Clayton, Ronald Kimball (Kim) Interview
Today is the 30th of October 2017. I’m interviewing Kim Clayton of … I guess Undercliff?
Yeah, we’re a bit away from Undercliff – Undercliff is sort of up that area. Just Te Mata-Mangateretere …
Yes. Kim, would you like to tell me something about your family since they came, and where they came [from]?
Yeah, okay. My grandfather was called Adrian Bernard Clayton and he came here as a man who was not physically well. He was a [an] Englishman, and he initially lived in Hawera in Taranaki. However the damp climate there wasn’t that great for him, so he came and lived in Hawke’s Bay for that very reason – it was a drier climate. He was married to my grandmother, called Alice … Dent was her maiden name. And she was Australian, born illegitimately in Sydney somewhere, and she was shipped out to New Zealand and landed on the beach in Wellington as an infant. And I have no idea how my grandfather came to know her, but that’s what I know about her. And they had six children I think, two boys and four girls. My father was the oldest boy, but about the third oldest child.
And he used to work on the orchard here – I think he left school when he was twelve and worked on the orchard and it was very difficult. Irrigation was an issue ‘cause it’s very dry country, and I think that money was hard to come by. And he used to irrigate the orchard initially by horse and cart. He’d go down to the river and run the horse into the river with the cart on the back, and he’d have containers on the back and fill them up and bring them back to the orchard. And that’s how they irrigated. Eventually he got a pump down there and put a two inch pipe up and that was used for years. That’s all I remember from then on until very recently, actually.
He would have grown up in Wellington? When did they move to Hawke’s Bay?
I think that it was the turn of the century, 1900 … round about, yeah.
Yes, and they came here and planted the orchard?
They would’ve, and it’s part of the Chambers estate, isn’t it? All this back here? Yes.
Yes it was … part of Te Mata.
Yeah. So they were twelve acre blocks, and my parents had two twelve acre blocks side by side so you had a gate at the bottom down River Road and a gate at the top on this Te Mata-Mangateretere [Road].
Coming back to irrigating the orchard, there was no other option was there, if you didn’t bucket it round the trees.
Yep. The land up there is not fantastic. In places it’s got pan up the top end, and it’s okay, but it’s not great. It’s much better land here. And down the bottom was okay, down nearer the river. And also in those days my folks used to own to the centre of the river … yeah. Which is pretty unique around the countryside, there’s not many places where that happens, so I suspect that up the river where the Chambers family is … where Dudley Chambers still farms … they probably still own to the centre of the river. But when they built the stop bank here the Council bought the land – it was probably compulsory acquisition so they could put the stop bank in. But up until that time we owned to the centre of the river.
Well Chambers, when he subdivided the land off he always retained the ownership of the river.
Really? Yeah – my father used to tell me he used to walk to school and occasionally the Chambers would give him a ride. The lady who used to live up on the hill called Mrs Foxley – she used to go to school, and she used to be chauffeur-driven. And occasionally if it was very wet or very hot the chauffeur would stop and give my father a ride, which he thought was pretty grand. I don’t know what sort of a car it was, but he did say it was a very grand car. Probably these days it wouldn’t look so great, but … yeah. And just as a matter of interest, where you go up there to Black Barn – you just go up the hill – there’s a big oak tree on the left. That was planted by the chauffeur who worked for the Chambers and I think it was Dudley Fickling’s father, planted that tree. And that tree’s a bit sick at the moment, but it’s been there for all that time. He planted it.
Because those days there were quite a few little cottages scattered around the homestead that workers used to live in, didn’t they?
Yeah. I remember one of them, opposite the Te Mata Winery there, there’s a little house in there. I remember – that was a Chambers’ house and it was burnt down – I remember when it was burnt down. And there was an old guy in there, who was living in there, he committed suicide with a shotgun – I remember that. That would probably be sixty or seventy years ago. Yeah, they built the new house. So just prompt me a bit Frank.
Did his brothers and sisters go to Havelock School?
Yeah. Yeah they did.
And my uncle … Uncle Dacie was his name … went off to the Second World War and he never came back. He was killed fighting against Hitler in Tunisia. And as a matter of interest, the guy who owned this property that we’re sitting in, Bill Dorward, was in the same unit … Army unit … as my uncle and he said to me that he was the last man to ever see him alive. And Bill lent me the book on the history of that unit in the Second World War, and I read it through very briefly – ‘cause it was quite an long book and most of it’s pretty boring stuff – but just to pick up my uncle’s name here and there.
My father’s family were all long livers. I went to five ninetieth birthday parties, and I know your father lived to over a hundred, Frank, didn’t he?
No, no – ninety-seven.
Was he? Well my grandmother, Alice, who was the one that landed on the beach front in Wellington, she was ninety-nine. And then the last one to go was Marjorie, and she probably died five or six years ago, and she was mid-nineties … ninety-five, ninety-six. My father was just on ninety-two. My Aunty Nancy was ninety-something, and my Aunty Inez was ninety-something as well. And, as a matter of interest they lived on the orchard where they used to spray arsenic of lead and all that stuff, and there was no such thing as [speaking together; coughing] masks or breathing apparatus or anything. And they all lived to that age.
And the water was probably pumped out of the river …
Yeah, yeah it was. I think they led a pretty healthy life – they used to grow their own vegetables – well, I suppose everyone did. It was very, very physical, and you know, my father worked that orchard for seventy years – that’s how long he worked, ‘cause he started when he was twelve. And, he never had a hydra … well, eventually they had hydraladas, but they used to be up and down ladders, carry the wooden boxes, lift them onto transport to get them to the shed, and lift the boxes on to the grader and grade them. And he never ever had hips or knee problems or anything, and I mean it’s just amazing. I mean, he’s [in] a much better state than I was, at my age – I mean I’ve got a bad back. My hips and legs are all right as far as I know. But that’s pretty amazing, ‘cause he used to work from daylight ‘til dark. And then – he’d have half an hour for lunch, and then the other half hour he’d go out and hoe the garden … the vegetable garden … or just tend to the garden, so Mum could go out and get the veges for the dinner in the evening.
Well they just worked, ate and slept.
They didn’t socialise …
No, they didn’t.
You would’ve never ever heard him say. “Well I’m going to go down to the tennis club and have a game of tennis” …
Oh no. No, that’d be a travesty – that’d be so wrong. Yeah, even up until his old age he could work – by God, he could work! And I remember there was a census came out about ten years before he died, and they – the fact that he was still working was amazing, he was about eighty – and they had to give the number of hours that he worked, and he was working about sixty or seventy hours a week, you know. Well no one on the planet would believe that.
But as a matter of interest, I remember once he went to Taupo – he had an old Austin 7. And he and a guy in Havelock, an engineer called Mr Tillman – I don’t know whether you remember the Tillman family? When they got half-way to Taupo … you go over the Mohaka Bridge and then you get a high area, and then as you go down … just before you get to the summit there’s a little school there – little Maori school. Yeah. Well when they got to there the car blew a big end bearing, and so it was the finish. So what they did was, they took it to bits just to figure what was wrong with it, and then they made a forge and forged a new bearing for it – took them three days – and put it all together and carried on to Taupo. And I always think of that, every time I go past that spot.
We wouldn’t even consider it! You’d ring the AA.
Well now you don’t even know how to do anything with you car – I mean you never look under the bonnet ‘cause you don’t even know what you’re looking at. Well I mean they did it because they had to – they had nothing else to do it. Yeah. He was a very clever guy … he was totally uneducated, but he knew everything … knew how to do all that.
Well he had experience, didn’t he? That was the educator.
Yeah, that’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? Of course in those days we never used to go over the Mohaka River where they are now – we used to go down to the water level and up the other side. And cars’d be boiling over, and all sorts of strife.
Well it used to take five hours to go to Taupo, and stop at the top of every hill and check your water.
Yea. We used to think about it for a week before you went. So that’s a pretty amazing thing that he did.
So he grew mainly pip fruit?
No, he grew mainly plums. He specialised in Omega plums. And he discovered a way of keeping them for enough time for all the rest of the market to be sold out, then he would start selling them. And the Kiddle family still grow Omega plums down there. But they told me … I know a guy who works for the Kiddles; he has worked for them for years … and they said ever since the day they bought it from Ron, they’ve never been able to achieve the crops that he did, in terms of volume. And he never asked me why, but I could’ve told him.
And anyway, since I’ve been here – I’ve only been here a few months – I’ve been talking to Ian Kiddle, and I asked Ian, “What are the volumes?” And he said “We just get … hardly any plums on the trees.” And I said, “Well, have you got any Victory plums as a pollinator and he said no, we had lots of Victorys down there but we cut them all out”, and I said “well, that’s the problem.” My brother, who my father taught, told me he doesn’t know how you can grow Omega plums without having a Victory …
But I always thought that was part of the Omega story, was the Victory plums – they used to even graft them into the centre of the trees.
Yeah. Yeah, it’s not only that – my father used to get milk bottles and he used to cut off … he never used to prune the Victories until the bee season was all over … they’d cut the things up, put them in the bottle and tie it on to the tree, and that’s how … So I was telling Ian Kiddle, and Ian said, “Oh my goodness!” He said, “I never knew that”, so I think from now on he might be doing that. See, these are Omega trees just here, and they’ve got very little on them. And when they blossomed they were … every solitary site on that tree was just a mass of blossom.
So they’re just not pollinating?
They’re not pollinating properly … there is a few on them.
And how did … this method he used to use for keeping the Omegas, is that still a family secret?
No, it’s not really. It is the temperature. Everyone used to keep stone fruit at a certain temperature; however, he had two cool stores; he had a cool store that could keep the fruit at minus one, and then being minus one you’d get an ice build-up, and you had to find a way of de-icing without losing the temperature. So he just made these gadgets – I didn’t really understand it. So he could maintain that temperature, and keep the thing going.
So they were almost freezing them?
Well it was one degree. And he found it out by mistake … some guy who had an apple orchard had a cool store, and their cool stores used to keep it at that temperature. And he discovered that the plums kept best at that temperature, so that’s what he did. And this [is] what he used to focus on.
So those days they would have cultivated between the trees with horses?
There wasn’t a lot of spray used on plums, was there?
Not like apples, no. ‘Cause black spot is what people spray for, and no, he never sprayed that much. Well … ‘cause when I was a kid you were unaware of it, you know – I just seemed to be out working all the time so I never used to take much notice. But now I’ve been growing a bit I take much more notice.
Well your orchard used to run from Waimarama Road right through to River Road, and on one side there was Alf McLeod?
The Slades at the top?
And then below you, before the Kiddles bought … later on the Thompsons had that … Bill Thompson …
Thompsons own the [?Spedding?] here, ‘cause old Fraser used to own down the bottom.
Scotty Fraser … yes.
And then where Andrew Orton lives now, there was a guy Baumfield used to live there in that house we can just see there – oh, it’s just a new house, now. Yeah, and it’s amazing as you go down here … it’s amazing how the properties change hands, isn’t it?
Oh! But there are some old families left and you’re one of them.
So your father – did he marry a local lady? What was her name?
My father … yeah, he did. I don’t know how he met her. Her name was Mary Orr, and she came from an Irish Catholic family. And he wasn’t – he never believed in religion at all. And I can tell you an interesting story. My father was anti-religion, and my mother always tried to get him to think about religion and think about things the way she did when he came to religious things. And he wouldn’t – just thought it was ridiculous. So anyway when he became unwell, he said to her … when he was dying … he said he [was] prepared become a Catholic. It was so bizarre. And anyway, we said to him, “Why did you do that?” And he said, “So that when I die there’ll be one less Catholic in the world.” [Laughter] And probably you won’t be able to tell anyone that because there’s too many Catholics around – they’d be offended.
Oh, no! Isn’t that interesting [chuckle] … his philosophy?
Funny thing is that my father’s religious philosophy has endured to my kids, and … not that he ever did it deliberately, he never used to talk religion or anything … but their beliefs – it’s just like his.
They wouldn’t have had much to do with him at all?
Oh … a little bit. Yeah … yeah, they did, actually.
Enough to have formed those opinions?
Yeah. Yeah. My kids used to know Grandpa – I’ve got some photos here if you’re interested. Yeah, but it’s funny how the grandparents do influence the kids, because I see lots of characteristics that are the same. And religion is one of them. Yeah. My father was a really good man … much better man than I am, Frank – he’d be horrified at some of the things I do, or I used to do – he was horrified at times, but …
Different times too. Those men were born to work. We got more of a balance, work and some play, and things became mechanised so it gave us time to do other things.
I can remember Scotty Fraser’s wife – I don’t know what her name was. She used to do all the spraying. She was only a little woman, and she used to drag this hose around and go in the orchard … incredible. He never used to do much at all. He used to go to the Havelock pub, didn’t he? That was his life. And she used to make pikelets in the old house down there – the old house is still there, and Vivienne Kiddle is there now. And she had an old wood-burning stove, and she’d make the most beautiful pikelets. And we used to go and hang around the door and she’d pass them out – we used to love them.
So then the children came – there were how many of you?
I’m one of seven. My oldest sister’s Jane, who’s … I think she’s eighty-one … she’s your age, Frank.
Yes, she was in my class at school.
I saw Jane this year, she came out to New Zealand. And then we had Mary a couple of years after that, and then there was Kim, that’s me; Anna who’s – well, it was all probably in durations of two years or so, except for Alan, the youngest, who was quite a bit younger. There was Jane, Mary, Kim, Anna, Rosie, Ian and Alan. Alan’s the youngest, married to Rebecca in Wellington, and he’s sixty, I think, or sixty-two … something like that. So we used to think that it was an average-size family, ‘cause it wasn’t unusual to have six kids. I mean the Clappertons had twice that number.
Fifteen … sixteen.
Yeah. The Pollocks had six, and there was heaps of families had six kids, so it was pretty normal.
Yes. You all went to school from River Road?
Yeah, the bus used to come in from Waimarama – Nimons – old Joe Nimon, the old Mayor of Havelock – he used to have an old Bedford bus. And we used to have to go up to the corner where the three roads meet there, and they’d come all the way from Waimarama every morning, stop there and pick us up, and away we’d go to school. And sometimes we’d walk – not very often. Joe Nimon was a fiery old customer.
Yes, with his big heavy eyebrows.
Yeah – he was a hard man – he was a no-nonsense guy. But that just opened him up for some of the more lively kids that used to irritate him. [Chuckle] Yeah. But he used to rant and rave and carry on. I suppose he was a good Mayor, I can’t remember.
He knew all the families, because there was only a thousand or so people living in the village.
Yeah, he knew everything. John Nimon’s died – is he still alive?
No, no – he died not long after he closed Roadair up.
And then there’s a son who’s married to the girl who’s a travel agent in Havelock.
Can’t remember her name.
Do you remember any of the special teachers?
I remember Miss Crombie was the Primer 1 teacher.
Everyone remembers Miss Crombie. Now see – she was another stern lady.
Yes, she was. Yeah – what I remember is Arthur Black … Arthur’s probably gone now, has he?
Yes, Arthur died a couple of years ago.
Bill Panckhurst – I think he’s died too, hasn’t he?
And I remember when Mr Methan …
Yes, he was the Headmaster.
And his wife was grumpy too. [Chuckle]
And then for a while there was old Geoff Mills. He lived at the school. When he first came he had a caravan, and he lived on the school property for a while. And he was not one to mess around with either, old Geoff. That’s about all I can remember.
Did you play any sport at primary school?
Yeah, I used to play football. And we had a very good footballer at our school called Stafford Royal, who lived in this road. And his sister still does live in this road, in the house that they were brought up in. And Stafford was the toughest man – I’ve never met anyone in my life as tough and as fast as Staff. He was the fastest runner and the best footballer, and he was …
He wasn’t frightened to tackle. He was quite mature …
Yeah. But Stafford wasn’t an angel.
No, no. He was always the same.
Yeah – he died when he was about fifty, didn’t he?
Yes he did.
He and Dave McKay …
He became a policeman, didn’t he?
His brother. Dave lives down at Pakipaki somewhere.
He bought the old Whare Ra house.
Yeah, he did. I can’t remember the brother’s name that became a detective.
Because Mrs McKay – she was a very stern lady.
Yes, she lived in St Hill Lane.
Dave and I can’t remember his brother. I see his brother occasionally on TV, and he might’ve had something to do with the Arthur Allan Thomas case, and he had further information … fairly recently, and I saw this guy on TV being interviewed and it was him which was quite interesting.
So some of the old families in Havelock … the Fields who still live around here … the Fields came in from Waimarama, and Brian Field still lives down – well, son lives down this road and is an engineer.
So you went … from Havelock, obviously went to …
Went to Boys’ High, and left there in about 1957.
Would you have taken the trades course?
Ah, no – I took general. We had three choices – Professional, General and Trades and I went down the middle. And from then on when I left school I became an apprentice. My folks said I could leave school as long as I got a job where I was learning something, so I did an apprenticeship with Peter Bridgeman. Ted was an apprentice there when I was there too. I think I was four or five years behind him, so he must be eighty-one or two now. I’m five years behind him.
So he taught you how to build houses, taught you how to work?
Yeah – there’s no one that can work like Ted – he’s a fantastic worker. He was competitive too, you know? If he came up against a faster worker or someone who was fast, he’d step it up even a step more just to keep … He was quite unique, Ted. I haven’t seen him for years and years.
He hasn’t changed. He’s still working – he’s like your father …
… he’ll never stop.
Wow! He’s a goer, isn’t he?
So when you finished your apprenticeship, did you stay with Peter?
No I didn’t. No, I worked with Ted actually, for a few years. And then I started doing a few homes of my own at a much slower pace than what Ted would have put them up, but that’s just the way it is. Yeah, I did that for quite a few years, then I got sciatica. I woke up one morning and I had a sore leg, and I couldn’t walk. Really, really sore, and I went to the doctor and the doctor said, “You’ve got a sore back.” I said “There’s nothing wrong with my back – I’ve got a sore leg.” So then he explained to me what had happened – you pop a disc in your back and it pinches the nerves, and the nerves go down to your leg and the further down the leg you get it, the more serious it is. So that was pretty traumatic ‘cause I couldn’t work. And the funny thing was I could play tennis but I couldn’t work. And they encouraged me to play tennis but not to work – this is the doctors, ‘cause when you lift something you’re putting weight on your spine. And when you’re playing tennis you’re reaching and stretching – that’s releasing the vertebrae. So that was a difficult one for a lot of people to understand, but I thought it was a good idea.
So I found that in the mornings I was okay, ‘cause you’ve been lying down all night and the weight comes off but during the day when you get up and walk around it’s putting weight on it, and by three o’clock I’d have to lie down. And I still suffer from it a bit.
So did you have to give up work?
Well, I didn’t, but I found it difficult. And I used to want to knock off at three o’clock because by the time three o’clock came around I was uncomfortable, you know? Just the urge to work wasn’t there.
Now during this period of time you met your first wife, Judy?
Yeah – Judy, yeah.
She was the daughter of a local policeman, wasn’t she?
Yes, Wally … Wally Leppien. So we got married in about 1964 I think, and then we had three children, three boys.
What were their names?
Murray was the oldest, born in ‘66, and two years later was Greg, and then my baby Roger, who’s about forty-six now, he was born three years after that. None of them live around here – actually all my siblings and all my kids have all gone from here, I’m the only one [left]. I just wonder where I’ve gone wrong, and I’m probably the only one still working out of my siblings …
… so I’ve really stuffed up somewhere along the [line]. [Speaking together]
No, I’m sure that’s nothing to do with that at all. They’ve just gone further afield.
Well they have, but it’s quite interesting. And their lives are interesting and it’s easy to keep in contact with them with modern day communications. And I talk to them all the time. Murray is married to a Californian girl called Tiffany … he lives in Sacramento, and he has two boys of his own. And his job is going around California to the farms and he tests water to see what the farmers are putting in the ground, ‘cause water over there’s a huge issue – there’s a shortage of water, and not only that, a lot of the water there is contaminated. It’s contaminated because for hundreds of years they’ve just being spraying stuff on the ground. and it leaches down into the water. But a lot of the water also in California comes from the mountains, so that’s not the stuff that’s been drawn out of the ground – it comes in canals.
Then my second son, Greg, he’s married to an Asian girl and his family lives in Bangkok. And he – at the moment – himself is working in Moscow – it’s his second stint there, he was there a few years ago. And he’s building supermarkets and shopping malls in Russia. And he doesn’t like it there that much – he thinks they’re all drunks – and they’re aggressive people. He said, “[If] you’re walking down the street and somebody’s walking towards you, they will veer their direction so that they’re directly in front of you, and you’ve got to move”. Yeah. He said the women are drunks there. So he doesn’t want to go back. Normally it’s cold in the wintertime, everything freezes up. But – I don’t know why he doesn’t finish.
Probably for money.
Well … probably. But he did engineering at Auckland University – civil engineering – and when he graduated there was a downturn in business in New Zealand … there was no jobs. And one of the guys who graduated with him was an Asian boy who lived in Singapore, and he said, “Well, come to Singapore”, he said “there’s heaps of engineering jobs there. So that is what he did about twenty or thirty years ago, and he’s never come back. When I say he’s never come back – occasionally he turns up – he’ll just arrive. He’ll stay for a day or two … well, three or four days … then he’s off again. So it’s quite an interesting life for him. He’s worked in most of the Asian countries, and he lived in Paris for a while doing the same thing there. He was building supermarkets for a company called Carrefour which is the biggest supermarket chain in Europe, and they were setting up stores all over the place. Then he worked in Bulgaria for a while, and then he retired. And then … I think he overspent when he was retired, so now he’s back at work. He commutes … he goes back to Thailand about once every four or five weeks I think, for a week or so.
So your sciatica cleared itself?
Yeah – you learn to live with it, and I don’t think it ever completely comes right, but at the end of the day with all these treatments they have, I think it’s rest that does it, you know.
But then there was a turn in your life – your marriage stopped …
Then you became an orchardist?
Yeah, well what happened was my oldest son, Murray – he didn’t know what he wanted to do. So when he finished school, he got his University Entrance … had no idea what to do. So I said to him, “Well look … maybe if you go to university and learn about agriculture or horticulture or something, and then I’ll buy this block of land down this road and when you have graduated, you can come and work this piece of land.” So he said, “Okay.” So I bought this piece of land out here – bought it off the Lays … old Edgar Lay and Brickie, and it was twenty acres which is quite a nice size, and Murray went to Massey and did Horticultural Science. And Massey University has an exchange system with a school in California, in a place called … can’t remember. And anyway, so he went over there as an exchange student and met this Californian girl, and that was it. I ended up with the land. But in fact it sort of worked out reasonably well, because I had a sore back by then and I found I wasn’t lifting stuff, and in fact for a long time, I didn’t [don’t] think I was even working at all. You don’t realise how hard building is until you give up. Fresno is the name of the place in California which … he’s in Fresno.
So yeah, he didn’t come back, and I ended up being an orchardist by default. And I found it quite interesting. It wasn’t always that profitable; it was all right at times. Actually with orcharding, once it’s good it’s very good, but when it’s bad it’s awful. So you sort of go from one extreme to the other, and the big problem is you’ve got to recognise when it’s good you don’t go berserk and just spend, because it’s not going to last. And you see them out planting trees now … they just think it’s going to go on forever. But it’ll turn just like everything else.
So his wife works for a research university in a place called Davis, and it’s basically a [an] agriculture and horticulture university, I think it’s the biggest one on the planet, it does amazing research. ‘Cause the universities there are very well-funded, and they have heaps and heaps of educated people. The town of Davis … about twenty-five per cent of the adults in Davis had PhDs. It is just a university town, and it’s halfway between San Francisco and Sacramento. Sacramento’s quite big, it’s the same size as Auckland.
So I spent a bit of time there … did a bit of building there. We renovated a house there which was a pretty interesting exercise, over a period of three or four years. But I’ve been going to the US every year for about fifteen or twenty years or so, and … I didn’t go this year because Coline’s daughter has come back. Coline used to go and work there for her daughter, and I used to go over just as her work was finishing for the year, and spend a month there and come back. So I don’t think I’ll be doing that any more, thank goodness.
Now at some stage you met this Australian lass, didn’t you?
Yeah. Yeah, Coline was at the tennis. And I think what happened was, when our kids grew up and left home we realised that there’s not a lot we had in common, and … well, we had the kids in common … and once they left there was a lot we had uncommon. [Referring to first marriage]
And I met Coline at the Hastings Tennis Club, and she was a pretty bizarre person – I’d never met anyone like her before and neither had anyone else, which seems normal now – I haven’t been for a while. But yeah, so I left Judy and after about two or three years I moved in with Coline, and that’s thirty years ago. I mean I lived with Judy for twenty years and Coline for thirty, so that’s the story of my life. But she’s an interesting person – she had three kids, the same as I did and they were all of a similar age. And she comes from a very interesting family … she’s got a very interesting brother. And it just changed my life so much – I cannot believe the difference in my life when I … and I’m not necessarily say it changed for the better, Frank, but it changed. It’s much more interesting with … a bigger family is more … no doubt, a bigger family is much more interesting.
So I’m still with Coline, and we’ve recently bought this property between us and so all’s well. But yeah, it was pretty traumatic … all round. And it’s not ideal; it’s not good, because it disrupts the family and the boys … your kids become puzzled as to what’s going on and how to handle things. There’s no manual around that you can refer to to try and put things right.
But I still see Judy a little bit – I haven’t seen her for quite a while, but she’s living in Havelock. I think she’s happy … probably happy to be rid of me actually, Frank, when you think about it.
Well you know we’re all individuals … none of us can get in one another’s heads to know how anyone feels.
No. She had a brother that lived around here and he died at a young age – he was in his fifties I think, or maybe a little bit older. Yeah, so her parents didn’t live to old age either, they were getting on to seventy or something, so …
So one of the loves of your life is this tennis that keeps popping up …
Are you saying I’m a tennis nut, to put it politely, Frank?
And you said even after you’ve been playing for fifty years you’re still being coached?
Yeah I do, yeah – I still go to coaching once a week, for two reasons. One reason is to stop the slide in my form; and the other reason is the coach needs the money, so …
[Chuckle] It’s a pretty good reason.
Yeah. Yeah. I’ve been very keen on tennis, and not only that, Frank, I still sometimes win the Club Championships – not the singles, but the doubles.
This is the Havelock Tennis Club?
Havelock Tennis Club, yeah. And as recently as two years ago I won the mixed doubles with a young girl at our club. And it is pretty satisfying … so I think I’m probably the oldest guy on the planet to win a club … I’d say seventy-four [?]
So who’s the coach there?
Oh, the coach – well I actually don’t – I’m not coached by the Club coach. I go to another club, a guy called Craig Gilley who’s a South African … very good player, and I like Craig a lot. And I’ve just done it for so long that we just play every Sunday morning, and it’s good. It’s improved my game – or when I say improves, it stops it sliding round. But I just find that I’m a lot slower … not only slower in body, but slower in mind too.
Do you realise you may be helping to coach the coach as well?
It did cross my mind.
But he is a very good player, and he plays in Wellington sometimes – they ring him up if they’re short down there for championships and things and he will go down and play down there. But there is [are] some good players around. There’s one Havelock guy called Luke Donovan whose father lives down Brookvale Road on the corner of Davison Road … the crossroad? Yeah. He’s got that very nice property there. Yeah, that’s where he comes from, but he is the best player in Hawke’s Bay. Oh no, actually he’s not – the best player lives down this road. That’s an old Havelock family too – John Penny, John and Louise. Louise lives down here and her son – she’s got two sons who’re Number one and Number two in Hawke’s Bay. Yeah – very good. She’s got a tennis court down here and she’s a tennis coach.
Louise Penny … was he an electrician?
Yeah, the father was – Bob. Louise is married to Andrew Reynolds, and the kids’ name is Reynolds. And young Reynolds – he played in the Australian Open in his age group, and he had to play eliminations to get in because they’d never heard who he was – they didn’t know – so he had to beat certain people to get in. So he got in the tournament, and he got to the semi-final and he played the top seed – and beat him. And the Aussies were not happy about that at all – they didn’t like it. So then he got to the final and he played the second seed in the final and beat him. He won it. It’s the first time since Chris Lewis that someone from New Zealand … yeah, and won something like that.
Gosh, that’s amazing!
Yeah, it was, and he’s just a young kid. And these Australians, they had the Australian Tennis Association coaches and all this. And before the match Finn was hitting up with his mother on a back court. That was the practice that he got. But he’s going off to … he’s got a scholarship in Louisiana. They’ve just came back two weeks ago, and he’s got a scholarship to play over there. It’s good.
So what’s his name?
His name is Finn … Finlay. And when he was champion he was going to Lindisfarne College.
Well, that’s a wonderful story, isn’t it?
It is, yeah. Yeah, and his older brother is fantastically good too, and they’re nice kids.
My kids grew up with the Hinton family … Pat Hinton … my kids can all play a reasonable game.
Well we’ve still got Hintons in our club – yeah, Trevor. He does a little bit of coaching down there, but he’s still a member of our club and occasionally I see him down there coaching people. His sons are all tennis players, but they don’t play ‘cause they want to – I mean they were pushed into it when they kids, or probably they had no option.
So how many grandchildren have you got?
Well, I’ve got five. I’ve got two who live in California.
Their names are ..?
Their name is [names are] Liam and Lucas and Liam’s about fourteen and Lucas is probably twelve, and they play soccer and rugby and things. So Liam is my oldest grandchild, and then I have an Asian grandchild called Nathan who lives in Bangkok. And he came out this year, recently – with his father – I hadn’t seen him for years and years and years. And he came here when he was a younger guy … when he was little … and when he hopped out of the car the first thing he said was, “I recognise the smell … the smell of New Zealand”. And his wife, she said that she thought New Zealand smelled of sheep shit – that’s what she thinks of New Zealand smells like. I didn’t like to tell her that we go to Bangkok – it smells of human excrement … yeah, I didn’t like to tell her that. But anyway, that’s what she said. And then as soon as the son hopped out of the car that’s what he said, he said, “I recognise the smell” … straight away, which is interesting.
Then I have my youngest son in Auckland, he’s got two kids called Rafferty and Riley – Riley’s a girl. And they live in Devonport. And don’t see as much of the kids as I should … I see much more of Coline’s. I see Coline’s grand-kids every day ‘cause they’re just living over here and they walk across.
So how many grandchildren has Coline got?
Coline’s got six … ah, seven. Two, two and three – that’s seven, isn’t it? Seven, yeah. So you know, it is interesting having a bigger family ‘cause there’s heaps … I mean there’s seven kids that I can think about and talk about, and it’s much more interesting.
Are they all in New Zealand?
No, no – she has three here. Actually it’s quite interesting – Lewis who’s the oldest, was born in China – or probably Hong Kong. The eldest girl is Harriet, and I think she’s eleven, or ten or eleven – she was born in Hong Kong. And then there’s Monty, and he was born in New York. So they shifted here recently, and then after they’d been here a couple of weeks Monty said, “Can we go home now?” He wants to go home to New York. [Chuckles] He just thought he was on holiday, he didn’t realise they were living here. And the other thing – when they moved into the house over here they wanted to know where the playroom was, ‘cause they were …
… used to living in a mansion. When I say a mansion, it was a big house. Well, it had nine bathrooms or something, yeah. So they’ve got used to that.
But the kids are very happy. And Harriet – from the first day she went to Te Mata School … and Coline was expecting all sorts of dramas and things … but the very first day she thought it was fantastic, and it’s still happening … very good indeed.
And Monty, the youngest one, goes to Hereworth. And Anton is a cricket fan, so anyway, he went to Hereworth last weekend ‘cause Monty was playing cricket, and he thought it was fantastic ‘cause they’ve got a nice little oval there, with a clubhouse and a picket fence and all that. And all the boys all dressed up in their proper gear, and there’s a no-nonsense coach there making sure they all do their thing. Anton was completely overcome – he thought it was fantastic, ‘cause you don’t get that in America.
Has Anton retired from banking?
No, he hasn’t – he’s working for an American finance company. One of the branches of this company focuses on Asia, and Anton worked in Asia for seven or eight years so he’s got lots of contacts and he knows people to deal with. And so he’s focusing on the Asian part of the business which works out quite well because he’s in a [an] intermediate time zone, so at night he can … or some time during the day … he can talk to America, and then in the afternoon he can talk to Asia, and he’s the guy in the middle.
So it’s early days for that company and I think that they’re just probably looking at each other. But yeah, life became difficult in America … what happened was, when they had the global financial crisis Obama said, “Bankers are grossly overpaid and have no idea what they’re doing, and they’re to blame for the global crisis”. And he said he’s going to do something about it – well it took ten years, but he did, and over a period of ten years the people in the sorts of jobs that he had, couldn’t make a go of it. They were just … I don’t know how Obama did it, but it was government policy that bankers should be just paid as much as everybody else. Yeah.
They were commission people, weren’t they?
Well, you know – I think they’re grossly overpaid anyway, Frank – grossly, it’s ridiculous! I mean he … between Coline and I we had six kids that went to university. And Anton went to university and did banking, and when he was at university he told me that he was an average achiever … just above average, which I understand because I’m in the same … I’m just an average achiever, academics and all that sort of thing, which he was. So … well when he went into banking, straight away he was making more than all the rest of our six kids put together. And what was the reason for it? I mean it’s not as though he was a clever guy doing fantastic things, like Bill Gates or Sam Morgan and all those sorts of guys. But they just used to make all this money for no reason. And anyway what’d happened was, the bankers hijacked the money system for themselves, and still do – I mean there’s people getting multi-million dollar bonuses and things, it’s just absolutely ridiculous.
So anyway, what happened is there’s a whole … hundreds or probably thousands of guys working for banks in New York who are at the same level as him; they’ve all got the same problems, and it wasn’t easy finding another job. And it was very expensive living where they were … horrendously expensive! Beyond your wildest dreams, the cost of living. So they came back here.
And also they wanted the schools. I mean they’ve got … Harriet’s going to – she’s at Te Mata now – she’s going to Woodford I think next year. They’ve got Hereworth School and Lindisfarne – it’s very good for schools, so they’re very happy with the schooling for the kids.
But that’s what’s happened in the banking world. And I always think – I know you’re a National Party supporter, Frank, but so am I – but they always think that John Key is such a clever man, he made so much money. The only reason he made much money was that he was in banking. If he was paid the same as everyone else he’s just making the same, but he’s over.
And now Anton and his wife had a little boy who had some learning …
Yeah – has issues with everything, but he’s okay. He goes to St Matthew’s School in Hastings. ‘Cause … I think you know St Matthew’s?
I do, yes.
And it was very difficult getting a school for him, but it’s a school with no resources, and it’s full of kids who are not high achievers but who are at the bottom of the money chain, from what I can see, and – a lot of Indian families there – heaps of Indians. So Lewis goes there.
And he’s coping?
Yeah, he is – I don’t know whether …
I understand – it’s not easy.
Yeah. So they try to get him to have a normal life, but he has … when you see him he looks normal. He could come in here and you’d chat away, and you’d think he’s quite normal. And he is a sports nut – he just thinks of sport all the time … most important thing in his life is sport. Probably one of the most important things in my life too, Frank.
Yeah – he is a worry to his parents and his grandmother. But he was born into the right family, because they have spent a lot of money trying to do everything for him that they can. All sorts of different outfits in United States who try to … not to teach them, but try to jog their memory, or do something with them that snaps them … He’s just not normal in any way, but he’s not extremely abnormal in any way either – just sort of misses the boat a bit. But I quite like Lewis, I mean …
Over the years I’ve heard you and Coline talk about him affectionately, and …
No, he’s a good guy … yeah.
So – you leased your orchard block down Waimarama Road and became a truckie …
Yeah, that’s right, yeah.
… or you carried on the job you used to do. So you’ve carted fruit for that orchard plus others?
Yeah. Actually what had happened was, when I retired – I found it too stressful. I never retired because of financial reasons, we were making money out of it. But I’m a worrier, and I worry about everything, and if you’re an orchardist, you know, there’s just too much to worry about. And I got to the stage where it was getting me down and it wasn’t even the season … the fruit picking season, so I knew that I’d get sick if I didn’t do anything. So Mr Apple was processing our fruit through their pack house, and I went to see them and said, “Look – I’ve got to quit, because I just can’t carry on – are you interested in doing it?” And they said, “Yeah, okay.” But of course I had truck, I used to cart my own stuff. And I said, “Okay”. We made a deal, and I said, “The only condition is that I want to be able to cart the fruit off my orchard.” So they said, “Okay, that’s fine.” So I did that – and did that for a couple of years, and then I found that they would ring me up during the season from time to time. They’ve got huge … they’ve got eighteen trucks and trailers … it’s massive. But they tied up all these trucks and things, and every now and then if they couldn’t get a truck they’d ring me up and I’d go and do it. So every year I was doing more and more – so much so that in the end I got a bigger truck, and with each year I’d just cart more and more, including last year which – I never worked so hard in all my life as I did last year. I went from daylight ‘til dark for about three months. And I didn’t find it difficult – and I’d sometimes start at seven in the morning and come in at six-thirty or seven at night. And I was quite stimulated, you know, and that was good.
But I did strike a problem one year, and that is, I was unloading my truck and I got run over by the forklift; the guy operating … taking the bins … he backed into me and over me, and broke my leg quite badly – actually broke all the bones in my ankle, broke all my toes and crushed my foot. It’s seven years now …
So I went off to hospital in an ambulance, and I was under [in] shock, and they thought I was having a heart attack ‘cause I was so shocked – I’d gone pale and all the rest of it. So anyway they tested me – no, the heart was all right. And my foot was facing the wrong way when we finished. And anyway, unbeknown to me they thought it was so serious they didn’t know if I was going to come out of it with my foot still on, and they didn’t tell me, they told Col. She arrived up there … because I had a cellphone then and I was able to ring Col and tell her what had happened … so she arrived there not long after we arrived in there. But there was a young doctor there, a young guy from Gisborne, and he did the operation and he set it up. And he got it all … he set it up perfectly, and I had a full recovery. When I say a full recovery – I had no symptoms whatsoever – absolutely none. And it’s amazing. I did lose a bit of muscle condition, and it still hasn’t got back to the other one.
But another thing is – I was in the orthopaedics ward, with bones. And the Sister came in and she wanted to know what medication I was on, and I said, “None”. And she said, “Well, you’re a sixty-seventy year old man”, he [she] said, “you must be having something.” I said, “I don’t have any medication.” She said, “you’re the only guy on this ward who doesn’t have any pills”, and I thought ‘oh … there you go.’ So that was pretty interesting. But they told me I wouldn’t be able to walk for five months, and they were right to about the day. I found the most difficult thing was getting in and out of the shower, because to get in the shower you can’t shuffle in, you’ve got to step over it. And then if you step over it, you’ve got to rely on both feet, one to push off and the other to land. So that was the most difficult thing of all. But after five months I could sort of hobble around, and then I got rid of my crutches and my walking stick, and after about a year I was back to normal, back to playing and winning at tennis.
It just shows that the guy that did it knew what he was doing.
He sure did, yeah. Now my sister recently … my sister Rose, who lives in Rotorua … she fell off her … she was riding a bike in the Whakarewarewa River forest, and she hit a root on her bike and went over the front of the handlebars and broke both her wrists. And I saw her the other day cause she just had her seventieth birthday party at the Hermitage … the Chateau. And she got her hand set, and it’s all crooked. It’s terrible. And it doesn’t seem to worry her but it doesn’t look great, you know? And I said, “Well Rose, you should get that sorted out.”
But with my foot, the guy … perfect! Perfectly done, so I’m very grateful for him. And also, I was in hospital for three weeks. If you have open heart surgery you’re out in about five or six days … ten days … well I was there for three weeks. And I couldn’t believe how well they look after people in the hospital – I just thought it was absolutely fantastic. I couldn’t complain about anything – I hated the food because they give you healthy stuff.
I can’t stand healthy food, I eat junk all the time. And I used to get one of the nurses … I used to get the nurse there who looked mostly like she’d like pies, and I said, “You go down to the shop and buy me a pie, and I’ll shout you one”, so she used to bring me in a pie. But they … the people who run the hospital, they do amazing work.
Absolutely amazing, and a lot of people don’t appreciate it. And people who – probably their living conditions themselves in their own homes aren’t that great, and they bleat and go on about this – I think it’s dreadful.
So you became this truck driver for a period of years ..?
Still am. Not a period of years – ongoing.
But you’ve had some major changes in the last twelve months – you’ve sold the orchard; you have sold Rose Cottage in Duart Road; you now live in Te Mata-Mangateretere Road. You really can’t get out of this area, can you?
Not only that, Frank, as I’m talking to you at this moment I can see the house that I was … where I was brought up. And Ian Kiddle lives there now.
Can you see it from here?
Now can you see that yellow tree? Just to the left of that – you can just see it over its shiny chimney. Well that’s it.
That’s fascinating …
Well it is. And the funny thing is, my two sisters come over this year … I’m just trying to figure out why they came … there might have been a reunion. And my two older sisters who are older than me, they came to visit us here in Hawke’s Bay. So I rang up Ian Kiddle, and I said “Can we come down and walk through the property?” And he says, “Yeah, of course.” So anyway I took Jane, my oldest sister, and we walked down the back and through. But Mary wouldn’t, because she didn’t want to see it – she wants to remember it like it was, and Jane couldn’t care less and she walked through. It was such an interesting day we had – it was Coline and I and Jane – I don’t think there was anybody else. And we met Mary who wouldn’t walk through, up at the Cheese Factory … coffee there.
But it was interesting, and there was things that jog your memory that you’ve never thought of since the day you left thirty or forty or fifty years ago, and there they were, just like the day you left … doesn’t look any different. It is really, really weird. But yeah, we walked through the house – the house has had extensive renovations, but quite often there was certain … there was a wardrobe, still the same with the same architraves, and the kids’ bedrooms are the same and all that sort of thing … yeah, it was just amazing. And stepping stones across the lawn. I remember my mother put stepping stones in across the lawn ‘cause we used to always walk across the lawn and it was always muddy and dirty and that, so they’re still there, the same as when she put them in. I remember her doing it with my uncle [??].
Your mother was a very tall …
… very straight woman.
Yeah. Very, very thin.
Yes. She used to drive a …
Morris 8. She could never get to grips with an automatic. My father bought her an automatic car – a Honda Accord, it was a very nice car. And one day she went into the garage and started it, and she went to put her foot on the brake and put it on the accelerator, and she had it in forward not in reverse, and it went forward and it went under the bench. Dad had a [work] bench – it went under the bench and it pushed it up. And of course the more noise it made the harder she pushed the accelerator – she had it hard down. And by the time my father arrived he couldn’t see anything, ‘cause all the rubber was burning and the shed was full of smoke. So eventually he got in and reached in and just turned the ignition off. [Chuckle]
The poor lady …
And my mother said that she was never driving that car again ‘cause it was possessed by the devil, [chuckles] she said. But she was funny, and in the end she was as silly as a two bob watch – she was sort of … had a very mild form of dementia, and she knew that she was talking nuts but she was amused by it – she couldn’t stop it. But she didn’t need help – she was still living with my father, but she was very amusing. She was the most amusing … and we still have … When we had a reunion this year in Auckland, we all had to give a story about Molly. Molly was my mother – we called her Molly; her name was Mary. So everyone had to recite a story about my mother and it was so funny. She was the funniest person. But she used to act nutty because … this is before she couldn’t help it. But when she was younger she used to always make out as though she was nuts, but in the end she was just being funny, you know. She was amused when other people were amused. But yeah, she was a laugh, that’s for sure.
So now you have a …
I have a new project. Yeah, we bought this property because it’s in two titles. And we actually wanted the property at the back to build a house on, but to get the property at the back we had to buy the one in front too. So we had to buy this one in the front to get the back one. And so the deal is, I think, we want to make this house a bit more appealing and sell it, and build on the back. And at a stage when people are downsizing and taking life easier, we’re taking on this challenge which is crazy – I still don’t know why I’m doing it, Frank, but that’s what’s going to happen, I think.
Now is there anything else you can think of that …
Not at this moment.
I think we’ve pretty well covered the field. So at this stage then I’ll say thank you, Kim, for the interview about your family. At any stage that you’ve found something else that you wanted to add, we can just add it. So thank you, Kim.
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper