very welcoming. And so I duly got my certificate, and then said “oh well – is there a job available?” And they said “well we’re absolutely chocka … we’re chocka”, you know ’cause they can’t take more salespeople than they can afford. So I said “all right, I’ll go and knock on some doors again”. So I went to Robert Cox and he said “oh, you’re welcome. And he said “but the thing is I’m just about to amalgamate with Coxon down the road”. So he said “oh, you know, you could join us there”. So they duly became Cox & Coxon. And I sat in the corridor and all the salespeople were in the salesroom, and they’d hear all my conversations and latch onto the buyers and sellers that I was working with, so I was very good for them. [Chuckle] But I duly got into the salesroom eventually, and they became of course – from Cox & Coxon they were called The Professionals, and then they became Harcourts.

So I lived through all that for ten years, and then I decided … Barry was retired and he said “well I’m not staying around – I’m off”, you know. “You can go on working if you want to, but I’m off”. And I said “oh well I’d better retire too”. So I retired, and had a lovely send off … Harcourts. And that bowl in the centre of the table is a lovely present from them on my send off celebration. And then for two years I did nothing much. Barry and I did some travelling. And it was Hawke’s Bay Realties that approached me and said “oh, won’t you come back? Wouldn’t you come back?” I went to a breakfast for the real estate people. It was a breakfast – did you go to that?


Many years ago. And I met some of the Hawke’s Bay Realities people there, and they said “oh, do come back – wouldn’t you come back and join us?” So I did, and I had a very happy two years with Hawke’s Bay Realties. And I worked just … sort of at a very simple pace, a lowly pace, but with real estate, you know you can’t help working up, so I worked up. And I went up and up and up and up – working to very full-time, and then unfortunately they were coming down in terms of their …

Well your principal died, didn’t he?

And – yes, that’s right. But before that happened they were coming down, and I did a co-joint with Ian Scott – I did a … he had the house and I had the buyers, so we did a conjunctional. And during that conjunctional Tremains said “wouldn’t you come and join us? Wouldn’t you please come and join us?” So I had to tell – and that was the hardest thing I had to do … I had to tell Hawke’s Bay Realties that I was sorry I was going to leave them and go to Tremains. But, of course Tremains – I was there for fifteen years and never looked back and it was a very happy company, a lovely company.

So, now that your children are all adults – which ones are married?

They are both married. Well, Diana was married for ten years to Nicholas Frankish and – but unfortunately they divorced. And she now has a partner, Tim Gasson – a very fine partner. And she has two lovely children with Nick.

What ages are they Janet?

Their ages are eighteen – Andrew is just about to go to Victoria University to do law and commerce, or law … oh he’s doing political science and various other things as well. But Sophia is sixteen – she’s just passed her NCEA subjects with excellence. She’s doing extremely well, and she’s also a model in her spare time, so she’s a very busy girl. They’re both doing extremely well. That’s Diana’s children. Scott and Jude – Jude Liddle was Scott’s wife. Scott and Jude have been married fifteen years … seventeen years I think, and they live in Singapore. Scott is doing advertising and copywriting, and he has just formed a company with one of the local winegrowers here, so he’s going to do the marketing. So that’s a nice additional thing that’s happened for them.

Jude has been extremely successful with her positions. She was – while she was here – the marketing manager for the Auckland Museum. She’s had a job with a technical company … telephone company before that. Then she went to Singapore and became Marketing Manager for South East Asia for the BBC, so she – until very recently. She has now got another marketing position in South Asia for HomeAway, which is a company, a big American company, for rental accommodation right up at the top level, to lesser level. And one of the companies they own is – what’s the name of that company Barry, that HomeAway owns – the New Zealand company?

Barry:  Bookabach.

Bookabach – those sorts of companies they own here. So they’ve got a big holding. So she’s the marketing manager for that, so she’s got another big job now so …

So apart from travelling, living the life of a luxury king and queen …  [chuckle]  looking out over your special lake – this is your retirement?

Yes. I forgot to say that Diana has had jobs with marketing with Cedenco and other positions, but then she was teaching, because she’s a graduate of Consumer and Applied Science of Otago University, so she did a lot of work with home science or consumer science. And she was Head of Hospitality at Selwyn College – that was her most recent job with teaching. But just recently she’s decided she wanted to have something different from teaching and she applied for a service industry qualifications role, and she got that position so she’s working with the service industry. She loves it. She’s got a hundred and fifty schools that she looks after, and from the teaching side she’s got a very great rapport with teachers. And she’s doing the service industry for young adults just leaving school about to go into jobs. And that entails hospitality, retail, aviation and – it’s quite a wide spread that she covers … yes. And yes, they’re all fine, they’re all fine. In fact we’ve just had a ring from Scott to say they are off to ‘Penang’. They are going to stay in ‘Penang’ tonight … do quite a lot of travel in the South Asian area.

I think that’s pretty well covered it hasn’t it? But it’s always interesting to look at someone’s life from another aspect. Companies like Wattie’s played such a major part and they touched so many of us. Everything we did, Wattie’s was somewhere in it, and it really generated an awful lot of wealth in living for farmers and contractors.

Barry: I think Wattie’s had that feeling for the growers, [background noise of kettle boiling] and they had a real understanding of what I thought of as a responsibility to growers to give them a living income, as opposed to the marketing idea of ‘how cheap can we get it?’

Well thank you Barry and Janet, I think that’s a nice mosaic of you and your family.

This is an addendum to the previous interview. Barry is going to tell us about his public and community service. Thank you Barry.

Thanks Frank. In Timaru I was a member of the Timaru City Council serving on the Works Committee and representing the Council on the Public Relations Department and the School Board – the local High School Boards. I was also President of the Manufacturers Association, a very interesting and nice occupation. And also, eventually, a member of the Committee for the Golf Club. So, yes it seemed to be taken as read that I was available to do these and in fact I did enjoy the activities of all of those groups.

Thank you Barry.

Today is the 20th of April 2016. Barry will say a few words about the tail end of his work.

Thanks Frank. Well, when we had the last discussion I’d overlooked the fact that there was a major change in my employment at Wattie’s. Starting in 1986 when the Australian Consulting Group, McKenzies, was employed to recommend changes to staffing levels and the management structure of J Wattie Canneries. A voluntary redundancy scheme offering a lump sum payment based on a number of years employed was adopted by a number of staff, but also a number of other staff were unfortunately made redundant.

After the final report of McKenzies, I was interviewed and told that my position would change from Branch Manager to Logistics Manager. As such my responsibilities would be all factory planning, the procurement of all crops, packaging, order ingredients and harvesting operation, plus the storage and distribution of all finished product. In the words of the Consultant in charge of …

And that was …


Janet’s going to tell us some of the historical notes of her pathway to today.

Yes well, one – I thought was one interesting factor was soon after we arrived in Hawke’s Bay and we’d settled in Havelock North, Barkers of Geraldine phoned me. Anthony Barker rang and said would I establish markets for them in Hawke’s Bay and later in Poverty Bay and Bay of Plenty, for their blackcurrant juice and their berry fruit wines and liqueurs. So that was marvellous that I had something to do for one and a half years. I travelled round the supermarkets and Four Square stores selling to the proprietors and conducting tastings for the public who purchased directly.

Some of the things I know I did talk about in my early days, was my tremendous interest in sport and in athletics, and athletics really led to a career in physical education from my school years, and I was very proud … still rather proud … of the fact that I’ve got the blazer in the back of the wardrobe with my University Blue in Athletics at Otago University in 1952 and 1953.

I didn’t mention that – well I talked about Philip Smithells contacting me to go back on the staff soon after I’d started as a teacher, and I didn’t say that he was Dean of the School of Physical Education and later Professor – had a full professorship. So he was an incredible figure, a real legend in terms of physical education in New Zealand.

I didn’t mention I don’t think, that I gained my licence in Real Estate, but when it came to the point and we’d actually formed a company – Barry and I formed a company – that I decided that I was probably about … well, my late sixties. I thought really I was too old to be a licensee and to run my own company because it was hard going for a number trying to go out on their own at that stage and I thought I was a bit silly to be also trying to do that, so I’ve enjoyed working with the two main companies that I did work with.

Still, it was an achievement just sitting your licence and gaining it.

Well it was, it was Frank, yes.

Nothing … nothing was wasted.

It was, it was four years of quite hard slog. I think I counted seventy seven assignments that I had to do for that, apart from the examinations we undertook.

Oh just recently I – did I mention that I was fortunate to return to Dunedin?

Yes, you mentioned you were going.

To a Carrington College reunion, and went to the Otago University School of Physical Education, Sport and Exercise Sciences – now it’s called – and had an interview which is going to go in their magazine. So it was absolutely lovely to go back and also to see old friends from the school and from Carrington College where I boarded. Probably that’s about all I need to add, or would like to add.

You mentioned that you’ve recently taken up a palette and an easel and are embarking on some artistry.

I have. Well I’ve always been interested in art, and at school, I really haven’t done much since I left secondary school. At school there was a very good artist called Toni Thompson and she – she’s also … was a physical educationalist, but she’s an Australian. She went back to Australia and she was way up there as far as art was concerned. But I got second, so I was quite pleased with that. We did a lot of still life and we went down to the wharf at Timaru and painted on Saturday morning, and yes, just recently I decided that I would love to paint again, and I have been doing some water colours at home here just trying to start up again. So I joined the Napier Art Club, Arts Club … what’s that you’ve got there?

Barry:  It’s one of your paintings.

Oh that’s a very novice one, that’s a very simple one. I’ve got some downstairs that are a little bit better.

Everything starts somewhere. [Speaking together]

But I had to start yes, that’s … that’s one that I should put away permanently. [Chuckle] But I’ve met some lovely women and a couple of men, two or three men, who are artists, and the company, and its a club, incorporated – Napier Arts Club Incorporated. And I’ve sat there with them on Monday and got started, and going again tomorrow.

So when do you buy your beret then?

[Chuckle] Beret? Well I – no, I don’t think women wear berets.

Well we always sort of imagine artists… some of them had a beret but they also had a beard. They do wear them.

That’s fine. So we thank you very much for that, and I will have that added.

Original digital file


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Interviewer:  Frank Cooper


  • Barry Frederick Davidson
  • Janet Marion Davidson

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