Charles Arnold Paul Interview
Today is the 12th November 2012 . This interview is of the life of Charles Arnold Paul of Hastings. Now Charles I’ll just start off by giving a few statistics from you, where your parents came from, where they came to in New Zealand?
Well my forebears are a mixed race. My father was born in Wellington and he lived most of his life in Hawke’s Bay, latter part of his life. He died when he was eighty six, but forefathers, going back further than that on my father’s side, his great-grandfather was one by the name of Heberley. Now Heberley is a well-known name in New Zealand history. He was employed I believe by a whaler who established a unit in the Marlborough Sounds – Guard was his name. Guard is a well-known name in New Zealand history. This particular Heberley came from England. Members of my own family, cousins and the like, they’ve been very interested in the past history of families, and they’ve written quite a bit about Heberley and so forth. Now this Heberley who came to New Zealand in … must have been round about 1820s or roundabout there … I’m not sure exactly what the dates are, but he was the son of a German, who was resident in England. Apparently he was a prisoner of war and he worked on a farm, and he ultimately married the daughter of the farmer. So there’s German and English there so.
Anyway Heberley came to New Zealand and he married a Maori girl down there. Apparently she was a fairly high ranking Maori. I’ve been told that she was one of the high … but anyway, ‘course in those early days [chuckle] every Maori woman who married a European was a Princess. But anyway they married, and in the course of time she produced some family. And there was a daughter who married a Woodgate. Now Woodgate is a fairly well-known name in the South Island, particularly in the Nelson area. And that family produced my grandmother, and her maiden name was Woodgate. And she … I remember my grandmother … she was quite a regal woman. She was very European. Apparently she had a sister, and her sister went, as my father explained it once, went the Maori way, but my grandmother went the European way. And it was only in recent years that I – you know when my father was alive – that I realised that we had Maori blood. Because everything was showing European. But I think I’ve got a 36th or 72 part of Maori in me, so … anyway. But I don’t think I’m too far much about that because just about everybody in New Zealand whose family has been in New Zealand for a while have got an influx of Maori blood somewhere along the fence. But ‘course I’ve always said that one of the things that Lange did wrong was that – said to everybody “if you feel you’re a Maori, you’re a Maori”, which was just bloody nonsense. And for this reason I keep myself – I’m a New Zealander. I’ve stuck to that right through.
But anyway, this old Heberley fella he was a – amongst the things that he did, he went with the first climbing … with the European to Mt Egmont. Not quite sure what the name of the fellow was – I’ve got a record somewhere. But the going up of Egmont created quite a problem because it was well covered with bush and whatnot, and they needed assistance. [Wind chimes in background]
And they started off with several Maoris but they reached a certain point in their climbing when the Maoris said “no, we’re not going any further. This is a sacred place”, and they wouldn’t go … so the result was that Heberley and whoever it was, they went on they climbed on their own. And they finally got to the top. So anyway that’s Heberley.
So that was your Grandfather was it?
No, no, no. No – my maternal grandmother’s grandfather. Goes back quite a way.
My grandmother, she was married three times, and looking back on it – you know, looking at the record, she must have been pregnant all her pregnable life. You know in those days they didn’t have the pills and … But anyway, the first fella she married was Humphrey and this was in Wellington I think. But the first husband, and there were several children and I think in total in the three marriages – oh, the last one she didn’t have any progeny, but the previous ones she had about thirteen children. I don’t know what happened to her first husband, whether he died or took off … wasn’t unusual. But anyway, she married this fella Paul who was my father’s father. And William Travers Paul was his name, and he came from Canada. He was a – I’m not sure if he ever captained a ship but he had Captain’s papers, he qualified. And he, I believe that he had a son, so – whether it was before or after his marriage to my Grandmother – whether he … he had a fall and apparently was in some way incapacitated. But they lived in a hulk in the Wellington – Lambton Harbour before Lambton was reclaimed and the foreshore of course was along Lambton Quay. They produced several children, several of which died, but my father was the last of the children. This William Travers Paul died and he’s buried in Ohura – I’m not quite sure why. He had an unmarked grave, but in the 1940s my father established … put a gravestone, and he has a memorial plaque there, proper gravestone.
Where is Ohura?
Oh, it’s in Taranaki. What he was doing there I don’t know. Whether they were living there or what, but that’s where he was buried. Now that’s my father’s side.
Now on my mother’s side, she is the daughter of a Norwegian who came to New Zealand in the 1860s or ’70s or somewhere round there. And her mother was from England. She came out here as a seventeen or eighteen year old, and came from one of the suburbs in England. The Norwegian fellow, he had several members of the family still left in Norway and one of them was apparently a Consul for Norway in Lisbon at some stage. So earlier this year we had some visitors from Norway, family visitors, and they were interested in the family, you know, tree and that sort of thing.
But I’m named after that fellow that was at the Consul. The Arnold part of it is quite common in our line of history. They lived in Poukawa. This grandfather was … I’m quite sure what his title was, but he was a carpenter. He seemed to be able to do just about anything, because he built his own house. He – his family wanted him to become a doctor in Norway, and he had an argument about that and he left and he came to New Zealand. But he worked for … he was a sort of a carpenter/odd job man round … for H M Campbell at Horonui. He was there for … he was part of the family. In those early days farm communities were almost a village on their own. And they had out at Horonui there, they had a carpenter, they had, you know, they had a group of people in the house, gardener and they had a trainer training the horses, they had a ploughman and all those. And they all lived out there.
‘Cause Horonui would have been quite a big station then.
That’s right. Actually Mrs H M Campbell was my godmother. H M Campbell himself was a Member of Parliament for Hawke’s Bay for a number of years.
But my mother worked at Horonui – that’s where she met my father. Now my father was – he was born in Wellington but … not quite sure what he did. Am I talking about the right things?
He went to school in … near Taihape anyway, and I have a book here that he got as a prize for attendance of something. It’s a book about Longfellow’s poems. [Chuckle] Anyway I read it from time to time and I find it quite interesting.
Anyway, at some stage he … when he left school he was a message boy at the Post Office. I’m not quite sure how long he stood there, but we have a picture of him when he was a telegram boy in his uniform and whatnot. Subsequently he worked in a blacksmith’s shop, and he also, subsequently to that, he … this is when he was single of course … he became a jockey. My father wasn’t a very tall fellow. As a jockey – I don’t think he was a very good … you know, didn’t do very well as a jockey because he – but he had a bad fall over the hurdles. One of the problems about jockeys is they get on extra weight and of course they promote themselves to hurdle jockeys. But he had this fall and he broke a leg, and the doctor who set the leg didn’t set it very well and he always had a limp.
From there he went to Campbell’s and he was stableman for – Clark was his surname … Clark was the trainer. H M Campbell had this private trainer, but that’s where he met my mother. Now this would be during the … oh, he enlisted in the military in World War I but he was turned down because of his limp. After he got married … oh, he did various things. During the epidemic in 1918 apparently he worked as orderly at the Hastings Racecourse – it’d been turned into a hospital. How long he did that I don’t know, but he also worked for a baker and he drove a baker’s cart around but how long he did that for I don’t know either.
He ultimately got a job at Tomoana – an office job there. From about 1920 I suppose it’d be ’til 1942 he worked at Tomoana in, he had an office job there.
But prior to that, in the ’20s, he was fairly progressive. I remember as a child you know, quite young, we had the first radio around, and when they had the Tunney-Heeney fight – the World Title – we had a whole heap of people round listening to the radio and we had the first. We lived in what was known as Doctor Clive’s Road at that stage. It’s now an extension of Jellicoe Street, down the end there. He bought this house, but prior to that he had lived in a house that … and my mother lived in the house – I don’t remember this lot – in Tomoana Road somewhere, down towards the freezing works. What I do remember is the house that we lived in in what was known as Selwood Road, now Windsor Avenue. And it was not a very big place from my recollections of it – because I left there when I was about five, or less – was we had a big apricot tree and it always bore very good fruit. Across the road were people by the name of Masters. Now Masters is quite a well-known name in Hastings, you know.
Fred Masters was a big noise on the Apple & Pear Board. And also across the road was the old oast. Now not many people in Hastings know that Hastings had quite big areas in hops.
Right from Selwood Road right to the river.
I don’t remember them ever growing hops here, but the building was there. The ground floor was not used, but the top floor one of the churches had – Presbyterian Church I think – had it. And I used to go to Sunday School and I remember climbing up the stairs, up to the second floor. Subsequently of course that oast was knocked down and demolished and now there’s houses built all through there. But we moved over to Jellicoe Street and the old man built this house in Jellicoe Street, and subsequently bought bits of land here, there, and had sections here and sections there and whatnot. As I say he was fairly progressive, and seemed to do all right one way or another.
In 1929 we moved from Jellicoe Street to Clive Road to a place at the end of Collinge Road and by this time the old man had become interested in owning a horse, running a horse to race. And he linked up with a trainer in Hastings, Lance Stowe – Lance Stowe was a well-known trainer here in the early days. And Lance Stowe did the training and the old man did the paying. [Chuckle] ‘Cause that’s always still is. But the first horse he had if I remember, was Ruby’s Step. Never did much good. There was a half share between Stowe and Paul. He subsequently had various other horses; amongst them was a mare, Sunny Maid. Now he didn’t breed Sunny Maid, but Sunny Maid … I don’t know whether she raced or whatnot … but it originally belonged to somebody up … a Mrs Hall from Gisborne I think – Wairoa, somewhere up there. But any rate the old man finished up by buying it. And he had this mare and he used various sires including Robin Goodfellow, and he had a reasonable amount of success selling these progeny and whatnot, and racing them.
But he had one called Sunny Knight – and this was before the War. It was quite a good horse, Sunny Knight, and it raced in Auckland … forget what the race was, it was one of the big major races in Auckland. And it – I’m not sure whether it won the race or whether it was second, but anyway there was an inquiry into the race and he lost. Whether the horse was touched or something like that you know … and he lost. But Sunny Knight was quite a good horse for him – that was before the War.
But all this time he was still working at his job, but he gradually got various other horses and he finished up by being full time, an owner/breeder and trainer. He bought this place at the end of Collinge Road. It was an old house and I think it had been built for one by the name of Collinge. Collinge Road was named after him. Collinge was … he was quite a figure, a fairly wealthy fellow around Hastings.
Anyway we had this land in what is now Jellicoe Street. We farmed, we had dairy cows. The farm was in my mother’s name I believe. But we farmed this, we had dairy cows. The land was a block which extended from the length of Beatty Street and the Square and to the stream, there’s a stream runs through there. And we used to milk the cows, and this was a thing as a school kid I had my share to do as … milking bloody cows. You always had to be home to milk the cows, you know. Which, looking back on it wasn’t a bad thing, because we didn’t get into any trouble. [Chuckle] We did cropping, we had hay and we had the skim milk and we had pigs there, we had potatoes and maize and all these things.
