Cram, Robert (Rob) John Interview
Good morning. Today is Friday 18th December 2020. I am Lyn Sturm and I’m about to interview Robert Cram. Now Robert is a [an] earthmoving contractor, now retired. I look forward to hearing about his life in Wairoa.
Okay, well good morning. My parents were Juanita Robinson from Gisborne and John Richard Cram, and her [they] were married … oh, I just forget the date now … but anyway, they were married, and I was born about twelve months later in Gisborne, on 20th October 1933. My mum and dad came through to Wairoa and my father took over running a little farmlet just south of Napier Road, and they farmed for Mrs Cathy Nolan who owned the farm. They were allowed to milk their own cows there to just must make an extra bit of money for themselves, so Dad milked cows and sent the cream to the dairy factory; and he used to put that money away and not touch it until he had enough there to buy a motor car. And they battled away.
I grew up out there at Turiroa, went to the Turiroa School for around about eighteen months. First of all, when I started there my father took me up on the back of his horse every morning and came up and got me every night – it was about two miles away from our home – and then they bought me a bicycle, a little blue bicycle. Well, I used to ride up this metal road, sliding in the metal, and Mum would stand down the road and watch me until I got out of sight; and then I think she would just think, ‘Well’, you know … ‘little fellow on his own.’ And then later a bus was put on to ferry the high school children in from the Turiroa area and the Awamate area. So I was told that I could use the bus too if I needed to, so my mother was absolutely chuffed at that. The bus used to pick me up and I came in to the Wairoa School. And you finished your lower standards in Standard 6 which they called Form 2, and then you went to high school. It’s now called a College, but we went to high school.
Well I got to Standard 6; all I wanted to do was leave school and become a farmer. But I had machinery at the back of my mind; I loved machinery, because the road used to get badly damaged in the winter time, and there would be big machines up there working in the cuttings and pushing earth over the bank. And I got the job – twenty shillings [£1] a week – and I used to have to light the lanterns at night on the slips … light the lanterns. The Ministry of Works’d bring me a four-gallon tin of kerosene and I’d take some kerosene up in a bottle; and it used to be very hard sometimes, because it would be raining and blowing, and you’re trying to get a lantern going, you know? But anyway, I managed it; and I used to be excited because Friday I could go into the Ministry of Works and pick up my twenty shillings I’d earned for the week.
Anyway things went on and I was fifteen – I spent two years in Standard 2; I misbehaved a bit and didn’t do my homework and all sorts of things, and it caught up with me when it came to exam time; and I spent two years in Standard 2 which didn’t do me any harm. But when I got to Standard 6 and the next jump was high school, I didn’t want to go on, and my dad was sort of in my corner. He used to say to me, “You learn more when you leave school, boy, than you’re learning now.” But Mum was a bit more sort of strict, and wanted me to go on. But however she reneged, and I left school in 1948, and I commenced work for a man by the name of Eric Powdrell. Eric Powdrell was a very well-known man in this town and he did an awful lot for the town, and Wool Week and so on. So I started working for him as a shepherd, and I’d only been there, oh, a week or two and Mr Powdrell came to me and he said, “Do you know how to drive tractors?” I said, “Oh yeah, a little bit.” “Well”, he said, “you get on that crawler tractor over there.” It was a machine with tracks; and of course he said, “I want you to harrow those paddocks with a big set of harrows. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, so your job is to come to work, get on that tractor and harrow all those flats, and I want you to blacken them.” It used to be good for the grass. So I was out there with my oilskin on, and I thought I was just Johnny Rooster. And of course I was saturated and shivering, but oh, driving this tractor was just the gears for me, and on I went.
And there was a contractor working up in the quarry … a red metal quarry up at Tawhara … this is the farm that Mr Powdrell had, Tawhara … the Tawhara Valley they called it. And I’ll just jump a wee bit here – most people wonder and ask me what the word ‘tawhara’ means. Now I got it first hand from Mr Powdrell and his father, and they said the tawhara is a fungus that grows in the fork of the matai trees. And matai trees have big forks in their branches and the dirt and stuff get[s] in there and this tawhara used to grow in there. It’s a bit like a brussel sprout; it looks similar. And the Maori used to come up from where they were camped around the rivers here, go up the Tawhara Valley and cut this fungus out and take it home in their flax kits, and boil it up like cabbage. So that’s the tāwhara; and the farm was named Tawhara.
Getting back now to this contractor that was up there getting road metal out for the main roads and that when they did a lot of tar sealing. And it was fairly good metal, and I used to go up on a Saturday morning and the driver up there taught me to handle a blade … a bulldozer. I used to go up every Saturday morning and learn a bit more. And then one day they said to me, “Well we’re going home now – we’ll leave you to push all that metal up and just put it there so it’s ready for us in the morning to push on …” they push it on what they call a ‘chinaman’; you build a ramp out over a bank, and the truck can back in here and the machine will push a bladeful on. That’s how they used to do it in those days, you see? And anyway, I became quite efficient.
And after about two and a half years I moved on, and I worked for the Borough Council driving a Massey Ferguson tractor. Some of the young fellows today would just shriek if you asked them to drive one of those. But it had a blade on the back, and my job was to keep all these metal roads around here, which were nearly all metal – this one was tarsealed, but that one that runs through there, McLean Street, it was metal right from the river, right through to over the hill down the beach – I used to grade all those roads every day. And I worked there for a while until I got a proposition from Mr Bill Knight, who had trucks here in Wairoa. He asked me could I come and drive one of his trucks, and he offered me a whole £8 a week. I should mention, actually, when I started work I was on twenty-five shillings, [£1/5/-] and my mother used to take the pound [£1] and she’d give me the five shillings. And that five shillings used to get me into the picture theatre and an ice cream, and buy a bit of petrol for my motorbike when I got one. But anyway, Mr Knight said to me, “You come and drive for me.” So I ended up driving a truck for him for twelve or eighteen months, and carting metal on the roads and that sort of thing.
Around about 1953-’54 we had a lot of wharfie strikes in New Zealand; Sid Holland was the Prime Minister in those days, and the strikes were so bad around the ports that nothing was getting unloaded. Anyway, I was called in – there were three of our other trucks – and we went down and carted sugar. I brought a big load of sugar up from Hawke’s Bay, because he moved the army in. He threatened them that if they didn’t go back to work he would move the army in. They said, “You can’t do it.” “Try me”, he said; and he moved the army in all right. And we went down there – I did two trips to Napier and brought back big bags of sugar – when you used to be able to buy sugar in a bag that big – brought back bags of sugar for Dalgety’s; half a load was theirs and Williams & Kettle was the other half, because they used to have general stores then, Williams & Kettle and all those. And I drove for him for quite a while.
