Bryan John Dillon Interview
Today is the 23rd September 2015. Today I’m interviewing Bryan Dillon of Melrose Orchard, Pakowhai Road on the life and times of his family and himself and his children. Bryan would you like to start off by just telling us something about … far as you can remember, where your father came from if you can remember.
Dad’s father came from Patangata – worked on the family property there at Patangata. He got married there, but when Dad was eleven his father died. His mother, my grandmother on his side, moved to Napier and Dad went to school there, Napier Boys’ High School.
You think that Patangata Station homestead looks very similar to the homestead that was on the farm?
Regretfully … Dad used to be very keen on finding out various things, and had various relations and cousins and things there. But as a young person I didn’t take as much notice of a lot of this as I should have. But all I do know, that his mother and father and some various relations of that era are buried at Otane Cemetery.
Yes because those sorts of things we can match up – we can go back in time, and it’s surprising how other families …
Well just on that, because his two cousins … two of the cousins – a female and a male – of one of his uncles down there, Dillons – she was the District Nurse for years and years. And Gordon had a farm out at Tikokino … way. I mean his uncle was Uncle Hector or someone or other in Ross, maybe – I can’t quite recall. Then he had a cousin in Argyll on a farm [?grown Clark?] But that’s another side of the family.
Anyway, getting back to the Napier era … obviously went to school in Napier Boys’ High School. One of his friends there, I’m led to believe, was one of the Bryant boys by the name of Harold was a similar age to him, and through him – that’s how he met my mother, Dilys Bryant. They were married probably in about 1931 – round about the earthquake time.
At that stage Dad was a clerk in Hawke’s Bay Farmers Woolstores at the Iron Pot there … tore outside and you know, the building shook and played around. [Chuckle] Probably still there come to think of it – probably Shed 2 or one of those. [Chuckle]
It could be.
Anyway that was that. After that era he ended up – took on a business at the Whakatu Store, which was a general store in that era because the freezing works was one of the biggest ones – as everyone knows – allegedly, in the southern hemisphere almost, but … [chuckle] pretty big in that era. So went through the thirties and … it was one of those six and a half day week things – they had a half day Wednesday of all things, but they were open on Saturday. And various people worked for them there because it needed other people there. One of them was Ron Shakespeare’s wife, she became … Elsie and Kate McNaught, who was related to the blimmin’ D’Aths, of all people. [Chuckle] Anyway, they were girls at the time, and worked – there was a lot of others too, of course, but I can remember them there.
But you know, then in 1942 possibly … something around that time … they decided to sell out – they sold the business but not the premises to Jack Gallagher. And then we moved to Hastings and I was going to Mahora School, ‘cause I’d have been about ten when we left Whakatu. Started at Mahora School and did four years there, two years of it probably – two and a bit it may be – while we were living in Hastings. And then Dad didn’t know what he was going to do but he ended up working for his uncle, Alf Forneau at Pakowhai at an orchard there. During that time Stan Holmes, who lived next door on a ten acre orchard which we live at now, he had a heart attack and died, and the place came up for sale. So Dad ended up buying it and that’s how we came to Pakowhai. Actually on that note, Mr & Mrs Holmes had a daughter, I think her name was Marion, married Kirkman, who ended up on Napier/Havelock Road. It’s a very small world Hawke’s Bay. [Chuckle]
I was just thinking back to the store that your father had at Whakatu – because the people didn’t travel far with cars, every little area had a little general store.
Witheridge Bakery … got our bread from.
That’s right, and so they were all an integral part of the system.
Yeah, that’s quite right. Dad used to take orders over the phone because in that era, through the thirties, not everyone had the phone. You know, in that era … just getting at that … you know, the Works was full on until it closed down, and then all of a sudden a lot of the guys at Whakatu went shearing or fencing and things like that. Well Jack Taylor for one, just comes to my mind – Bob Taylor’s father. Dare I say it on the blimmin’ thing here, but Dad used to grubstake some of them, like the wild west days. And he told me later on … and mostly you never take any notice of what your father tells you until later on you remember all these things, and there’s a lot of wisdom comes out [chuckle] … but he said he never got caught financially off any of those people. Mrs Luke had a shearing gang and he’d cart … in the car … they’d take them out to the shearing shed, you know – drop them off and this sort of thing, and yeah – it’s quite interesting.
It was a little community wasn’t it?
Yes, and …
And everyone depended on everyone else.
Take the orders on one day and then they’d do ‘em all up and on about a Tuesday afternoon or whatever it was, they’d do the run, all round East Clive and parts of Whakatu delivering the groceries. But anyway, there you go.
But eventually, getting back to the Whakatu situation – I don’t know quite what year it was but the Works’ Management – HB Farmers Meat Company – had their office in Queen Street and the Works’ office was up on the second floor there, or the first floor – whatever – the one below the chain come to think of it. But they approached Dad, because they wanted [chuckle] some sort of control over who was in the shop, ‘cause by this time Jack Gallagher had moved on and the Bernsteins were there, and someone else – I can’t remember the names. So they wanted to know whether he’d sell out the premises. Anyway, the upshot of it all was he sold the whole lot. Then they built that shop over the road and it became a different kind of era, and then they put their big new offices up which are still there now. Yeah, and so that’s how that all …
It was never the same as the old shop because you had to climb up the steps into it.
Yeah, oh yeah – and you know, it sold everything from boots and jerseys and work clothes all the groceries. And it came in bulk at the back – the FG Smith and Williams & Creagh and all those carriers, you know.
And of course you had Snow Boese. Do you remember Snow Boese?
He was the caterer at the … he ran the …
Ran the canteen?
… canteen at the Freezing Works.
Oh, well of course in the early part of the war era when tobacco was rationed and everything else, Whakatu store had … dare I say an open sesame … because the Union would go out on strike unless they had [chuckle] tobacco and cigarettes. [Chuckle] That’s how it worked.
Well, I always remember Snow Boese. Snow catered as if he was catering for these big hard working freezing works.
Come off the end of the line.
That’s exactly right.
Two things that stand out just while we are on the Whakatu situation, is that at night when you were in bed you’d hear the trains shunting. And most of the stock arrived by train and they’d be unloading it, and it was actually quite cheerful hearing that activity and noise. And then the other thing – you know, Friday afternoon – all the windows were open right along the top floor there, and they were singing. Marvellous.
I always remember we used to go and buy meat from the Whakatu Butchers shop – buy a whole sheep. But where they got the three-legged sheep from [chuckle] I never found out.
Broken in transit, I‘d say – quite often. Yes, so there you go. As a kid you know, you used to … there was no fences around the place … we used to play in the Works, it was marvellous, but you’d never get away with it now.
You never went to High School from here …
Yes. I never went to Pakowhai School. My brother and … two brothers and a sister all went to Pakowhai School but I carried on because I had a year and a bit to go at Mahora, and they decided there was no point in shifting over, and I just went on the bus from here and then started at High School … in the Motor Company bus and I’d get off at Westerman’s and walk to school. For 4 years I did that, and backwards and forwards, and that’s what you did. Yeah.
When I left school I was keen on orcharding. I used to like to get some pocket money and during all of the holidays I would be out whatever the season was, and that’s how I learnt from the people before that … ‘cause actually, yeah, there was two or three permanent people here, and I mean you soaked it all in, you got paid for it and it was quite good. So I just left school and I came home on the orchard and I was there for … year, year and a half maybe. We didn’t pack fruit here, it all went on by carrier in loose bushel cases to Slaters packing shed in St Aubyn Street.
Bill Knowles milked cows down the road here where Snow Kendall lives, or just this side where Johnny Appleseed is. So that was Bill’s morning era, and then he started to carry the fruit into town. He had empty cases back and fruit in, so that was that, but in the end Dad – I can’t remember whether Bill gave up the cows or what but, Dad bought a Napier-Wellington Transport Rio truck – about a three ton thing – and I sort of ended up sort of driving that. And then finally I decided to get a licence, because it was County Council in those days, and he said “back round there”, and I backed round there, and I got the licence, it was all quite good.
But then interestingly, probably at the age of … I don’t know, eighteen or something like that, my mother took ill. And actually she was more ill than we thought, and she ended up dying here at the age of forty-two, which … well what would Dad be – about three years older I think. By this time there was myself and a brother who was eighteen months younger than me, a sister and another brother. So that was a fairly traumatic year. So Peter, my next brother, and me and Dad – we stayed here, and his aunty next door … ‘cause Alf had died by this stage … and Alf Forneau’s wife, Elsie, was Dad’s mother’s sister, so his aunty and mother were sisters. His mother used to come out and stay with her quite a bit. Anyway the two younger ones, my brother and sister were probably the age of – oh God, I’d have to think hard here – you know, ten and eight or something like that. They went over there to stay with them, ‘cause Dad had to still carry on in the orchard and whatever. So one thing it taught me very quickly was [chuckle] housekeeping and cooking and washing, you know – we just had to do it. There’s nothing wakes you up more than … quicker than having to do it – which brings me to mixed flatting.
You know, when that first came in, I was a lot younger than I was and I never went mixed flatting. And I heard of a few kids going mixed flatting, and I thought ‘woowee!’ You know? But it’s the best thing that can happen – those girls don’t stand any messing about. They say “you make the mess, you clean it up.” And “it’s your turn to cook”, and that’s how it is. And it’s been a great thing, and they learn very quickly where the toothpaste and the bloody toilet paper come from – it just doesn’t appear. You’ve got to go and get it and pay for it. Anyway, that’s another thing. So where are we at?
So then I met my wife at the opening of the Premier Ballroom in Eastbourne Street. And you know, I met her there, it was quite interesting. And so then I got a bit – that was all right, and then I went to the Compulsory Military Training era, so I went through that – I was supposed to go in the second intake. By this stage I’d started with Attwood & Reid, the carriers in Hastings – fronted up there one day and said, you know – “any chance of a job?” I got a job there, but I was there for three years, truck driving – stock truck driving. But because of the timing – I was supposed to go into the CMT situation in the summer, and Eric Attwood said “no way – I’m going to apply, and you’re not going then – you can go in the winter.” So I did, and there was snow everywhere. [Chuckle] We were under snow – under canvas … no. We weren’t under canvas then, we were in the main camp at Waiouru, so I did my first half of it there then went in the ASC, which is truck driving and general whatever-the-hell they were. And the second part was down at Linton. Anyway there you go.
So after sort of three years there, I used to see these trucks going – “I think it’d be quite good to go to Taupo driving those”, so I approached Pettigrew’s you know? Said “what about a job” you know, “any chance of a job?” Said “yeah”, said “that’d be all right.” And even then I put it off for a year, because I rang up and said “I’d better hang on another year here.” But I did start there about 1954 probably – something like that. They were interesting in those days – all the shingle roads, and you know, you had a full tool kit, which was a 6-inch crescent and a screwdriver and a spare fan belt. [Chuckle] Had a bit of wire in case you had to short-circuit something.
And so you were driving what those days – S Bedfords?
Yeah, which ‘course were brand new at the time, because Pettigrew used to buy three or four or five at a time you know. And they never went back to Baillie’s for any fifteen hundred mile check, ‘cause it didn’t take long to get fifteen hundred miles. Most of the drivers you’d only came across occasionally, because you never went home to the depot at night, you operated from wherever you were. And of course he had five logging trucks up in Taupo, which – you hardly ever saw those guys – they were living in Taupo and carting into the mills around there.
How long did it take you to get to Taupo in those days with a load?
Well Pettigrew’s load and anyone else’s load was always a bit different.
[Chuckle] Well he had to make a profit didn’t he?
You had to have eight ton on. And a five ton Ford – he had a few Fords, you know, those jailbird Fords – they were five ton trucks but they used to have seven on, and they all had two-speed axles of course. And then he had a couple of Thorntons – Ford Thorntons – but going up with a Pettigrew load on used to take getting on for five hours. With a full load up, unloading and then through to Kinleith or Waipa State Mill in Rotorua, or … we’d go for backload. Like out of Waipa, you’d go round to the timber mill first, [chuckle] then you’d go to a case timber mill part and with a bit of luck you got a load of case timber – hand loaded by the way. If all else failed you reluctantly went round to the creosoted posts area, which I hated [chuckle] because you had to load yourself, and they were slippery as hell.
What, no one helped you?
No. They did with the case timber. Basi Singh – he was an Indian, and he could count in dozens. I was actually pretty good at counting in threes. I still do, eh? Counting stock. He used to chuck a few shovelfuls of pumice over the top of it to try and … and you’d stop about three times between Waipa and even Reporoa or down by there, just to haul the chains down because they kept shifting. Yes, I did three years there I think – two, two and a half. Got married while I was there and because I was away so much I chucked the job in there. You’re never home, eh? It’s worse now, but it was bad enough in my era. I used to have a little suitcase with a bit of gear in – I mean you were forever on the road. The old Rangataiki – you know, not the one now, but the old Rangataiki – they had a permanent … Well the phone used to go off – it used to be six o’clock in the morning ’til six o’clock at night in those days, so you had to arrange for a meal or bed before six o’clock when the phone went off.
But you know, they were working for that company – it grew into a very big company in the end didn’t it?
Oh, it did, yeah. So by the time you’d taken a load up and got rid of it and got up to say, Kinleith, and loaded up with case timber and come home again, it could be anything up to about fourteen or fifteen hours, you know. We were allowed to do fourteen, but I mean I massaged the other hour around.
And of course, those days the trucks weren’t diesels.
Oh no, that’s right – but petrol was a damn sight cheaper. I’m sure the jets had four-inch nail holes. In winter time, you know, with the rain pouring down, a big load on and coming up that Waipunga, and up the Turangakumu, the old Turangakumu – crikey dick! It was a sort of a mission to get back into high/low at one stage. [Chuckle] It used to take half an hour to get up there.
Yeah, I … you gave up truck driving?
Yeah. But I mean, at this stage of the journey – we were married in 1956, Betty and I … lived for six months with my grandmother – my maternal grandmother – in Napier while we had a house built at King Street in Taradale. That was while I was at Pettigrew’s. And she kept working – she worked for an accountancy firm in Hastings, and started when she was sixteen and carried on – did about nine or ten years there and used to travel on the bus from Taradale over to Hastings. And one of the people that used to travel on the bus, which you get to know people, don’t you, because you’re there every day was Bill Beaton. He was a teller at the Bank of New Zealand in Hastings.
Oh, Betty knew all of them up and down Queen Street, because I mean, it was concentrated in that area.
Yes, oh absolutely. [Speaking together]
And you know, all her girlfriends worked in various banks and accountancy, lawyers firms all up and down there. And every time [chuckle] latterly – years and years and years later, you know – whenever she used to [chuckle] see him, he’d always bring that up, eh? This is before he got married.
‘Cause those were the days when the NZR ran the bus service, didn’t they?