Subsequently he bought the land which now is all built on, Cunningham Crescent and it ran through from Jellicoe Street right through to almost Willowpark Road. But on the fringe of this there were houses … in Collinge Road there were houses and on Grove Road there were houses. And there was an orchard there in Grove Road belonged to … they’ve got an orchard out there at Longlands now.
Caccioppoli. And one of the things about that particular house – it was well off the road and had quite a long drive, and they had this along the drive, apple trees, which were spread out.
Yeah. And I remember that all along that drive. The other people that were along there, next door, was Farnell. I don’t know what the father’s name was but Herbie Farnell was the fella I went to school with, my age. But the father was the gravedigger and Herbie Farnell subsequently went down to Wellington into the Public Trust Office, I don’t know if he’s still alive but he lived in Wellington most of his life.
Coming back to myself, I went to Hastings High School … I went to Parkvale School and we used to travel across to what is now known as Splash Planet and that whole area there. There’s quite a long history on that area. When I was young it was known as Beatson’s Park, and Beatson’s Park was an area which I presume had been sold or given to the Council by Beatson. Now in the early days when I went to school, we had to go across Beatson’s Park. What was there were the stumps of a pinus insignis plantation which had been through that … this was in the days before the Parkvale Golf Club started. Subsequently the Parkvale Golf Club had a nine hole course there. And we used to travel across there and I remember at one stage they were burning out the stumps and it was quite a thing for us to go and play around them. [Chuckle]
The Golf Club, was the Golf Club in Beatson’s Park or beside it?
Well it was – the Clubhouse was near Terrace Road. And it used to run … the nine holes used to run right across to the stream. Well it’s hard to imagine it now ’cause they excavated a whole lot of land and put in extra ponds and whatnot, but there was a stream that ran through, it started up in Alexandra Street somewhere … in a spring up there somewhere, and it came through there around about where the basketball courts are now, and it straggled round past … down where the back of where the Splash Planet administration office is, and it came round and ultimately went out near Windsor Avenue. There’s a sort of bridge thing, culvert thing, goes out there. And the stream was there and the golf course was round the stream. There must have been some pretty short holes there. I subsequently became quite a … not very good golfer, but I played quite regularly for about fifty years, but I never played at Parkvale.
One of the little things about that golf course I remember … Mabel Wyatt – I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Mabel Wyatt, but Mabel Wyatt was a major … Denton Wyatt’s daughter. And Mabel was one of the very keen early players and instigators of the Parkvale Golf Club. And it was quite an active Club. As I say I never played there.
One of things I remember about the Golf Club is that the Headmaster of the Parkvale School was named … his name was Lord. G M Lord I think his name was. I hope he’s no relation. But, he used to select kids and at lunchtime he’d go down and practise hitting balls on one of the holes of the Parkvale Golf Club. He’d give the kids threepence to allow us to … which was big money in those days. People were quite keen to get their threepences. I for some reason never got …
But Lord was an interesting sort of fellow. He’s reputed to have had a drinking problem and he was very florid. [Chuckle] Leighton Patmore – I don’t know whether you’ve heard of Leighton Patmore – well Leighton always reckoned old Lord, when he left Parkvale, took with him all the phonograph records and the phonograph, which had been paid for by the school, but Lord took them with him. He went to Auckland, and the interesting thing about that was in 1941 I was doing a three months’ stint in Waiouru. And I went to Auckland and I stayed with a friend of mine … relation … in Remuera, and she had a daughter who was just starting to school. And her husband – he was in the Navy and of course away – and she was working. And I was given the job of taking this girl – this daughter – to the school, Remuera School. Who should be the principal of the Remuera School but bloody Lord. [Chuckle] But it was quite interesting meeting him again, you know it was war time and he wasn’t very interested in me and I wasn’t all that interested in him. Anyway it was just coincidence.
Coming back to Hastings, I’ll go back earlier, to the farm. In 1942 the old man … he gave up his job and he was full time – time passed, but in 1942, that’s right, the City Council decided they wanted to expand the housing, and they took the land off Beattie Street, they unfortunately took that, and they also under the Town and country Planning Act took the land where Cunningham Crescent is now. They paid for it – 1942 values in 1947 – but in that time of course there’d been a massive increase in values, but they only paid the ’42 …. There was quite an argument about it, and S I Jones, you know, old Jonah? Jonah was the Member for Hastings and the old man took it up with him at – and I think it went to Wellington – it was considered anyway, but the old man didn’t think that they’d pay … they only paid the ’42 values.
But in the meantime he took the opportunity of buying a stable in Karamu Road, where the Mayfair Hotel was and where the Valda [Valdez] Motel is now, and he got a block there. And he operated from there and he used to walk the horses up to the course to train them. And I remember one time going through, when I was home and I used to help out … take the horses. And I was riding a horse and leaning to, and we get up to – we had a route going, we used to go up Willowpark Road and then across. But we used to go down past the Central School and I remember going past the Central School just about one o’clock this particular day, leading two horses, driving along. All the kids were lined up, and it was wintertime, and just as we got opposite the school, they did this [clapping] like that. And there was a helluva din, and of course the horses went up and I was sort of hanging on to two horses. But anyway I stayed on the horse and we got by.
Subsequently in 1949 I came home and they’d moved to this place in Karamu Road, and I said at the time, I said, you know “it was quite a good buy, but I see this is a house development thing – one, it’s a blind street and you’re down the centre, and you’ve got houses on each side. My father was a fellow who wasn’t easily … he didn’t take ideas – he phoo phoo’d my idea. But interestingly enough a few years later he got to the stage where he got a good offer and they were going to sell. I understand that particular block was the biggest area vacant in Hastings at that stage. There were other smaller areas, but anyway …
Now, the story of the Mayfair Hotel is quite an interesting one, but not many people know about it. There was a fella Mason, who had motor mowers and he was up here just up the road.
Morrison Motor Mowers.
Now somewhere along the piste Mason was involved with the New Zealand Breweries. And New Zealand Breweries were associated with a company in Singapore called Fraser & Neeve. And Fraser & Neeve – they were throughout South East Asia including Indonesia. And in Indonesia, when Sukarno came to the throne he became dictator. He nationalised the breweries and Fraser & Neeve – they had soft drinks amongst other things – and they were throughout Indonesia, and they got money in rupiah … blocked rupiah. I’m not quite sure how they did it but the Mayfair Hotel area was paid for by blocked rupiah. Somehow they fuddled it through, probably illegally, but you know, that was the way it was done.
But anyway they ultimately bought the place. But when we had this business of putting the road through down the centre, the old man said one of the sections is for each of you boys – I’ve got two brothers, there were three of us – and I selected one down at the far corner. But my younger brother, he was married at that stage and he built a house. He got a 3% loan … you know, he had War Service. And he built a house there on Karamu Road and he lived in it for quite a while. But of course when the whole lot was sold he was able to retain his house, but we were paid in other ways from the old man. One was through the sale of horses. My younger brother – or my middle one – he had the proceeds of the sale of one of the yearlings that was sold down in Trentham. ‘Cause the old man was a regular visitor to Trentham, and also to Te Rapa. They subsequently shifted that house, and the house that we lived in, it was moved back onto the section and ultimately dismantled it. So the Mayfair Hotel came into being.
Now I’ll come back to where I started school. I went to Hastings High School.
Who was the headmaster those days?
The headmaster was W A G Penlington. And his number two was Stan Craven. No it wasn’t – it was Jonah … Jonah was number two. And there was Hayley, Alec Hayley who subsequently was the principal of the Horowhenua High School. There was Biff Fulton, who was subsequently a principal of … Blenheim I think. He became a principal. And there was General Ensole who became principal of the Nelson Boys’ High. There was Mousie Matheson, we used to call him. Oh, there was Slimy Partridge. Well, Slimy Bloody Partridge, he taught agriculture, and the name was quite appropriate to him too.
But, anyway I went to school there – I went there in 1931. And of course we just started our school when the earthquake happened. It was quite fortunate in a way the way things worked out. This particular day, the 3rd of February 1931, was the initiation day. Now the Hastings High School – it was sort of traditional, but the 3rd formers had to run the gauntlet. Well the tormentors were mostly 4th formers and a few of the 5th formers who had been through the whole thing themselves at some stage. But the idea was that you had to run the gauntlet – these 4th and 5th formers would line up, and we had a horse trough in the grounds of the Hastings High School. And you would be ducked and you had to run the gauntlet through these – and they had shoes on the end of straps and … oh, you know. But because I wore glasses I didn’t have to do it, but amongst other things that they did they blued you. They had blue bags, you know, the old blue bags?
Yes, Reckitt’s Blue.
They also had … one or two of them had yellow bags. Anyway I got a double dose of this yellow and blue. The earthquake came, and I can still see a blue gum tree there swaying like this you know – and still stood. Anyway the earthquake came and the first thing we did was get our bikes. And a friend and neighbour … we were long-time friends, been to sort of parallel school all along … was Rex Lovell-Smith. You know – Lovell-Smiths, the photographers? Well Rex, who died a few years ago in Christchurch – anyway he had quite an interesting history too. Anyway, we got on our bikes, and we couldn’t come along Karamu Road because it was blocked with rubbish and whatnot, fallen bricks and whatnot. But we came around past the Municipal Theatre and back onto Karamu Road, and back home. In the meantime my younger brothers were still at Parkvale School and they had come home, and you know, there were no problem about it. The interesting thing about Parkvale School – I wasn’t there of course but I heard about it – was that before the earthquake there was a class, a junior class … Standard One or Primers or something … the kids were all … you know, it was very fine weather that day, and these kids were sitting under a brick wall, the boundary of the school. When the earthquake came the brick wall fell the other way. If it had come this way it would have caught the kids. I never saw that but I heard about it.
Anyway, Rex and I got home … Rex went on his way … they lived further down the road from us. I arrived home and my mother had a fit, almost. Here was me all yellow and blue. [Chuckle] She was quite relieved to find it was only blue and yellow.
We were fairly well off one way or another over the earthquake period. The first night or two we slept outside – we didn’t have a tent, but we had canvas sheets which we were able to rig up and of course it was quite fine weather, and it was quite comfortable. Because we had earthquakes, shaking every little while and there was quite a good one that night. But I still remember – I could see through the trees the fire of the Grand Hotel burning. As I say, we were fairly well off. We had the cows – we had to milk the cows of course, but we had milk and butter. We also had quite a lot of fruit trees, so we had apples and plums and apricots and things like quinces you know. The only thing we needed was bread, and they had established a distribution thing at the old theatre that used to be in Karamu Road and subsequently it was shifted to the Hastings High School as the first assembly group. Well, of course that was shifted a long time after the earthquake. But the earthquake relief was quite substantial. We were not old enough I don’t think, to go out, but the old man used to go out and get the bread from this … the distribution was at this theatre. But there were fellas there that … they made quite a handsome prof… Beside the fact that all these goods were donated free, they made a charge and just pocketed the money, you know. But anyway, that was one of the nasty things about the earthquake, probably not many people doing it but there were some doing it.
We never had the opportunity of leaving Hastings because we had the responsibility of the cows. Anyway 1931 we got over that. The old man had a … we had a car, I say an early car – it was quite progressive when I was about nine or something … 1926, 27, 28 … I learnt to drive when I was about ten. And I learnt to drive by backing the car out, and ready for the old man. The first car that we had was a cut down tourer into a sort of … they put a tray on the back of it. And it was a Ford, and we used to sit in the back of that and the old man would sit at the front and away we’d go, and it was quite good. Used to get a bit breezy at times. We were one of the few people who had cars in the area, you see. He had another – he got a touring car, a Ford again. But in 1930 he bought a Model A Ford from J E Peach, and this car was … the old man had it over at the Tomoana Freezing Works. And when the earthquake came a beam fell down on the car. And it didn’t go right – it just sort of pinned it there, but the framework of the car was sort of damaged – the hood. But ultimately they got a new body put on the car and it served quite well. It took a while I think to get it, but we still had transport because we used to use bikes … go everywhere on our bike.
Nothing spectacular during my schooldays. I played football, I played hockey, I wanted to go to university and get an agricultural degree but one way and another I didn’t. And in 1936 I left school and I went to Carlisle McLean, Scannell & Wood, the lawyers, and I was their sort of message boy come whatnot. But before this I had already applied for a job in the Government, and things didn’t move very fast in Government those days. But it came to the end of the year … I hadn’t been with Carlisle, McLean very long – two or three months, and I got this reply from Wellington. And in those days you had to apply for … you put three alternatives – departments that you wanted. I put in Tourist & Publicity, Customs and the Public Trust office. Well anyway I got Public Trust Office, and they said I could be appointed to Te Kuiti. Didn’t even know where bloody Te Kuiti was [chuckle]. Anyway I went, and it was to the District Manager’s Office in Te Kuiti, and this office comprised of the District Manager – he was quite a high ranking officer as far as I was concerned at that stage, but as it turned out he was a pretty low ranking officer in actual fact – and a girl and a cadet.
From the jump I got offside with this District Manager. I think part of the reason was the fact that during the Depression the Government didn’t take many people on, and the result was – there was a fella by the name of Jack Baker who was a cadet at Te Kuiti and he’d been there for about four years, so that he just about ran the whole place. And Harold George Shakes who was the District Manager, used to go and play bowls every afternoon, and you know, he had quite a good life. But when this raw cadet applied and wanders in, he had to do more work and he wasn’t very happy about that. But anyway, after a period he recommended that my services be dispensed with. But before I was actually discharged Harry George Shakes went on leave, and there was a fellow from Hamilton came down to – Hamilton was in charge of Te Kuiti – and he was relieving. And he went back to Hamilton and reported that this fella Paul was – he was quite glowing about this fella Paul, and he should be retained. So I was moved to Hamilton. And the fella that replaced me was Noel Mason … he was a cadet, and he got along all right with George Shakes.
But I must have been in Hamilton for about six months I suppose, and this Noel Mason had an accident – it was a fairly serious accident. His girlfriend was killed. He wasn’t driving the car. The fellow that was driving the car apparently had a few beers in and whatnot, but Noel Mason was … he was in hospital for a long time; he had head, skull troubles. Noel Mason was subsequently chief accountant at the Public Trust Office, but he was one of these fellas he was lucky that he – because of the injury that he had he wasn’t fit for service, you know, active service. And the result was that he stayed with the Public Trust Office and of course he got promotion during the War, and of course at the end of the War he was well up here – the other fellas coming back were under him. So, Noel did well, but he was quite a good fella.
I was in Hamilton and it was quite an interesting thing in Hamilton, we were on records. Quite a … several of us on records and there wasn’t enough to do, and I used to get in touch with one of the fellas there was a fella by the name of Malcolm Campbell, who came from Hastings, and we were quite good cobbers. He was an accounts clerk up there. And I said to Malcolm “well look, I’m sick and tired of doing nothing. I’ll do some … show me how to do some of these accounts that you’re doing”. So the next thing was I was doing about half a dozen a week, of accounts, you know – estate accounts.
So time passed, and I was offered a job in Napier, and I became the ledger keeper. And [chuckle] I arrived in Napier and the fella that I was taking over from was a fella by the name of Ernie Cato. Ernie Cato didn’t stay with the Public Trust, he finished up at Maori Affairs somewhere along the piste.
In the Public Trust Office in those days they didn’t have computers, they had the old machine … you know, working machine – adding machine. And all the debits were in white paper, and all the credits were in yellow paper. And I arrived at Napier and this fella Ernie Cato had about three tables and he had little piles of yellow, of white paper. You had to balance every month, you know, at the end of the month, and it usually was a matter of you know a couple of days. And here was old Ernie Cato – he was about three months behind. And I thought ‘Christ, it must be a bloomin’ tough job when he’s three months behind with …’ Anyway Ernie Cato was kept there until he’d cleared this three months lot away and I started off. The first month came and I sort of had a little bit of difficulty in balancing out but I ultimately did it in a matter of about three or four days. Thereafter it was just jam. But I always remember that … feeling of unease I had when I saw all these bits of paper round.
The Public Trust Office was interesting in those days. Freddie Brown was the District Public Trustee there, and Weston Wacher was the lawyer, the legal man. Now in the Public Trust Office they had a practice of training people. You did a period on Records, you did a period on Accounts, and then you decided whether you’d go into Estates Administration, stay on Accounts, or go into Legal. Well I wasn’t interested in Legal and I couldn’t see myself being happy with Accounts, and Estates Administration seemed all right, so I applied, and I was posted to Hawera. Now Hawera was a District Office and the District Public Trustee was a fella by the name of Eggleston. I hope I’m not going to be liable for any of these things when I tell you. But Eggleston had been – think he’d been a lawyer … had a law degree … with Maori Affairs and had come to the Public Trust Office. And somewhere along the piste he wasn’t thought very well of. One of his problems was that he had on his staff two positions of Estates Administration. One was A to L and the other one was M to Z. Now when I went there, Bill – this fella Bill – who subsequently was a lawyer in Hastings – I’ll think of his name very soon. He had the A to L. I had the M to Z. Now it’s a thing in New Zealand that more than fifty per cent of the names of people start with A to L. M to Z was a lesser amount. But to make up the balance I had all the mortgages, so I had M to Z and the mortgages. And in Taranaki of course there’s a bloody lot of mortgages – every bloody farmer had a mortgage, not all with the Public Trust Office.
But before I’d arrived on the scene, Bill Eggleston had a client – forget what his name was, but he had several farms and they were quite … you know, he was quite a wealthy fella. And he had all his business with the Public Trust Office and of course he had mortgages, and he also had his will. And his will – he was one of these fellas who … every five minutes he was changing his will. [Chuckle] Anyway Bill – apparently Bill Eggleston got pissed off with the changes … all these changes, and he said “for God’s sake!” And the old fella – this farmer fella – took exception and he said “well I’ll take my business elsewhere”. And the result of that act was that he took his business, and the Guardian Trust set up there in opposition to the Public Trust Office. And of course this wasn’t very happy – you know Head Office wasn’t very happy about this. Anyway Bill Eggleston – it wasn’t only me, but it was all the fellas before on the M to Z, which was a junior post, had received the borax from – he seemed to take it out on these sort of junior fellas, and I was amongst them see. I got to the stage where I wasn’t very happy over there – I was there for about six, nine months or something or other and I wasn’t very happy.
But by this time War had broken out and I came home to Hastings and I talked to a fella at Nelsons, the freezing works, and he said “well why don’t you join us?” Anyway the upshot was that I was offered a job as a cost accountant at the Patea Freezing Works. So I go back to Hawera and I put in my resignation. Eggleston hung onto that for quite a while, and the result was that by the time Head Office got notice they’d brought in conscription, and you couldn’t chop and change. So Head Office realised there was a problem there and they offered me Napier as an Estates Clerk, and I came over to Napier. And I was there until 1941. I should mention that in Hawera I had joined the Home Guard. 1939 I enlisted in the Air Force but realised I’d never be a flyer, but I thought ‘well there are plenty of things in the Air Force I could do’. I got a note from the Air Force people saying ‘yes, we received your application, we’ll let you know.’
Now I then – looking back on it it was a bloody stupid idea, but I was keen to get away. You know people were that way in those days. And a friend of mine, whose eyesight I knew was worse than mine, had got away in the first echelon. And I thought well I’ll … so I enlisted – wrote to the Air Force people and said ‘I’m going to change it, I’m enlisting in the Army’. So I put in an application for the Army. Subsequently in Hawera I was boarded … boarded out ‘Home Service only’. So the Public Trust Office also put in an application for me to be an essential service, so I was retained in the Public Trust office, so I was still with Eggleston. But as I say I subsequently came to Napier, back again to Napier. But in 1941 I was called up to do three months training and we went to Waiouru.
1941 we were still in the Army and we had bivouacs in Napier. We used to have to go through to Napier for training and that sort of thing. But in 1942, the beginning of ’42, they had established a brigade. Things were not too good in 1942, you know the Japanese were coming forward and whatnot – and they’d established a brigade in Wairarapa, and part of this brigade was the 12th Field Regiment. Napier was part of the artillery, that was what I was in. And we went down to the Wairarapa, and we went to Booth’s Farm – just a bare paddock. And we had to dig our own trenches and all that stuff. It was quite interesting there – I became a specialist, what was known as a specialist – I don’t know what they call it today, it’s got a different fancy name, but it was one who laid the guns, took the angles and reported, you know. And we were there for about, I think it was about September or something, it was eight or nine months we were there.
By the end of 1942 things were starting to improve a bit and they dissembled the brigade and scattered all the people. A group of us from the Artillery Home Service were sent to Wellington and we were billeted in Kaiwarra [now Kaiwharawhara]. They were sort of railwaymen huts we were in, and we sat there – we sat there for God knows how long, and did nothing. We used to get up in the morning, have breakfast, we’d go down to the clubs in town and whatnot, and we got sick and tired of playing snooker, billiards and whatnot. Anyway, we came back – I remember Roly … I was an NCO at that stage and so was Roly … and we came back this time and there was a notice on the board: “Volunteers for an Undisclosed Job”. So that night we were … half past nine or something … we were taken along to Buckle Street where we were given full battledress, equipment, issued with live ammunition, told to be ready to leave next morning by train. We still didn’t know exactly what we were doing.
We get on the train and the blinds were pulled down and whatnot, and we move off – if we go up to the left, up through Paekakariki and whatnot, we were going up to New Plymouth way, Taranaki, to bury the Home Guard. If we go up the Upper Hutt way, we’re going up to the Wairarapa to bury the Home Guard. [Chuckle]
Anyway we didn’t get very far, because we only got as far as Featherston. And we got off the train at Featherston and we went to the old Army camp. It had been a part of the old World War I camp, but part of it had been taken up by a unit, 5th Reserve Motor Transport. And it was all broom and gorse and they had slip trenches [?]. Do you know what I’m coming to?
The Japanese prisoners.
That’s right. We arrived there and there’s some public works fellas putting in poles for a compound, and stringing up the barbed wire. And a couple of days later the 2nd Wellington I think, brought in … marched in a whole lot of Japanese … the first lot of Japanese. There’d have been like a hundred and something or other in the first lot. And these were fellas … poor buggers they were all in blue Army World War I uniforms, which had been dyed blue. And some of them were in pretty bad shape, you know, they’d been starved and there were a few that were in the Wellington hospital. But this lot were able to march from the Featherston Station. We were all there, you know – full battle dress and all this – show of strength and whatnot. Anyway, they followed as night set. We only had the one fence at that stage, and as an NCO I was able to have a batman, you know, I had a fella from the Japanese who looked after my … polished my boots and my buttons and … And he was a young fella. I can’t … I think his name was Yamamoto, I’m not quite sure about that but I think it was Yamamoto. Just bear in mind that name ’cause I’m going to tell you a bit more about that at a later stage, if I’ve got time.
But Yamamoto he was quite a young fella, and most of these fellows first came in were CD’s – they were not combatant troops. They were you know, surveyors and engineers and fellas that were … didn’t do the fighting. And they were a fairly passive sort of a group anyway. [Chuckle] They got an issue of cigarettes, not very many, but they came in packets. And the packets – they cut them out and made cards of them, and they used to play cards. And the – they didn’t have any money, but they used to play for cigarettes. Anyway there came a particular night when they were playing, and this young fella got in cahoots with another one … another Japanese, and there was a fight. And I don’t know whether they pulled a knife or a bit of steel … ’cause they were able to find little bits of steel in the old camp and polish them up and whatnot. And I think they had knives and forks too but anyway, as a result of this fight we lost him. Well we, I say we because we shared this fella, Yamamoto, we lost him and we had to do our own work. [Chuckle]
But there’s quite a lot of stories attaching to the camp there. Not long after the first lot came in, there was another group came in, and these were fighting fellas, some of them were Navy officers and whatnot. They were much more belligerent, and they caused a lot of strife and whatnot. And I’m not sure – well, I’m pretty sure that not all that many people know too much about the riot that they had down there. But the result was that there were quite a lot of Japanese killed. And one of our fellas was killed … Wattie Pelvin was killed. I was in the Orderly Room at that stage – I had my stint on the guard duties, not as an NCO.
The situation there in the first instance was very difficult for the young fellas, ’cause a lot of them were young and many of them had never had any real training. Well, nobody had any training for a prisoner of war camp. This belligerent group sort of worked on the others, and the result was that they refused to bring forward people for work parties. They did a certain amount of work around the place and they had a vegetable patch that we sort of worked on and also they carted shingle, carted shingle for the roads and whatnot around the camp. And part of the argument was that these belligerent people said that this would not work for … it was peasant’s work and they didn’t want to do it, and they persuaded the others not to do it. And the result was that when they called for people for these jobs, which they are supposed to do every day, they refused. I don’t know if you know much about the Japanese thing. I’ve got several books and I’ve got a video here on it. But the result was, as I say, quite a number of Japanese were killed.
Not all of them were killed in the first round. Now, it has never been shown, or never been proven, who fired the first shot. There were certainly no calls for a fire to be started. But there was a fellow there, he was an NCO, fella by the name of Jack Owens. He’s dead now by a long shot, but Jack Owens had a brother who was in Kiribati or one of those forward places. He was actually in the Post Office, but they had gone forward there and they were sort of look-out people, but when the Japanese came they were taken and they were made prisoners. They had been warned, you know – any troubles and they’d be shot. Somewhere along the piece they had buried a radio set, transmission, and the Japanese find it. And the result was that all of them were killed.
Now one of these fellows was Jack Owens’ brother. Now Jack Owens had a tommy gun, the others had rifles, but he had a tommy gun as an NCO. There was a certain amount of threatening action on the part of the Japanese group and as I say, nobody really proved who started it, but everybody suspects it was Jack Owens let one go, and with that … ‘course the guard had all been called out to their action stations and when he let one go so the others let go. And the Japanese were just sitting ducks, they’re all lined up … But then they scattered it – and a lot of them that got away, they went to the huts. And Jack Owens and another fella went round the huts to sort out these fellas and get them back on the parade ground, and if they didn’t move fast enough they shot ’em. Now that’s not really a well-known fact but it was suspected.
And they had a Court of Inquiry, you know, later on, but it was kept under wraps for years. In the first place they kept it very quiet because they thought that if the Japanese got to hear about all these fellas being knocked off it would have an effect on the prisoners of war in Japan. So anyway time passed on and things quietened down and I was still keen to get away overseas.
I was led to believe that if I joined the Air Force I could get, you know, be sure to get away despite the eyesight, because there were plenty of jobs in the Air Force – one pilot and about thirty people on the ground. Anyway I subsequently joined the Air Force, was able to transfer. We went to Linton and we did three months, and we had amongst the fellows there that were in the same group … same troop as I was … the same flight I think they called it in the Air Force those days, was Uncle Scrim. Scrimgeour – have you heard of him?
Uncle Scrim from Auckland?
Ran the radio station.
He got off side with the Labour Party and they railroaded him into the Army, and he decided to go into the Air Force. Anyway he was quite a good fella, but he was a lot older than us. Subsequently we finished our training at Linton Camp and I was sent to Wellington Headquarters. We were billeted at Rongotai in those days. We had to come into Bullshit Castle every day, and I was allocated to Records. There were several people there in Records. Amongst them was a fella who was subsequently a leading accountant in Wellington, and a Magistrate – another one – in Hamilton or somewhere up there. Anyway, I was there for about two days and I was taken into a special group. We had the responsibility of keeping track and posting of all officers. EP1A it was called. And in charge of that was Squadron Leader Avery who in peace time was a farmer out Havelock way somewhere.
Patangata Road, there’s a hill called Avery’s Hill.
And there was a Flight Lieutenant Deagan – he’d been a floor walker in Woolworths or somewhere or other, so it was before the War, but he’d got into the Air Force early and sort of gone up as time marched on. Last time I heard of him he was a car salesman in Otaki or somewhere like that.
And there was Morrison who was a Flying Officer who had been grounded because of health reasons, and we had a girl – she was a Commissioned Officer, June Lucky. Her father was some noise in the Wellington City Council, might have been Mayor or something, I don’t know, but she’d obviously got a cushy job there somewhere.
There was a Sergeant and there were two Erks – I being one of them [chuckle]. And that was all we had, and I was stuck there quite a long time. Then they suddenly realised that I hadn’t been on a course, admin course. And they sent me to Levin, and I had a glorious time in Levin. I had a girlfriend who moved up from Wellington, and I spent more time off the camp than I spent in it.
Anyway I came back to Wellington and I hadn’t been back there very long when there was a general thing throughout the Air Force about people wanting to be released to go back to private life. So I thought ‘well bugger me – I’m not getting very far as far as the Air Force is concerned – I’ll get out, go back to the Public Trust Office’. Oh no, you can’t go back to Public Trust Office, you’ll go to directed employment. And where was I to go? The Ministry of Supply. I didn’t know what the hell the Ministry of Supply was. Anyway, I soon found out.
The Ministry of Supply, don’t know if you know about it, but the Ministry of Supply imported everything that came into New Zealand. And it was responsible for importing ammunition, jute, fabric for wool packs, steel, you name it – everything came – chemicals – everything and the Government then sold it to the various people that were interested. I got the job – this was 1944 when I got out of the Air Force and things were starting to run down, and they were selling stuff off. And the Ministry of Supply really was a big warehouse, it had places all around the country … actual warehouses, but the whole administration and whatnot was in Wellington. And I became Credit Control Officer, and I sort of set the rules as to how people should pay. I was quite enjoying doing it.
Anyway I stayed at that ’til 1946. All this time I was a member of the Public Trust Office, on their records. In late ’46 they sort of regularised people, and you went back to your own department or whatever. And at this stage it was called the Department of … the Ministry of Supply was under the Tourist & Publicity … Industry & Commerce, and that was the Department I was on. Not that there was too much industries and commerce those days. I think they had about eight people working on various bits and pieces. The Tourist part of it was the main thing, and they had offices all over the World. During the War of course those Tourist Offices became supply missions, and they were responsible for sort of easing New Zealand supplies through. But we only had – we didn’t have all that many, we only had about eight places I think.
Well in 1947, out of the blue I was asked if I would go to Australia for three months relieving, and there’s a story attaching to that too but I won’t tell you that one. I went to Australia – in those days it was by flying boat. You had to – to get on that flying boat, didn’t have all that many passengers, but you had to have a permit. And you had an A, B, C or D permit, and the A was for the Prime Minister, and the B was for special ministers. And C was something else, businessmen I think, and D was for ordinary people who wanted to travel. D never got on the plane. But anyway I was allocated a B … I get on the plane. I go to Auckland, get all ready to go next morning when there’s a strike on in Australia so the plane doesn’t go. The strike lasted for two or three days and then it’s cleared, and then next it’s foggy in Auckland, so the plane doesn’t go again. So I finished up being a week in Auckland.
I ran around looking at potential exporters and whatnot and anyway, I finally get on the plane, and it was an interesting trip over there. Most comfortable, you know, they had a bar – you could walk up the steps and go to the bar and whatnot. Anyway, arrive in Australia and we get into Rose Bay – land on the water, pull up to this wharf and all, and I’m met by one of the fellas from the Tourist Office in Australia in Sydney. Bill Gough’s his name. Bill was a very pleasant sort of fellow. But he had with him a fellow in a black uniform, gaiters, peaked cap and whatnot – and saluted me, and I thought ‘by Christ who is this bloke?’ Picks up my bags – no trouble with getting through Customs and whatnot – picked up my bags and we get into this big black car, and finished up stopping in Kings Cross at … can’t think of the name of the hotel.
Many years later I went back there and I … you know, must have been twenty, thirty years later … I went back there to this particular hotel and I said to the girl at the counter, “I’m not looking for accommodation, I came to this hotel in 1947”. She said it was probably about twenty years before she was born. “I just want to have a look at the place, see what it’s like”. 44 McLeay Street, that was the name of this hotel. They had a night club thing attached to it as well, and a restaurant and whatnot, it was quite swept up.
I stayed there for two or three days I think, and it was a Friday I think that I arrived over there. And Bill Gough said to me – “oh you don’t need to come into the office tomorrow, we’re open on Saturday mornings but don’t worry about it. But be careful”. I said “can you walk around?” He said “oh probably”, he said “but don’t go down there to Woolloomooloo – it’s quite dangerous.”
So anyway came Saturday I didn’t move around, but Sunday morning – I was quite intrigued with the Sunday papers which we didn’t have in New Zealand. And I thought “oh I’ll walk around and” – oh no, it must have been the Saturday I did that. And anyway, as the Sunday papers come came out I walked round to Woolloomooloo on Saturday, and they came on Sunday papers: “Jockey Kicked to Death in Woolloomooloo”. [Laughter] But anyway I didn’t see anything about that. Sydney was quite a good thing, I was there, as I say, was there for say three months – I was supposed to be there three months but … job became available and they asked me to put in for it and I did, and I was there … finished up being in Sydney for about five years. And the job I had there was – basically it was looking after the finances, and making payments to various things from New Zealand to Australia. Treasury used to send over a pile of vouchers and I had to write out cheques and pay them.
This is for the High Commission?
Yeah. But because I was there for sort of so long I sort of got to know all the bits and pieces. I had all the bits and pieces of the Consular Office on me – I used to be the one who looked after the visa applications. They would make application in Sydney, but I would send them to Canberra. The same thing with passports, the applications. But I had to see that they were right, you know – so I became quite familiar with Consular things and all that.
One of the things was the indigent New Zealanders … the ones who were sort of caught out without any money and needed some … Now those sort of cases were – we had quite a few of them one way or another – and all of them were sort of interesting. The idea was that Government would sort of … they would advance them a bit of money and it would be repaid when they got back to New Zealand. The main thing was to get them off the breadline, you know.
While you were in Australia were you married at that stage?
I was the last of the bull virgins. [Laughter]
No, no. I wasn’t married, I was single all this time. But I never had a shortage of woman [women] though.
I know, I can hear that running through your story. [Chuckle]
So after Sydney did you go anywhere than Australia with the Commission?
Well, I had friends there, and there seemed to be always a stream of New Zealand girls, at least – yeah, New Zealand girls coming over who had a letter from somebody to introduce them to me.
You’d look after them.
They looked after me and I looked after them. [Chuckle] Anyway, there were lots of little stories in Sydney but – is it getting boring?
No, no no.
Sydney was as a great place in many ways. One of the things that I recall was about the Australian thing, was a trip I did with a group of fellas, there was about four of us. We chartered a yacht and we went way up north to Cairns I think, from Sydney. Glorious trip. And there was plenty of room – ‘course we didn’t have to do much on the boat. We had to do a certain amount, but there was a captain and I think there were two or three people you know knew what they … sailors and whatnot. So we chartered the boat and they looked after the boat and we looked after ourselves.
So many things happened in Australia. Anyway, I was finished up in Australia – I was due to come back to New Zealand. And I came back by ship and as I was getting off the boat the Head of Overseas Trade in Wellington said to me “how would you like to go to Japan?” And I said “oh, I haven’t – not back in New Zealand yet”. He said “oh, there’s plenty of time, you’ve got about three months’ leave to take and there’d be about … something like three months, so it’d be about about six months’ time.” So I thought ‘well fair enough’. So anyway I duly did my three months’ holiday and I did three months in the Overseas Trade Division in Wellington, and then I take off for Japan.
This time I went off by ship, but I had to fly to Australia. And I left from Wellington this time, not by Auckland, and via … I don’t know, Electra or some way. It was quite comfortable trip to Sydney and I spent about three days in Sydney waiting for the ship, and then got on the ship, he Cheng Cha. And one of my … well I won’t say happy memories, but one of my clearest memories was – the boat was at berthed in Woolloomooloo – when I came to depart there were about six girls all weeping there [chuckle] … all weeping their hearts out. And I thought ‘oh God’, you know, so I was glad to get away. [Laughter]
But the trip to Japan was quite a thing too. Never to miss an opportunity, when I got on the ship I sort of look around, and see the passengers, but there wasn’t anything out of place. But there was a little girl who seemed to take a cotton to me – you know, she’d be about six or so. And she was chatting away and whatnot, and then out of the blue comes a woman and it turns out to be her aunt. And I thought ‘well here’s a [?go?]’, so … but I sort of think ‘well okay’ – it would be nice to have company all the way to Japan and whatnot. Anyway I found that we get to Brisbane and the boat, the Cheng Cha, was a freighter that carried passengers, you know. I think there were about twenty passengers in the first class and then they had some … what we called steerage class Anyway this girl got off at Brisbane, [chuckle] but it wasn’t all lost because we had about three days in Brisbane – they were loading wool and whatnot, and in the meantime this girl sort of took me home and she was quite … all good friends.
And anyway, we get back onto the ship and I look around the ship. We finished up there was four of us who sat at the same table. And there was a fella from Bata Shoes; there was a fella from Hong Kong Electric; Edna and myself. And Edna was … we got along quite well. I was supposed to share a cabin with somebody but at the last minute apparently they cancelled, so I had the cabin to myself – except for Edna. [Laughter]
And so you eventually got to Japan. [Laughter] Actually you know, you’ve probably got another story to tell [laughter] that’s quite different. [Laughter] You know, these are things that fill in the gaps … that give you the smiles.
So … I mean how much of this – whose going to hear these things? Anyway, I don’t care.
We get up to … well I think the first port of call for us was a place in Northern Borneo. But all it was, was a … well, what we could see when we got off was that we were at the end of a long pier, must have been about four hundred yard pier, and at the end of it we were stuck. And along this pier was pipeline, oil thing. And what had happened was this ship Cheng Cha – it took on oil there, sufficient to go to Japan, back to I think ultimately Melbourne, and back to this place, you know.
Anyway we decided to … this fella from Bata and Edna and I decided that we would go ashore. And people said “now, you know – be careful. Don’t take any money because the Indonesian customs will just take it off you. If you wanted to do any trading take some cigarettes”, which we did. We gave the Customs a packet of cigarettes and he was very happy and whatnot, and we go on our way. And we go to the village, and the village isn’t a very big one but it’s built on the edge of a canal. And in this canal there’s not all that much water but there’s a whole lot of rubbish and people were sort of bathing in it and drinking it, and ooh … anyway, it was a sort of horrible thing. But it was our first touch of the tropics. I think the most memorable thing about the village was that … went past a shop, not a very big shop, but it had a glass window pane in it, and it displayed its wares. And it was a dentist’s place, and he had individual teeth all around the place. But in pride of place on a velvet stand was a set of false teeth … even traces of food still on the [chuckle] false teeth. I can still see those false teeth there with their bits of food on them. Anyway it made us a little happy. But we had our bananas, and we were quite surprised to find that the Customs Officers all wore revolvers. Anyway we got back without any problems. And we go on to … the next place was Manila.
Now Manila at this stage still had a lot of problems. Manila, as you know is on a bay – Manila Bay – and there’s a very narrow entrance, with Karigador at the head. We didn’t go to Karigador but we went to other places in Manila. This fella from Bata, he had some contacts in Manila, and they sort of looked after us to a degree for the people there.
But when we went into Manila Bay it still had a lot of sunken ships. The tops were … they were sitting on the ocean bed but the tops were still above water, and it was a funny sight to see all these ships – just the top guns sticking out of the water and whatnot.
We got off the boat and I remember we were taken to a major hotel for a meal, and we saw these Filipino girls … beautiful girls, with all their frilly whatnot. Gee whiskers, you know – the hormones turned over no trouble. We used the butar-butars – they didn’t call them butar-butars, that was in Japan. Jeepneys I think they called them – these three wheeler … motorbike in front and two seats at the back.
And we went to the place where the Japanese shot so many of the internees. But we go to Hong Kong and we had about four or five days in Hong Kong, one way and another. And one of the things about Hong Kong was that when we went alongside the wharf the tide was in, and the ship was well high. And to overcome this they had … for people to come on board, they had a box or some – no a ladder onto a box, and then another ladder. But I remember leaning over the rail and here was this beautiful woman coming down the wharf, beautiful woman, Chinese, she was quite well dressed and whatnot. She gets on the ladder and she lifted her … and the cheongsam came apart. And here she’s got … [chuckle] big black garters [chuckle] – tatty garters on, and showing quite a bit of leg. I can still see that leg coming up the ladder.
We go on to Japan. Most of the people got off at Hong Kong and the result was that from Hong Kong to Japan I was at a table with the doctor and the first engineer. And we got talking one day about gold. And of course around about that time China was having problems – 1952 it was – it was having its problems. And if you were able to do it you could fly around from Shanghai to Peking to Manila to Bangkok, Singapore, and every time you touched down you could make money – the same sort of money – you know, just change it and every time improve. And also there was gold – it was quite a marketable thing at that stage and there was a certain amount of gold smuggling going on. And these Officers on the ship said, you know, they were talking about the gold and they said “oh no, we’d never be in it.” The trouble with it is that you … it’s easy enough to get in it but it’s damned hard to get out of, and most times the only way you get out of it is in a box.
Anyway we get to Kobe, and Kobe has been pretty knocked around by the Americans, and the wharf grass growing up between the rail tracks and whatnot. And we arrived early in the morning, and a fellow from the Embassy … well, the Legation it was then … in Tokyo had come across to pick me up. And of course it’s quite a long way from Tokyo to Kobe. Well anyway, this fellow picked me up and we got through Customs without any trouble. He said “we’ve got a booking on a train that leaves for Tokyo tonight, but I’ll try and get one that’ll leave about eleven o’clock” and it’ll be a daylight trip you see.
So we duly get on the train. To get on the train we went by butar butar, and a butar butar was this motorbike with two seats on the back. And for a heating arrangement they had a hibachi. It was a sort of porcelain thing with sand in it … porcelain bowl sort of thing with sand in it and a fire on the sand. And it was pretty cold, and I thought ‘God, what a Heath Robinson’.
Anyway, we got on the train and this fella that was with me, Colin Bibby. He was sitting down there in the carriage and I was sitting here, see, and I had alongside me a couple of fellas from – well they were … I learned afterwards … students. They were young fellas, you know, about twenty or so.
And anyway I didn’t have much Japanese at that stage – very little, but this fella beside me made signs that he would go down there and Colin could come and sit here, which to me was something and one of the things that I remember. ‘Course you’ve got to remember that I had been five years in Australia and the attitude of the Australians to the Japanese was quite different from the New Zealanders. New Zealand never really fought against the Japanese – a little bit of skirmishing in New Caledonia and some of those islands. But the Australians had it in a big way, because not only were they bombed in Darwin, but they fought in New Guinea and the Kokoda Trail, and also Sydney, it had …
That’s right – the submarines.
Yeah. So you know the Australians’ attitude to the Japanese were quite different. My attitude to the Japanese was tainted by this Australian experience, but when I went one of the first things that I struck in Japan was this offer – it made quite an impression.
Anyway, we get on our way and you know, we go through various towns and whatnot and the place … stalls showing – although it was 1952 it was still showing … there was a lot of ravages of wartime.
Get to Tokyo, and I’m booked into the Marunouchi Hotel. Now the Marunouchi Hotel during the Occupation was the British Officers’ Hotel. That’s where they stayed. And it’s right in town, right in the Marunouchi area. You know, it was quite comfortable, I had quite a good room, which had a bit of a balcony and pots of plants and whatnot. And although it was in the winter – end of 1952 – it was bloody cold. And [chuckle] this room must have been near the chimney of the restaurant because it was always nice and warm and I was very happy about that. I stayed there for quite a long time.
One of the things that happened there was a friend who was stopping at the hotel, Clive Gillanders – I don’t know if he’s still alive, but he came from Auckland. But he was there representing McKechnie Brothers. Now McKechnie Brothers were scrap merchants and they needed somebody up there to look after … keep an eye on their stuff up there. I think they did some other trading as well, but Clive – that was his job and he stayed at the Marunouchi Hotel. Well Clive and I every night after dinner – we used to usually joined each other for dinner at the hotel – we’d go into the bar – it was called the Marble Bar, and the fella behind the bar was George, don’t know what his name was but … George – Japanese fella. But most times we were on our own, just the two of us at the same bar. And anyway, this particular night we were there and we – there was a woman on her own in the bar, and we said “would you join us?” And she did, and she said she was from New Zealand. I said “oh yeah, what part of New Zealand?” She came from Wairoa I think it was – Wairoa or Gisborne. And apparently it was Kerridge – you know Kerridge the film people? His wife, but they were divorced or separated or something or other. She was travelling back from England where she’d been to her daughter’s wedding or something like that and she came back via Japan. So it was quite an interesting thing that we should … here of all places you know [speaking together] …
Someone from home town nearly.
… from more or less next door.
So how long did you stay in Japan then?
Well, I was there for five years then, and I had various titles. I was Commercial Attaché, I was Commercial Counsellor, I was Financial … Financial Officer or something, anyway the job there was looking after the accounts and the trade. Now the trade wasn’t all that much those days, for the reason that we really didn’t have too much to sell on the open market. The contracts we had with the UK for our meat and our dairy produce were still there under the Bulk Agreements … Bulk Supplies Agreement. So we didn’t supply anything like that. The wool the Japanese bought, they bought … they sent their buyers to Dunedin or wherever they bought it, so we didn’t have to promote that.
But one of the things that I’d talked about before I left New Zealand was with the Dairy Board, and they had great ideas of being able to supply the Japanese school lunch programmes, which at that time were being supplied by the Americans under Public Law 40. Now Public Law 40 enabled the American Government to subsidise the exports and give some aid to Japan. It was considered at that stage, before I left New Zealand – you know we talked about this – that New Zealand would be able to supply it and you know we should take every step to do so. And I went up there fully expecting that before long we’d be able to supply it, but of course the Americans turned – they didn’t cancel out the Public Law 40 from the milk products and they – I think they still supply milk products to school lunch programmes.
So did you learn to speak Japanese at all during that period?
I never claimed to be able to speak Japanese, but I’d probably be better than most of the tutors that came, when I came back. But today I know a few words but I – you know, I wouldn’t be able to carry on a conversation in Japanese. ‘Cause I haven’t spoken Japanese since … I had three times in Japan. The last time I was there was in 1970 for the Expo and I haven’t spoken Japanese – you know, I haven’t had any contact with Japanese since then. No I haven’t been back to Japan.
Now during your period in Featherston Camp, you mentioned Yamamoto that you would probably bring him up again.
Oh yes. I was had the job in Tokyo of being – well I looked after the trade side, but it was a – there were only three of us there from New Zealand at that stage. There was Bill Challis who was Charge d’Affaires – he wasn’t Ambassador, he was Charge d’Affaires. We had a Diplomatic Secretary, Rod Miller, who was subsequently Ambassador there for about seven years, and there was me. We had a girl from London, Jill – Jill had a little story. She was engaged to a fella in a bank, English fella, and she travelled out to Japan to more or less get married. And when she got there she found he was living with a local Japanese, so she scrubbed it. But the thing was she was sort of stranded in Japan, no money and whatnot. And Bill Challis took her on as a secretary and she was quite good.
I had this business of doing odd jobs and whatnot in the office, and one of them was – there was a politician arrived, Duncan Rea. He was the Member for Auckland somewhere, but he had been Principal of the Ardmore College. And he became a politician and he travelled to Japan, and he was a guest of the Japanese Government, but it was decided that they would send somebody from our office with him. We’d had somebody from the Japanese Foreign Office, Tomisho, he would be travelling with us, so there was a party of three of us. And we went down to Kobe and to Osaka and Kyoto, and they looked after us one way and another. But when we got to Kyoto we were taken to a function of some description, dinner or lunch or something, and amongst the fellows that were there was a fellow who was then a Member of the Prefecture. Now the Prefecture in Japan is like a province in New Zealand. But in these Prefectures these Councillors or whatever they call themselves – they had a lot of power. Amongst them that greeted me was this fellow Yamamoto – here he was as a Councillor in the Prefecture. So it was quite interesting to have a chat with him.
The newspapers, the Yomiuri newspapers – if I remember it was the Yomiuri – they have an English version and they have a Japanese version. The English version had something about Duncan Rea, but the Japanese version was all around Yamamoto meeting me as a Prisoner of War.
Early in Japan I went down to Osaka to a Wool Importers and Wool Spinners golf competition that they had there. They always invited the New Zealand … and the Australian fellow as well … Ambassador along. For some reason or other Bill Challis couldn’t go and I was to go down, so I did. And I was stopping at the hotel there, and I was there for about – oh, best part of a week one way or another. And in the next suite to me was Marilyn Munroe and the baseball player. But she was married to him, the baseball player – leading baseball player. And I got to know them quite … you know, being next door, I got to know them. She was there – I’m not sure whether she was making a film or whether she was doing promotional work, but she was a lovely girl, she was very nice. Anybody who says anything against her I would say “nonsense.”
But I mean this is the story of so many people isn’t it, the people that criticise them don’t even know them.
While you were in Japan, Japan was still being rebuilt – parts of it.
Did it happen very quick, the rebuild? Or when you left there was still a lot to do?
Well, I suppose that I was lucky in that I was there three times. The first time they were on the bones of their tail, they had no money. To give you an indication … this happened in Germany as well as happened in Japan. Outside the Tokyo Station (Tokyo Eki) there’s a big plaza and at five o’clock at night that used to be chockablock with woman [women], all good office girls who were available for, if I remember, something like 80 yen plus a night in a hotel, plus a meal – probably dinner and breakfast. 80 yen – to give you an idea how much that was worth – there were 1080 yen to the pound. So you know it was pretty cheap money. But of course, the value of it was in the accommodation and meal. But they had nothing else. They were working but … you know, getting a pittance. Hardly a liveable wage. And they offered themselves. And – you know most of the New Zealand fellas that went up there, they participated. Whether they were single or whether they were married, and most of the married men up there … who had their wives there … had a little fairy tucked away somewhere.
So that was the first time you went up.
The second time they were feeling their oats. The first time they bowed and scraped to you, but the second time I went there they were sort of shovelling you – you know, elbowing you a little aside. The third time they were big shots. Foreigners were butchered.
So did you retire from Japan or did you go somewhere else?
I came back to New Zealand after five years – came back to Nordy’s black budget. And I was put on Import Licensing in the Textiles Division. Sat on my chuff for about six months waiting for actual decisions by the politicians. But I subsequently I went back to Japan.
I came back to New Zealand in 1957 from Japan. I was here until 1961, but in that period I had several things happen. One was a fellow who was in Bombay – our fella, our Trade Commissioner in Bombay. He got cancer and he was pretty crook and I was asked if I’d go to relieve. But before I actually went, his cancer went into remission, so I didn’t go. He subsequently died but not for a year or so later.
Then the next thing was I was asked to go to Trinidad – open an office in Trinidad. I was told to pack my bag and whatnot. But Bill Sutch was the Head of Department at that stage and for some reason or other he decided that his brother should go. And I didn’t go, and I’m just as pleased about that because I’m not sure that Trinidad was such a marvellous place anyway.
Then, our office had shifted to Delhi in India, and I was asked to go there again, and I said no because of a conflict. There was a fella there I had worked with before and I didn’t want to work with him any more. And I said “well … you know, in a place like Delhi, you’re thrown together and it would be easy to live a very poor life.” And the fellows that were there … the fella who did go – or two of them actually … in the first instance he chucked it in after not very long, about six months or so. Another fella went and he found it was a pain in the arse too. But well I didn’t go to New Delhi. I went back to Japan, and I was – two years or so?
I originally only went up there for a short period because the fella who had been appointed as the trade man there – it was recognised as being a difficult post and I was left there for a longer period. Normally when there’s a changeover it’s a week, but because of the difficulty of the post I was asked to stay on. And I stayed on there. But suddenly I got sick and tired of it. The Head of the Overseas Trade was there in Japan at one stage and I said “well look, I’ve had enough of this, what are my ultimate expectations?” Didn’t want to go to a post my own.
Anyway, the next thing I’m down in Singapore, and I was there for five years. Singapore was very interesting. I had a house which was a very nice house, I had servants, which were very good servants, I had about three quarters of an acre of ground – gardens and whatnot – which today is all built on, you know, it’s been sold and all built on. I had a car and it was – you know it was quite good. I had Indonesia as part of my territory, together with Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. So I did one trip to Vietnam and found that the French that I’d learnt from Mousie Matheson [chuckle] came back to me. [Laughter]
So you’ve had a real cross section of countries haven’t you?
Well, I’d like to just put on record – you can check on this if you like to go through archives, but this is my story.
When I was in Japan I had a period there between 1954 I think it was – ’54/’55 to ’56 – anyway, it was quite a lengthy period. But in that period several things happened. The most spectacular one was the initiation of the log trade. Now the log trade as you know in New Zealand is a major thing now. But you know it could have easily been lost completely.
The story on this is, prior to 1952 there was a fellow, Douglas Kenrick – he’d been in the Navy and he took his discharge in Hong Kong and at one stage he was the Hong Kong representative in Japan. But he set up his own business and he was a New Zealand company. We didn’t have many New Zealand companies operating in Japan, and he did trading – it was mostly from Japan to New Zealand. He had binoculars and things like that. But he tried various things from New Zealand but as I told you earlier, we didn’t have a lot to sell. But one of the things he did was to try and take some timber … logs … and he imported some logs but he didn’t get anywhere. But that was before I arrived up there.
About 1954, ’55 there was a situation in the World where several things happened – one I was approached by Prince Tokomaru? Anyway he was the CEO of the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce. He was working on behalf of a company called Toyo Kaisha – Toyo Paper & Pulp Company. They produced paper and they produced pulp. They had drawn their supplies from Russia, Sakhalin Island and Eastern Russia, and also from America, a place called Sitka. Now Sitka is north of Vancouver. And the Sitka supplies, or the supplies that came through Sitka, which was the major thing, was drawn from the national forests, and the American Government decided that they would curtail the cutting of timber in their National Parks, which meant that Japan didn’t get any – there was a shortage there.
On the other side of the Pacific, the Russians and the Japanese Governments were at loggerheads. They only had signed an armistice; they hadn’t signed a peace treaty. And from time to time things got a bit hectic. And the Russians were sort of putting the pressure on – no surprises there, but there was a shortage of timber.
In this situation I came across a report – Japanese report – on the Japanese pulp future, of the Japanese supplies of pulp for their future business. They had adequate supplies of pulp for newsprint and unless they got big orders for overseas sales they wouldn’t require any newsprint pulp. But they were going to be … they could foresee being a shortage of rayon pulp. Now I got this thing and I sent it down to Wellington with a long report saying “I suggest that you persuade someone in New Zealand to send some logs to Japan”. And of course on top of this there was this Prince from the Chamber of Commerce; he’s giving me the name of this company that would you know, be interested. So all this part of it, I sent it down to New Zealand and I didn’t get any reply for a long time. And after several approaches from my part as to what the story was, I got the answer that “the suppliers in New Zealand of pulp are interested in selling newsprint pulp – they’re not interested in selling logs.” That’s what they told me, so it was a dead duck. I was bloody annoyed because I thought ‘well this is you know, a great opportunity’.
Now – amongst the people who came to Japan was a fellow by the name of Owen Ranger. Now Owen Ranger … his company was Snow Ranger, an importer of textiles, and they used to import a lot of textiles from Japan. Owen Ranger was a regular visitor to our office and I got to know him quite well and every time he came to Japan he used to come in to the office. And he arrived just when I was sort of seething about this, and I – you know I sort of gave him a bellyful of it. And I said “I can’t understand why – you know, they don’t do something about it … give it a try anyway.” And I explained to him that the Japanese had an import licensing system, but their system was such that if you made an export of such and such goods you got a licence – or you could apply for a licence – for reduced [?] of something high value, you know, that’d give you a higher value return, like watches or jewellery or something like that – not the same thing that you export.
In New Zealand we had an export incentive scheme whereby if you exported something and it had an import component, you got a licence for that import component, but nothing else. Anyway I explained all this to Owen Ranger, and he went back to New Zealand and … he was quite interested, and he talked to his own company, Ataka Kaisha. And Ataka Kaisha were interested in importing the logs. So the next thing was that Owen Ranger talks to people in Wellington, and he gets an arrangement whereby he gets extra licence for textiles on the basis of export. And that’s how it started. When people say – you know, the people in the trade, like New Zealand Forest Products and the like – say you know, “we were the start of the log trade” – it’s all nonsense. The one who … that really started it was Owen Ranger, and I feel that I contributed to … just advising him about all these things. You know it’s gone on – in the first stages it was so difficult when they didn’t have the ships too, you know. For instance, to load a ship with logs they took the hatches off and took it in like this, you know – zig-zagged it in.
When you finished in Singapore, were you posted anywhere else or?
No, I came back to New Zealand. I said well, I wanted to be back in New Zealand for a while. I was in Wellington for three years and then they posted me to Auckland and I became Export Liaison Officer working out of the Auckland Office. I had quite a good job there – I enjoyed that job. It was … Jack Marshall I think was the Prime Minister at that stage, and he was all for it mind you … and I used to spend about three weeks on the road and a week in Auckland. And I had from north of Gisborne and north of New Plymouth, which comprises about a third or maybe half of New Zealand’s industry. And it was very interesting going round and talking to the fellas, and it was surprising to see how many fellas had little projects of their own. You know I used to go to engineers, and I don’t know if I really established … you know, really persuaded anybody to go in but I enjoyed it and I think – talking to the fellas – they enjoyed it too because they felt that the Government or at least – you know, the Department was taking an interest in their activities.
Well it helps create a climate. So then you …
I had the three years in Auckland then I was posted to Fiji. And then I had three years in Fiji. And at that stage I decided that – oh, towards the end of my time there they wanted me to go to Indonesia. Well I knew what Indonesia was like and I didn’t want to go. And anyway, I had money in various places, in New York, in London and in Melbourne and Sydney, and of course in Wellington I had some. And my idea was that I would sort of travel the World, pay no taxes anywhere, [laughter] use all this money and you now sort of enjoy it. But, I went to … I started off and I went to Hawaii, and I was in Hawaii for … I spent about a month in Hawaii. And at that point both my parents got sick together and I decided that I would come home and you know, sort of keep an eye on them and whatnot. And that’s what I did, and of course the old man died in 1979, and then my mother was on her own and I stayed, and she died in 1991. So … but you know, things sort of directed me to these things. So I didn’t really have to make a decision.
So Fiji was your last posting?
Yeah, that’s right. There was a number of interesting ones – there’s little aspects of trade which may be of interest. I have had a measure of success – I think every Trade Commissioner has had a measure of success somewhere along the piste. I think I’ve had my share – I’ve had good things, and I’ve had things that haven’t worked. A couple of things I think still would work if somebody got behind them, and if I had the money and had the energy to do it I think I’d try. I’ll tell you about that later. You’d better go home.
What about the negotiation that’s going up in China at the moment?
Oh I don’t know – I’ve been away from it for too long. [Speaking together]
Since 1976 when I retired, that’s – what – thirty years ago.
You’ve been retired for 30 years?
Yep. I’m ninety-six. You’d better come back another day.
And get the story that you didn’t tell?
About the kiwifruit? About the deer antlers? The ewe mutton trade? These are things I’ve been involved in.
Well thanks Charles – that was a really great interview, and it’s fascinating the amount of change that someone fits in their life.
Today is the 20th November 2014. Charles would you like to just elaborate on some of the highlights and some of the areas of trade which I guess was your role?
Yes, well I can’t remember exactly how much I spoke about various things, but among the things that happened while I was in Japan was the development of the kiwifruit trade which became a major market for New Zealand kiwifruit. I introduced the rep from Turners & Growers to Toyo Roshi Kaisha, a company which had at that particular time almost a monopoly of the import and export of produce. [Wind chimes in background] It was more than just an import/export house – it was also a kind of bank, or co-operative, and the growers of rice and various things in Japan relied on this company to market it. It was a bit like our Dairy Board, and I suppose a bit like Fonterra is today, except that they had banking facilities as well. They didn’t compete with the regular banks, it was only in relation to their co-operative members. But I had an association with Toyo Roshi and it developed to quite an extent.
Turners & Growers rep came to us in the initial stages, and I thought the kiwifruit thing … I thought it would be very attractive to the Japanese particularly when they saw the beautiful green pattern of a cut kiwifruit, and my thoughts ran along the lines that it should be promoted through the pastry-cook business … and through the food … as an item for decoration of their scones or cakes or whatever. But somebody dreamed up the idea that the kiwifruit had aphrodisiac qualities, [chuckle] and of course that was how it was promoted. Of course every man up there wanted get – and woman too – wanted to get hold of these kiwifruit to help them along. But I’m sure it was the aphrodisiac qualities which really started the kiwifruit thing off. I think it’s still continued.
Another one of the items that started when I was there was the ewe mutton trade, it would be in the 1950s. The Japanese fishing boats were all – I mentioned earlier on the difficulties that Japan had about timber … availability of timber. There was a similar thing about fish. The Japanese fishing boats used to go up north in the Bering Sea and whatnot, but the Russians sort of put a clamp on it and the fishing boats all round the country were tied up against the wharves and not doing any business. But there was a company called Scherer Brothers. It was a Canadian registered company which had set up in Japan to supply goods for the American troops to the PXs and that sort of thing. But one of their members thought that they could perhaps get some meat from New Zealand, and they came and asked about who could supply it and that sort of thing. The company that we referred them to was AFFCO in Auckland.
The Scherer Brothers chartered two fishing boats, not very big ones, but the fishing boats had freezing capacities on it. And they sent them down to New Zealand and loaded them up and took it back, and they had – I should mention that the luncheon sausage was quite an item – it sold quite well in Japan and it had done for quite a long time. But it was made from pork and the pork industry ran in cycles – there would be a glut and then there would be a famine. And it was over one of these periods of famine that Scherer Brothers took this opportunity of trying to interest Japanese ham makers. And a company called Itoham was on the receiving end of this and they made a lot of this luncheon sausage. The meat that they were offered and used was ewe mutton. Now previously this had gone down the chute for fertiliser. There was nothing wrong with the meat, but … although I should divert here a little.
When I first went to Japan there was a fellow up there … Douglas Kenrick & Associates, who was an importer – New Zealander, and he employed several Japanese students – he took on Japanese qualified graduated students. He had about four or five New Zealand fellows there as well, and it was quite expensive to maintain such a team. Anyway he did quite a lot of business. He had imported some of this ewe mutton, and I remember when I first went up there this ewe mutton had been in store for quite some time and he hadn’t been able to market it. I remember one of the things that he tried was to offer it to Mongolian restaurants. Now Mongolia – they had sheep and whatnot. They tried to market it as a Mongolian dish, and I must admit I went there, to one of these restaurants where he was doing this promotion, and I quite enjoyed it. But subsequently I had some sent to my residence and ooh, it had gone off, you know – I finished up by tossing it out. But that sort of died a natural death with Douglas Kenrick.
But when Scherer Brothers came in and they got this ewe mutton from AFFCO, it became quite a good thing. In those days the Meat Board granted licences for exporting of meat and it was so successful for Scherer Brothers that they continued with it. But people got to know about it in New Zealand and the next thing everybody was applying for a meat export licence. And stupidly in our estimation, the Meat Board granted licences ad lib, you know – anybody could go.
The result was that there was a boat, the Timaru Star. We recommended something like a hundred tons a month. The Timaru Star arrived and there was over a thousand tons on it. And it arrived … it was the heat of summer and the facilities for storing meat were pretty limited. There was quite a lot of availability for fish storage and – if I remember there was … some of the fish storage space was used for … But to give you an example of how furtive it was, the ships arrived up there in the heat of summer where the temperatures were around, you know – chasing 30s [degrees celsius]. They unloaded it from the ships into open trucks and they carried it, or there might have been a canopy, but there was no refrigeration, it just wasn’t there and they carted it from the ship to the warehouse … to the storage space. And ‘course the result was that … so much coming on to the market and whatnot … it was just not able to be absorbed. And there were fires and there was all sorts of funny business went on to get insurance on it. But ultimately it settled down and it has continued as far as I know to this day. It goes into this luncheon sausage and you’d never recognise the stuff. Itoham were able to add various herbs and whatnot to it, and it became a very palatable item.
Well – you didn’t know about Scherer Brothers starting it. It wasn’t AFFCO that started it. They supplied it but they weren’t the ones who dreamed it up.
One of the other things which … you mentioned that onions were bad news.
Well we had two major onion growers in Hawke’s Bay …
Emerson was one.
John Emerson and Ed Lay. Ed Lay was the first one – he was the original onion grower – E Lay & Sons.
It was Emerson I think – well it might have been Lay who started it, but I was asked to do a survey on the availability of – the possibilities of New Zealand onions. And I did quite a long report back to New Zealand on the business of onions. I haven’t covered this before have I?
In Japan at that stage the demand for onions was largely met by onions growing locally in Hokkaido. The onions that they grew in Hokkaido were white onions, and I found that except for about six weeks of the year, the availability of onions from Hokkaido was sufficient to meet all the demands. That six weeks or so … couple of months maybe … the price of onions went up because of the limited availability from Hokkaido. And they used to import onions from California at a fairly high price, and I think they had a few from somewhere in Europe, I’m not quite sure where. But I sent this report back and said “well, if you could get your onions here by such and such a date within the six month’s period, you’ll sell them”, well hopefully. Anyway they tried it and they got them here and it became quite a big item. Now I don’t know if they still sell onions to Japan, but they certainly sold them to Japan most of the time that I was there.
They do sell them now. Bostock probably grows most of the onions in Hawke’s Bay. They do export onions – white onions – to Japan still.
White onions as well? Well that’s a new development. Emerson was the one that I remember. He came up and he was doing quite nicely out of it. When I came back to New Zealand the trade had been developed quite well. ‘Course I – it’s a long time since I was in Japan – lot of things have changed.
The old story, Charles – that once the onion price went up lots of other people grew onions.
Oh yeah. And that’s been typical of New Zealand, and this was one of the problems that we had. And not only me but every trade commissioner had the same problem. Somebody got into exporting something, and if it was successful everybody jumped on the band wagon.
And the price’d come down and it’d crash.
The worst example of that was sheepskin rugs. After the war they granted a lot of export licences particularly to ex-servicemen. These ex-servicemen used to sell these … it was good money, so they thought, but there was a limited number of processors of sheepskin rugs in New Zealand. Ashley Brothers in Christchurch was one and one or two others, but they were selling to these independent fellows, ex-servicemen, who had … they were trying to sell them. And I think just every trade commissioner had enquiries or complaints about quality, non-delivery of these sheepskin rugs. It’s a nice item – There’s one there. I won that at Housie. [Chuckles]
And so just following on – what other things were you involved in?
Oh, one of the things that didn’t come off was I did a long report at one stage about coal. And I was helped no end in this by the Australian Assistant Trade Commissioner – I won’t say his name. He made available to me all the stuff that Australia had and Australia was selling at that stage a lot of coal to Japan – I think it still does. I did this long report back to New Zealand – I don’t know exactly what happened but nothing came of it. Years later of course there was some availability here and export of coal to Japan. I’m not sure whether it still goes on.
When I was in Singapore I was there when we first started the chilled meat trade. Prior to 1962 meat was going into Singapore and it was distributed from there throughout Malaysia and whatnot, but it was always in a frozen form. AFFCO again – I had quite a lot of dealings with AFFCO one way or another over the years. They made available some chilled meat – they tried chilled meat, and it worked. The only thing was that [chuckle] when the first shipment arrived it was inspected by the local veterinary fellow in Customs and it happened to be a young fellow who’d just qualified. And he complained, he turned it down, and this was a major thing. And he refused to give it the okay for it to enter because it had some naturally forming … some sort of … it was like little sinews – not harmful, but he saw it and he wasn’t very happy with it and he put a ban on it. ‘Course the local importer, a fellow by the name of Chaudri, an Indian fellow, he was all upset about it. He came to my … and I got the report that had been dispatched on it, and I sent it down to New Zealand and said “well this is the reason why he has turned it down – not let it come in”. And they turned round and said “well this is just a natural form of whatnot, and there was no harmful effects on people”, and they sent me enough back to convince this fellow and it was ultimately let through.
Another one of the things that … coming back to Japan … I had a ring one day from Korea, from a Mr Boong. And Mr Boong – his English wasn’t too good, but he told me that he was interested in deer antlers. Would I come to Korea – over to Seoul and talk to him about deer antlers. You know, I couldn’t drop everything and rush over to Korea on the say so of somebody I didn’t know. Anyway I said “well I wouldn’t be going to Korea, but if he’d like to write to these people in New Zealand they could give him all the information”. And of course that developed, and that became quite a regular thing. And our deer antlers went to Korea and it spread from there to China, and it’s throughout South East Asia and Japan.
It was interesting, one of the first things I had when I took over the job as Trade Commissioner in Singapore was there was a consignment of deer antlers had arrived and it had gone bad. And the fellows who were importing it said would I adjudicate as to who was to blame for all this. And I said “no fear, I’m not going to adjudicate. I’ll tell you where you can go to get satisfaction”. Anyway they negotiated it and had gone off and oh, it was … stank to high heaven.
Well that actually gives us a good cover of your role. Now what about the personalities and some of the people you met and socialised with and played sports with?
Well when I first went to Japan we had three people in the office from New Zealand. There was Bill Challis who was Chargé d’Affaires; there was Rod Miller – I think he was Third Secretary but he used to do the political stuff. He was a language student. Rod’s still alive I think. At this stage he lives in Waikanae but he subsequently was ambassador for about ten years in Japan.
Personalities – well, we saw a lot of people. New Zealand Prime Ministers – down – used to come to various places and you had dealings with them. When I was in Sydney we had Peter Fraser who used to come across, and I must say that Peter Fraser was very well thought of as far as the office was concerned, because he remembered the names of the people and he used to go round and say hello and whatnot … shake hands. ‘Course since I’d been in Sydney for such a long time I had seen quite a bit of him coming backwards and forwards. He knew who I was and he used to say “how are you doing Charles?” and that sort of thing.
Did I talk about the Sydney indigent New Zealanders from the past? Well, that was one of the jobs I had when I was in Sydney. It was a Consular function more than anything else. If people ran out of money or were in bad shape in Sydney, they used to come to the office and say “I have no money”, and we used to advance in suitable cases, and I used to have to do it. I had an account – CA Paul Trust Account No 1, and I had CA Paul Trust Account No 2. I had inherited these from my predecessor, and somebody in Treasury … auditor … somewhere back in New Zealand threw their hands up in horror. After I had been there for about three years, they said “fancy having this in the name of the …”, and they took it off me – well, at least they changed the name from C A Paul Trust Account No … we had it at the Bank of New Zealand of course. I forget now what they finished up calling it but my name was taken off.
You made comment that you played golf with …
Lee Kwan Yew – yeah, I played golf with him and I played tennis with the President – Akihito – didn’t think much of it at that stage. When I was in Japan we had various visits from … I remember Sid Holland arrived in Japan. Have I mentioned this before?
He was put up as a guest of the Japanese Government and he was put in one of the detached palaces, and it was quite a, you know, well set up place. But he still had to get the information about various things, it used to come by cable, by telex or somehow. We used to get some diplomatic couriers coming through, they used to drop off stuff. Well anyway, this is while Sid Holland was there – he had to be kept advised and I remember taking some stuff over to the palace and I took with me my secretary, Reiko Kondo, and oh, she was thrilled that she would be, you know, in the presence of the New Zealand Prime Minister – it was a good talking point amongst her friends or whatever. We got over there and old Sid Holland, he greets us – I think he was in a dressing gown. [Chuckle] But anyway we gave him the stuff and he was quite friendly, we had a cup of coffee or something. But that was the sort of people that we used to see. That was just coincidental.
So what did you do for your relaxing life?
Well, I played golf, and it’s a very expensive thing in Japan. In the early days I didn’t belong to a Club ‘cause it was too expensive. You know, to belong to a Club up there it would cost you a $1,000 or more. I remember I was invited to join the 300 Club, and I think it was about $3,000 US to join the thing. But of course it did have … it was a bit different from the way they play it in New Zealand. This had a marketable value, and I did join a Club in Yokohama. And in the finish when I left I was able to sell that – I think I paid about $1,000 – I was able to sell it for about $3,000, so you know, there was a marketable value attached to these things. That was one of the few things that I made a bit of money out of.
Well I think on that note Charles, that really finishes what has been a very good interview. It’s finished off the things that we missed the other day. So thank you very much.
And I still think there are opportunities for at least one of the things. Not long before I came back to New Zealand I had a friend in Tokyo who was desirous of marketing meat pies. Now he thought that the meat pies would go in Japan. He’d done a survey and he thought that there were enough Europeans in Tokyo who would support it and they thought it could have an attraction for the Japanese.
He was looking for a suitable availability of meat, and of course Japan – it has beef. You’ve heard of Kobe beef where they hand rub it. That’s far too expensive. Japanese beef steaks are a fantastic price, and it was far too much for … But anyway I came back – I had learned that sheep’s tripe as opposed to beef tripe, was going down the chute and I thought that maybe we could use this sheep tripe as a high protein food and mix it with something which had been developed by a fellow in Christchurch … Dunedin … somewhere, from casein – a high meat essence I think they called it. It was made of low grade casein which was relatively cheap at that stage. And what with the casein protein and sheep’s tripe and whatnot, it looked to me as though it was a … I get back to New Zealand here, and I enquire about sheep’s tripe. It was too difficult to process. I believe today you can’t get sheep’s tripe because it all goes to France, but that was one of the things that was a disappointment.
Another one was when I was in Singapore was one that I put forward as a possibility. Throughout South East Asia for many many moons there’s been a product on the market – Brand’s Essence of Chicken which comes from UK, but it’s throughout all South East Asia. Brand’s Essence of Chicken is drunk and it has aphrodisiac qualities. And my thoughts were that if we had the offcuts of deer – venison and some lower grade antlers, and make a brew of it and market it and promote it, you’d have a competition with Brand’s Essence of Chicken, because it could sell as an aphrodisiac qual … I still think that could go, but I haven’t got enough money to do it. It’s something which somebody should take up and try.
Since I’ve retired I’ve travelled extensively. I’ve been back to Singapore several times where I did have some investments. I no longer have them.
Tasmania … a trip there which was quite extensive. Another … I went from Sydney to Adelaide, Alice Springs, Cairns. Another one was to Europe where we went to England, Switzerland, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and back to London. Went to South America and had quite extensive travelling in South America, which included going to the Galapagos Islands which to me was a great disappointment. They have a real problem there in pollution. But … too many tourists I think is part of the problem. I’ve been to North America and Canada – where else? Fiji, Tahiti and of course I’ve travelled extensively in New Zealand since then. But these days I’m getting a bit past it.
Yes, you’ve had the time since you retired to have a good look round, and that’s the reward for the work.
Well I had the money to do it. And of course since about 1978/79 – round about then, might have been a little later – I was a major shareholder in our finance company, and we did quite nicely. It isn’t doing all that good much these days and I turned my shareholding over to the girls.
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper
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