I left him in about … oh, just after Christmas in ’54 because I was going with a very nice young lady … Beverley Leach was her name, and that’s her up there in the photo. And we were engaged and we were married in 1954 on 28th October, and we built this house we’re sitting in here now. We had a carpenter that started on it and we used to have big gangs come down every Saturday; and one Saturday we poured the foundations, the next Saturday we put the frames up, and the following Saturday the roof went on, and that’s how we worked. And I drove for Bill up until then.
And then I went with this Keith Guthrie, who was the contractor up in the metal pit. He asked Bill Knight “Can I borrow Rob?” He said, “I’ve got a driver that has gone to hospital in Napier”, and he said, “I don’t think he might be back; and I know that Rob’s not doing much.” And Bill said, “Look, oh, it’d be lovely, ‘cause I don’t want to lose Rob.” So he said, “You take him; have him as long as you like. When the work comes back again after these strikes have sorted themselves out, I’d like Rob back.” “Not a problem.” I was there nine years … ended up running the show. So I went from that to the same man that taught me to drive the machine first, to sort of get to know it; he was still working for Mr Guthrie, and Keith Guthrie said to me one morning, “Rob, I want you to work with Artie. You will learn from him everything and anything that belongs to earthmoving; he knows it and he’s prepared to teach you.” And when the first morning came along and I started, Artie came to me – “You want to learn, Rob?” “yeah.” “Well”, he said, “I’ll teach you, but”, he said, “you’ve got to keep your mouth shut and your eyes open, and your ears. I don’t want any backchat.” “You won’t get any backchat, Artie – I want to learn, and I want to be better than you are.” “That’s what I want to hear”, he said. And away I went, and I put in two and a half years’ apprenticeship – how to drive machinery, and that included dragline, which was a bucket machine on the end of two ropes which is very hard to learn to drive; but I handled it. I’ve got one … I own one. I rebuilt it and it’s over in the shed over there.
So I went on then with Keith to drive his dragline and his ‘dozer [bulldozer], and we used to do farm work … all types of farm work; roading, fence lines, a lot of fence lines, and also a lot of dams for water. So I was there and I worked my way through, and I used to go right down as far as Tutira doing dams and whatever. And then I finished up there one day; things got a bit heated, and I’d had enough and I said to Keith, “I’m leaving.” “Oh, don’t leave!” I think from memory I was on about £12 a week and doing mega hours; and oh … he offered me $20, [£20] and I said, “No Keith; no.” I said, “I want a break. I’ve been here nine years and I want a break.”
So anyway, there was a bridge-building firm here that did a lot of bridges around the Wairoa area – Mayheads; Hec Mayhead. Hec used to live just across the road over here and I knew him well, and he asked me to go and drive for him and drive his pile-driving winch; and any machinery that he had he wanted me to drive it, so I did. Then in the wintertime I would go into the garage and work on cars, because I had mechanical knowledge by this time and I worked as a mechanic in Hec’s garage for about eighteen months.
And then one morning, Mr Mayhead came to me and he said, “Rob”, he said, “we’re getting out of the game. Ken’s going to Australia” – that was his brother – “and I’m going to go back and I might start up a garage.” So he said, “Do you want to buy our little bulldozer and start on your own?” Oh … I didn’t know … ooh, I was a bit scared of finance, and … you know. And my father had always taught me, “Don’t you buy anything, boy, unless you’ve got the money in your pocket. You pay cash for everything”, you know – “doesn’t matter what it is, don’t you borrow money!” “Yeah, I know”; [of] course that generation, they’d been through the slump, and you know …
Anyway, my father-in-law said, “Why don’t you, boy? You’ve got the experience; you’re known to be a top operator.” He said, “Why don’t you? I’ll loan you some money.” So he did, and my father did; and I bought the little ‘dozer, and I built up quite a little client area after a while. But the unfortunate part for me was the little ‘dozer was a fraction too small for what I was doing, and I was getting into a lot of trouble with breakdowns and it was only because the work I was doing was too hard for it. So I went back – I stopped it, and I notified everyone and said I wouldn’t be in business any more; that I was going to move on. So I sold that machine to Mr Reid at Mangaaruhe Station and they took it off my hands.
And then I went back to work for Mr Powdrell again as a mechanic, and I looked after all his tractors, and rebuilt motors and all sorts of things, and made stuff with the welder. Anyway, I was in the workshop … it was around about 1962 I was in the workshop … working on one of Eric’s machines. And I looked up and I saw Mr Powdrell coming down; he was carrying a staple box, and Mr Murray Richardson … who had the farm next door; I’d broken it all in with a set of giant discs for him, and sowed grass seed and that … he had a little stool. And they came down and put their box and their stool down, and Eric went around and he found another box and put [it down]; “Sit down”, he said. I thought, ‘Oh, what have I done?’ Anyway, they said, “Rob, we’ve discussed all this between us.” He said, “Murray has seen what you can do with a machine, doing all this grass seeding and making roads for him.” And he said, “He wants you to go into business, and I’ll come in too and we’ll start you up.” Ooooh … “Well”, I said, “I’ve got no money.” ‘Course I had little children, and you know, you’ve been through it all. And anyway … oh, we had a natter, and … oohh, “Oh, yeah.” “No, no”, they said, “you don’t have to worry about putting any money in; we know you haven’t got any money. We’ll put up the money and we’ll have twenty-four shares each.” And he said, “You will slowly buy us out. You won’t feel it, you’ll just buy us out.”
So anyway, that was all right; we finally got things going. We went down to Hawke’s Bay and we bought a Ruston Bucyrus dragline; a chap was using it down the port and he wanted to sell it, and so we bought that. Eric bought a brand new Allis-Chalmers ‘dozer, which was around about seven ton, and just [a] nice big heavy machine. He bought that, and I remember he gave me the cheque to take into Alan Pert when the new machine arrived; an $18,000 cheque to give to Alan to pay for the machine. And he said to me, “No, that’ll all come into your side of it and tick its way off.” Anyway, “What are we going to call this company?” So we came up with the name ‘Tāwhara Earthmovers Limited’, Rob Cram, Wairoa. And that was how we started up.
But I had a bit of a break before I got going. A friend of mine, Brian Hill, who was a contractor also, he bought a brand new International ‘dozer, and it was a power shift; there was no clutch or anything, it was a power shift machine just like an automatic car. And we went out and tried one out out at Reid’s, and oh yeah, that was good. So anyway, Brian went ahead and bought this machine, and it came up to Tāwhara, all nice new paint. And I was working on this tractor of Eric’s in the shed, and I could hear them playing around with this tractor. And Brian drove it up the hill and turned it round and came back down again, and he came into the workshop and he said, “Rob, would you drive that machine down the hill for me? I just want to see what it’s like sitting on the ground, you know; you’ve got to be careful with machinery whatever job. You don’t want one that’s a little bit toe-heavy or a little bit heel-heavy, you want them well-balanced.” “Blow you – I’m busy.” “Oh, come on, you’re my mate; come on.” “Yeah, okay.” So I got on this thing and I went up the hill, turned around, came down again; then I took it up another place, and I was heading up the hill with it and all of a sudden it started to climb up. It just had a little lever like that, just to knock it out of automatic; and because I wasn’t familiar with it I went for the clutch, which … you know, I could be doing something else but I could always hit the clutch and put it out; and I went to do the same, and she climbed up. And [from] what he said, the machine climbed round the crown wheel … instead of the crown wheel turning the sprocket, it stopped, and the machine climbed up the crown wheel. And the last time I remember I was looking straight up the bonnet; and I threw myself forward and hung onto the steering clutches. The tank was about here in height, and the machine came over … boom! On top of me. My body got pushed forward that far that it split all the shield bones in my back part; and the machine bounced off and went like that, and the tracks were still going around and it caught my leg here. I got up to run away from it – and believe me I stood up, and I went to run and I just collapsed here, and the machine’s track caught me here; and I can still feel the little dent in the shin where it broke my leg.
So that was September 1964, and I was in hospital September, October, November; I came out just before Christmas on crutches, and I was on crutches nineteen weeks. And I went up to Ohope and we got in the surf up there, and by the time I’d finished I could walk as good as gold. And I had to go to Doctor Riddell; he said, “How did you get down here?” I said, “On my wife’s bicycle.” “You what?!” he said. “Yeah.” “Oh”, he said, “if you’re that good, step up on that step using the crook leg first.” I hopped up on the step. “Oh, hell”, he said, “if you’re that good you can go back to work – on light duties.” And what did I do? I went straight back up to Eric’s, and his machine was sitting in the shed all in pieces. And I got it going, and Eric asked me could I get it going for them to use next day; it was rather important that they did this job the next day. And I worked until eleven o’clock at night; and I jumped on the machine, I took it round the corner and I drove it up the same place that I’d tipped over; I got up the hill and stopped it. I could see Eric come out … open the door to see what I was doing. And he was freaked out; and I backed it back down again. He said “What the hell are you doing?!” I said, “Proving to myself that I can still get back on a machine. If I hadn’t’ve done that, Eric, I wouldn’t’ve driven any more.”
So that was it; we were able to go back, form the company of Tāwhara Earthmovers Limited, and away I went. And I worked on my own. I was up at four o’clock every morning and I used to leave home here at five, and I never used to get home for tea until seven at night. I did that six days a week, and finally got [the] machinery paid off and finally there was just – we paid the first one out and my wife took over Eric’s shares, and she came into the company. It was her and I.
And then one of my sons, who unfortunately got killed on a motorcycle – Dwight Simon Cram – he was a great guy, he never left my side with me as a little kid; he followed me everywhere, he came to work with me … he was terrific. And as a little baby my wife would have him on the bench there; she would’ve bathed him in that big sink we’ve got there … she’d bath him in there, nice and big; and he’d hear my ute come in and he’d push her away … “Daddy will do!” And he wouldn’t let his mother touch him. [Chuckles] And he’d be sittin’ there shiverin’ on the [bench], and [chuckes] I’d have to come in the back door, and I’d all be dirty; but “No. Daddy do.”
Well he went on to leave school when he was fifteen, and I spent two and a half years teaching him to drive the dragline and the ‘dozer. And I said to him one day, “Well – I want you to put a road in over there.” He said, “Yep.” I said, “And if you do it and it looks like I’ve done it”, I said, “I’m going to start letting you go on your own.” And he made a beautiful job of it; there wasn’t a crumb, as you’d call it, out of place. That was it. I unloaded him away down at Putorino, and the poor fellow had nerves all around him, but he was a good operator … a top operator. And we worked together for thirty-seven years and never had an argument. We were the greatest of mates. So he was a good operator; he didn’t mind getting out of bed at four o’clock in the morning and going away. And then we finally built the company up where he had three diggers and a ‘dozer. And I tried … when I reached sixty-five I tried to retire and couldn’t, ‘cause he was always ringing me up … “Hey Dad, I could do with a couple of days if you could.” “Yeah, righto.” [Of] course that was it, you know, and I sort of carried on.
In the year 2000 he took over the company, Tāwhara Earthmovers; and he went pretty well. He ended up with three diggers working all the time; he was on one, and his son, Jeremy who had left school by this stage, he worked with us, and was taught by Dwight and I; and he became a top operator. And he’s still operating machinery – he’s in the Forestry now with big machinery. And they were really singing; things were working beautifully, going like anything.
[Of] course we’d always been motorcycle fans; my wife and I had motorcycles for years, and I’ve got a roomful of them down the back there. And anyway, it was Easter 2011 that my wife and I were in Palmerston [North], and there was a Rose & Shamrock or something – that was the name of the pub just across the railway lines in Palmerston. We could get you know, a lovely meal for about $18 … as I call it a workin’ man’s feed for a workin’ man’s price. And anyway, I was just stretched out on the bed; we’d been out to Feilding and spent the day in the most magnificent gardens out there – I forget what they’re called. You just go out from Palmerston a bit and into Feilding and they’re out the back – acres of it! Just beautiful garden, and we walked it ‘til we were just about dropped.
Did it have rhododendrons?
Yeah, rhododendrons, yeah. They had everything …
Ah, that’s it! That’s it, yeah. You could have a little scooter if you wanted it to go round, but Bev and I walked all over the place. You get … bit tired that night, and I said, “Oh, we’ll go over and have a feed over there, eh?” “Righto.” So anyway, she was in putting her powder on and I was just stretched back on the bed watching the news; and Oliver-Kirby was reading out the news, and she said, “There’s been the first accident and death, and it happened on the Tiniroto Road just north-east of Wairoa.” And I said to my wife, “I’ll bet we know who that is.” Because Wairoa’s not big; we know how many motorcycles were there, and what some of them do. I didn’t do it – I’m not a boozer; but a lot of them would go out there and spend Saturday afternoon at the Tiniroto Hotel and then come back; or they’d go to the Marumaru. So anyway, I said, “I wonder who it is, Bev.”
Well, as I say, we went and had our tea, and came back; and we had a ruling that we’d turn our cell phone off at nine o’clock at night, and we’d turned it on at seven in the morning. Okay, that’s all right; so anyway, we went to bed about eleven o’clock. I woke up at twelve, went to sleep again; I woke up at one, I woke up at two, I woke up at three; I don’t know what, something was … something was … well, as Lorraine said, spiritual; something was … Anyway, ahhh … I don’t know what it was, but I could not sleep. And anyway, I got up again at six o’clock and I pulled the curtain across. Standing there was my grandson, my daughter’s boy, Gareth. I knew straight away – boy, this is us! Opened the door; he said, “Granddad, Dwight’s been killed.” Oohhh, Jesus!
Anyway, it was a bit bedlam there for a few minutes as you can well imagine; but anyway, we sorted it out. And what had happened was, Aileen, my daughter … all the boys came in and went up to her place to console her and try to keep her right, because her and I’ve always been very close. “Where’s Granddad?” “Oh, he’s in Palmerston.” I mean, we didn’t tell them the name of the motel – “We’re going to be in Palmerston all weekend. You’ve got the cell phone.” “Well”, she said, “I don’t think it’s fair that they should hear it over the phone. I think one of the family have got to go down.” She’s very good friends with the Chief of Police fellow that used to be here; he’s just retired not long ago, and she rang him. And he went up to the house, and … oh God, he was devastated; so he went up to the house. “We don’t know what to do, Tony.” “Where are they?” “In Palmerston; we don’t know what motel, but they’re in Palmerston.” “Okay … hang on then”, he said. “I’ll tell you what – leave it with me, and I’ll get in contact with the Chief of Police in Palmerston.” He rang him and he said, “Look, could you get a patrol car to snoop around and just try and find Rob Cram’s car.” Now my number plates are CRAMBO; you’ve probably noticed that; well, ‘cause I’ve always been called Crambo, all my life … Crambo. So he said, “The registration plates are CRAMBO”, and he said, “just do a snoop round”, he said, “if you can, and let us know where it is.” Anyway, that was all right; he thought about it. ‘No’, he thought, ‘that’s no good. No.’ So what he did was got in touch with [us] again and he said, “No.” He said, “Don’t do that”, he said. “We’ve had a second thought. No one wants a policeman walking in opening the door this hour of the morning”, he said, “just back off.” So anyway, Gareth said, “Mum, Michelle” … that’s his wife, Michelle … he said, “Mum, Michelle and I will drive down. [Can] we use your car?” “Yep.” So off they went. And they got into Palmerston at around about two-thirty in the morning; and they drove in – no car; then no car. Then Gareth and Michelle noticed that every time they drove into a courtyard there’d be a light come on somewhere, and you know, people were pulling their blind back. Michelle said, “Gareth, we’re going to get into trouble shortly; someone’s going to ring and say there’s a strange car.” “Ohh”, he said, “the police know though.” “Yeah, but” she said, “I think we should have a sleep in the car or something.” “No. no”, he said, “the office light’s come on over there, I’ll go and see that fellow.” So he did – told him the story. “Look”, he said, “leave it ‘til the daylight.” He said, “see that motel there? There’s the key”, he said. “There’ll be no charge”, he said, “just make use of that motel, and I’ll see you in the morning.” Well Gareth woke up ‘bout … bit before six. “Come on, Chelle; Come on, I can’t bear this any longer.” He said, “I’ve got to find my mate, Granddad.” So anyway, that’s what they did. They drove out of the motel they were in, round into this one, and there was CRAMBO. You wouldn’t read about it; he’d got that close.
So we motored home. And that was the end of Dwight, and I had to come back and then run the machinery; it was suggested that I come back and get back into the harness again, and I drove again for … I’ve only just stopped, just … oh, twelve months ago. I’ve only just stopped, and that’s what I say – I’ve been driving machinery and shifting earth for seventy-one years. It’s not a bad record.
It’s an excellent record. [Chuckles]
And I get called the ‘young fellow’; and of course I ride a beautiful big Honda Goldwing Trike out here, and I’m known as the oldest teenager in Wairoa.
Pleased to meet you …
So anyway, we’ve had lots of machinery, we’ve had lots of work. And I used to go as far as Tutira Lake to the south, up into the ranges; and work right through all those farms along the ranges; Raupunga, Mohaka, way out Putere. Dwight used to do all the Putere stuff, and Okare – John Bailey’s properties right through Okare; Waikatea; Ruakituri …you name it … and covered Mahia. And sometimes we had as many as forty clients out there – huge clientele we had. Sometimes we just couldn’t handle it, but we’d go to our clients and say, “Look, we can’t handle this; we’ve got too much on.” “No – I won’t get anyone else, I’ll wait for you. I don’t care whether it’s next year – I want you fellows.” So that was the type of clientele we had; and a lot of them I have worked for three generations, and given the fourth generation a ride in the digger. I have seen you know … old granddad on the farm, and his son sort of taking over; and then I’ve seen his son grow up and take it over; so you know, it’s just amazing to work for four generations.
Dennis Munro … I worked for old Neil Munro, Dennis’ dad; Dennis was at college, and then Dennis grew up and he took over the farm; and then his son grew up and he’s now taken over the farm, and I’ve given his little boys a ride in the digger. OSH [Occupational Safety & Health] wouldn’t like it very much, but anyway …
So I’ve had a marvellous career really. I used to think my wife, you know, sometimes … when she died, I used to think, ‘Gee, I should’ve taken more time off to be with her’, you know; but she used to say if people asked her, “You must get sick of Rob camping, Bev?” She said, “Oh”, she said, “I’ll never get used to it.” “But”, she said, “I realise that all the hard work he’s doing now will come out on top for us in the long run.” And of course she stuck to me; she stuck to me through and through.
We used to go to Ohope every Christmas; I had a beautiful big eighteen-foot-six tandem-axle caravan with separate bedroom and everything, and we used to go to Ohope every year and I would take a fortnight off; then I would come home and leave them at Ohope for another week. I’d carry on back at work again, then shoot up on a Sunday or something, hook the caravan on and bring it home; and I might drop them off at Gisborne and they’d have another week there, and I’d go and get them and bring them home. So we tried to sort of make up for it a bit.
Over the last two or three years I’ve sort of worked with Nolan, my other son, who is an engineer. He started in business and took over the shed that we’d been renting for years, and I’ve sort of been helping him out – I went over yesterday and helped him out for a few hours; and I’ve got to go over tomorrow, he wants me to help him adjust the brakes on his big motorhome bus; “Come and give us a hand tomorrow, Dad?” “Yeah, righto”, so I’m a handy old dad you know. “Are you doing anything tomorrow, Dad?” “No, no, no,” “Okay, you’d better come over, eh?” Sometimes I’ll be there three weeks working, you know, but I love it, it keeps me going. I’m the sort of guy that … I can’t stop.
My partner here, Lorraine who … her [she] and I’ve known each other for sixty years. She lost her husband, Albert, after twenty-four years of marriage; and then she got in tow with another bloke and they were together for fifteen years; and he died, eighteen months ago with bad cancer. And anyway, we got together; we were both lonely, and … oh, it’s been absolutely magic, ‘cause she comes on the bike with me, and we have a lot of fun. And she’s a very clever lady, and she is a qualified magnetic healer. She does a lot of healing work with the old hands, you know? I set her up a bedroom out the back there; her proper bed is on [in] it and she does healing; and it’s amazing, you know … I never used to think it worked, but it works all right … it works.
Rob, can we go back now to your ancestors?
Okay. [Showing family tree detail; discussion a little confusing]
Well, these two here of course, where the Cram starts off was that fellow there, Robert Miller [Cram]. Now the Miller comes from his mother’s maiden name; she was [Ann] Frew Miller, and they used her name for his middle name, so he was Robert Miller Cram, and he was just a little fellow when they got out here. And he married this lady here. [Selena Coughlan]
But on this lady’s side, which of course is Raiha; Daniel O’Keefe, you see – Daniel O’Keefe was a cobbler, and he came out here and there wasn’t much work as a cobbler, so he married Ihipera [Turi Te Moki] …
Oh, that means Isobel.
… but that’s for Isobel. He married her, and they had five children, [one of whom was] Raiha. Raiha’s the one that [who] grew up … they descended from Raiha. And then Raiha ended up marrying a John Smith, because her first husband died. And she had children to him – it gets a bit all over the place here, but what happened was, Raiha and James Pearse[‘s] children were Tom, James, [?].
Oh yeah, Raiha Moki, that’s her. She married – after the other chap – a dispatch rider, [Edmund Lamplough] and he used to deliver messages to the English army out here when they were here in the wars and that.
And her husband – the joker Smith I think his name was – he got killed by Te Kooti from what we gather, down in the Mohaka River. That’s about all we know, but some say he drowned; but some of the Maori say, “No, no. Te Kooti got him and left him hanging up in a tree”, somewhere down there at Mohaka; so we’re not too sure. But anyway, he died.
But anyway, Raiha found another man by the name of Patrick Colin [Collins] Coughlan. Now old Uncle Dick Coughlan used to live down the road here, and grow strawberries and grapes and make wine. Don’t tell me he’s your relation? Is he?! [Quiet chuckle] Is he? [Chuckle] Ohhh, this is getting serious stuff! [Laughter] Oh, my God! Yeah – well there you are, see?
But anyway, we are descended from Selena [Coughlan]. Well see, they had these children, Raiha and Patrick; they had Richard, which [who] was old Uncle Dick down the road; then they had William; had Charles, and they had Selena. There’s Selena; we are descendants from Selena.
Then we come over here to Peter Miller … that’s that fellow. Their children, Mary, Janet, Margaret, Elizabeth; Ann Frew Miller … that was his mother’s name, Ann Frew Miller. So that’s how that all started, with them. As I said, this bloke came out from Scotland with two of his brothers and their mother; and the mother was very pregnant, and she got into child labour problems having this daughter. But anyway, the daughter arrived and lived but the mother passed away and they buried her at sea.
And the rest of the family came on over to New Zealand and landed in Dunedin, and they proceeded to take up residence and buy a bit of land down there somewhere – I don’t know the details, but they bought this land, and some of the uncles farmed it all. And Peter and John, his older two brothers – they came north; one of them, John, managed the farm up in the Tinoroto Road … oh, I forget what they call it now, but he went up there and managed a farm.
Peter came to Wairoa, and he was running the coach house which used to be called The Arcadia Boarding House up the road here; it’s gone now. And also, where the coaches used to pull in, well of course that used to be where the present section is; they’ve pulled all the building down and they’re going to build a new supermarket in there. That’s where the coach house used to be, and all the coaches used to pull into there; that was a big building. And then opposite that where Robert Unwin’s car yard is just straight across the road from that, is where the horses were shod and kept stabled. My grandson owned the garage just behind Rob, and Dwight used to take the digger in there and scrape all his yard up for him and tidy it up; every now and again they used to pick the horseshoes up. The machine would loosen up [the ground] and they’d be picking horseshoes up.
And Uncle Peter … my Dad’s Uncle Peter … he got a message to Robert, my grandfather, that fellow, to come up. “We need a driver for a coach.” So he came up, and that’s when he walked round to Wairoa and got into where the coaches were. But he had a bit of a problem getting there because when he asked the coachman at Opoutama how much to take him to Wairoa, he said, “Twenty shillings.” [£1] “Too bloody dear!” he said, “I’ll walk.” So he walked. And when he got to the Nuhaka River mouth [it] was a bit deep to cross over, but there was a Maori chap fishing there, and he said, “I’ll take you over for a shilling.” So he paid a shilling, and the Maori bloke brought him across on the canoe; and he carried on down and came into Wairoa. And Uncle Peter got him onto driving coaches, and he used to drive the coach from here down to Putorino. They would change horses at Waihua; they would change horses again at Kotemaori, and then they’d go from Kotemaori into Putorino. And they would stay the night there, and he would bring a coach back after the morning coach caught up from Napier; they’d transfer, and then he would bring them up.
I actually was working for a man by the name of Tom Haliburton, and Tom Haliburton’s property went right down towards where the Putorino pub is now, but it was a big stable and everything then. And they used to come down and cross over the Putorino River, and then go up a fairly steep climb. And Mr Haliburton said when he and his brother were young they used to go to school down there, you see; and anyway, at night time they knew when the coach was about to go home and they’d hide in the bushes, and as the coach went across and went up the other side these kids would jump on the back of the coach and get a ride up the hill. And of course the coachman knew they were there – he didn’t have rear vision mirrors on his coach, so he just had to presume. And what he used to do … some of them had the big long whips and they could go ‘whewhh’ right along the side of the coach, and there’d be enough whip to come round and catch the kids in the legs. And he said, “We knew the ones, though”, he said, “we soon cottoned on”, he said, “which coach you didn’t jump on.” But he said, “There was this man with a beautiful neat little moustache.” And I said, “That sounds like my grandfather.” And he said, “I can remember”, he said, “what a kind man he was. ‘Come on boys, hop on.’” But he wouldn’t stop the coach; and they’d run out and jump on and get a ride up the top of the hill. “You must hop off when you get up the hill, though.” And he’d take them up, but he never ever squealed on them, you know. It’s lovely for me to be able to work in that area, you know, after all that, and catch up with a few of these things.
Anyway, this man here and this lady were married … Selena, who was the Coughlan girl … and they used to live down Whakamahia and work for the Powdrells, ‘cause the Powdrells’ land – Turiroa, the Tāwhara – all came right along to the beach and Whakamahia, which is where the lagoon is, and right down; and their house was right at the far end.
And Granddad left the coaches, and he started working as a shepherd and did all the horse work for the Powdrells; and then they later moved the family up to … oh, you’re probably not familiar with it, but where the Athletic Football ground is just out here, just as you go past the hospital, it’s the Athletic Football ground there. Well that all used to belong to Powdrells, and at the far end was a little … oh, it was like a little whare; it was about all there was, and that’s where Granddad and his wife brought up all their children – they had about eleven of them. And Granddad milked cows there; he was allowed to milk cows to make himself some extra money, so he milked a big herd of cows. And he farmed a little block; sort of cut hay to get ready for the winter. He used to milk all these cows, and then finally he made enough money to put a proper milking machine in.
And my dad grew up, and when he was around about twenty – or eighteen or something – he used to drive the milk cart and bring milk into the town and tip it out of the big cans into the billies. That was his job. He sort of got sick of that after a few years and he said to his father, “Oh”, he said, “I want to move on, Dad.” So he took on a job working at Tukemokihi Station. He had a very great friend by the name of Bert Harvey, and they were great cobbers; and anyway, they ended up on Tukemokihi Station.
And Dad became head shepherd, and then after a year or two he took a job on the Gisborne Hospital farm. Now the Gisborne Hospital farm is where the hospital is now. The hospital used to be up on the hill, up on top of Barker’s Hill, right up on top, but the farm … it was quite a big little farm, thirty acres, forty acres or whatever it was. Dad had around about twenty Irishmen; ‘doleys’ they called them. They had no jobs and they sort of used to get the dole, so they were called ‘doleys’. My Dad ran that place … managed it; and they used to supply poultry; they had pigs for pork and bacon and all the rest of it; they had fowls; and of course cream, butter – they used to make the butter in the old big basins. As he said there were a lot of very qualified men, you know, for making butter, and doing the eggs and testing them and all the rest of it.
And every morning the Hospital Board bought two nice dapple grey … they weren’t full draught horses, they were sort of a light heavy horse … and they had these two beautiful [horses], and they had a lovely cart. It was all decked out for everything; there was a place for the eggs, and there was a place for the cream, and there was a place for the butter. They used to load that up every morning and take it up to the hospital.
And that’s where he met my mum, because she was working as a … oh, what do you call it? A maid, in the hospital. My mum had hair that could come right down, and she used to be able to sit on it. Her father used to spend hours at night brushing it. And before she went to bed he would plait it all, and then when she got up in the morning and she was ready to go to work or whatever she was doing, she’d go and sit down and he’d unplait it all and he would comb it. I’ve seen photos of it, it just used to be like that, and she could sit on it. Anyway, my mother’s name was Juanita Emma May Robinson. How’s that for a handle? The name Emma was the old cow, and May was the dog or something … No; yeah, Emma was the cow, but the other one was the dog. Anyway, so it was the cow and the dog got the name – yeah, Emma May. [Quiet chuckle] So Juanita … I could never ever work this name out … I couldn’t say it properly whatever it was, but my Uncle Alec said to me, “Oh”, he said, “that name is Mexican.” Juanita. And her [she] and Dad were married and they lived in a little cottage in Wellington Street in Gisborne.
I think it was about twelve months after, they moved down here to Wairoa ‘cause Dad had seen a job as manager of a little farm; it had two hundred and thirty-two acres and it belonged to Mrs Cathy Nolan, Gordon Nolan’s wife. She was a Brandon before she married Mr Nolan, and her mum and dad built the little cottage, and the old ‘Tangaroa’ brought all the timber up from Napier; managed to get over the bar and went right up and nosed into the bank, and they unloaded all the timber off to build the house. And the house is not there now but the cabbage tree and the … there’s one of them there actually, with that shiny leaf … camellia; big camellia tree is still there, and a tank. And that’s just along past 287, the restaurant that’s there. But that place was known as Wharekere, and the Nolans gave Dad the job of managing this little farm for them, and they said he could milk cows; he could have ten cows on there and milk them for his own profit.
I arrived about eighteen months after Mum and Dad were married, and I nearly didn’t make it. Apparently my mother got toxaemia, so I was the only one in the family until they adopted a girl that [who] never sort of had a … or not likely to have a decent sort of a home. So she lives in Wairoa here too, Iris. So I went to school from there.
And my dad … unfortunately I got a ring one night from a cobber to tell me that … they were looking for my Dad, that’s right. And I went out, and I said, “Where was he going?” And Mum said, “He was going to let the horses out over in the corner.” “Oh yeah, I know the spot”, and I ran across and found him dead on the … and he was just looking up in the … and I just went up and touched him. So he was only forty-nine. And my mother had the fear of God that I wouldn’t make fifty; it worried her. It worried her that I wouldn’t make fifty. Well I wish she was around now and I could walk up [and say], “Hey, I’m a bit over fifty; I’m nearly twice that in a few more years.” [Laughter]
So that’s virtually, you know, my life. And my grandparents, they were a lovely couple; I can still see my grandmother … I don’t know how old I was, I might’ve been ten … but she got very sick, and I can remember her lying in the bed; and the girls had done her beautiful black hair; she had long black hair, too … Selena. And I could never work out … I was looking at this hose that came out from under the bed, and I said to my mum, “Oh, what’s that hose for?” “Oh”, she said, “I’ll tell you after.” And she told me that she had what was called dropsy, and that was water … dropsy [edema] in those days. You don’t hear of it today, but it was called dropsy. And it was just gallons of water they took away from her apparently. But she died … she was a lovely lady. Several of her children she just brought into the world on the couch at home, you know – there was none of this [chuckle] getting a fast camel and rushing off to the hospital. [Chuckles]
So I don’t think I can tell you any more …
Well Robert, it’s been a very interesting life that you’ve had so far …
Robert Miller Cram, see? Selena Coughlan. Died Wairoa, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. Yeah, I remember when he died, it was around about 45, and Selena, 38.
I really appreciate you letting me interview you.
Long as I’ve done the right thing …
You have done the right thing, sir, and we really appreciate people like you giving us your time and your information.
Today is 26th March 2021. I’m about to continue our interview with Mr Robert Cram of Wairoa. Over to you Robert.
Thank you. I think in the earlier interview I missed out on … maybe it’s an important piece of my story; but I was employed by the Mayhead Brothers who were bridge-builders in Wairoa here. And I did a lot of welding work on steel on their bridges – the Whakakī main highway bridge, we built that. I sort of arrived around about the middle of the job, and I also drove their ‘dozer, shifting and tidying up areas for new bridges. We built a bridge on the Taupo Road at Tarawera on the main highway; and I was involved with that.
And the biggest job which I took on for the Mayheads was the removal of the old main transmission power line that ran from Tuai to Gisborne. It dipped down into the Ruakituri Valley where there was a little substation there, and the power people had gone through and built big steel towers to take the main current through to Gisborne and Wairoa areas. And the line that they wanted me to work on … or if we were interested in doing the job … was to pull all the old line down, which was big heavy aluminium wire. And the Mayhead boys priced the job and got it.
And I had two men working with me, and we started in the Ruakituri Valley pulling the line down. It’d been originally put in in 1927 with a bullock team; the poles were snigged in, they were erected; the bullocks pulled the poles – they’d dig the hole and get the end into that, and then they would use the bullocks to pull the big poles up. They were big hardwood poles … Australian jarrah I think they were. And that was done in 1927, and it had 1927 stamped on the bottom of these poles with a steam stamp, and it was still in those poles when I pushed them over.
And what we had to do was go through, climb up the poles on ladders, and unbind the wire that held the wire on the insulator, and then just lift that wire off and sit it on the cross-arm. We’d go right through to the mile, unbind it, and of course that’s where the join was. So you’d unbind it all – it was a big sheath of aluminium which was wrapped on. They used to do it with a special gadget and it would wrap all this aluminium round and make the join; so we just had to undo all that and drop the wire down. And then we would go back and we had a truck with a winch on it which we used to put big wooden spools into this unit. And then we’d feed one end on and then bolt it to the wooden spool, and then we’d crank up the truck, pull the winch in, and it would slowly wind the big length of cable in … a mile of cable on it. And I used to shoot down on the truck where I could get, and I used to follow it along the way in case it got caught up on something, and then after we’d done that we had to go back then and knock all the poles over. I used to drive their ‘dozer, and I used to go along and just give them a gentle push one way, go round the other side and give them a gentle push again and they would fall over, because a lot of that country up there was affected badly when the big earthquakes and everything happened. It destroyed Te Wairoa, over in [the] Rotorua area there, and all the pumice was blown into the air and it came this way. And up in some of those places where these poles were the pumice was about six feet deep before you’d reach any clay, but it gets less and less as it comes towards Wairoa; so it’s only about that deep in Wairoa in some places.
So that’s what we had to do and then we had to load all those poles onto a jinker; we had an old ex-army GMC [General Motors Company truck] with a winch front and back which I drove. We used to camp out; we had an old caravan which three of us could sleep in; we had a big shed which we used to tow along on skids, and that was our kitchen. And we’d work a mile section through, and when we’d cleaned all that up and taken all the spools back to where we could load them onto where we could get a truck to. And we’d take all the poles and leave them there, then we’d move all our gear along to the centre of the next mile.
We saw lots of funny things. Saw some beautiful deer and stuff in our travels. But we used to bring all that stuff to town every Friday afternoon; and what we used to do after we’d had our lunch on Fridays … we would put a load of the poles on the jinker; we had a jinker trailer behind us because the poles were fairly long.
So what’s a jinker?
It’s a set of wheels that has a sliding pole in it, and it’s got a saddle on it. And this jinker pole slides through – you can have it any length you want. And that hooks onto the draw bar of the truck, and if you’re going over rough country you can let it slide. You must pull the pin out otherwise it’ll break the jinker pole.
So we used to come into town, and the old Mohaka Road was pretty windy in those days and it was low gear all the way down the hills, because we never had the braking system that we should’ve had on that sort of vehicle. Then we used to have to come through the river; there was a concrete pad poured, but because the jinker was too long to follow the truck round, we just used to cross over the creek and run along beside this until we got [chuckle] … But we got everything home, and that’s what we used to do – we’d bring a load of poles home one weekend and a load of wire spools the next, and that’s how we got everything back to Wairoa. We started at Ruakituri; we went through Renners, and from Renners we went through Mangatawhiti and Waikatea – we went through Waikatea first and then into Mangatawhiti – Mangatawhiti into Shannon [Station]; Shannon we went down through to Okare Station which is Mr Bailey’s property; crossed over the river into Mrs Andersons and went right up the other side and over the top, taking the line down all the way. And then we went down the other side into the Tuai area, and that’s when we hit the transmission roadway – all grassed, but it was a roadway.
But we had an obligation which was [a] fairly awkward one; and I found out later that other chaps went and priced the job, but when they saw this big deep canyon which was about six foot wide but it was very deep down to the water – and we had to go that way, you couldn’t get out any other way – a lot of chaps priced the job; a lot of chaps turned and said, “No, I’m not having it on; I don’t know how we’re going to get across that gorge.” So we got to this place, and Hec said, “Well Crambo” – I remember him saying this – “we’re here at the gorge”, he said. “I don’t know what you’re going to do. I guess you’ve got a plan?” “Yep, I’ve got a plan.” “What are you going to do?” “Well see all these trees around here?” Some of them were native. ‘Cause in those days there was no worry about trees, you could cut anything down. I said to the boys, “Righto fellows, I want you to cut those.” One of them was a blue gum tree – how it got there I don’t know – but anyway, we cut down a swag of trees; trimmed all the branches off them and I rolled them into the creek. [Of] course they went down higgledy-piggledy, and another one on the top; ‘nother one on the top of that. There was [were] big gaps that the water could run through. And anyway, we had no more trees left so that was all right. I said to the boys, “Righto, bring me all the branches”, and I said, “we’ll put those branches all on top of this, then I will get back and I’ll bulldoze the earth across the top of all that.” And that’s what we did, and we ended up with the most magnificent crossing.
And that crossing was there for at least twelve years that I know of, because Mr Langbein who was the Power Board engineer, he said to me when I came in one day with a load of poles, “Rob, what have you done up there to get across that gorge?” “Ooh – you’ll have to come up and have a look Mr Langbein.” “Oh”, he said, “I’ve heard some stories.” “Oh”, I said, “You better come up and have a look, eh? It’ll be a surprise for you.” When he got up there he looked at it and he said, “Well”, he said, “that looks like a Crambo job.” And he said, “The water’s running through?” “Yeah, course it’s running through.” And I said, “It’ll never run over the top because it hasn’t got the catchment. But it will stay there, nothing will blow it out. The logs’ll go rotten and then they’ll just drop off and they’ll get swept aside and dropped.” Anyway, he was just blown away.
But it stayed there; it did our job. We went backwards and forwards and across it for weeks, you know, pulling big loads across the other side so that we could clean everything up and didn’t have to go over there again. And only now and again did I have to just give it a little trim up with the blade because it was getting a bit like that; but anyway, we ended up going right through there, right down the transmission road. And I ended up doing the last fortnight all on my own because these other chaps had sort of got sick of the job, and one didn’t come back when he went home on a Friday night. So I ended up up there all on my own for well over a week, but I just took it quietly. And I got a lot done being on my own, because you didn’t knock off too long for smoko … you didn’t have anyone to talk to. [Chuckles]
Anyway, I worked for the Mayheads; finished that job, and then all of a sudden the old work thing sort of went off a bit, and the Mayhead boys decided to go their own way. Ken went to Darwin in Australia and started up carpentry over there; Hector Mayhead who married a local girl, the girl Blucke … Rosalind Blucke; Hec by trade was a motor rebuilder … vehicle motors. He started up his own garage which used to be Acme Motors over in North Clyde, and later become Brian Hill Limited. So Hec leased that property, and when it was wet weather I used to come in there and work in the garage with him, changing diffs [differentials] over, and gearboxes and all sorts of things. And then they slowly went down and they moved into what is now Farmlands. They moved into there and Hec had taken on the Triumph agency … had the Triumph and Vanguard agency … and he had an agency for a little motorcycle; I forget what the name of it was. And anyway, I moved on from there, and I actually bought their little ‘dozer and carried on my way until I went into business in 1965.
All that stuff that you took down, was that reused?
Yes. We brought it all to town and put it in their depot. The tops had gone a bit rotten just over the years you know, standing away up there in the snow and rain and every other thing that they had to stand up to; and a lot of them were starting to fall down at that stage because of the weight of snow … they wouldn’t hold it. And anyway, we brought them all to town, and as I say, the bottom end, or the rest of the pole up to within about a foot – beautiful. Solid; couldn’t sink an axe into it. And like I say, the bottoms of poles were all stamped; they had their number on in a little piece of tin on the side of the pole, and that number corresponded with the one stamped in the bottom. And it was a steam stamp – I don’t know how it worked, but I presume it would be something like that, that went bang! Steam would punch it in, and they ended up by taking those away at Willow Flat I think, and someone said they put them in up the other way and ran a line to several houses with them. Never seen it myself, but that’s what they tell me they did with them, yeah.
And I remember we didn’t have many problems; we went over the bank with the jinker one night late, and fortunately I had the ‘dozer there and we put a few pulley blocks up on trees and we managed to slide everything back onto the road again. But one of the things that did happen was when we were in Mangatawhiti we were winching in a cable; and there were three cables and I think we used to be able to get ‘bout one and a half onto one drum and then you’d move over and put it onto the other. And we took one off the truck; I don’t know what happened – I don’t remember what happened, but it hit the ground. And most of them used to just sink in because the pumice was so soft, but this one didn’t … decided to move, and of course we couldn’t do anything about it. And away it went, way down into the gorge and we never saw it again. [Chuckle] I said to Mr Langbein, “Oh, you’re a spool short, Mr Langbein.” “What’s happened Rob? What did you do?” “Well”, [chuckle] “I don’t know, but I looked round to see it going down the hill”, I said, “and it didn’t want to know us. And I ain’t going down to get it, because it’s gone down into a big deep gorge at Mangatawhiti.” “I didn’t see it.” “Oh well, that’s good”, I said, “neither did I.” [Chuckle] So it’s probably … I imagine by the time it got to the bottom the spool would’ve smashed up and the wire would’ve come off and away down in the [gorge] – I never heard anyone mention it, so it obviously didn’t stop anywhere where it was going to hurt anyone. It’s probably away down in the gorge all tangled up in the trees. But that was way back, in ’58, ’59 or whatever it was.
So that station you talk of …
Mangatawhiti – that’s the name of a station, yeah. Their boundary’s Okare.
So we got the job finished and went on our way; and I later stopped working for the Mayheads, and I took up employment again with Mr Powdrell who I’d been with years earlier. I think that’s about all I can …
What year was that when you were working ..?
Between ’58 and ’61 I was working for the Mayhead Brothers, yeah; on all sorts of bridge work and culvert work and that sort of thing. But when they decided to split up and Hec wanted the garage … well the garage wasn’t for me, so I moved on. And I actually bought the little ‘dozer that Mayheads owned; I bought that with family money. My father-in-law helped me and my own Dad helped me, and I bought a little TD6 ‘dozer; but unfortunately the type of work that I’d been used to doing with machinery was too big for it. And I had to rebuild it and paint it, and I sold it all, and that’s when I went with Mr Powdrell driving his machinery and doing his mechanical work. And I was there until 1965 when I went into business, and Mr Richardson and Mr Powdrell financed me into business which we called Tāwhara Earthmovers Limited. And I carried on working on my own until my son, Dwight, left school at fifteen, and he came with me and I taught him the game.
So I think that’s probably about where we got to I’m sure.
Thank you so much Rob. I really appreciate that and you giving us this extra time is special, and thank you very much on behalf of the Knowledge Bank.
Okay – thank you very much.
Original digital file
This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).
Commercial UsePlease contact us for information about using this material commercially.
Format of the original35mm negative
Interviewer: Lyn Sturm