Oh, not through here. It was the Motor Company through here. Motor Company used to go to Taupo. In fact Pettigrew’s never had a covered depot at Taupo. They had a house with a guy up there – Colin Clapton in my era – and they had a deck on four drums with a tarp over it. That was the extent of the depot. If any mechanical work wanted done on any trucks up there, like changing motors or something dramatic, they’d use the Motor Company garage, and the pit and whatever, because the Motor Company had quite a big operation there. ‘Cause Pettigrew were related to them. Well, I mean, yeah – there’s wheels within wheels everywhere. Point is, it was all a good arrangement and as far as fuel was concerned – you know, we all had a key to Roband Service Station in … Mobil Service Station, right opposite the Post – well it was the Post Office – where the lights are in the main street of Taupo. And we’d fill the damn truck up, we had two tanks on – and put down your truck number and sign for it, what date it was, and blow me down it all happened. In the end I ended up there quite often, because I was on a general truck. You’d fill in wherever you … and quite often I’d go up with a load of Mobil on, get rid of the tank, lift it off at the depot – got a gantry there – and go on for a load of timber or whatever. And one of the other trucks would cart fuel up there and get a load of timber on the truck – you know, have a tank on the trailer and bring that home, and that’s how they did that before we’d go up and back. Pettigrew ended up hauling … ’cause he took over Nant’s – Nant Brothers – he ended up with the Shell contract too. And sometimes you’d see a Pettigrew Carriers’ truck with a Mobil tank – empty maybe – on the truck, and a trailer with a Shell one on the back. [Chuckle] One guy at the Te Pohue pub once apparently said “I’ve never seen any like it man”, you know? He was from America. [Chuckle] He said “I’ve just seen something you never see round the world.” [Chuckle] It’s the way it worked out, eh?
Anyway, getting back to here. After I left Pettigrew’s I came back home again for a bit – for eighteen months maybe, and tackled Dad about the idea of .. does he want to lease the orchard, you know? By this stage he’d remarried – it was about five years after Mum died he remarried. He said “Oh, not yet”. Anyway I thought ‘oh, blow this’, but my car had broken down and it was in car hospital, and so I was catching the bus home this particular time and I was walking. It used to stop you know, that corner where McDonald’s … well the pub is in town. … used to go down the main street of course. And I was walking past McDonald Transport there and I sort of thought ‘oh, I’ll just pull in there.’ Walked in and saw Ron McDonald and said “is there any chance of a job?” And one thing led to another, and he said “yeah”, and – maybe this was a Monday say, or something – and he said “could you start on Wednesday?” I said “ooh, crikey – I don’t know about that. I’d better give notice, you know”. [Chuckle] But anyway I started the following week and I was there four years. I enjoyed it there, it’s … very diverse outfit he had.
Anyway – due course Dad said one day, after [chuckle] three and a half years maybe, he said “you know you were talking about leasing the orchard” and he said “are you still interested?” I said “yep”. So the upshot of it – in 1962 on January 30th he was the boss and the … well, he’s still the owner, operating it, and on July 1st 1962 it was me. He never interfered you know? And I never forgot that, and when my turn came round with the two boys involved, I never interfered with them. It was quite good really, ’cause I learnt a lesson in that. I thought it was quite good ’cause the more you hover about the less they tell you.
And in fact, exactly right. And of course those days you had varieties you probably never hear of these days – what did you have when you first started? You would have had ‘Sturmers’?
The word ‘fruit salad’ comes to my mind. No, you’re right. Yes, well Pakowhai comprised of … we’re talking in the mid-sixties … a lot more smaller properties. The eight and ten acres – I mean we ended up with twenty here – like Dad ended up with twenty, ’cause he bought his uncle’s place next door. And he also, in his era, he leased six acres round the back road in Gilbertsons Road, and at the same time he had a block down here next to the store there – which is a little story all of its own too, because there were seven acres or eight or something – we’ll say eight – next to where the hall used to be? And my aunty – my mother’s sister – and her husband, who was a very restless fellow job-wise, and he’d been in the Air Force or whatever. Nothing would do than he was going to get an orchard, see, so they bought this orchard.
But moving on at one stage Dad got a phone call about ten o’clock in the morning – it’s market time, you know? And it’s the brother-in-law from down the road. He said “Cyril, are you interested in buying this property – our property?” And Dad said “yes”. “Oh, well you know, we’re thinking of going – doing something else” or something … I think they were going to Auckland – whatever. But he said “we’ll have to know by one o’clock”.
Nothing like a bit of pressure.
Well – well Dad says “crikey! Hang on a minute – just hold everything. I’ll be back to you within an hour.” He went into Napier there and saw … guy Cox – Clarrie Cox – way back, and he might have been a real estate agent, Cox, and we’re talking about some – well in this day and age you’d call it a finance company. But anyway he said “right – we’ll back it – no paperwork at this point. We’ll advance the money on due date – sign this that you undertake not to mortgage it to anyone else in the meantime.” It was something along those lines, a pretty one sentence kind of thing. It was a word of mouth thing. It’s the old … people you know, and you know who it’s through too, I should imagine. Dare I mention Masonic Lodge – but anyway … ’cause Dad was very involved in Masonic Lodge, and it wasn’t until he died in 1978 that I realised just how many he was involved with and in. Which is good, because he started off when he was in Whakatu, and it’s like the Rotary situation where it’s companionship, or fellowship, or just meeting someone outside your field of work and I think, from what I can recall him saying, that was more or less why he got involved. It was completely different people that he was dealing with or meeting, and it just sort of went on from there. So there you go, but yeah, I’ll never forget that. And so he ended up with that.
Well ironically, this particular brother-in-law and sister-in-law went up to some grocer’s shop out at Papatoetoe or somewhere or other. But two of the other Bryant … my mother’s two brothers … were involved in blimmin’ – forerunner of a sort of 4 Square type – Progressive Enterprise-type thing. Before that started, but in Manurewa of all places – and he then wanted Dad to go in with that, and sell out here and go up there, and they were going to expand to hell and gone. And he’d been in it for a fair while, and because of that this other brother-in-law – the one we’re talking about, the sister one – they went to Homebuy which is the – they thought ‘gosh, that looks good’. So well they didn’t last very long, they buggered off out of there. But the other brother, Harold, that Dad knew, he was the one over at Milford. And eventually he wanted to move from there and come back to Hawke’s Bay, and Dad sold him the blimmin’ property down here again – yeah! And carried the mortgage, [chuckle] dare I say. It’s just funny how things work out.
But anyway, getting back to that sort of era. Sykes’ orchard was the biggest in Pakowhai, you know – Walter and his brother and … Sykes Brothers originally, and it was two eighteen acre things which they operated. And then Walter ended up with the whole lot, thirty-six acres. I mean we were very small change, we only had twenty.
In those days what varieties mainly did you have?
Well for example, just on that, down there at Sykes’ – bulk of that were stone fruit – mostly peaches. Walter used to talk fairly nicely, and I remember him saying to Dad “oh, it’s mostly stone fruit, Cyril – there’s a fart-arsing six or seven thousand cases of apples.” Fart-arsing was his word.
And everyone – like, there was Lissettes round here, Ron Lissette worked here when Dad took over, and ‘course Max Lissette and all those, and Bruntons down the other end, and the Forneau brothers I mentioned, and there was us here, and Collinges of course, yes. Although Collinges – it was Mrs Curtain to start with, that was Percy’s grandmother, and she was a lovely old lady, honestly. Yeah, she was an elderly lady when we came here, but she owned sixteen in that original two eight-acre blocks, and Percy Senior – he had a woodyard and milked a few cows, and Mrs Curtain had the orchard – about six of the eight, and then cropping at the front. And then she had the six acres over where that thing is.
‘Course McCormicks, Waterhouses, Gilligans … all those round there were cropping. And you go round up to Waiohiki straight – going up to the Chocolate Factory now – Harry Clark lived at The Rise they called it, at the end there, and he had a farm at Glengarry Road and a few acres up here.
