Cooper, Francis Taylor (Frank) Interview

I’m interviewing Mr Frank Taylor Cooper, old resident of Hawke’s Bay, Havelock North, cow cockie; also into spraying business (thistles), and later in life became a very, very successful real estate agent, truthful and down-to-earth. Good morning Frank.

Thank you Jim.

And very nice to have you here on the 18th January [2016], and my name is Jim Newbigin. So, good morning Frank.

Good morning Jim.

Now Frank I’d like you to give us a lot of history about the start of the Cooper family coming to Hawke’s Bay and I’ll just let you rumble on.

Thank you Jim. The Cooper family originally came as James Cooper came from Haxey Lincolnshire to New Zealand in 1862 on the sailing ship ‘War Spirit.’ This came to Napier. From Napier he went to Gwavas Station initially. He was there for only one year and then on to Te Mata, owned by the Chambers, as a ploughman. This was in 1862. He won a ploughing match at the first A & P Society Show in Havelock North in the area of the industrial area in Nimon’s bus yard. In 1868 he married Mary Letitia Cooper [Taylor] who worked for the Chambers’ in their home. Mary came from Offaly in Ireland. They had eight children – my father Francis was the youngest, born in 1875. Mary died aged thirty-seven years. So a new mother was needed for his family. He had moved from Te Mata and was now driving a coach from Havelock North to Clive, and as females were scarce he proposed to the daughter of a family in the coach who had just arrived from England, and was accepted. He had a further eight children to Margaretta Lachlan Vaughan. The Cooper children all went to the Havelock North Primary School, the girls becoming teachers and nurses and the sons rural workers. He owned his own farm until a Bank crash, and was sold up, and at that stage became a coachman. He died in 1899 aged 58 years.

My father, Francis, born in 1875, went to the Havelock North Primary School, became an apprentice coach builder to Symonds of Hastings. And this was quite interesting – over the years we saw some of the books that he used to use – the plans of these beautiful old phaetons and gigs and the tools that he had. It was absolutely amazing, but that was another time. In 1895 he went to Sydney to join the Police Force but was not tall enough. You had to be 6ft plus, so he furthered his trade by becoming a wheelwright. While in Sydney he went to Western Australia to Coolgardie which had a very deep gold mine. This would have been 1899-1901. We know very little about this.

When he returned he bought thirty seven acres for dairying and married Annie Palethorpe and raised eight children. This was the Thompson Road property. Annie died and he then married my mother Maisie and had another five children. One thing – these men were very prolific breeders – they were hard on ladies, there’s no doubt about that.

Both families’ children went to Havelock North Primary School. The village was only small those days. He bought more land in Thompson Road and continued dairy farming by hand until he got a 1 cylinder Lister engine to power the plant.

My mother was a dairy farmer’s daughter. At this stage she was twenty five and Francis, my father, was fifty five. The farm was now a hundred acres and milking sixty five cows. Most of the farm work was done by horses – haymaking, building large stacks of loose hay for the winter. My father ran the farm with an iron fist – he was from another era.

When I was seven I started school and my sister and brother followed. The roads were shingle and we biked. Our life was very basic. [Clock chimes] Mum worked on the farm. We did not have holidays except going to the A & P Show and once to Patangata, to the farm managed by my Uncle Tom. It was a farm by the name of Glenaray – it belonged to the McLeod family of de Pelichet McLeod.

Jim, my brother, had a rare leukaemia which the doctors did not think he would survive. They tried a new drug and he totally recovered. I had to go down to Wellington to give him his Christmas presents. It was a traumatic experience for me – first time away from home in a big city. It did have a good outcome, although Jim missed a lot of school. At that stage I had a friendship with Ken McKeown, our neighbour, John Beal and Geoff Eyles, school mates.

The only vehicle on the farm was my father’s 1936 Straight 8 Oldsmobile car. This car could tell many tales on how it bought my father home from his pub sessions with his mates. We had this car until 1960. It is still in the district awaiting restorage.

During my early years as an eight year old I used to go with him on a Friday when he got barley ground at the Hawke’s Bay Farmers for the pigs. He would park me in the ladies’ bar at the Grand Hotel – obviously some money was left to keep me plied with raspberry lemonade and something to eat. It was pretty good. My father would be in another bar drinking with his mates. We had been in Hastings since 11am and didn’t arrive home until 4.30. My mother was already milking the cows. My father said he had to wait for the barley to be ground, but I said “you picked it up at 11 o’clock.” I was never taken again. I guess the lesson was ‘don’t shop your father’.

On Show day at Tomoana we would all meet the Wilson aunties and uncles by a special tree not far from the hot water being boiled for tea. This was the only contact we had with our relations, once a year. Our father did not care for the rellies and spent the day in the pub with his mates having the odd spot or two. We had some hair raising rides home from the Show.

When I was about ten I used to visit Granny Wilson, Mum’s mother, and it was there Bob Wilson taught me to drive tractors – first a Massey Harris 30, an old American model, and a Farmall 12 on steel wheels. Bob used to grow forty acres of crops for the canneries, and I spent many a happy hour driving these machines.

When I left primary school I went to Napier Boys’ High School, attending the agricultural course. This was great as I cycled to Mangateretere from the farm, five miles, and caught a free bus to Napier. It was cycling to Mangateretere that I met Hilton Meikle who became a lifelong friend.

Being a farmer’s son it was destined that I would be a farmer. In my third year I had to leave as my father was in hospital and I was needed at home. I did not take an active part in sport as being a bus boy I had to leave immediately after school when sports were practised. During these years my friendships with Trevor Jefferies and their family strengthened, and my old school friends, John Beale, Geoff Isles, Colin Wake, Graeme Robson, Dave McKinlay – I lost contact with them because I was at another high school.

However, back to the farm. It wasn’t my choice but as the eldest it was my duty to work with the family. As a family we had to all help at times. Most of the farm was very wet due to the artesian springs. These had been drained by facine drains – bundles of sticks going to the main drains. This was done by Chambers, but the 1931 earthquake ruined these drains.

Life revolved around the cows. Cream was collected by the Heretaunga Dairy Company truck and the skim milk was fed to the pigs kept in the styes away from the cow shed. These were fattened for market and bacon. We had ten sows for breeding pigs. This was in the late ’40s. About this time we built a new cowshed which was pretty flash compared with the old one – all new plant, separator, concrete yards and the cows were jerseys. To drain the swamp hydraulic diggers were just starting, Jock Fraser of Hastings having one of the first hydraulic Tracgrip diggers pulled by an E27N Fordson tractor. Tom Guy was the operator. This was the starting of drainage … the 150 springs on both blocks. We had lots of macrocarpa and poplar trees. Jim and I cut them down with hire saws from The Farm Mechanisation. These were Clinton saws. We seemed to work them for a day and then take them in the next day to have them repaired.

My sisters – Letitia was training to be a nurse, Patricia was working at Hart Print, Margaret, my younger sister, was at Ardmore training to be a teacher and Jim had come home to work on the farm.

In 1956 my father suggested that instead of paying me, (“one day this farm will all be yours”) he bought me a brand new Ferguson 24 tractor with mower, rake, plough, discs, trailer – the idea being to do some outside contracting as well as breaking in the swamp. It wasn’t the same as wages but better than nothing. In 1957 I went to hospital badly burned from a flame thrower I was burning blackberry with. A hose came off and doused me with petrol. I was in hospital for three months.

After this time I went to Linton Army Camp for my CMT – I enjoyed this. ASC Transport Company – we drove 1942 Chev trucks all over the bottom of the North Island.

Ken McKeown and I went duck shooting together and fishing the Tukituki River’s mouth. I also fished the Maraetotara with Archie Asby Palmer for trout. The stream was much different in the ’50s. I played table tennis at the Havelock North-Pakowhai, joined the Hastings Miniature Rifle Club whose range was Edgar Milne’s packing shed at Mangateretere. We eventually built our own range in Hastings under the direction of George Gordon. I spent 7 years there. I also spent 7 years as a social member of the East Coast Aero Club at Bridge Pa. I could not afford to fly but did lots of hours with my mates Ken McKeown, Trevor Jefferies, Skip Circuit and Max Osborne.

Now excuse me, could you just tell me what CMT stands for?

That stands for Compulsory Military Training.

Did everyone have to do that?

No, we were balloted, and if your marble came up you had to go. So I was really pleased to go, because … had a great time at Linton – froze – we went in April and got out three months later. It’s colder I think than Waiouru because of the southerly that blows in Palmerston North.

The planes those days at the Aero Club were Tiger Moths, Percival Proctor, Whitney Straight, we had one Cessna, couple of Piper Cubs. We spent some memorable nights in the club house listening to the exploits of the wartime pilots. Sunday night was special as we joined the group in the dining room for bacon, eggs and mashed potatoes. It was something of a tradition. Ken Parrish, the Club’s instructor, was great to us young ones. We spent lots of evenings at their home.

And I also belong to the Pukahu Young Farmers’ Club – spent many happy times there, even on the hydatids committee, and managing the Brookvale Road dosing strip with John Latton.

Who was … the dog pounder.

Yes, that’s right – he was the dog control officer.

In 1957 I was best man for Ken McKeown and Janice Cooper’s wedding. Marie Clare was bridesmaid. In September 1957 I met Kay at the Premier Dance Hall in Hastings and that was the start of a memorable and exciting life. For extra money Kay and I packed fruit at Jefferie’s, Palmer’s, Pernel, and Kay at Johnson’s. This was after work, 6 to 10 every night. In the Spring we would help the Mardons decorate their blossom floats with real flowers. Lots of fun.

Can I ask you Kay’s maiden name and when you got married?

Kay’s maiden name was Brigham and we were married in 1961.

In the late 1950s Ian Brigham, Kay’s brother, worked for us on the farm cleaning drains. While it was lonely hard work with thigh boots, a slasher and a fork, Ian was energetic and wanting to earn extra money.

Kay’s father, Robert, was born in Yorkshire in England, emigrated to New Zealand, schooled at Whangarei High School, was a prefect and had very good athletic distinctions. Then on to Dannevirke where he was farming. Met and married Beryl Davis formerly of Ashburton in Christchurch – that was Kay’s mother. They went to Eketahuna where they owned the local sports shop, and it’s interesting to think that Eketahuna – we think of it just as a little village – you wonder how it could sustain a sports shop, but all the outlying people had lots of people working for them, and obviously it did. While he was there he was very active in the local swimming club and started St John’s in Eketahuna in 1944. The family then moved to Nelson where he continued his community interests – St John’s, Scouts and swimming. The family lived in a two-storeyed home in Waimea Road. Robert died in 1957 of cardiac arrest. Beryl sold up and moved to Hastings to be near her sister. She built a new home in Riverslea Road South with the four children, Kay being the eldest. After two years she met Eric Taylor whom she married in 1959 and they lived in Tainui Drive, Havelock North, Mahia, Pepper Street and Franklin Terrace, and then when Eric died suddenly in 1980 Beryl moved to a town house in Pepper Street then to the Cornwall Rest Home where she died in 1996.

In the late ’60s through to when we left the farm, Keith Paramore (married to Kay’s sister Carol), did all sorts of work for us painting homes, hay carting, orchard work. Keith could turn his hand to anything. Fortunately Ken McKeown and I learnt to dance which was great as Kay was a very good dancer and we went to many balls and dances. Kay was also a representative swimmer and a netball player.

Whilst the children were young Kay played badminton at St Luke’s Hall in Havelock North and later squash at the new courts opened in the village. Kay also played golf on a low handicap at Bridge Pa. Kay and I also went away on golf weekends with the Carrans, Gilmores, Lawsons and Snookes. We also played a very active part in Junior National Party. Some work but a lot of friends and fun. Kay and I were married in 1961, rented for two years and bought 11 Pufflett Road in 1968. Kay was working at Phil Price’s Farm Mechanisation. In 1964 we had Craig and Garth one year apart, and as Kay had a bad back we chose Melissa as our daughter. I’ll never forget the night we met Melissa – this little blonde-headed baby in Waipukurau Hospital.

While the children were quite small we had some luck, a draw in the Northern Building Society shares that gave us £500 cash. We bought a brand new Classic caravan which we towed with our black and grey Austin Westminster. We travelled all over New Zealand north, south, east and west for some wonderful holidays.

You certainly did – very interesting what you’ve told us up ’til now. You’ve certainly had a full life and we’ve only just really got half way into your lifetime.

This is only touching … this is only putting a foot in the water. Kay used to talk about the wonderful holidays her family went on. This was a new experience for me as we did not holiday on the farm.

In 1961 we changed from cream supply to milk supply to Hawke’s Bay Milk Producers. This meant a change from Jersey cows to Friesians. Kay and I started raising calves – some of these at Robertsons where we rented and lived, and they had a small paddock by the house. After a period had quite a few heifers to bring into the herd. Also I went to Temuka to Deloraine Stud to buy pedigree heifers in the little farm mini van. It was white, it was small, and I’d get here and drive nonstop to Temuka – cross the ferry, and just drove and drove and drove. This car today I probably wouldn’t drive to Pakipaki.


But we never thought about it. We also bought heifers from Palmerston North and went to Auckland with Hilton Meikle to buy cows from dispersal sales. This gave us a good base of Friesians which … some were pedigrees that I registered as Spring Farm under the Spring Farm suffix. Because we were production driven we had to irrigate a hundred acres. We had a huge amount of three and four inch piping, pumps that delivered eighteen thousand gallons an hour and twenty four sprinklers irrigating around a hundred acres. This was run from 7am in the morning ’til late into the night, the tractor motor switching off with a time clock.

As we had a caravan our initial holidays were at Clifton then we progressed to Taupo, de Bretts, then Loafers’ Paradise, then Mt Maunganui and lots of other places including Gisborne and the East Coast.

As our new friends started mainly through Kay’s girl friends, I renewed my interest in trout fishing and started with Keith Carran and Ed Gilmore. We fished mainly back country rivers such as the Mohaka, Repia, Ruakituri and many others. This continued for forty-five years. I also had a Mosquito sailing dinghy which had three sails, it had oars, it had a 4 horse power Seagull. Our children learned boating skills in this lovely little boat. Graeme Wood and I, another friend from Wellington, would venture out from Loafers’ Paradise in the little red boat we called the ‘Titanic’ and fished. We fished very successfully too.

During this period much was happening on the farm, as Ted Flanders built a new home and grounds for Mum and Dad. We built new tank rooms, barns, implement shed, also drainage of the swamp was carrying on and now new pastures, fencing and races for the cows, a new bridge to bring in the milk tanker to the cow shed. Prior to this the milk went in twelve gallon cans on a stand at the road gate. We were producing about three hundred gallons of milk per day.

Craig and Garth went to Havelock North Primary, and later Melissa went to Te Mata school as we were going to move to the farm – then on to Havelock North High School where David Barham was principal. When the boys had graduated from cubs to scouts they became dissatisfied as there was no camping. I went to help but after a few months the Scout Leader suggested I put on a Scout uniform. This was not part of my plans becoming a boy scout, so after a summit meeting with the family we joined the Heretaunga Tramping club. Did we get tramping, camping and early mornings? Yes we did, and some wonderful experiences.

So I became the ‘great white tramper’.

I was mowing and raking for Bob Wilson at this stage, Jim Reid and Noel Kitching, and what other contracting work I could do. Brother Jim was working on the farm at this stage and also doing some contracting. Then I bought a three cylinder diesel – 35 diesel Massey Ferguson to replace the worn out 24. The 35 was used mainly for farm work, mowing and raking. The Hawke’s Bay Farmers through Dick Shaw offered me the opportunity to band spray maize for grass weed control. High rates of – guess it was eighty – this was great, as I sprayed two thousand acres in the first year. This was done with a brand new 135 diesel I had purchased and including the band spraying I was doing six thousand acres per year – all types of specialised spraying. A purpose built spray unit with a 30ft boom Russell – Curry built this. I also had put a high clearance kit into the 135 for crop clearance. I bought this from Joe Leete in 1961. Jim and I both lived off the farm in the Havelock North village, Jim in Tanner Street and myself in Pufflett Road.

The farm was running well. The feeding pad we built for feeding brewers’ grain we bought from Hawke’s Bay Breweries, and then fine chop maize sileage, and hay rakes to keep at least a hundred bales on demand for the cows to keep them off the paddocks in the winter.

Contracting was going well. We had now Farmall Super C with mid mounted cultivators for inter-row cultivation of maize driven by Peter Fitzgerald. This was replaced by a 4 O Cultivator side dresser mounted on the 175 tractor on narrow tyres. We’d been using mid mounted Mortl mowers but progressed to a Taarup disc mower, and then we replaced our New Holland baler 282 with a new Holland 276, and a seven wheel Bamford rake – still used, Vicon Lely mounted rake for pea vines, and a six wheeler Vicon rake for our other works. I was using a 3 ton Bedford truck and a 16ft low loading trailer for water and was carrying the sprayer. We had a 7 ton S Bedford with hoist and also a J66 flat deck we used for hay carting. We used ten thousand bales on the farm ourselves and others. The S was used to cart brewers’ grain from the Hawke’s Bay Brewery and the fine chop maize sileage. We were the first to have a Pottinger Fine Chop maize sileage machine in Hawke’s Bay. We had a 178 Massey Ferguson with loader for the sileage.

Then when Kay and I bought the Pufflett Road property for £3,100 – this was in 1963 – it was only two bedrooms, a lounge and dining. First we had Ted Flanders build a garage about 30ft long and 15ft wide, also a landing by the back of the house for parking my A40 truck, and later caravan. Later we extended the house by adding a bedroom for Melissa and a large lounge, step down, with a fireplace and remodelling of the kitchen. At this stage we had oil heating and a dishwasher as I was working all day and half the night in the summer to make it happen.

In 1971 whilst going to Northland my father died at 96 years old. After settling his affairs it was suggested that Mum, Jim and I form a company to alleviate further death duties and so Cooper Brothers Ltd was formed to run the farm. Jim and my mother were running the dairy about a hundred cows all year round, and I was contracting. Not only spraying and harvesting but cultivation work, ploughing, rotary hoeing with a four furrow plough and 80 inch rotary hoe. Although everything was running well, some disputes were making things difficult. We had just installed the latest Alpha Laval milking plant and with our supplement food everything was fine. It was hard work irrigating three shifts a day on the pasture and we were also growing peas, beans, potatoes for Wattie’s on leased land. We also had the Frogley block we recently purchased.

During this period we had a lot of family socialising with the Carrans and Gilmores especially at Christmas at alternative homes and the other times. I still fished several times a year, tenting. Keith and I bought a 1976 Landcruiser and had Furnware build a [an] insulated, windowed aluminium cabin on the deck. This was to use for sleeping and cooking facilities. This saved a lot of damage to our cars on the rough back country roads. We also had a period with the Havelock North Wine Society – some memorable tastings, especially a formal function under the willows at Tennant’s Bend.

Where is Tennant’s Bend?

Tennant’s Bend is off the River Road – the Tukituki Road from Haumoana – it runs into the river. Keith and our group loved doing things outdoors and we set up this formal dinner under the willows with green/red table cloths, lovely chairs, everything, and then it was all on. And of course those days we didn’t worry about – we just drove home after these functions, which was customary. I won’t go beyond that.

Craig was off to Canterbury University. Garth an engineering apprenticeship at Tomoana and Melissa to the Joyce Blok Beauty College in Auckland. Kay was in admin at Whakatu Woolscourers.

Oops, again going back … after the Tramping Club for two years, we were capable of going on our own – Keith Carran and I and the kids. Mel was nine and Grant was eight. We did Egmont, close to the top; five days Whakatane; Maungapohatu – three days Rua’s track; we did tracks all over Hawke’s Bay and the Ureweras. Went up to Kaweka J; hot springs, Puketitiri; Milford; Routeburn. So that was probably as a result of me becoming the ‘great white tramper’. I didn’t need to become fit but we certainly … I had no regrets enjoying these wonderful times with the children and sharing them with Keith Carran and his kids. And the kids today still do those things.

Kay and I both supported National Party candidates for several elections – Duncan McIntyre, Bob Fenton, and I was the Hawke’s Bay electorate chairman for four terms. The last when Michael Laws was candidate. Many a weekend I sailed with David Davidson in Napier on his Farr 6000 – sometimes with the boys but it was far too slow for them. They wanted more action and more hands on. Kay, Melissa and I joined Lance and Meg Peterson on their yacht ‘Mata Atua’ in the Bay of Islands for some sailing. This was really great, living on the boat for a period of time, and of course any of you that know Lance and Meg – they were wonderful hosts.

Earlier we had changed our caravan for a bigger one that had [an] extra bunk for Melissa. We set off for the South Island to eventually walk the Milford and Routeburn tracks. On the way to Nelson we broke the front windscreen on the caravan, necessitating repairs. This trip took a lot of planning as there were some negative thoughts initially, but they disappeared. Kay was trying to encourage the children but no one wanted to go and do the Milford track, but the closer we got the better it became. When we wended our way to Te Anau to meet up with the Carrans, then Keith and I had to take his car and trailer to Milford for the return trip, and then after Milford take both cars and caravan to Queenstown and then fly back to Te Anau, and then we all bussed to the start of the Routeburn. Both tracks were a wonderful family trip, except Kay’s huge blisters after the Milford. But that was another really neat time, and to be able to share those … we had rain, we had fine days, we had everything. It was just such a neat time.

I had joined the Havelock North Rotary Club in 1964 and Kay and I were enjoying the fellowship and the projects we took part in. In the late ’70s I sold the caravan and we bought an 18ft Fleetline boat named ‘Sunseeker’. We used this Napier-Taupo fishing and skiing, and then to Waikaremoana, a very special place. This was a great boat, as I could sleep in the cabin on the lake. We had a competition called Waikaremoana Tours. Norm Speers, Dick Klingender, Graeme Hook, Colin Barr, Ian Fastier, Mr [John] Dixon – I can’t remember – and Tom [Bridson] – can’t remember Tom’s … and others. This was a yearly competition run from the Ormond hut that we had access to. Laughs and great music. I also went on my own to Mokau – or Home Bay – and later with Brian McGurk.

Whilst the kids were at Intermediate I was School Committee Chairman and in 1982 was Rotary President. In the ’70s we leased a property in Raukawa Avenue at Te Rangiiti, named ‘Grumpy’s Patch’. This became our holiday home in Tauranga-Taupo for a number of years, shared with the Woods.

The fifteen acres of orchard previously planted, Kay and Helen Kale spent some time working and training these trees. Most of the stock I reared off the farm was grazed for free thanks to the generosity of Bob Harper, the Lowrys and the Mohis.

In 1975 Kay and I wanted to move to the front paddock of the bottom farm so we sold our present home in Pufflett Road for $46,000 and Peter Holland designed a new home. This was an exciting time for us planning, gardens, colours etcetera. ‘Cause it was interesting – we initially had hoped to build this house on the farm when we were married. We had a man in Hastings design a house for us and my father had a change of mind and decided that it wouldn’t be a good idea for us to build a house on the bottom farm, so we shelved the plans and later on in 1964 we actually used that plan to build Mum and Dad a new house on the farm. So that was good to see it being built, but it was interesting – something you plan that early in life, you don’t necessarily … wouldn’t build that house again. It’s the same with our house in Thompson Road. I wouldn’t build the same house there again either. We think we know it all.

Anyway Jim and Margaret wanted to build on the Frogley block but we were hindered by Jim Frogley not releasing his mortgage. This created a division, so letters from Jim’s lawyer – they wanted out. So I split everything down the middle, machinery-wise and Jim took over thirty seven acres of the home farm, including Mum’s house with a life time tenure which he planted in grapes and apples.

Later when we built a new home in 1976 we lived in the caravan as we had vacated our sold home. John Poots was the builder and by Labour weekend – two adults, three children and one dog – we were running out of patience. Kay delivered the ultimatum. We were in around this home and we created the most fabulous gardens in about two and a half acres of lawn, daffodils in the front paddock. And just coming back – the ultimatum – Kay said if the builders weren’t finished we were moving in. And the builders did get finished. To the garden especially we had at least – oh, we had many garden visitors – Kay was part of garden groups, and Kay had great vision and green fingers. This was all tile drained and had an extensive watering system I had put in. I’d spent some time developing an orchard vineyard on the sixty two acres I bought from Cooper Brothers Ltd. I totally tiled drained. I carted tiles from Wairoa on the S Bedford, eight ton at a time, to do this drainage.

The first season I planted peas and beans. After the crop had gone I totally levelled the block with Jack Lay and his big grader. Roy Anderson marked the orchard out for five thousand apple trees, ten acres of Queens and twenty acres of grapes for McWilliams, Cooks and Corbans until the final grape pull. The vineyards – peaches and apples between the rows – many crops were grown for cash flow. Carrots, asparagus seedlings, maize, watermelons. Craig, Garth and Melissa all helped with the development. My Massey Ferguson tractors were no longer suitable so I changed to David Brown 990 so it was easily lowered, and the old David Brown Russell Curry built into a [$]16,000 forklift. The boys – doing all the vineyard fencing – and the 880 had this spraying rig on it – the boys were very clever on the farm, you only had to tell them once and they were strong, they were sporting lads, and to do the fencing – those manual jobs – it was like water off a duck’s back for them – they just were marvellous. The old 880 that used to be Lance Peterson’s – I turned that into a spray rig for the orchard that had the spray rig mounted on the front to spray under the trees. That was permanent. I only then had one large tractor, a 1210 David Brown for cropping. I still grew tomatoes for Wattie’s machine harvest on leased land adjacent to the farm.

Kay was still golfing on a low handicap. I sold my spraying business to Ken Senior lock, stock and barrel. I supervised him for one year to introduce the clients and to show him what to do. It was sad really, but Ken was a really nice man but he had no PR, and it only was about two seasons and they’d all gone – people I’d in the business for twenty five years. And it’s about whether they like you or not, isn’t it?

Yep – it happens doesn’t it?

Mmm. So my orchard manager was Adam Scott. He was John Scott’s son from Haumoana and he was a very talented, hard working orchard manager, and he had great orchard knowledge. It was during the development the kids did a huge amount of the work, so when it was time to plan their lives they already had a backlog of experience, hands on with people and operating machinery. This included Melissa who then went to Auckland to train as a beauty therapist. When all this was happening in our lives Beryl and Eric, Kay’s mother and step-father were always supportive and always there when needed. The orchard and vineyard were developing well. The off farm crops, tomatoes, carrots all did well.

It was during this period Craig was in Canterbury at university – rugby, skiing, and there were lots of other interests off university that we probably won’t discuss here, but he had a great time there. We used to send him down a survival pack to university. It contained two layers of apples, Kay would cook a chicken, fruitcake and lots of other goodies – put it in an apple box, put it on Newmans at 4 o’clock in the afternoon here, and it was in Christchurch the next morning and the chicken was still warm he used to say. But he said he had to pick this chicken up before his mates knew it was coming. He said otherwise there wouldn’t have been anything left. But we called that his survival pack, and it used to cost us $8 to send it to Christchurch.

Yeah, that’s pretty good service. And what year was that … about?

Late ’70s.

Late ’70s – yeah. Fantastic.

Yeah. Garth was doing his engineering apprenticeship at Tomoana, playing rugby at Clive where they taught him his niceties, socialisation, drinking. Unfortunately Garth was concussed several times and had to give up rugby. He then started running marathons and that’s another story, because I could speak for at least two or three days on Garth. He carried on to represent New Zealand in marathon canoeing at the World Champs. He then won the Scottish Coast to Coast. He’s done the Coast to Coast in New Zealand and currently at 50 he’s competing at World championships representing Australia and New Zealand at cycling, so they taught him how to run but they didn’t tell him how to stop.

Melissa went to Outward Bound, played netball and drove her Morrie Minor. She had this little Morrie Minor. At this time the family cars were an Austin Westminster, a Chevette that Kay drove, a Hillman Super Minx that was Craig’s, Cortina 1 of Garth’s, and Melissa was … and Melissa – she was disappointed that there was no birthday present in her room for her 15th birthday. It was outside her bedroom window on the lawn with a huge bow around it – ‘Morrie’. That was the Highlight Morris that we bought. Neville Davis’ Mary used to drive it, and prior to that Doug … Doug the potato grower – his father was an auctioneer in – Doug Walker. Doug Walker had this car as a new car – this little Morris Minor, so it had a bit of history. She drove this for many years.

The orchard and vineyard was looking well. We had syndicated with some very supportive friends to bridge the gap to production, but, in a critical year we had the Bola storm which destroyed the crop. What wasn’t on the ground was damaged on the trees. We were so dependent. I tried very hard to bring our farm into the damaged zone but the Tukituki River was the boundary. I went to Parliament to talk with Labour; I spoke to Under Secretary Maxwell; I spoke to Lange; I spoke to our own National Party members but nobody would show any interest in shifting this boundary to include us. Because there was no doubt, and according to the Met Office that we were exposed, and it was just the way the storm came round the end of the Peak. But anyway, that happened and there was nothing we could do. In spite of this, the Bola storm and the 26% interest at that stage made us walk, much to our disappointment. Our home, our vocation, all left … all left, as we walked. We left behind a beautiful garden with lake home and all we had worked for. When the going gets tough you’re really on your own. Craig had finished University and was working for Lion in Auckland. Melissa was working for Dunkerleys and Garth was finishing his apprenticeship.

So 1988 we started again with nothing. With some help from Bob Wilson, my uncle, and Kay’s mother we were able to buy a town house in Ballantyne Street, Hastings. Kay still had her job at Whakatu. I applied for jobs, then sat Real Estate exams – both Kay and I put [sat] it together. Then I started working for Tremain’s Real Estate where I remained for twenty four years. A wonderful family company. I represented this company on the Havelock North Business Association; retired 2013 from Tremain’s and then from Rotary after forty nine years. The reward – I was made an honorary member which entitles me to go to any Club when I feel like it. That was quite strange all of a sudden. When you retire and … and you’re not sure what’s going to happen the next day, because it takes a little period of adjustment.

Takes a good 12 months, actually.

It does. I still go to Rotary occasionally. I’m still active grandparent reader at Riverslea with Kay, Garth Thornton and Peter Read. This school we sponsor under Duffy books.

In 2007 I went into to Paper Plus in the village to buy a lotto ticket, collapsed and came to after a seven day coma to find I’d been on the edge – an aortic aneurism. They had flown me to Wellington, opened me up for twelve hours, then opened me up the next day to do some more. They’d put a new valve in and some pipes, and when I came to all the family were there. They didn’t know whether I was coming or going and neither did I. As I slipped into the bookshop my leg went under the book stand where it was broken. I saw this and when I fell – so when I came to from the coma my leg was still not plastered and I wondered what they had been messing about with. Then I found they’d been messing about with the rest of my body. Eventually I realised they weren’t going to spend time on my leg if my motor wasn’t going. Eventually they plated my leg in Hastings before discharge.

Two years later I fell backwards off a quad bike in North Wairoa which needed more repairs to my shoulder, collar bone and back. And this was sad, because duck shooting – I got a lot of pleasure out of this. And the people that I was shooting with that weekend – I think we shot a hundred and sixty ducks – there were ten of us, and I’ve never seen … and swans … I’ve never seen … but to fall off – it wasn’t part of my plan.

So I recovered from these various operations. I’m still active as a patroller in the Village Patrol. Been there for eleven years. I fished back country rivers for forty five years and now my interests are closer to home. Grandchildren – seven, children – three, and Kay and I. We are part of a breakfast group that meets at different venues. This is very social and has been going for twenty four years. I also do interviews for digital history Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank. This is a fascinating job. Also when I was 70 (2008) I bought a 650 shaft drive Honda motor cycle, and have ridden this all over New Zealand, from Invercargill, New Plymouth, Taupo, Rotorua, Whakatane. My family and friends thought I’d gone mad when I bought this. You can imagine.

Mmm. I can.

Craig has been in the liquor trade since University. Having lived in Australia, Amsterdam, Paris, Canada, and has world wide experience and has had world wide responsibility. He now runs his own company in Auckland – Bach Brewing. He’s married to Milena from Calgary, Canada and have [has] Thomson who’s five and Ellery who’s two and a half. They live in Mt Eden, Auckland.

Garth, an engineer, lived in London for eight years, met Sandra from England and married on the Turoa Ski field. Garth and Sandra have both represented their countries at canoeing. Garth and Sandra have travelled extensively firstly on one motor cycle – Europe, Africa, Egypt, Iran, India, China, Indonesia, and then one year they both went on motor bikes with the two little children and did all of South America, north to Dead Horse Alaska, across Canada to New York and then down to Australia, and then home. Interesting that although Sandra for several years had travelled on the back of a motor bike to go and do the trip up to South America with the two kids, Garth had to teach her to ride a motor bike. This was done in Southland in the middle of winter and he took her across the most horrendous roads. He taught her how to fall off in the river. He taught her how to go through mud, and of all these things she said she didn’t realise – she thought he was trying to break her [chuckle] before they went, but she said everything he taught her she actually needed. So that was quite interesting. They did 56,000km on this trip for a year.

He then – he joined the Police in Wellington, then he moved to Winton for ten years – now Senior Constable at Kalgoorlie. Sandra’s head of department at a school in Kalgoorlie. That’s in the middle of Western Australia. Garth and Sandra and kids – avid cyclists, racing cyclists – they are our sporting arm. Running, cycling, canoeing, all at the top end. Their daughter, Nadine, sixteen, is also very active in sport. Young Frank at fourteen is developing as well – cycling, running and football.

Melissa became a beauty therapist for Jane Dunkerley, but after a time she became sick of clients’ problems. And isn’t this interesting – I’ve heard other people say that a lot of ladies used to unload their problems while they are having their beauty, or the hair done. Men’s hairdressers you just get the jokes. Melissa married Richard Orviss who was at Birds Eye and then moved to Fruitcore. That was taken over by Turners. They have two daughters, Jacqueline, fifteen, and Courtney, thirteen, both at Karamu High School.

My mother died in 2008 aged 97. She was the last of the Wilson family of Lower Te Mata – the hardest worker and the longest liver. Just us cousins left, not many of us. My sister Letty – Letitia – died. She didn’t finish her nursing training and had a variety of jobs including Fine Fare Grocery in the village, working on the farm and orchards and vineyards for Jim and I.

Patricia worked at Hart Print until she met Graeme Bawden. Graeme was a stockman originally for Percy Hayden at Mangatapiri Station then at Washpool for forty years as stock manager, until they retired to Pakipaki on their lifestyle block and gardens. They had a daughter Sarah who is a paramedic with St Johns and Central Hawke’s Bay manager. She’s married to Chris Johnson and had two daughters – Andrew’s married to Alison and is an engineer in Tasmania. He trained at Whakatu. Patrick is married to Janine and they live in Wellington. They have three children.

Sister Margaret went school teaching – local – and then she met Alex Vlassoff, a scientist with DSIR. They moved to Pinehaven where Margaret teaches and Alex is at Wallaceville. They have two children, Arnya who lives in England, and Alexander and partner who have four children.

Jim married Margaret Bruce and had two children, Campbell and Jane. Jim farmed home farm, apples and grapes, until he retired in 2008.

Close friends have also gone. Ken McKeown, Trevor Jefferies, Marie Clare, Jan Speers, Graeme Wood, Ed Gilmore, Rob Brigham – that was Kay’s brother – he died at thirty two, from cancer.

I had two uncles who played a major part in my life. Firstly Bob Wilson encouraged me to drive his tractor, a Massey Harris 30 and a Farmall F12 on steel. I was just a boy, ten or eleven at the time. I drove hours cultivating his paddocks. He was like a father to me. And secondly Lindsay, who had a trucking business and all the times I worked with him carting hay, seed, on the threshing mill – they were always very supportive when the going got tough.

Lastly their sister, who was my mother, was so strong and kept our family together despite the hardships and sometimes disappointments she had.

Highlights of my time:

  • Marrying Kay, and buying our first home and extending.
  • Three children, all talented with great work habits.
  • Moving to the farm.
  • Building a new home and developing two and a half acre garden with lake.
  • Going to Nambassa. The kids came to us when they were eleven or twelve and said “Can we go to Nambassa?” and I said “Not really” – ’cause it was a bit like Sweetwaters but it was more extended – more different. And we said “okay”, because young … Jill and Martin Elliot’s son … boy Elliott?

Ah, yes.

Yes, well he was a friend of Craig’s, and there was Margaret Henderson, Ash Henderson’s wife, and their kids. They all said “look …” and so we said “okay, well let’s go. We’ll take the kids.” So off we went. Margaret had a little van – Margaret Henderson – and Jill had – they had a little pop-up caravan, and just the two girls and their kids and Kay and I. We had the Landcruiser and this pup tent. Off we went. And we drove to Waihi. And this was a new experience to both Kay and I because when we drove in it had been raining and was very muddy, but nobody had any clothes on. Nobody. Everyone from seventy years old down to kids. And I said to Kay, I said “this is different.” And the kids thought ‘now – this is different.’ So anyway, after a while you didn’t notice the people that didn’t have clothes on. Because there were Hare Krishnas; there was the Mayor who is now the mayor of Invercargill …

Oh, Shadbolt.

… Shadbolt. He was up a tree spouting to someone. Someone was threatening to cut the tree down. There was that politician from Australia who got into trouble. Look … they had Waylon Jennings … they had the most wonderful music – but it rained and it rained and it rained. It had a river going through it, and of course all the people were all playing in the mud and then washing in the river. And because Kay and I were both wearing gabardine raincoats at the time several times we were approached to see whether we were police people.


But of course they were smoking the weed and all the hippie people were there. All the bus people. All these bearded men who later became accountants and solicitors and politicians. That was probably one of the best values I’ve ever been to. It was three days. But mud! I’ll never forget the smell of the mud, it was … and the toilets – occh! But anyway, it was great. We had a lot of fun there. So that was one of the highlights especially with the kids and these other friends.

  • The Milford track, the Routeburn track with our family and the Carran family.
  • Family functions with the Carrans and Gilmores.
  • The friends who supported me with the orchard especially Garth Stewart, Norman and Jan, Lois and Graeme and Ian and Pat.
  • And then marriages – Richard and Melissa in Speers’ garden, Garth and Sandra on the Turoa skifield, and Craig and Milena on the Bugaboo skifield in Calgary.  And that was something again – in the skifield lodge we went to – it was normally only used in the winter time as a heli ski. Huge place – you know – huge, huge hotel, but could only fly in by helicopter. But they had a service road where you could get in and Milena’s father worked there so they didn’t have weddings, ever.
  • And of course Garth had to be different and they married up on Turoa skifield in the snow. But the interesting thing was the men were dressed as the Three Musketeers in full gear, with the robes, the ruffles, the boots, the swords, the lot, and the girls were in medieval costumes. And here we are going up the skifield at Turoa into the snow and standing there, and I went up with the marriage celebrant who’d come from Taumarunui, and he said “When I get back to Taumarunui no one’s going to believe this”. He said “No one’s going to believe this story”.

And then the low lights were:

  • The storm that devastated our first real crop.
  • And then leaving Spring farm to start a new life.  And then … we lived in Ballantyne Street from ’89 to ’93 and as I worked in the Havelock North office of Tremain’s, and on the way I went down Sylvan Road and on the corner of Queen Street was this very attractive character home. I thought if it ever comes on to the market I must have a look at it. [Clock chimes] Several months went by and then one day an auction sign was on the property. It was with another company so I rang and made an appointment and looked that morning. When I walked in … this was an eighty year old home that Les Clapcott, the architect, had reworked. It was beautiful, lovely wood ceilings. I rang Kay and said “you must come and have a look”, but she said she was too busy as she was going to Hong Kong that afternoon to visit sister-in-law Kathy. I said come in your lunch hour which she did. She rang up and said “I love it, I love it”. She flew away and I bought the house property. That was 1993. Kay moved in, and I stayed in Ballantyne Street for one year and then moved to Queen Street. We were having some difficulties after losing the farm and our home and gardens. We rented Ballantyne Street until we sold it.
  • It was in Queen Street I suffered with temporal arteritis and polymyalgia rheumatica, which meant I was on huge doses of prednisone, which wasn’t good for relationships as I experienced a change of personality. This was difficult for both of us and this took six years to withdraw from the drugs.
  • In 2004 I bought an investment property in Duart Road, Havelock North. I was quietly doing this up in my down time to surprise Kay and on the Friday Kay was talking to a solicitor in the village who lived next door and he asked Kay when we were moving in. Surprise, surprise … nobody knew I’d bought it. But the grapevine! When I arrived home – surprise, surprise – Kay said “when are you moving out?” I said “this is for renting.” But after some discussion, I said I would try it. After forty five years married, here I was on my own starting a new adventure 2005.
  • In 2007 I had an aortic aneurism in the bookshop. I did not realise what was wrong. Aeroplane to Wellington, fourteen and a half hours’ operating, seven days’ coma – but I came back – gave the family a hell of a fright.
  • 2009 I fell off a quad bike in north Wairoa. I damaged my shoulder needing one more operation.

Now it’s the Knowledge Bank interviews, grandchildren and Queen Street East. Kay has developed the section into the most beautiful gardens and put a large deck on the front for entertaining.

That’s it.

Well Frank, what a life you’ve had. I wish I had’ve known you earlier in my life, but you know, you were non-existent really. The name Cooper was … used to come to the front, and of course then I met you in Rotary when I first joined, back in the ’60s as well. But you’re an interesting character – one of the most interesting people that I’ve interviewed. Well we’ve both interviewed a number of people for the Knowledge Bank, but yours takes the cake. And by crikey – when I think of all the things you’ve done and what you’ve been through, and the travelling that you’ve done with your family and that, it’s really … really something.

You’ve got to remember that’s seventy nine years Jim, and when you think of your history too … but see this is the interesting … we pass like ships in the night. If I can just take a moment at the end of this … we all know one another, but we don’t know one another. And it’s not until some times like this … and see I had no idea what your family … what you were like as a person. I knew the person I used to see. No, I think it’s really great.

Thank you. This talk is now finished and we’ll leave it over to the editors now.

Goodmorning, this is the 14th July [2016] and I am with Mr Frank Cooper, entrepreneur of Havelock North, and this is his 2nd recording. And I say good morning Frank.

Good morning Jim.

Now I understand you’ve got a bit of an addition to do to your original and I’ll just leave it over to you to tell us what it’s all about. It’s a big surprise.

Thank you Jim. Well I’ll start off by saying ‘Oops – things I have missed saying’.

My fishing trips with Keith Carran and Ed Gilmore over 40 years all over New Zealand – Keith and I shared a 1976 Landcruiser we had Furnware build an insulated canopy on the back of for sleeping – three of us – and cooking. This allowed us to traverse the back country river systems. Favourites were Ruakituri on the edge of the Ureweras; also excursions to Waikaremoana with Peter Wilkinson, Ian Abernethy, Bill Dodds and the Waikaremoana Tours group – Bill Speers, Dick Klingender, the base being the Waipoua hut and then the Ormond hut, a very special place. We had competitions each December and a lot of fun. I must mention the faces, Norm Speers, Dick Klingender, Ian Fastier, Colin Barr, Stuart Humphreys, John Dixon, Mo Pearce, Tup Pearce, Bill Dodds, Tom Bridson, Graeme Hook, and latterly with Cliff King and George Stanley – back to the Ormond hut. Also the family time tramping with the Heretaunga Tramping Club, and then Keith Carran and I lead our families over many tramps, several of them five days fifty six mile ventures – North and South Islands, Whakatane, Rua’s track, Waikaremoana, the Crossing, Kawekas, Armstrong Saddle, Egmont, Milford. Later I upgraded the Landcruiser to a later model which was well worthwhile. I also had the run of Papuni Station for duck shooting and the Bull property at Rissington. So the Toyota was a real bonus for accessing.

Some of the notable people that I contracted for were Bill Robson, used to have a hundred acres of asparagus; Selwyn Begley had a hundred acres; Jim Arnold of Lagoon Farm, but I never realised his son Keith – I never realised that Keith was Jim’s, and he was a very stern man, Jim Arnold. Woodthorpe Station – that was Robin Lowry; Ngamahanga – they were consequently sold to the Buck family for grapes. Jim Hill those days was the manager; Trevor Taylor – Trevor now runs a big enterprise out of Tomoana; Bob Wilson; Frank Gordon – used to do a lot of work for Frank Gordon at Waiohiki those days; also Mr Harper, the generosity for allowing us to graze a lot of dairy stock for little or no charge; our very special neighbours – social neighbours, Richie and Carrie Barron who we had many laughs together.

When I was seventy I bought a 650cc motor cycle to satisfy a dream which I did riding from Havelock North to Invercargill, and up the other coast, Havelock North to Whakatane to Gisborne, Havelock North to New Plymouth. Finally I sold it in ’79 due to family advice (age). [Sold aged 79 in 2015]

Jim was selling the home farm which necessitated our mother going into a Rest Home, Waiapu, where she had many happy years. This necessitated sister Lettie moving to a Masonic flat in Lumsden Road. This was not a happy time. She lived there until she died in 2015.

Earlier I made a comment about Garth’s sporting adventures, starting with rugby and then many marathons, longest days, marathon canoeing. He was a New Zealand champ. This started with representing New Zealand in Czechoslovakia, and eight years in London intermixed with motor cycle travelling in Europe, Asia, Africa and then India, China and many other countries. This was with Sandra Troup on the rear. Then home to New Zealand, joined the New Zealand Police Force, married and then two children who are eight and six. Then they went off with the kids on the pillions to South America right through to Deadhorse, Alaska; then back to New York and then they came home to Winton. Then they went off to Western Australia to join the Western Australia Police with the Kalgoorlie group. Sandra’s teaching there and Nadine and Frank are at High School.

Craig, who was a natural sportsman but not a focused trainer, played top rugby for Hawke’s Bay under 18s and Canterbury University. And skiing, obviously in Christchurch closer to the ski fields. The adventure – when he finished University he joined Ceramco, unfortunately only for six months;  then Lion Breweries, where he had an outstanding career climbing the ladder through the various New Zealand breweries. Then to South Australia as Marketing Manager for Tooheys (Lion, I mean, at that stage). Then six months living in France, and he was head hunted by Maxim Australia to head up the team there and get things cracking. This was successful, and then to Amsterdam where he became World Sales Director. This was a consortium of the major world distillers and was responsible for twenty nine countries. It was not easy flying and living out of suitcases.

Then back to New Zealand to do some contract work for Merino Wools. He was head hunted again and set off for Canada to sort out Independent Liquor, Canada to bring to a profit or close down. This was a huge project travelling the width of China [Canada]. He was a success in bringing the company around and the bonus was he met and courted Milena, who we met and went to their wedding in Bugaboo, a hilly ski lodge high up in the Rockies. Kay and I drove from Vancouver to Calgary over several days through magnificent country. It was great to meet Milena, Milena’s Mum and Dad. And as his contract now completed he moved back to Melbourne to a strong position in Carlton Breweries. It was an interesting job but he was not happy there. Back to New Zealand, some small projects and then he restarted the Limburg label as the new Bach brewery, and currently local and exporting. They have [a] six and a three year old that we see frequently.

Melissa, as the children went to day care, went back to work with Hawke’s Bay Today, spent a lot of time with the Brownies, Girl Guides and Havelock North Swimming Club. Keeping two teenage girls in hand is a job on its own, but she enjoys community involvement. Sport during the winter. Richard and Melissa enjoy camping in their large modern tent.

As I’ve moved around the village and seen the new homes being built with the huge scaffolding around it, it reminds me of Melissa painting the roof of the orchard buildings – with an 11ft stud this was never any question of height, and you just got up and painted. Things have changed.

One disappointment in the family over the time has been the divisions partly through grandfathers and fathers marrying twice and subsequent new families having no contact with each other, almost forever. However, through Pat and Tricia Cooper, Selwyn’s son, we hope to build some bridges to renew our family contact for the future.

The last comment is about my new interest working with the team at Knowledge Bank lead by James Morgan and especially Jim Newbigin in the oral interview department. It has been rewarding getting to know Jim better as in the past we have passed like ships in the night. I sort of look back and think ‘is this all I have done in 79.6 years?’ And I think ‘Yippee! I have been so lucky, and I’m looking forward to …’ And I’ve left a gap for the years.

I rest my case.

But it’s funny Jim, over all the years that I’ve known you we have just passed like ships in the night. And you are really a very nice fellow.

Oh, thank you.

Well you are. Are you going to turn that off or say something rude? [Chuckle]

Oh, no, no – I think that’s very good. The history that we’re getting – the Knowledge Bank are getting – out of people in Hawke’s Bay is absolutely …

Is that still going?

Yeah … it’s absolutely amazing.


It’s amazing.


In fact it’s unbelievable, a lot of it, and … just what’s there, and it’s still hidden. And there’s still a lot of people there to be interviewed that can tell us so much about Hawke’s Bay. Well, that’s the end of our interview today. Thank you Frank.

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