Edward (Mac) MacGregor Jones Interview
Today’s the 29th of November 2016. I’m interviewing Mac Jones of Hastings. Mac would you like to tell us something about the life and times of your family. Thank you, Mac.
Well starting off, Frank, at the age of five we lived in Mangamaire, and I started school there. My father managed a farm for a chap by the name of Al Shripe who was away at the War. So when he came back from the War we had to move on, and we moved to a place called Tikokino and settled in there at Matthews Estate. And my mother cooked for three or four shepherds and we went to school from the Matthews Estate by horse, by walking, and later on – to get me to go to school – Dad purchased a horse and gig because I used to play the wag so much he thought ‘well, I’ve got you by the neck now – you won’t get away … running away’ and that. But that didn’t work either because once we got a mile down the road, the older brother and sister’d let me go, and I’d do a flip over the backboard and away again.
And where was the Matthews’ property in Tikokino then?
Smedley Road. And we went to school there from ’41 to ’46 and then that job ended and went to Maraekakaho, to Maria Downs up the Whakapirau Road. Once again Mac had a bike to bike to school from Maria Downs which was mostly downhill and not up, but to turn around and come home it was uphill. Yeah, so I didn’t play the wag as much there because there was nowhere to hide.
So did you go to the Maria School?
Yes. And I finished at school in 1951. Didn’t get my School C because she finished a fortnight before me … my School Cert, yeah.
And from there I put my age up to eighteen and went to Te Awamutu and got a job in the dairy factory, and of course times were still hard, the times then. And I used to … what money I earned, I’d keep some in the Post Office book up in Te Awamutu and I’d send the rest home for the family.
Te Awamutu would have been – was that a sawmill town?
No, milk tankers and cheese and all that. Yeah, I had lots of rellies on my mother’s side worked there, that’s how I got a job there. So remained there for a number of years, then I thought I’d better come home again. So I came home and yeah, in due course we lived at Ngatarawa then, where the winery is now, in a little cottage behind the big homestead with the jockey’s quarters. And then as an eighteen-year-old, I swaggered out of there down to the Hastings Station here, got on a tube train to go to Waiouru, to play Sandy Powell The Soldier.
So Maraekakaho really has been part of your life for a long time hasn’t it?
Oh yes, in and around there, yeah. We lived in McPhees’ house going towards Mangatahi at one state, and then McPhees wanted the house back so we went to Wenleys’ behind the big woolshed on the hill and we lived in both those cottages up on the hill. And then John, when he come home from … oh, wouldn’t be Uni, it’d be learning farming I suppose … he married Marie McCormack as you would know, and they wanted that house so we shifted to the other cottage nearer town on the hill, using a wheelbarrow as transport. [Chuckle]
Was he Peter’s brother?
Yes. He just lives over here.
Yeah, so anyway I came home from Waiouru and had to have something to do, so there was a job in the paper ‘Want aircraft tradesman, servicing Tiger Moths’ and whatever, so I applied for it and got it with Temple Martin at the aerodrome. Yeah, so I was there about a couple of years or so, and then with the brothers both driving I got [the] urge to drive trucks. So aircraft and Mac departed, and I went to drive for Noel Halstead Overland Transport.
So those days, how many trucks did Noel have?
Noel would have had one, two, three, four.
Yeah. And of course before you could go out of town too much – when he bought that business from Ron Burling, or Harold the old man and Ron – they took over the freight run, Maraekakaho – Mason Ridge with it. And brother Don operated that for probably two or three years, and that was my first job, was to do the freight run – rural delivery.
And so how far did you go with the rural delivery then?
You started off … I jotted it all down in that book there. And you know it’s amazing, Frank – I can name just about every client that was …
Your association with them was every week.
Those days that meant I’d go to Frimley Avenue … they operated out in those days … transport business right in a little place like Frimley Avenue, and you’d go in and get your truck ready and away you’d go downtown, pick up anything the cockies wanted, like provisions from all … the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’, Loan & Merc, Dalgety’s – you name it – de Pelichet’s. Then there was the bread, you had to go to Harrison’s Bakery, it was up here in Heretaunga Street, Findlay’s Bakery, Wilson’s Bakery, pick up the bread for the different ones and put it all in order that it’d come off in that order, into their boxes. And whatever was in town, you just picked it up.
Well you were the lifeline really, you know, that’s the only way that these people could …
Yeah, that’s right.
So when you were driving with Overland, did you ever run across a guy by the name of Pinky Taylor?
No I didn’t, Frank, no. Yeah, the name rings a bell.
So did you ever do the Taihape run then?
Later on I … maybe say progressed to being eligible to drive over the Annie, yes. And used to … two or three … you’d go to take Mobil over to Mobil Taihape, and Aorangi the naval camp at Waiouru, used to take it up there. That was the best place to go because the sailors there’d save their supply of rum for you.
Well you know, unless you’ve done it you can’t imagine what it was like, but how the hell you drove those big long wheelbase trucks around, ‘cause some of the corners were …
Oh, you had to back up. And particularly on the Annie itself, where you looked straight on the shale face into the river. If you were game enough to get out and have a look, your outside dual was in mid-air. A great old road, but from Glenross Road in those days you couldn’t see out for scrub until you hit Otupae.
I always remember seeing the trucks parked down by the Pacific, rolling the kegs with a rope over the edge.
Health and Safety’d love that now, wouldn’t they?
God! I bet there’s a few of those … they tell me the drivers were pretty good – they didn’t lose many.
No. Sometimes they’d give you one that was not quite full – you could have a sample, pull in at Kakakino on the way back, for the next week.
So how long did you work for Overland?
Well I probably was there about two years Frank, and then Noel ran out of work sort of thing. And actually he took me down to Roy Sherwood’s to see if there’s a vacancy there … big puff of smoke comes out of his pipe and he said, “not at the moment.” Yes, so that’s when I went to Attwood & Reid.
You know during that period that you were driving there was twenty-six carriers in Hastings, and there was only four in Napier – obviously because of the freezing works, Watties – you know, this was obviously the centre of it all.
Yeah, that’s right. And the thing was I’ve seen it happen in my years at Attwood & Reid and up through the buildup to Farmer’s Transport – Sherwood’s I went to, you know down to their yard in Heretaunga Street, and from there jokers’d walk out the gate if they didn’t like Attwood & Reid and go down the road and get another job at Powdrell’s or Mills’ or Wilkie or yeah.
Yes I’ve just about finished the Sherwood family. Amazing, absolutely … you know, I didn’t realise they had the aircraft, top dressing and …
They had the Mobil agency from day one. Attwood & Reid – who was the Attwood?
Was he any relation to Ray Attwood?
‘Cause we all knew Ray, he used to cart all our boner cows to the freezing works.
Oh, I’ve been to your place.
Yeah. Yeah I used to go there for Ray Attwood and cart cows there.
You used to drive his truck.
Yeah, I was his driver during the weekends when he wanted to play golf. He’d say to me on a Friday afternoon, “what you doing at the weekend?” “Nothing much I don’t think, Ray.” He said “would you drive for me?” ‘Cause he used to cart the drovers around then too you see, because the gear could fit in the little truck.
You know you forget don’t you, those days … weren’t any horse floats.
That’s right, they weren’t even … no one ever thought of having a horse trailer or a horse float did they?
So when you left Attwood & Reid … or were you absorbed into …?
I was absorbed into …
So you ended up by working for the Sherwoods?
Yes. Sherwood’s, and then Farmers’ Transport.
So what sort of truck were you driving those days, when you were ..?
Well I don’t know whether I was lucky or what, but at Attwood & Reid I had three brand new trucks – a Commer, a Thames Trader of all things and … brand new Commer – I remember that came from Bowman Beatty Motors in Waipuk. [Waipukurau] It had air cleaners up both sides of the cab.
I didn’t think much of the Thames Trader though. And a Dodge – the Dodge was Tourist Kelt of course.
And you know they were big trucks then but when you think of the horse power that trucks are now …
Before I had the op … my nephew drives for Satherly Logging and I went for a ride with him out to Te Uri. See the roads are still as wide as they were when I was driving a TK as I call them – Tonka Toys – and you sit up in this great thing and…
And the power’s the same as a car.
Oh, they just don’t change gear going up hills. Amazing.
And so you carried on with Farmer’s Transport – did you work for anyone else after that?
No, I finished my career driving, and I went to Washpool Station to work.
Yes, so that’s when you met Graham and Pat …
Oh, well I knew Graham at school. So I was there fifteen years, and little Miss Glazebrook that was – she’d taken over the reins of that place there and sorted it out, no resident carpenter and all that. She’s mellowed now Frank, though.
She would have to, because a farm like that only survives with the quality of its men, and the people that work for it.
It’s like any business isn’t it, really?
You can crack the whip but it’s pointless if it’s …
That’s right. Yeah, well you know, I was used to driving tractors and trucks and things and they had their own truck. At one stage they were going to buy their own unit to cart all the stock – Washpool. Wasn’t viable by the time you got all the licences and mileage and all that.
And they’re sitting still for the off-days. And then next thing you have to go and cart neighbours to make it pay.
Yeah, that’s right.
And so then did you develop your pine seedling nursery after you left Glazebrooks?
No, no I didn’t have pine. That was next door to me. That was Bill Lawrence. That was the first ten acres to ever be sold – Ru Collins sold me that. He wanted seven hundred an acre for it.
And seeing I was the first one to buy one he knocked $200 off – I got that for six-eight.
But that was quite a lot of money.
Oh yeah it was. Different ones used to say to me “why didn’t you buy two or three?”
And of course you still had to build a house.
I bought that for six-eight, fenced it and Linnell’s built that three-bedroom home on it, for fourteen thousand.
The dollar’s become so worthless, you need a wheelbarrow full to do anything.
That’s right. So Val worked … my late wife worked at Lowe Walker’s – Richmond’s, with the takeovers and that. Oh Skellerup Sales was her first job, or Cotton Brothers it was then, in Warren Street. She loved ponies – she could never have a pony of her own. She was brought up in Wallaceville, that’s Upper Hutt isn’t it? Yeah, so no – her father was a compositor in Government House, all his life.
So she was able to look here and see the slow horses going past?
Yeah, no, she did live to … or was here long enough to have a little TAB account and ring up and put a dollar on. No, she – my two boys – she had them riding … show jumping right up until they were eighteen.
Okay, well look let’s go back – when did you meet your wife, and where was she from?
Well she left home in Wallaceville. One morning she went to school on the unit, packed all her gear into a little suitcase, because she had a stepmother and two little step-sisters who were real nasty to her. So she packed her gear as though she was going to school and she got off the unit at the railway station and went straight over to Government House to her father, and she said “I’m not going back home”. And he said “well where are you going to go?” And she went to Martinborough to her Grandma’s.
So she was an independent miss.
Yes. And of course, they moved up here and her uncle was Bev Marfleet’s husband.
When I was talking to Bev, she happened to mention Lancaster. I used to spray John Lancaster’s crops. She said “that was the land that we used to own.”
Next to Ted Beaumont.
So poor old John didn’t make old bones.
No. No, so the family shifted up to Buller Street, and then they bought the place at Twyford … Twyford Road … and Max operated from there with his … whatever he planted – pumpkins mainly there and down below. And I used to go out the weekend and give him a hand to pick them and he used to put them in rows, stack ’em up and go through them for rotten bits. And it was funny because the rats used to get into them, and as you were sorting them the rats would be just …
Going in front of you.
Yeah, so anyway. I used to go out there a lot and Val was there and it wasn’t until one Saturday with John Burkin – I think you’d probably know John Burkin, and the late Des, and Russell. Yeah, well John and I had been to the Napier Park Races on the Saturday, and the Lodge was the drinking hole and we called back in there to have a couple of noggins. And anyway Val had been to basketball, and she had … Buchanan’s were pretty busy behind the bar and … went up for a jug, and Val was there. And I went back to the table, and John said “who’s the dolly behind the bar?” And I said “oh, a young lassie by the name of Val Gardner.” “Oh yeah.” And then – I think Bruce Reid was with us and one or two other old boys, and Don Hembrow, and they said during the next minute or two “I bet you’re not game to go and ask her if you could take her out.” I said “piece of cake”. So I went over and I said to her “you wouldn’t like to go out tonight would you?” She said “oh yes, that would be good.” I said “oh bugger – I’m sorry, I’m already going out somewhere.”
You did? God, what a coward!
We were – boys were going …
Oh, so you didn’t drop the boys and go out with her?
No. We did what we were doing and I took her out the next week, and we went from there. No, it all started there.
And so you mentioned you got two boys.
Two boys, yes. Steven and Richard. Steven’s the oldest.
What do they do?
They’re both electricians.
On their own?
Yeah. Jones Electrical, and R Jones Electrical.
And they live in ..?
Yes, Steven did build a nice place up Whakapirau Road four years ago. Too windy. The wind whipping up those gullies out there’d blow your milk out of your tea. So anyway … beautiful place, swimming pool and everything, and he put it on the market. Took a while to sell, but one of the McMillans bought it. And so he’s built up Tauroa valley. Beautiful home there. And Richard, he’s got … he and Vicki … got two little – Luca the boy’s nine and Anaya’s six.
Luca and Anaya … they’re unusual …
Luca and Anaya, yeah. He bought – a lot of you probably remember when Jim Harvey sold that block of orchard, well Richard bought that twelve acres, and he built his workshop on that twelve acres. They’re quite handy to me. Yeah, with Steven and Richard, they were in bed when I went to work and back in bed when I came home. They were good days, Frank. We’ve been brought up in the right era in my eyes.
Absolutely. And when there was discipline … some of those old sayings you know – don’t speak until you’re spoken to. [Chuckle] ‘Specially at mealtimes.
And don’t leave the table ’till you’ve finished your meal either.
It didn’t hurt us.
No. He was a good old fella, old J J Fitzpatrick eh?
We used to get on well with – well I got on well with all those cockies – love ’em. Eric might have told you a lot of them asked for – like for me to go and cart their lambs and that.
Yeah well, you become an identity with them – that’s the sort of service you guys did. Thought for them.
Yeah. And changing the subject from … oh, the same scenario … Alec Sherwin would go take a loaf of bread or a pound of butter in that big International truck out at Simmons’ at Mangatahi.
Probably cost him $10 to deliver it.
Oh, more than that, the old Inter wouldn’t be very cheap to run. The cab hangin’ down one side.
And five wheel studs on the rear axle.
Them were the days Frank.
I got to know Alec Sherwin when he bought … he used to lease the Frogley block. They were all identities – different but good.
And so then when you moved …
And bought this – oh, built it.
Yes – sitting overlooking the Hastings Racecourse.
Yeah, very nice isn’t it?
There’s not much happening here today …
New Year’s Day it does.
Yes, I bet it does. All right, well look I think that’s probably given us a …
A look at Mac Jones, so thanks for that Mac.
The trucks were not that big then were they?
Is that an HD5 or an HD … it’s an Ellis isn’t it?
Yeah that’s – Tommy London was breaking in all the country up round there and that rifle leaning on the track there, we went back to look down into the river off the old swing bridge, and the rifle was lying down in the river. Went down and got it and left it there, and sort of give it to the Police I suppose – the body might have come down after it.
Was that the first trailer?
Yeah, T & C trailer. I’ve got … I think the negative Frank, could be of a truck and trailer load of drums.
We copy these and enlarge them and they go into the computer and then into the website.
Who are those gentlemen there?
Otupae bottom yards. They’d be workers there at Otupae.
Otupae, was that the Lowry Station?
No. Omahaki’s Lowry.
That’s right, yes. We used to go fishing up at the Blowhard and the guy that used to manage Omahaki …
Yeah, Des Neil.
We were pleased that we weren’t carrying guns.
Yeah. Well funnily enough the Deerstalkers’ Club out here – I was out there one day and I met the chappie that looked after that, he’s a son of Eric Richards – it was just before Omahaki, up on the left. Well this fellow had sent me down to Omahaki – you were always wary of what kind of a mood old Des would be in, you see. So this day I’m making my way down past Eric Richards’, and the next thing they both opened fire with three-oh’s across my bows. So I get down to the cattle yard and I thought geez! And of course he came down – no, he was just a menace. Ray Davis … [?] Ray to the bull in there one day, then put him in the cattle yards – no one was about. And anyway the house was only from here to next door off from the road, and old Des came out of the fowl house and he’s got a bucket full of eggs, firing them at Ray’s windscreen. And Ray wasn’t game to stop.
He kept going. [Chuckle]
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper