Charles (Chas) Henry Anderton and Isabella (Isa) Anderton Interview
Today is the 27th of September 2016. I’m interviewing Charles [Chas] and Isa Anderton. So we’d like you to now tell me something about the life and times of your family, Chas.
Yes, very good. My grandfather – named Charles also – came from Prescott in England out to the Auckland area with his brother, the brother remaining in Auckland, and grandfather Charles came to Hawke’s Bay and took up work with Archdeacon Williams on the – virtually close to the Te Aute … what was then virtually Te Aute Swamp. He had several children, nine in actual fact. He contracted pleurisy I understand, and he died. He had previously had a fairly important job in managing the workers on Te Aute Station. Anyway with all the children at home of course grandmother was at wits end. And there were the three older boys – they hadn’t really finished school, but they left school and went out to work and sent their wages home to help care for the younger ones – clothe and school them of course.
My father’s name was Arthur and in the early part of his life he was a bullocky … he almost lived with bullocks, and the swamp – this is down, in from Pukehou – was more or less a lake at that stage, and the Archdeacon actually put in what they called the ‘breakwater on the river’ – this is out Tamumu Road – and blocked the river from flowing down and filling up that area. And so gradually, by putting in the big main drain, the ground – mostly peat of course – gradually dried out.
But there were many times when bullocks would just go that extra step too far to pick up a nice, lush piece of grass, and then they would become bogged. And it would be Dad’s job, with the working bullocks of course, to back in and hitch onto the bullocks and drag them out. If they’d been there a wee while – it was common of cattle to charge – and so Dad always had a few Maoris with him to give a hand, because wages were pretty low in those days and they always had plenty of hands. And he mentioned one time when he had four Maoris with him, and about some distance there was a willow tree that had partly fallen down but was still on the slope. And anyway, these Maoris were so afraid this beast was going to charge them would, as soon as the beast made any sort of a lurch after he’d been hitched on, they would bolt for this willow that I’m talking about, and they wouldn’t look back until … they were up there in what might be called safety, and look back and the bullock was still in the bog of course.
Anyway from there, still with the bullocks, he took a job at the Anaroa Mill, and there his job was to – with a wagon and the bullocks – to bring the timber down to what was originally the Pukehou Railway Station – it no longer exists, but there was always a siding there. And he would unload the timber onto the wagon and then go back, and that of course was a day’s work.
From Anaroa he went on to Kereru Mill and there was ‘logging’ as they called it. The bushmen would fall [fell] the trees and prepare the logs, and with the bullocks Dad would hitch on and drag the logs, in and out, round the stumps of course, out to an area that they called the skids, where there was clear going from there to the Mill. So the hauler had a great long wire rope which they’d hitch on to the logs and drag them into the Mill.
At this stage – the early stage, Dad was still single but married at Kereru. And then of course, the great boon was – get on the land. And he left his job eventually at Kereru and came to Drumpeel Corner, Otane when I was three year old. And at that stage Mother was pregnant with the next child and went into the Home, but unfortunately she didn’t ever come out of the Home and the baby was then reared by our Uncle and Aunt who were at Pukeokahu, Taihape.
Isa: Mention Dulcie and Dick.
Chas: They also had another baby much the same age, so Hector and the other boy, whose name was Gordon, were reared more or less as twins.
I was then the youngest of course of the family. There were two older – Dick (or Richard) and then sister Elsie, the only girl in the family. And in later years after several housekeepers of various quality of course, Elsie actually took over the house and looked after us. Until of course she married and eventually I grew up sufficiently to go out to work which I did. And I was always crazy about dogs because I’d always reared pups at home for various managers and head shepherds who couldn’t be bothered rearing pups, and I’d usually have them fairly well trained by the time they’d pick them up at about ten months or a year old.
Anyway, I went out to – as I said – went out to work, and couldn’t get onto the dogs quickly enough, and worked for various ones … went way up to Putorino at one stage and worked for an old single gentleman up there, and then eventually came back to near Hastings. And then I found my wife’s there, and so we were married – just before I went overseas actually. And unknown to us of course, my wife was already pregnant, so the first baby was born when I’d been overseas some months and he was about sixteen months old by the time I got back again.
I spent over two years in the Army here – it was impossible to get away overseas. The Jap scare of course was a real one at that stage, and we were held here to hopefully defend the country.
Anyway eventually I got away only because some of the furlough boys hadn’t returned and we got back in their place and went overseas. The North African campaign at that stage had closed but I was held back in Maadi Camp for some four or five months on administration, and eventually got away to Italy and arrived at the latter part of the Cassino campaign. Maybe I was fortunate that I hadn’t gone earlier because that was a shocking battle actually.
From then on of course we went on through the Sora show, and Rimini – lost the odd tank here and there. But anyway eventually, when … we got up to a place called Cesenatico and they wanted drivers from the armoured units to drive vehicles for this newly formed assault squadron. And it sounded very exciting to me so several of us transferred. And there I was in charge of a Sherman tank with a big bulldozer blade on the front. And the job there was to make crossings, particularly in the Po Valley. The Po Valley of course, in Italy, had been a swamp at one stage and there were many canals with high stop banks. And as Gerry pulled back of course, he always blew the bridges, so it was my job to go ahead of the armour – in fact ahead of all the units – and make a crossing – first of all, push in the stop bank on my side. Then we had fascine carriers, bridge builders, Churchill ARCs and so on, and one or other as required would go forward, drop into the canal. I would then go across on them and push out the stop bank so that the units could get through, and stand by for about five minutes – and they’d want another crossing because there were just so many canals in the Po Valley. Eventually we managed to get right through to – oh, incidentally, at the Po River I was transferred on a sort of motorised pontoon affair. I had to be across there to make crossings.
Anyway we moved on and eventually completed the campaign up in Trieste. And up there of course the Triestinians wouldn’t surrender to the Yugoslavs, who were really there a day ahead of us. They waited until we got through to surrender to the New Zealand Forces. And then of course there was a battle almost, between the Yugoslav forces and ours, and it was nothing to have fully armoured contingents heading off down, and if they sent a patrol down we would very often follow it. We were fully armed, so thank goodness nobody fired a shot otherwise the place would’ve … would’ve just exploded I’m sure. We were sitting up with our tanks on a high spot and we had our tank guns lined up on one or other of Tito’s headquarters. Now do you want me to go any further?
Well at this stage I think we can stop. I’ll just ask you, did you play any sports at all when you were at school and as a young man? Did you play rugby or anything like that?
Yes, moderately. I was never a terribly keen sportsman, but we played cricket and football as it was then of course. Oh yes.
Well the other question is what unit were you in in the Army? Were you in armoured or ..?
Yes, 20th Armoured Regiment, and when the Assault Squadron as they called it – this other unit that I mentioned I transferred to – was formed, that was called the 28th Assault Squadron. Assault was more assaulting obstacles in our way rather than assaulting the enemy.
Okay, well at this stage then I’ll ask Isa if she could tell us about where your people came from.
Isa: Well, my mother’s family came from England in 1840 and they arrived at Petone which was the port in those days for Wellington. And when the earthquake came, about eighteen months after that they moved to Lyttelton. And that’s where my grandmother came from. My father came from Scotland and he arrived in New Zealand in late 1800’s – I’m not too clear on the date. First he went to Australia and then he came on to New Zealand to the South Island and from there he moved up to Hastings where he met my mother. Because prior to that Grannie had married Jim West and the family were living in Hastings.
So what was your family name then?
Well that was … my father’s name was John Edward, so that was my Christian name. John Edward’s my father, yes.
Chas: Singular, no ‘s’.
Isa: No, no ‘s’. I was born in Hastings at Longlands and I went to Central School when I was five, and that was round about the time that we had the ’31 earthquake. My father was actually contracting, he had horses and machinery and he was working around Hastings. Of course we had the slump then, and he wasn’t able to get work so we upped stakes as a family and went, and he took a job out beyond Craggy Range. And we were there … actually we were there when the earthquake … in ’31.
Do you know whose farm that was?
Yes, that was van Aschs’. And the house got badly damaged in the earthquake and we never ever went back to live in it. So we moved back to Hastings and Dad set up again with horses and machinery. And one place that we lived was in Willowpark Road which is now the Boys’ High School playground. The house backed onto the playground and that’s where we had the horses. Things didn’t pick up very well and he sold up there and he took a job once again out in the country at Raukawa. I did two years from Standard 3 and 4 in Central School in Hastings, then the 5 and 6th I did at the Raukawa School. I did a couple of years of correspondence – High School – from home, and I then went and did a little bit of housework. And at that stage the war had started and I would have been in one of the first groups to be called up. So I joined the Air Force and that was when I … well, just before I left for the Air Force was when I met Charlie, ’cause he was shepherding on Raukawa.
Whose station was that?
That was Hardings’, Robert Harding’s. So I went into the Air Force and I did two and a half, three years there and we got married in 1943 – June 1943. And between then and when Charlie left for overseas in January he had six final leaves – so you can imagine, every time I saw him he was on final leave. Yeah, yeah. [Chuckle]
It’s a good story though.
When he did leave he threw a letter out of the train at Palmerston North and somebody posted it to me to let me know that he’d gone. He’d no sooner gone than I realised I was pregnant, and I left the Air Force in March and went home to live with my parents until Ross was born.
You mentioned Longlands initially – whereabouts at Longlands did you live?
You know on the main road going towards Hastings from Pakipaki, from south, there’s a dip in the road – we were on … the first house on the right, just across the railway line.
Because the Caccioppolis …
They lived opposite.
Over the railway line.
And the Speers further down, ’cause were there any Speers at Central … [speaking together]
Yeah – yes there were Speers.
They went to Central about the time you would have been there.
Probably, yes. And Maxwells were further along the road, the girl …
Yes, one of the Maxwells, Ian Maxwell, the youngest, he’s probably only about 75-80 now. Hugh I knew much better, he was older. So you’re a real Hastings girl, you couldn’t get away from Hastings could you?
[Chuckle] Back and forwards.
Yes, so anyway … so at that point you had your baby and you were with your mother and father and you were waiting I guess the end of the war.
Yes. Yes, when Charlie came back we went to his father’s property at Otane and we lived there ‘til …
Chas: Drumpeel Corner Road.
Isa: Yes. We lived there until the 1960, bought two other places to increase our … And then we went out to Farm Road, yes.
Alright Chas – the ball’s back in your court.
Chas: I didn’t mention I was awarded a military medal for my work on the last operation of going ahead of the armour and making these crossings and so on, because I really had no protection, I was out in no man’s land. So what further do you suggest?
Well go on from when you came back.
Oh – it’s a long story. [Chuckle]
Well that’s what we’re here for.
No, it’s not that long actually. Yes, well when I returned I continued on with Dad’s permission, he was still alive at that stage, on Drumpeel Corner. And of course I had much bigger ideas than twenty six-odd acres. So while I was away a chap called Burchett had the property leased and Dad wasn’t very happy with him – I don’t know what happened, whether he was told to move on or what. But my brother Dick carried on with the property and he was even worse. [Chuckle] He cut down a lot of the fruit trees that Dad thought so much of, you know. [Chuckle] I can always remember what – and Dick told me this, thought it was a great joke – he used to drive the bulldozer – Caterpillar – for Burchetts, and he set it heading towards the gateway and he hopped off and he was going to open the gate you know, ahead of the tractor but it got there first so of course it just crawled up the gate and crashed the gate down. Dick didn’t seem to have any sense of value or whatever, you know. That sort of thing costs money to replace.
Anyway, now getting back. My Dad let me … I had the place to work and I daresay he kept an eye on me for a while and he could see that I was a bit of a tiger to work, and eventually sold the place to me. I milked cows there with a little bucket plant, and there was over a mile of lane there, right down – it continued down to Brian Williams and onto Drumpeel – David Williams as it was in those days. And incidentally the cattle stop blocked the road just a little ahead of that. But there was over a mile of road, and some days I used to just turn the cows out and they’d wander off down the road and they’d keep the road in order. And it was only due to that of course I could run a few extra.
We used to have herd testing in those days. It usually used to be a lady – she’d come round with the gear. She would weigh up the milk from each individual cow of course, in the evening, and stayed with us overnight of course, and then weigh up the mornings and take a sample from each, and then test it of course, for butter fat. And I managed by careful selection and so on. Well first of all there was a herd testing group, there were around about twenty six herds I think, and in the end I topped the herd, which was quite a boost when it came to selling out. But the cows weren’t enough to keep me busy, but Molly Nesta Bolus had about three hundred acres across the road – across Drumpeel Road, and I’d worked for her previously in my young days. And she gave me a job for … I used to do something like six hours there for Molly, and milk cows night and morning as well. Made quite a long day. I remember when the children were going to school I barely ever saw them, because I was up at half past four quarter to five in the morning, out to milk. And during this period Isa would get the children up and away to school and in the evening I was still working – milking cows and what have you – when she would feed them and get them to bed at night, so I barely ever saw them.
And … but any rate that place was … I was raring to get a bit more land. There was a block of sixty-odd acres belonged to Roslyn Todd next door, and I asked him first of all if I could buy it. And he said “no”, he didn’t want to sell. But I then contacted the Minister of Labour [chuckle] and he put pressure on Roslyn, and in the end Roslyn was rather keen to sell me the block.
At that stage I sort of thought well I can manage with sheep now, and I was raring as I told you, to get back to dogs of course, and I think it was probably at that stage that I had the clearance sale of the dairy stock. They sold rather well because, as I mentioned, they had topped the Herd Testing Group. And then I managed to buy another hundred acres up towards Waipawa and carried on then on the, with the two blocks. It was quite a problem really because I had to move stock up and down the main road. Fortunately there weren’t anywhere near the traffic that there is today, and when I did want to bring the stock through I used to start off at daybreak on a Sunday morning and I could get a little bit of peace that way.
Anyway, eventually as I said I wanted to get a bit bigger, and this place out at Carlyon, as we called it, became available. And so the Farmers, Hawke’s Bay Farmers, helped me to move in there, to sell what I already had. The chap next door, Wally Malcolm, bought the hundred acres and then the other block was sold to another chap. What was his ,name do you remember? Doesn’t matter anyway.
Isa: He came from Feilding. He came from Feilding but I can’t remember his name.
Chas: No, no – never mind. And so we moved out to …
Isa: Farm Road.
Chas: … Farm Road. That was eleven twenty three acres.
Eleven hundred and twenty three. So it was a decent sized farm.
Yes. So slightly larger of course – sheep and cattle of course. But Isa always said if she’d seen the house there’d been no … [chuckle] I’d never have bought the place.
Isa: I wouldn’t have moved in. [Chuckle]
Chas: But anyway, I bought it. [Speaking together]
It had a bit of deferred maintenance, did it? [Chuckle]
Isa: He wasn’t worried about the house, he wanted the land. [Laughs]
Chas: Yes, the land was all right but the house – they had a manager in it. It belonged to … who’d that farm belong to again? Denis Hamilton – and he had a manager on it. But the house was fairly high off the ground, [chuckle] but the water [chuckle] used to flow in underneath – and rats! You never saw so many rats in all your life. [Chuckle]
Were you near the lake?
Isa: No, we were on the hill.
Chas: No, we weren’t – we weren’t.
You had water running on the hill?
Chas: No – no, it just … [Speaking together]
Isa: I can’t remember … the water … it just lay there.
Oh … ponded.
Chas: It was that type of country, yes, that it ponded.
Isa: The house was – everything went mouldy in it, you know. Damp.
Chas: We were close to a quite a steep cliff actually down to a creek, and the rats used to bore into that bank. And I suppose that they felt that the house was probably even more comfortable than the bank. Anyhow, they had holes they could go through into the lining and up of course, over the top of the ceiling, and at night you’d hear them bouncing backwards and forwards over …
… the ceiling joists. Oh my golly me! [Chuckle]
And you stayed?
Isa: I stayed.
Chas: I suppose she had no alternative. But anyway, gradually we had a chap – a good carpenter – ach! Forgot his name …
Isa: Fred Marsh … Fred Marsh.
Chas: Fred Marsh, that’s right – and he did a third of the upgrading.
Isa: He actually wrecked the whole house, all we had was the structure. And it was very solid and three parts he rebuilt for us. We had a lovely farm in the finish.
Chas: At three different times of course, and we were fortunate that we could do it all out of revenue, we didn’t have to borrow. In the finish it was a really … really nice house. [Chuckle] We got rid of all the rats and so on.
You never shared the new house with the rats? How did you get rid of the rats – poison?
Isa: Yes, we had poison made all the time.
Chas: They had no sense of … you know, attempting to get rid of them. Out in the shed there was a bag, a small bag that had dog nuts in it. Well you can just imagine, it was great tucker for them.
For the rats. They used to climb up there and have a good old feed. Anyway it turned out to be a nice house eventually and we did a lot of hard work there. In the off season we either renewed or put up new fences.
Isa: I’ll just stop you there. We had a cottage on the place that had … it was only a few years old, so we had a married man in the cottage and he worked for Charlie and …
Chas: Yes, oh yes.
So did you have a big garden around your house?
Isa: It was fairly big.
Chas: Yes, yes.
Were you both gardeners or…?
Isa: Yeah, I did most of it – Charlie didn’t have the time really, to do much but I did most of it.
Chas: I never had time.
And so while the farm was, the house was being renovated and the farm was getting better, how many children did you have?
Three, all boys?
Two boys and a girl.
Are they still local?
Judy’s the only one, she’s in Bay View. Neil is in London – he lives in London. He was an electrical engineer had a very responsible job, and the other one took up medicine and he was a doctor, specialist …
So they all did very well.
… in Canada. Yes.
Chas: But they’ve both retired now.
Isa: We were very lucky, all three kids were … went through varsity and … you know.
And so grandchildren, there must be several of those?
We had five grandchildren but Judy lost the boy, and we’ve – we have four, three girls and one boy. One boy in London and two girls in Canada and Judy had one girl here.
Chas: I’ve always said the Andertons are fairly poor breeders. [Chuckle] We haven’t got a lot of the young folk coming on really. As I said Neil only has one and Judy only has one now, and Ross – two.
So over those periods of farming … you’ve noticed a lot of changes? The carriers that used to cart stock for you.
Yes. Yes, yes.
They had quite different trucks than to today. Who used to cart your stock those days?
Chas: Cassidy’s, yes.
See that’s almost a forgotten name now, isn’t it?
Yes, yes – almost. Oh yes.
Isa: Didn’t we have George Winlove to begin with?
Chas: I think we might have originally, yes. While we were there, there were no sheep yards down … handy, and also there was no woolshed. We had to shear our sheep next door. So we put up a woolshed … Woolaway if I can remember rightly … woolshed, and built a set of sheep yards, not too far away.
Isa: And cattle yards …
Chas: And a dip of course, and also cattle yards with a loading ramp so we could do our cattle work there too.
Isa: We got it all set up and then we sold it. [Chuckle]
But this is the story of life isn’t it? You look at it and think ‘we worked all those years’, but then you’ve got to say well now – here you are. But you moved somewhere else before you came here?
So you had … this is your second move from the farm.
And that’s why we work – there’s supposed to be a reward at the end of it.
Chas: [Chuckle] Don’t forget we went out there paying …
Isa: Next to nothing.
Chas: … $46,000 and sold out for – how much?
Isa: $750 [thousand]. That was just the farm.
Chas: Half a million.
Isa: No, more than that.
Yes, three quarters. Yes, you need a wheelbarrow full of money to go and buy a bottle of milk today. [Laughter]
Chas: Yeah, this right, oh yes.
So, did you do any travelling at all?
Isa: Oh yes, oh yes, we …
Chas: Oh yes. Every year.
Favourite place of going to – where was your favourite place? All of them.
Isa: All of them. [Chuckle] I was just saying the other day, one place that I really thought was worth travelling through was Russia.
Isa: One of the very interesting countries. But no, we did … see the two boys, one in England and one in Canada – we’d see one or the other or both every time we went.
Where in Canada did your son live?
In Kelowna, British Columbia.
I know, I’ve been there. My son used to work in Calgary.
Isa: Oh, go on!
Chas: Oh, right.
And he married a Canadian girl …
Chas: Yes, right.
and he got married up in the Bugaboo Mountains – that’s …
Chas: Go on!
… not far from Kelowna. Beautiful country. You know – we have a beautiful country in New Zealand, but theirs goes on and on and on.
Isa: Yes, yes.
We drove from Vancouver down and up the Okanagan Valley and up …
… it was the most exciting …
Chas: Yes, yes.
Isa: That house in that painting was one of the first houses built in Kelowna.
Was it really?
And – oh, Charlie’ll tell you the size of the beams that were there.
Chas: Oh yes, yes. The floor joists [chuckle] … they were 14 x 2! [Laughter]
Were they? They had big trees. [Laughter] They were probably redwood.
Yes – yeah, I think they were. Yes. Oh my goodness.
Isa: The fellow who painted that, Ross had a few sheep there, and we herded the sheep round and he took a photo of them, and then he painted it.
Does he still live over in Canada?
He retired there?
Was he the doctor?
Isa: And he’s also got Parkinsons.
Chas: They’ve just built a new big house.
Isa: Yes, they’ve just built a new house right down near the Lake.
Chas: Down near … near one of the daughters.
It’s a country of contrasts isn’t it?
When it’s cold it’s very, very cold.
Isa: When it’s hot – it’s hot.
Chas: Yeah, when it’s hot – by gosh it can be hot. The water in the pool was never below about 80o when we were there at one stage. ‘Course we never went there in the winter.
Isa: Can we get back to the story? I’d like to say a little bit now.
Before we left Otane, I took up golf, but only in Waipawa, at a course that was only just sort of … nine holes. So when we moved to Waipuk [Waipukurau] I decided I wanted to join Waipuk [Waipukurau] Golf Course, and I played there for 50 years. And over that time I had a school bus run to do, I had to take the children to school, and worked it in with my golf. Went all over the place playing golf. Even out of … I played Taupo and Auckland and up the King Country …
Isa: Palmerston North, Feilding – all over. Won a few trophies here and there, and really enjoyed by years of playing golf. I also did a lot of sewing. I made all the kids clothes and made my daughter’s wedding frock, and a girl that was teaching at the local school – I made her wedding frock. And I was a member of the Women’s Division, the Red Cross and the Plunket over those years. So …
Did you belong to any organisations Chas?
Chas: Well not a great lot, except for the dog trial …
Isa: Lions – come on. Lions, school committees ...
Chas: Yes. But I was pretty active in the dog trial world of course, having won … I’ve only won one New Zealand Championship, but I’ve had many places. I think it was – I counted the number – I’ve got something like thirty two places in championships – New Zealand Championships, you know. At Kumeroa one year I won all four events … the two heads, you know – short head and the long head – and both hunts, zigzag and straight, with four different dogs. And I’d left – really the best dog at home – I only took the other one for a trial, and blow me joe, he won. And not only that – in the hunts I won open intermediate and maiden, in both hunts. First and second in the short head and won the long head.
Isa: It’s never been done since – before or since, apparently.
So – oh that’s … so you were both very active.
Isa: Oh, yes.
Chas: I had some good times …
You made your fun didn’t you?
That’s right. At Carlyon I had one called Dick – black dog – and I could send him any distance to pull up a cast sheep and he would do his damnedest to get them on their feet, and as soon as ever they got on their feet he’d stand and watch them for fear they fell over again.
Is that right?
Yeah. Dick, yes.
Some dogs that pretty well think for themselves.
Isa: Oh, yes.
You see a proper heading dog leading leading stock, they … you know, especially on roads that they … they knew exactly what to do.
Chas: Yes, yes. Dick won the salver for long head one year and he was second another year, so he was no mug you know. A black dog. No – I was just fortunate that I got into good strains, both with the huntaways and the heading – I had … they were good strains. You know you had no trouble, you just had to rear them and they were there.
Yes, yes, yes – natural. Outstanding capability, and you know, they’d look at you – “we’re intelligent”, you know. “We can pick up almost what you’re saying.” Really good dogs.
So when you left Farm Road you moved into Waipuk. [Waipukurau]
Isa: No, no, we bought Mangatarata Station with our son-in-law and daughter.
But you didn’t live there did you?
Isa: Yes. Twenty three years we lived there.
Oh, right – okay. And it was from there you moved …
Into Waipuk. [Waipukurau]
When we bought the property it was actually in our son-in-law’s family. There were sixteen shareholders of them. Some of them wanted their money out so they decided to sell it. What was the acreage there the …?
[Speaking together] So what was the family name?
MacDonald. And anyway we decided that we would sell ours and Don had a property up Wakarara, and he sold that. Well, we hadn’t sold it when we bid for the Mangatarata actually but they were sold – both were sold not long after.
Chas: Yeah, we had a bit of luck there really. He reckoned that … most of us reckoned his would be the first to sell, but ours was in actual fact. And as I said, we went out there for twenty six …
Isa: Twenty three years. When we went out there the – do you know the property?
It’s a huge great big …
Chas: Ten mile out.
Isa: … house, built in 1896.
So which road?
You know where the Bridge Club is in Farm Road ..?
Chas: Farm Road.
Isa: Well it’s out beyond that.
Okay – oh, it’s in Farm Road?
No, Mount Herbert Road.
[Speaking all together]
Oh, yes, you talked about it.
Chas: Oh we’re talking about different places now.
Isa: The house was a big old house, very solid, so forth, and Judy and Don’s children were only little and Judy said “I don’t want to live in that great big house.” So I said “well, what we’ll do is you go in the cottage” – there were three cottages actually – “you go in one of the cottages and we’ll go in the big house for five years.” So it was just five years, we moved out of the big house, altered the cottage and made a decent home of it, and they went into the homestead.
It’s still in the family, the property?
No. Don leased if off us for our part of it for ten years, and then they lost Hamish in the meantime, and they probably felt that they didn’t have any future in it. And so they actually bought us out and they only had it for three years and they sold – sold for $9m. So they did alright, we did alright out of it all the same.
Chas: Almost gave it away. Gave away for $9m. [Chuckle]
Big property though.
It’s the story of life though isn’t it?
Chas: Yes. Yes.
And it’s always interesting. When I spent my last twenty five years in real estate so I sold farms.
Chas: Oh really?
Yes, and all sorts of things. And it was interesting, ‘cause there is only ever one buyer in a market. It’s to find that person and … that’s got the money.
Isa: Well there were two of them actually.
To get two is really quite special. But when it sold for that price the market must have been very buoyant.
It was – well actually we missed the top market – well, they missed the top market, because prior to that there were two or three farms round about Hawke’s Bay that went for $15m and there was just a little drop in the bucket when we sold.
Now is there anything you’ve forgotten to tell me?
Isa: I think we’ve covered it fairly well.
Chas: Can you make any suggestions as to what it might be?
Well no, you see that’s the difficult thing. Now just going back to your Farm Road and the big station, they would all be top dressed by plane wouldn’t they?
Or was it wheel tractor country?
Isa: Oh no, no.
Chas: No, we didn’t do any spreading whatever other than by air. Out there the country runs up to a ridge …
Isa: This is Farm Road.
Chas: … or higher ground. And Nigel Giblin had the airstrip up there on the ridge and the super trucks used to climb you know up – and then of course the plane had a really easy job because all it had to do was just fly off and it had its height immediately. And that’s probably how we sold the property – I put on a fair bit of super and I used to put on Dicalcic also, and you know it really made the place bloom.
Isa: It was the type of farm where you never … Charlie never fed out hay.
Didn’t you really?
No. Well …
Good wintering country.
Isa: … it was, yeah. And also it was early country because it was all facing the East.
Chas: No, they got a bit short occasionally I can tell you, but that’s so. Fortunately we didn’t strike that – at least we weren’t farming during that period. I don’t know whether … does the ’61 drought come to your mind?
Yes it does, yes.
Yes, it does, okay. Well we went out in ’60 and I don’t think it stopped raining from when we took over the place until about …
Chas: September, that’s it – ‘til about the following September and then the rain stopped like that and it didn’t rain for …
Isa: ‘Til March.
Chas: At least five months.
We had the wettest winter we’d ever had and then it dried out.
That’s it, same thing.
And then it dried and dried and dried …
And dried. Exactly.
We went and bought an irrigation plant and pumped water – and yes, I’ll never forget that winter. I can still see these tracks over the farm where we were taking hay to the cows …
… great deep ruts, and we thought ‘how the hell will it ever dry out again?’ But it did.
That’s dead right too. Well of course, as you know, it didn’t rain and it didn’t rain, and fortunately we’d only just gone there and of course we hadn’t started building up the stock. We only had fifteen hundred-odd ewes and at the latter part of it we had about two thousand six hundred ewes.
Isa: Well we had another bad drought when we were there. What year would that have been? Do you remember – we opened the … Bruce had water …
Chas: Oh yes.
Isa: Well we had water and he had feed, and we opened the two farms up and mixed.
Chas: We must have still had a certain amount of feed – at that stage of course I’d been top dressing and getting a bit more guts into the pasture. Yes, you’re quite right. Bruce Alexander had the place next door – that is, travelling out as it were, he was next door – and he ran out of tucker and we got short of water, so we combined and opened up the fence, the boundary, and somehow we managed to scratch through. But, in farming you know you do get these periods.
But that was the toughest we ever had was that ’60-’61 drought.
Dried out – October the sun came out and it didn’t go away.
That’s right – the westerlies blew, do you remember?
That’s right – yep.
And they baked the soil. It just – you know, the grass just refused to grow.
Isa: You mentioned earlier on how things have changed. I can remember there must have been about six stock agents in Waipuk [Waipukurau] and the Ewe Fairs, do you remember the Ewe Fairs? The trucks would be going all night and all day, and carting the … and one year it was very wet and all these trucks were getting bogged.
It was a different world. When you think of all the stock and station agents, cheque book and all farmers had a stock and station agent’s cheque book; they all had a rep looking after the stock; they had someone looking after their crops and mercantile, and they had fencers, cowman/gardener, and the boss was away at the polo or the races, [chuckle] and yet they weren’t – apart from the ’50s when we had the wool boom, farming has never been that profitable that it could support all those people. But today there are no stock [chuckle] – they’ve disappeared – no stock firms … I used to run … [speaking together]
Isa: No, things have certainly changed. When you think back on our life how things have changed over our life.
We’ve seen the good years though.
Isa: Yes, I think so.
And especially someone like Chas who went to war, people like myself never experienced that. That must have been difficult too.
Chas: I did mention didn’t I? I was awarded a military medal for the operations in the last …
Driving this bridge out ahead of the army so they could follow you across it.
[Chuckle] You know, I hadn’t seen a Sherman for some time and we dropped in at Waiouru. There’s a Sherman tank in the back and I went into it and I thought ‘holy smoke! Surely I didn’t drive a bloody thing like that.’ You know it looked so big. But …
I know. Out in the open in open country with lots of other vehicles, nothing looks as big.
No, I did my military training at Linton and I was short listed to go to Vietnam but I’m pleased I didn’t go to Vietnam, because no one won there.
So anyway look I think we’ve probably pretty well covered most of your adventures, unless you think of something else.
Chas: It’s very good of you. Thank you very much.
No, it’s my pleasure to have come over.
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper
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