But Matapiro Station owned – up Franklins Road and on the corner there off Franklins Road on this side – that was taken over by the State Advances. Put five orchardists in there – it wasn’t planted, they divided it up and the guy Norman Evans who worked for Dad here, and had his little house which was converted army huts, over in the corner of our place there. He drew one of those blocks. They were thirteen and a half, fourteen and a half, twelve and a ten – you know, those kind of places, and the ten acre one, Maurice Hope – yeah, he just planted the whole damn thing in stone fruit. Because you know, the State Advances want ‘a balance of this, that’ – you know, dictated to you what you should put in. And Norman Evans had the option, and he got the biggest block which was a fourteen acre one. He thought ‘well I’m going to apply for …’, and he got a choice of two or three or something or other when his name come [came] up. So he thought ‘well I might as well get them.’ There was no houses or anything on them. And then Matapiro also owned over … Matapiro for heaven’s sake, how the hell did they get down there?
Well look, there was a dairy farm on the right hand side – a big dairy farm in the sixties … fifties or sixties. I can’t remember the name of the people.
Not there though. Like on the corner on the end, there was a piggery. Haynes had it – Hayne’s Butchers, Napier.
The valuer eventually bought the block.
I just remember A B Smith and Henry Marshall combining forces and partnership and leasing quite a bit of that Matapiro era growing crops on it for Wattie’s – quite a big way too. Walsh Brownlies down here, they were here and had quite a lot of land.
On the corner there were two brothers milking, and they had about forty acres there I suppose where Botherways ended up, and Brian McCormick’s there now. I can’t think of the brothers’ names. Down the road here were milking cows – the McCormicks, like … John and Dan. And Waterhouses – never milked any cows but they did a lot of cropping. And behind us here were Tattersalls Estate, and that would be about three hundred and fifty acres probably – fat lamb farm – very good one too of its era, but it was an estate. Dick Tattersall and Mrs Tattersall ran it until about 1961 when there was an auction sale and all this side of the road was sold. And that’s when George Thow bought that fourteen acres on our back boundary, and Henry Marshall got that.
And of course Frank Gordon.
Going down at that end but that was …
He was at the end of Gilbertson[s] Road and went through to the motorway.
Oh that end, yes. But he had both sides. Yes, well of course the motorway wasn’t there – ’70 that went in, roughly. Yes he had that right through, and he sold that end to start with. And down the other side was that Maori block, had a lot of willows on it.
You know he picked off every one of those Maori families and got signatures for the whole lot. Everyone told him he’d never do it, but he did.
Yeah, well – see they get urbanised, don’t they?
So anyway coming back to the orchard. When you took it over, your spraying in those days was done how?
We were reasonably modern. With the eight-nozzle broom, you know? I was on the back – that was when Mum died. That was before I took over. When I took over Dad had got a KEF … KEF, it was an English thing, V8 petrol motor which used to drive us nuts because it … well it was good, it was all right, but you know, it’d get hot and get hard to start. Then I, in 1964 I bought a Koenig – an Australian made Koenig, and I sold the KEF to Jim Reid down York Road. We had that for years and years until the boys started into the PTO things, ’cause that’s how it was.
So Betty and I … there was a gate sale operation that Dad had going to get rid of stone fruit, and the guy working for him – lived in the cottage over here – that used to be his aunty and uncles, so they decided to … she was quite keen and she was a born sales woman, honestly – Eric’s wife, Eric Ransom. So they sort of put in a little … it was only going to be temporary, just about a table and a blinkin’ cash box and a chair you know, but it morphed into a bit more than that, and became quite … it was quite good, you know. And then you know, when I took over we made it slightly more permanent – not too much, but we put a bit of a canopy over and a bit of tin round the … a bit of a framework, it was what it was, you know? Didn’t stop people coming. That was the days of two cases of fruit, you know, that’s what they could buy and by joves, that’s what they did too.
One year Dad had a problem with pink eye, you know, which everyone else did too, pink eye on the pears, and he had a lot of pears here and the ‘William Bon Chretiens’ went to Wattie’s obviously. And he had a hell of a problem, and anyway they ended up damn near selling the whole blasted lot straight out of those big trailers – oh, crikey, I couldn’t get over it.
And then about ’64-’65 forklifts started coming in – best thing since sliced bread. At this stage we were packing here at the shed, or Dad was packing – he must have started about 19 … possibly ’55 maybe … and bulk handling, you know, like everyone did, and every orchard had its packing shed … still didn’t have a forklift at that stage, it was hand-loading, you know, out of that shed. I didn’t like that idea too much. So I ended up getting a George Patten – made one – which I’ve still got down in the shed.
Yes. And I’ve still got the tractor it sits on too – Massey Ferguson. With that said, I also kind of tried to beef up the handling for the gate sales, because we were picking apples and pears for the Apple & Pear Board. But every Friday or whatever, or in between, whatever, how busy she was over there, we’d have to pick some stuff – like twenty cases of this and twenty cases of something else. And we had a lot of plums used to come in over Christmas – ‘Duff’s Early Jewel’ – oh, drove me nuts. You know, there’d be a thousand cases or something – she’d get through a hell of a lot of them I’ll tell you. Amazing.
But anyway 1974, something like that … 1973-’74 … her health wasn’t too good, and every year she was going to chuck it in you know. But in the end she died – well that certainly changed the ground a bit. So we moved everything over to the back end of this shed and we still packed in the front.
But I think probably ’74 coincided with … Fruit Packers started … Co-operative – the only packhouse at that stage packing for other people. Everyone else just did their own thing. I didn’t join them the year they started, but probably in about ’74 I might’ve, so they must have started about 1971/72 I think. I thought ‘well blow – this sounds all right – that’s a better idea.’ I thought too, if we sort of make a move we might get rid of the gear too. Before that there was that much kicking around it was worth nothing – wasn’t worth much anyway but I mean at least you get rid of it. So we re-hashed the shed out here … configuration … well, we were in the middle of re-hashing it actually, changing the angles and everything else, and I thought ‘no, we’ll join up and be done with it’, you know. We shifted the gate sales up the front, and we had the whole shed and we changed things completely round. Still packed the stone fruit for the markets and all this sort of stuff.
I might add by this stage of course we had five children. And Nicola, the last one, was born, and she always goes on that she never had a bassinet she always had a [chuckle] forty-pack apple crate … case. And she used to get carted back and … we were living over next door. By this stage by the way, this place over the other side came … you know that was an estate over there, ’cause at one stage Dad had it leased over there, off the Howard Estate. That was about seven acres or something – eight or something. So that all moved on, and I made an offer for that and we ended up with that.
So we ended up living over there. We went from our new house to this thing with rats in the roof, which was just lovely. I said to my wife “you put up with it for twelve months ’til we get organised, and I promise you we will do something about that kitchen and the whole back end”, you know? We tore the whole lot off. Put a chain up around the blimmin’ chimney and pulled the whole back off – we’ve got a big picture of it somewhere. And peeled the whole lot off, and we lived in a little kind of a whare thing they had over in the corner there – oh, my goodness me, when I think back on it.
By this stage, one wet day Brian Whittington along the road here … ’cause he was interested in the idea of growing poplar poles for the Catchment Board. And we thought – even though we had our big boots on and we were sitting outside in the office and it was wet and everything else – I thought it would be a good day to go and sniff around the real estate agents and see if we could find a bit of dirt; five acres, you know, that’s all we want – three, four, five acres – that’s all we wanted. See what we could dig up – might be something, don’t know. Well, this was no good, and that was no good, and some other thing was no good. The last place … one of the places we went to was De Pelichet McLeod, and I can’t think what the guy’s name was … might have been Taaffe, actually.
Yeah. Well anyway, nothing came of it all and that was that. In the meantime I’d asked Dad you know “are you going to sell anything?” I was still leasing here. He still owned the houses of course, and operated the house but was living here. This particular lunch time, the appointment was that this guy Taaffe had dug up a place – Korokipo. He was going to come here – he said “are you going to be home at one o’clock?” I said “yeah”. He said “I’ve just got something that you might be interested in”. At twelve o’clock I was just going to walk out here to go home, and Dad said “hang on a minute – are you still interested in buying the orchard?” Same day. I said “yes, definitely”. “We’ll talk about it after lunch”. I went home and I said “you’ll never believe this, but Dad’s just said he’s ready to move”. ‘Cause by this stage my stepmother had died and he had … but you know, we’re talking about years and years – they were together for twenty years or something, you know what I mean. Yeah, so he was here and he was rattling around on his own and that was where it was at. Anyway, I come over there, and this guy comes in from De Pelichet’s, the real estate fellow, and comes to light with this fifty-eight acres or sixty acres whatever – of Davies. And I didn’t mention anything about this other part of it, but yeah – so we went from the idea of three or four or five acres to a dairy farm full of couch and troughs, come to mention it. Remember where the troughs come from?
Yes, I do.
And general mess, dare I say. And Arthur was quite a good guy, but he was chucking in the milking of cows as happens, and that’s what happened. So we did the deal there.
And you bought that just to plant trees in – poplars?
Well yeah, but we only put poplars in a certain amount, because by this stage we’d dug out. We’d been down to the Wairarapa, to the Wairarapa Catchment Board, and had a talk in town here, and you know, we could get rid of them all right. What a bloody drama.
And in the middle of all that [chuckle] … then in the meantime then Brian decides to beggar off up to Taupo with a bulldozer. He’d bought a blimmin’ bulldozer. He was with the Bank of New South Wales and I don’t know – he sort of … he ended up going into the Bank of New Zealand … sure it was the Bank of New Zealand. He wanted some money to buy this bulldozer. Five grand or something, back in the seventies, you know. And one thing led to another and the guy said “oh, yeah – I think that sounds all right”. And he worked out what contracts he was involved with up there – what he wanted to do – and he said “have you got some money to …?” And he said “no, I haven’t. I’ve got a cheque here for $7.50”, so he started an account with $7.50. ‘Cause they got a client, and they hung it round that blasted bulldozer, [chuckle] and it was bush-rigged – had steel all over it, most of which he tore off because he couldn’t get the damn thing on this S Bedford to cart it up there – had to lighten it off a bit, you know? Had a winch on the back he got two grand for. A big winch on a [?] – a D4D or D4C or something, and bush-rigged, you know, over the top. Well he left that on, but he took a lot of steel off it to lighten it up, you know, sort of get it down to about seven ton or something. [Chuckle] Maybe eight.
But in the meantime, ‘course he goes up there and leases a house over in Kinloch, and with Michael Steiner up there, and started doing down at the prison, and they were over here and there levelling off, and all round the plain. But he’d do it on a sort of a seasonal basis you see, with a pair of the Beggs. John Clayton was working for Steiner. They’re all names you know.
But he used to come back home here, but Brian was sort of with the cheque book and operating and getting the people in to do whatever we didn’t, down here. We both were doing it sometimes. He’d be here on the weekend, or a weekend, and next thing he’d be gone again and we’d be … oh, goodness me. By this stage I was probably leasing blimmin’ Lissettes round the corner too, [chuckle] so she was a bit hectic.
So Dad – he moved into a flat in Stortford Lodge, and God, it’s a small world isn’t it? Just briefly – he was in Renata Street, and there’s four flats there. Harris Machinery – he was next door to him; Mrs Jans, Bruce Jans’ mother. There was Mrs Jans in the front one, Dad, then … just trying to think of Harris’ first name … he was a good guy too. There was four flats I think, three or four … a name comes to my mind, I just can’t think … doesn’t matter. Bruce Jans, it’s amazing, eh? ‘Cause I knew Bruce Jans when he was an apprentice stock agent with Williams & Kettle I think. So it’s a very small world, and I mean I see him occasionally and it all comes up, you know.
So Dad’s walking from there down to Stortford Lodge to do whatever the hell he does – not the pub I might add, but to get some groceries down at Lynches or whatever. And by this stage – in fact it was Lynch’s shed … garage … and Leon Jansen, Bay Chemicals … point is, he was a one man band there and he’d gone on his own and tied up with one of the guys down – well, you know. But he wanted someone … “how about answering the phone for me? Or hanging about the office for a couple of hours on a Tuesday or a Wednesday”, or something or other – ‘cause he had a shed on one of the orchards with a bit of bulk stuff, and bulk forklift with someone – one of his mates. But he just wanted someone so he could get away from the place, but he wanted the phone thing, and this was all before cellphones and everything else. So Dad started you know, just on a casual basis, you know, he said “oh, you just sit there in the sun and whatever, and answer the phone, take the messages.” It’s ironic isn’t it? That was quite funny. Then Leon moved round to wherever he went – that one at the back there you know, off Fortune Road, that little cul de sac.
Leon eventually went to Melbourne didn’t he?
No, that’s his brother, Percy.
That’s right, Percy who became the Captain.
Well, Captain Percy Jansen, yeah.
Talking about Leon – he married a Dutch girl. You would not believe it, but her father – and brother – worked here, when he first came out in 1955, bought his house and all … lived down in Maadi Road, or one of those down over in Napier. Can’t think was the son’s name was. But she was in here one day with Leon, and I went over to her and I said “d’you remember …?” You know? “You’re father and mother …” Her being Catholic and Leon being Brethren, that went down like a lead balloon. Anyway, they got past all that – but – but – he’s not there now. He’s not in the church. ‘Cause his kids opted to do what they wanted to do, so that’s all over.
So you ended up with a poplar plantation?
Well … well, yes. So that’s in the mid-seventies. Came to a stage where we moved over here, out of that house next door, and moved into here. Dad moved into Renata Street, so we came over here. And we had to do one or two things just to suit our family and one of them was dealing to this kitchen situation, see, so anyway, the upshot of it all was we sold out our share to Brian. And my wife said “Look. Let’s do it while we get the use out of it while the kids are at home”, and really that’s right, because it was good. And that’s why we tore the whole back off and we changed everything round. And it took money to do it, but I mean we did it, and it was all done.
So then you took full ownership of this in the early sixties … seventies?
No, it’d be mid-seventies .
So Brian did you – taking over an older orchard, did you do a lot of replanting?
Yes, but on the way through there were a couple of stages. We got into the eighties and I decided, you know, we were going … sort of smart … change things around a bit. You know at one stage of it we were doing – I think in one year we did ten thousand cases of blimmin’ pears, you know, of varying kinds. Well it’s quite a lot of pears for its era, and they didn’t all go to Wattie’s, I’ll tell you, you know – we had to pack the darn things. And we went through that ‘fruit for sale’ era which nearly put us under I might tell you – that Fruitgrower politics. By this stage I was on the blimmin’ Fruit Growers’ executive too. I wasn’t going to go on that – well, it never occurred to me, but we were at a Field Day once, and …
Well no – well – it was round the corner here, and Cor sort of ranged up alongside of me, and John Sykes and I think someone or other … Anyway, “how about standing for the Fruitgrowers’ Executive?” I said “that’s not my scene”. He produced a piece of paper out of his pocket [chuckle] and said “I’m nominating you, John’s seconding it, and you’re signing it. You sign there and we’ll worry about everything else.” [Chuckle]
Dare I mention Russell Robertson, eh? Because he used to go to sleep – he was on so many things, and it was a shame because he put a lot of effort and time in, and everything else.
I know, I knew him well.
He was a good guy basically too, and I mean there’s nothing wrong with that. But you know, he didn’t really talk to me much after that little bit, which is a bit sad. Because you know, it reminds me of All Blacks – you’ve got to go out at a good time – top of your blimmin’ game. Anyway – so that was 1970 or whatever the hell it was … ’cause I joined the Rotary Club in 1970 … so it might have been ’74 or ‘5 or something like that.
That was the Taradale Rotary Club?
Yeah. That was through Alan Brown and Jack Spencer round the corner here, which I enjoyed actually, I must say. You know, I’ve done forty years there as you know, and I resigned in 2010. Not that there was anything wrong with Rotary, it’s just that you feel that you know – forty years it’s near enough. Long time, but I enjoyed it particularly in those early years, ’cause it was just … you were on your own …
Meeting different people.
Exactly Frank, and you’d relate to that from the land. It’s nice to meet people from other walks of life and find out something about their problems and businesses, and they may or may not find out something about yours, and it was quite good, and I enjoyed it.
Getting back to Fruit Growers’ Association – yeah, that sort of went on and then …ten years … you know how they have sub-committees in the Association? And of course the Association guys before, like the Farrelly Horrocks, and a few of those of that era – and they’d brought this blimmin’ land right out – way out – which happened to be where they are on Chatham Road corner, aren’t they? It was just shingle – bare land. ‘Course they owned that down by the High School – you know, that … on there?
Of course I was shovelled on to the building … property – the property committee, the property committee, that’s right. And that was all right, nothing much happened, it was all good, and it was tenanted, and there was bare land in the corner and that was all good. And then I think John D’Ath and I maybe – you know, depending on what was going on – we got a contact from – well it was actually Cable Price who had a bit of an operation going on back down by Stoneycroft Street corner, I think – somewhere like that, or down there somewhere. And Stu Barley – oh, they approached him to build something there, or something came up, but anyway, the upshot of it all was they approached the Association – Cable Price – to know whether we’d put a purpose-built building up. And Boyd Lindsay was the Honorary Secretary of the Association …
Yes, that’s right.
… so he – it was obvious he’d do that, but then we got involved in negotiations with Cable Price and Boyd was involved with us, because we wanted the minutes and things all down to the … and getting everything dotted and crossed and goodness knows what, so that’s how that come [came] out. Yeah John, eh? Haven’t seen him for years. It was quite good – we used to have our little meetings and then we’d go to the full meeting and there’d be people up from … Bill Anderson, a Scotsman, who was in charge of the Cable Price building programme everywhere throughout the country – hard-nosed Scot that he was. And the guy who ended up here eventually … I’m mentioning names here but it was a fact … Bob McFarlane was the big chief down there – blow me down, he ends up here on an orchard – Kirkmans, which is owned by Russell Hawkins now – well, they ended up there didn’t they? She in particular – his wife – got quite involved politics … in the fruitgrowing politics. See, it goes round and round.
It’s interesting you should be talking about this at the moment because as late as last night I was offered boxes of history of the Fruitgrowers’ Federation.
Federation or Association?
Fruitgrowers’ Federation – the one that the orchards belong to … orchardists.
Yes. Yeah, actually if you go back in history it sort of was all the one thing wasn’t it? If you go well back.
Yes it was. It was in the period when the Mardons were part of it.
Yes – yeah, it was sort of a cross-over situation wasn’t it?
That’s right, yes.
Funny just getting back to … I don’t particularly want this on there particularly, but it’s quite funny. Most of our dealings were with Allan Curtis, I think his name was, the local Manager and this guy Anderson who used to fly in, you know, ’cause didn’t matter whether they were building in Rotorua or here – that’s how it all works as you know. And then we were involved with, like – Peter Gifford was the Honorary Lawyer for the Association. And the ultimate thing was in 1986 it all opened up. I said to them, I said “the next thing you’ll blimmin’ well … you know. Don’t talk to me, next thing you’ll be beggaring off and … you know … whatever.” Typical corporate thing – someone’ll have a different idea, and blow me down – they did. Turned up here one day – could have been McFarlane, might have been Curtis – and said “just called to let you know we’re closing down Hastings.” I said “I told you that would happen.” They said “yeah, well we’ve come to tell you first before you read it in the paper.”
So you were left with a …
No. Oh no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no – no. Had a long term lease. [Laughter] Oh, no, no, no, no. Actually they were paying ten percent as a rent at one stage, of the cost price. We did everything they wanted us to do, and it was on that quite big site of [?Atira?].
And right at the last minute, I said to Bill Anderson, “I’ll tell you something. I reckon ten and a half sounds a better idea than ten – it’s got a nice feel to it”, [chuckle] and he wore it.
I was at a meeting years later, not that many years later … huge meeting, we were having a big … all up … Fruit Growers, Apple & Pear Board … up at the Angus Inn and the lights had been turned off and whatever, you know – the screens up and the suits are up there, briefcases and all, and this question came – whatever was going on – this question from a voice way over on the side there, and I thought “I know that voice. I’ve heard that before, with his Scotch [Scots] accent”. It was Bill Anderson, see. So afterwards I hunted around and I spotted him. And I said “hey! who do you represent? What’s going on?” ‘Cause he ended up, he was the Bank of New South Wales property manager for New Zealand too. And then he took retirement ’cause his wife had quite a good job – can’t think what she did. And he bought a blimmin’ orchard down Kaiapo Road, at the end there. It goes round and round in circles.
Well that was probably quite an exciting off-orchard …
Things to do. Yeah, well it swallowed up a bit of time I have to say but it was quite enjoyable really. I mean John D’Ath – the pair of us were … and Boyd, the three of us – we’d have these meetings at Fruitgrowers’ office or whatever, or at one of our houses – sometimes Boyds’ I seem to remember because it was a sort of a meeting place. And you had to do what you did, do this that and the other. And you know, we’re not exactly babes in the woods, but if something came up about Memorandum of Understanding or some damn thing, I’d say “… never bloody heard of it, what’s all that?” He said “oh, that’s just …” I said “look – we’re either going ahead or we’re not”, you know “I mean we’re not going anywhere. We’ve got the dirt”. And we didn’t owe any money on it either, but I think – I can’t remember – we did sell Toops to whoever the builder was had the other bit. Because the Federation had the tin building, and then Toops was … front or behind … it was a strange survey too, to deal with that. That survey didn’t work out quite how everything thought it was either, which is typical. Well you’d know, because “Subject to Survey’ is a very interesting piece of paper.
I saw banks lose so much money where surveys …
Weren’t quite right.
… they were so wrong.
Anyway that’s that. Dunno Frank, it’s all higgledy-piggledy.
Well it’s not really, because you’ve got this orchard that you own. You obviously were going to do some redevelopment because you’ve got all these pears.
Oh, yeah well we did – eighty-three seems to come to my mind. Also, just on a domestic situation with family, I got involved with Cadet scheme a bit, you know, and so we had probably three or four over … you have them for one or two years and they come back, and they go on and whatever – good ones too. Well, they’re all good if you treat them right. We had one, Lee [chuckle] – Lee Harlidge – and he’d been wherever he was, and he came to us for the year before he went on. Well, all of a sudden – not very long afterwards – he and my oldest daughter were very friendly, and thirty years on [chuckle] they’ve been married thirty-something years now. Yes, so it’s a small world you know. Well that’s Janette, of course.
You were talking the other night – I mean this is just general family stuff, but we were talking weren’t we, when Betty was here – like, the changes in our orchard scene here in Pakowhai, my wife living in Warren Street, and a bit further along before she was in Warren Street and Queen Street corner, well none of that’s there.
No, it’s all gone.
And all the names of the ones that she mentions there – it’s quite funny ‘cause I always used to say “well, she’s a Doolan, and she knows all the Catholics in Hastings”. And I belong to co-ed school – Hastings High School – three or four hundred of each or something. So I’ve got a rough idea of the other side, you know.
But in the end you had to go to a Catholic dance hall to find your wife.
And so did Bevan Hill.
And so did I.
Well there you go – see what I mean?
We all did.
And Ralph [?], you know – and I mention Ralph’s name because his wife was a bridesmaid for Betty and vice versa. It’s interesting isn’t it? It’s a small world, and I’ve always said to my kids “don’t do the wrong thing. [Chuckle] Run a straight course because it’s a very small world. In Auckland you might get away with it, but not round here – you’ll come into contact with people you haven’t seen since school days.” And they still go on about it because the other day one of them said “I haven’t seen her … she said hello and she recognised me, and I haven’t seen her since we were at Heretaunga Intermediate”, you know? And the four older ones are over fifty. Our younger two – Louise is forty-six I think, and Nicola the young one is forty-three probably.
So just coming back to the orchard. I guess you’ve extended the orchard probably even since when you originally bought?
Well not geographically. Although the two sons – one went to University and he got his Bachelor of Business Studies and Marketing and whatever. And Andrew – he left school and put his boots on and started here. And ‘course he then went away and was working for … well Brian Whittington, at one stage he had the silage choppers and all that. He did all that, from here to Porangahau with that stuff and all the things you do with that, and grape harvesting. He was driving a grape harvester and all that, and at one stage he did a year for Whitfields down here on a John Deere, ploughing and goodness knows, and also made the comment “Doug and John”, he said “I don’t mind starting at seven and I’m going to finish at seven, and you can forget the rest of it. I’ll do every day but I’m not going before seven or after seven. That’s my lot.” You know – anyway that was twelve hours, and I mean he said that was enough.
Somewhere in the early eighties we were still doing gate sales, but I decided to straighten up some parts of the orchard. So we did some quite reasonable sized blocks and started getting rid of some of the ‘Cole’ pears and ‘Winter Nelis’ pears and all that sort of stuff … ‘Louis Bon de Jerseys’ – you know, we axed them and started replanting reasonable chunks for its era, and still carried on with the gate sales, Betty and I, and always had someone employed by us.
Ultimately in 1990, round about then – well, I had a heart attack at one stage of it earlier on from then. But one thing led to another ’til I went to Greenlane for a triple by-pass. Well that sort of put the kibosh on it. We decided – out of gate sales. But fortunately we had replanted quite a bit and the two boys were only here sometimes, you know – they wanted to know what the intention was etcetera, etcetera, and what were they going to do. I said “well get out there and see what’s available – see what … you know … delve into things”.
So ’bout 1990 that’s exactly what they did. Dug up a twenty-five acre orchard opposite … or down by Griffiths there, used to be Lassons if you go back – it was a syndicate – fourteen person syndicate which to me means that each individual’s got about an acre and a bit each. Ridiculous. Always was and always will be.
But they were tax loss blocks.
And nothing much has changed I don’t think. But anyway, point being it wasn’t even on the market. They found out from whoever the real estate agent … he’d heard, so I rang up Rex Graham. [Chuckle] He was one of them. “How the hell did you know about that?” I said “I don’t know, I just heard”, so he said “well it could be coming up, yes.”
So we decided – there was no house on it, it was lovely. And so Chris and Sue Mary, Betty and I and Andrew a third for that two, a third for us two and a third for Andrew, and they fronted up with a third each and we financed the rest. So the pair of them worked wherever for the week, and then went out pruning that place for two days and pruned the whole damn lot themselves, which was quite a big ask. John Sykes loaned their Grassmaster Mulcher which we ended up buying off them actually come to think of it. But anyway, we shifted so that was that.
Anyway, a year later they said “well how about we buy you out?” I said “okay”. Made a dollar or two – Betty and I did, not heaps but they were the owners – we were out of it. So then a year or two later they said “we’re going to auction the place so we can sell it.” Had two or three good years and they wanted to do their own thing I suppose, I don’t really know So they sold it. I got a bit of a shock but I mean, they sold it. They’d restructured it a bit and played around with it, but it was all going food.
So Chris and Sue Mary were living in the cottage over here at this stage and Andrew was flatting. And then Chris ended up buying that thing of Andrew Curd’s out there, and later on Andrew bought this bit where he is now, and we were running the place separately as far as submissions were going, but in conjunction – the same group of pickers and whatever, and we had three sprayers, one for each place. And I said “I’ll carry on just spraying, I don’t want anything to do with buying spraying material. I don’t want to know anything about it. You tell me what I’m to do and I’ll do it on that basis”, and it was quite good because it all kind of worked and that went on for a little bit. And then they decided – they were calling themselves Dillon Brothers at that stage you see … oh no, maybe that was before.
And then you know, things evolved. The Bank got into us a bit one day right out of fresh air, you know, having musical chairs with the Bank people? Some of the Bank people – the National Bank – never even saw them. Like, what I’m getting at is – a new person. Five minutes later he’s walked across that car park in Hastings to another Bank in effect. And next thing we got a guy and a female here, and they were actually basically farm people. And they were out of their depth – well it was shovelled on them I suppose, I don’t know. So next thing, a whole bulk of heavy people were pushed down to Wellington to the heavyweights, you know? Well we had some dark-suited people turn up – shiny shoes. But anyway, it was actually quite good because they hadn’t read what they should have been reading and I reminded a guy of this once, and you know, I got roped into it. But I actually had nothing to do with it [chuckle] – it was all quite good. They thought I had.
Yeah, so Chris was going to sell out and I said “oh, I don’t know about that, Chris – no, hang on … no, blow them. Hang in there”. Then they had one of the worst years of fruit growing carry on, with low returns … whatever … in the late – what, in that ’90 something or other. All of a sudden Fruitpackers got involved with blimmin’ Tescos, and they wanted this that and the other, didn’t care what size it was, they said “the full range at a certain price”. So they thought ‘right!’ And a few of the suppliers to Fruitgrowers were a bit timid about it, but these two hoed into it – “yeah, we’re into it”. And it worked out very, very well thank you very much.
But in the meantime we’re still down in … [????] is quite good. In the end he said about going back, and Andrew said “oh, I’m not going back – I don’t want to go back to Hastings thank you very much” – gave him quite a shock. He said “no, I’m quite happy where we are,” he said “it’s all right. I’ve got the boss-man here, it’s good.” Anyway he said “what about going to regional”, you know – this is out of Palmerston. He said “oh, well I suppose so, if you want to”. So the Palmerston guy used to call in occasionally – get him on the phones or … nothing changed … it was all good, ‘til in the end they came out one day, the guy from Palmerston and the guy from Hastings, and he said “oh, you know, perhaps go back to Hastings”. And he said “oh, well, that’s all right then”. Then the National Bank got taken over by the ANZ. [Chuckle] Didn’t ask me. And now I’ve got a son-in-law, Regional Manager for the ANZ.
Well, you know, that’s the way the swings and turns of life …
It is – it’s a small area, you know – it’s quite fascinating, it really is. And you know, I mean our guy that we‘ve been dealing with for, I don’t know, the last five or six, seven years or something or other – whatever – is a damn good guy, I like him, but Carl’s his boss.
Now you’ve obviously seen some major changes in fruitgrowing since you came here, and I guess some of would have been the use of chemicals; the different types of tree styles …
Yeah – yeah, very much so. Summing it up – exactly. I mean we’re down to this close – it’s close, close planting now which I do think might go back out a bit eventually, because to me the soil here is so strong, next thing you’ve got shading all over the place. Every second tree will be hauled out perhaps, I don’t know. But who are we to argue with the Corporates – they know everything, but we’re not going … Andrew‘s been replanting this new block he’s got, and rightly or wrongly he’s gone four by two. He has got some of that CNG stock, whatever the hell they call it, but there’s a down side to that. You’ve got to put thumping big posts and wires in to hold ‘em up – oh, hell, and it costs a huge amount of money. I don’t know if anyone is ever costing all this stuff, but it’s terrible. Anyway the rest – it’s on new soil so he’s put 106s in, some of this last burst he’s had. And I mean I see Kelvin Taylor doing exactly the same thing. I don’t see that hugely close planting going on there. I mean, all we’re doing is growing apples exactly the same – nothing‘s changed. But your point about spraying – the spraying has got so soft and light, which is a good thing. In my era you know, you pounded on Parathon and – ‘specially the pears we had – Parathon, and the organophosphate like you wouldn’t believe, and it’s a wonder we’re still alive. [Chuckle] Well, you never thought of it – we’ve had six kids. People living on the orchard both sides all that time – no one‘s died, no one‘s got sick, nothing’s happened.
And of course a lot of the fruit quality was dictated by overseas markets.
All fruit in the world – the supermarkets have got untold power, and it’s right back here in New Zealand too. They’re imitating – it’s no good. But it’s not really necessarily – apart from the convenience side of it – possibly it’s not really …
Now just another couple of things … small bore rifle shooting was part of your life for a while.
Yes, in my high school era … perhaps started that in Pakowhai. Used to be at Jack Patrick’s place next door to us over here, and then they shifted to the hall when it was shifted along the road to where it is now, the Pakowhai Hall – probably about 1968 at a guess. Carried on a bit for a while there, but eventually stopped doing that – I don’t know, I just didn’t seem to have time or whatever, but the Rifle Club‘s still going which is quite good. I wouldn’t know who the personnel or the rifle shooters are – particularly now – but I doubt that any of them are from Pakowhai which is a bit sad. Pakowhai‘s become almost – well, it’s a place to live for a lot of people. We’ve got lawyers and – well, retailers‘ alley. It’s not quite retail, but it sits between retail and semi-wholesale. We’ve got carriers and contractors and anything – point is you can, can’t you – operate under the Council rules providing it‘s theoretically to do with agriculture.
Were there any other sports you followed? Did you ever play golf, or ..?
No. No I went round the golf course about twice, and I thought ‘look I get enough exercise during the week.‘ It’s a little bit like growing vegetables. When I was in the truck driving era, I sort of enjoyed my bit of a garden at Taradale because it was completely different from the other. But when I came over here [chuckle] I thought ‘no, it’s too close to what I’m doing during the week.‘ Both my brothers who have been office persons used to get home at five o’clock, take their time, put their shirts off and enjoy getting out into the garden ‘cause it was … and it’s that contrast isn’t it?
So we closed down the gate sales after the heart attack carry-on, and that was the end of that.
So holidays. Have you taken regular holidays. Where did you used to go for your holidays – anywhere specific?
Oh, we had a caravan. Firstly we hired caravans, took the kids away usually the May holidays, with harvesting finished, and you got a good two weeks. Lovely, it was, and we’d go – various ways of getting there but generally we ended up at Awakeri by Whakatane near the hot springs, and it was lovely. And the kids always still talk about that era, calling in … maybe stopping at Taupo on the way home for a couple or three nights, or going up we might go through Gisborne, and stay a wee bit of time at … it used to be Churchill Park up there then.
Anyway that era came and went, and the caravan sat out the back here for a while and I decided to sell it, and blow me down – sold it to Doug Walker. Well he turned up. And Doug Walker towed it up to Acacia Bay and parked it right next to the boat ramp where his blimmin’ house was. And he said “I just want it stationary, for the overflow.” Nothing wrong with that either, it was good. So there you go.
Oh, no – we definitely used to take holidays and then we did a few long – might be a week at a time with John and Marg Sykes. Went up to Field Days a couple of times at Te Puke. That was the excuse, and then we went on, we might come round the coast and did whatever, and did one trip down the South Island for three weeks. The first time we‘d ever been so long away, and I think John the same, and went round the South Island, right round the bottom then over to Stewart Island – they didn’t. And we came back and no, it was good. So we’ve done all that.
And I guess now you can look forward to some time out, and enjoy your children and grandchildren.
No, all we‘re doing now is looking forward to death.
I beg your pardon?
Well that’s what it is. We’re just waiting to die. [Chuckle] Well that’s about what it amounts to. I know. You think back, and you think ‘what’s it all about?‘
Now I’ll tell you another little thing too because … and he’ll be editing it … Mr Morgan. Well Paul Morgan, who you‘d know – well Paul was flatting with Andrew in the house next door – one of my tenants’ ones – well they were joint tenants. That was about 1995. Well Paul – ‘cause obviously Andrew went to school with him, see? They’re still friends, and I mean that’s who Andrew’s lawyer is, and they still see each other. And he was working for the National Bank in those days. That was after you know, being on the farm up Glengarry Road there which used to belong to Mick Williams. ‘Cause this is when I was driving for McDonalds. We used to cart – Bright Williams is up on the Waihau Road there. Also I might add, talking about Glengarry Road, we did Harry Clarke, which is now Match‘s place. Lindsay bought it and then Match‘s were up there and … oh, quite a few up there actually. But we did P J Smith’s too, you know. The McDonald Transport era – Lew Harris – well we carted all their stock, you know, and super – not all of it because they had a couple of trucks of their own. But we did all the stock, around here and then you’d see us all over the place. Yes, so Lew was quite good, so – they had a big business.
Anyway, yeah – my mother’s parents came from Ireland, and as I say Dad … I don’t know, you‘d imagine with a name like that it’d be Irish, possibly. Unfortunately I can’t tell you any more about the …
So they were quite good eras I suppose when you think about it. Things have changed in the orchard industry, there’s no doubt about that. It’s got a – not an ominous, that’s not the word, but it’s got a … it’s all this planting that’s going on, and I mean we’re reinventing the wheel a bit. And as for changing varieties every five seconds I can’t get the strength of that. I mean some woman was telling Andrew where she was at the other day, that “gosh she liked those ‘Eves‘ – oh, goodness me – oh, they‘re lovely.” He said “oh, you mean the ‘Braeburn‘?” And she said “no, no – ‘Eve‘.” He said “well it’s a ‘Braeburn‘ looking at you”, you know.
Orcharding is cyclic. There’s very few things that haven’t been done before …
… with the carry over of varieties. In the sixties you could drive round the place and all the orchards that have been pulled out today were bare land then and they were growing other crops. Now it’s all going back into orchard again.
Yes, exactly. You know, we could be fairly candid about one or two things along that line too, which we won’t.
[Speaking together] Oh, absolutely. And some of those are really corporately owned. The people that front them are not the owners of them.
Well no. I don’t say they are all talking a lot … but they don’t understand the financial side of things behind it because the manager here, the manager there – he’s so busy trying to … and he’s got a kind of noose around his neck as it were. But anyway, there you go. I go in – I don’t know, we’ll say New World over at Taradale, just to say one – and what do I see? ‘Granny Smiths‘ at $5 a kilo – the dearest apple up there, never mind about new varieties.
It’s $95 a tray carton.
Yeah – whatever it is, and I mean there you go. Well blow me down, Andrew‘s still got – some of them will be going when this new road goes through there – but he had a lot more, but he’s not pulled out all the ‘Granny Smiths‘ down there. I think this year it was hitting the four hundred bins or something or other – it’s by the way. Well A B Smith planted those way back in about ’70 – probably about 1970 thinking about it. And they‘re still blimmin’ well there! And there’s a demand for them.
And they haven’t had to be replanted.
No. And you could have got carried away and ripped them out because someone said so, you know.
And the bushels per acre are the same as your intensive planting.
Oh, I think they‘re almost headed off. It’s amazing.
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper