Fox, Sandra Lorraine Interview

Today is the 28th day of January 2019. I’m interviewing Sandra Lorraine Fox of Hastings. Sandra, would you like to tell us something about your family?

Well, it was a very interesting life at the time, and we didn’t realise that Dad was a pioneer. But anyway, at the dinner table … lunch table … none of us were allowed to say a word because Dad was busy listening to the weather, because the weather ruled our life. And if the weather was going to be good, then he would be in bed early, seven or eight o’clock, waiting to get up early to go flying.

And there was a terrible upset when Mr Vanderpump was killed on the plane; and they only had party lines in those days, and the stress in the house of him trying to find out about Mr Vanderpump was dreadful – I’ll never forget it.

But anyway, when Dad had finished his day flying he would circle the house. Mum must’ve taken him to work early to have the car, and so all of us kids had to run as quick as we could to get in the car to go and pick Dad up from the aerodrome. But then he would decide sometimes to stay and socialise, and we would then have a swim in the green swimming pool [chuckle] at the club. And they were some of the happiest times of our life.

Anyway, I was thinking … oh, some of the pilots used to climb through the window, they were really, as somebody said, scallywags, and they loved to have parties; and if they weren’t going flying they’d be staying up partying. And one friend of Dad’s was Sid Paterson; he looked extremely Air Force … man. And he did water-vining [divining] and he did this strange thing under the houses. And he and Dad all believed in the UFOs, [unidentified flying objects] and we used to sit at the table and have these huge discussions about UFOs, because they reckoned they’d seen them. Yes.

And my father – because all the farmers’ wives were so generous to him when he was flying and he was there, they would give him mutton. And he absolutely refused to have any mutton in our house because he couldn’t stand mutton; but because he was in the farmer’s house, that was what he ate.

Anyway, I remember there was an event of something, where one of the pilots flew along, and they flew right up like that [demonstrates] when they reached a hill. And I can’t remember who it was or what it was, but one of the people who knows, who was very, very fond of Dad and did some huge [chuckle] adventures with Dad, was Mr Jim Crook, his loader driver from Clive.

Yes, I’ve interviewed Jim.

Oh, you’ve interviewed Jim; oh, that’s good. Oh well, you’re onto it. And at the same time Dad was flying I think he also worked at John Hills, and he did a bread run or something to earn enough money for when he wasn’t flying. And he was very, very depressed when he had to give up flying; it was really sad … difficult times.

Anyway, Mr Glen Paterson was a pilot at the same time, and he was living in Palmerston; I think he’s died. His wife, Bev, wanted to catch up with me some years ago, but I found it all a little bit too sad and I couldn’t cope with it.

Anyway, I thought of this funny thing that happened. I was courting my first husband, Winston, and we were out in the car canoodling – yeah, we were canoodling, and it must’ve been about two o’clock in the morning. And we weren’t being really naughty, but he was to become my future husband. But anyway, we’re there outside, and there’s a bang, bang, bang, bang at the window, and it was Dad. [Chuckle] And he said, “What do you think you’re doing?” And I said, “Nothing, we’re just saying goodnight.” And he said, “Well, get inside”, he said, “because I’m just off flying.” And he’d got up to go topdressing; I was still outside. Yeah, I never heard the end of that actually. Yeah.

Mum would get furious when Dad was entertaining, but she didn’t mind them all coming round for their parties and things and all the entertainment that went on.

Did you know Ken Parish?

I didn’t know him personally, but I [speaking together]

Yes, you would’ve heard of him, yes.

… do remember his name of course, yes. There’s a lot of familiar names, but I can’t place them by face now of course. And of course Dad died at fifty-three from his open heart surgery up at the Auckland Hospital, and so to think that some of the pilots are still alive is amazing – they’ve had all that life. But I, as I’ve got older, I don’t actually think it’s a privilege to get old. I’ve got a saying I’ve written on my board there, and I write notes because I forget things; and I’ve put on it, ‘A rooster today, a feather duster tomorrow’. [Chuckles] I think it’s quite good.

Yes. So anyway, Dad … yeah, no talking; circling the house; into bed by eight o’clock; listening to their green – oh, Dad had a green retro radio he listened to – that was the most important thing in his bedroom, was the green radio. And Sid and Dad would sit for hours debating this UFO thing, and the water thing, you know.

Yes. Right.

And Dad became very friendly with a lot of the farmers and their families, and I used to often have some of Dad’s country clients come in to me for their hair, and they would speak so highly of Dad.

So where did you go to school?

Oh, I was just round at Central School.

Where did you live?

In Massey Street.

Is that the house where you grew up?

Yes, we grew up in Massey Street. And my sister Cheryl has just died recently.

And Dad had that house built during the war when he was coming up from the Air Force, ‘cause they kept him back at the Air Force for instructing. And he used to hitchhike a ride with some of the pilots to come, from wherever … can’t remember whether he was in Ashburton or Taieri … wherever he was, but he used to hitchhike a ride up to Napier to visit Mum. And so [chuckle] people used to say to Dad, “Can’t you do anything else except give your wife more babies, Basil Fox?” Anyway, they built that house in about 194… maybe ‘44, ‘45; and he wanted to have a peaked roof, and he couldn’t get the stuff for the roof.

[?Roofing?] iron was short then.

Yes. And d’you know, that roof nearly drove Dad insane with the leaks that kept coming down. And he’d think he fixed it, and then there’d be water coming down the wallpaper, and he’d be nearly demented – in tears – that the roof had leaked again.

So you had Cheryl, yourself, Tony, who lives in Australia ..?

Yes, he’s up near Byron Bay, I forget the area he’s in; yeah.

And who else was there?

Oh well, it started off with Adrian; he died at fifty-eight, in Australia. Heart disease has followed us everywhere. Yeah. Anyway, Adrian, and then evidently Mum had a miscarriage after Adrian; so there was a little gap, and then I was born, so I was the second oldest. And then there was Tony, Sue, Rodney, and Cheryl was the youngest. So Cheryl was five years younger than myself.

Yes. And is Sue still ..?

Sue lives in Waihi. Yes, she shifted up there. Yep.

So you went to Central School?

Yeah, well then we just used to walk round to Central School of course.

And high school?

Well it was a great area to be in those days. And then round to Intermediate, and then to the Girls’ High. But I hated the Girls’ High – I hated it.

So you decided to be a hairdresser while you were at Girls’ High?

Yes I did – I took Mum … I forget how it happened, but I went round to my neighbour, the [?Fredburgh’s?] house; Peter Fredburgh was the son, but I forget the adults’ name. And their aunty was a hairdresser round in Heretaunga Street. And when I watched the transformation of what she did to my mother’s hair – oh! I just wanted to be a hairdresser – nothing was going to stop me. And I’ve had to have so many operations to keep hairdressing; and then start another salon to keep going; and here I am now.

I know you used to swim when you were young?

It was mainly swimming, was my passion, and that’s one of the reasons I want to get well now, so I can go swimming again. But I used to play – I was a very good netball player – I played championship games. Softball, gymnasium, used to go round to Wellesley Hall to the gymnastic thing. And … oh, what else did I do? Oh, forgotten all about all these things you do in your life, they sort of disappear somewhere. But anyway, that was my passion; the hairdressing took over, and as I say, I have been hairdressing for well over about fifty years; well over fifty years, which I never ever thought would happen.

And so your children – what were their names?

Oh, well I just had children to Winston, and my oldest daughter is Charisse Antoinette Watson. She’s been in Sydney for thirty-one years, working at David Jones, and she’s climbed her way right up to the top. At the moment she works in the online department. And David Jones wanted to close that department down and make them all go to Melbourne, but she said no, she’s not going to Melbourne. And so she’s going to sell up in Balmain …

Pretty smart place to live.

Very smart place, but they’ve had enough of city life, and they’re looking at a beautiful place in the Blue Mountains, which actually really worries me. But I’ve learnt to mind my own business finally, in life, and let people get on with their lives. So she’s been over there for thirty-one years.

And then I have a son, Anthony Sinclair Watson, who’s been a little bit of a character; but he’s turned out to be an absolute angel to me. And I have Matthew. But the boys … I wouldn’t say they didn’t bother with me, they were busy with their own life, [lives] but because I am now incapacitated with all this, they’ve become very, very kind, caring people.

At one stage, which was an absolute disaster, the wind picked up the Tiger Moth and threw it on its back, which you’ve probably heard about. Yes – we had photos of that actually, when the Tiger Moth was on its back; and they didn’t have any insurance, so that was absolutely disastrous. And I think that was the beginning of Dad’s heart disease and everything, because … I don’t remember what happened from after the plane? I think he went and worked with Bill Reeves or somebody.

Yes. He had a plane too, didn’t he?

Yes, there was some sort of tie-up like that.

Yes.

And oh, I meant to tell you – on Christmas Day all the pilots, or all the people at the Aero Club, put on a lovely Christmas party for the kids. And one year I was chosen to be the fairy. [Chuckle] So I had to go up early and we flew round and round and threw lollies out at everybody, all the kids, you know, with their arms up. And then we landed and came down; and I’m the fairy, you know … so special. [Chuckle] And I don’t know why I was chosen, but anyway, I was chosen; and I’d forgotten all about that until last night – about being the Christmas fairy. Yeah.

So what age were you kids when your father died?

Well Dad died at fifty-three, so … oh, I was only in my thirties. And my children don’t really remember him because he was gone. But they do talk highly of Granddad.

And your mother – obviously she wasn’t working, was she?

No, not at the time. Nup, she wasn’t working when she was looking after six kids and a pilot, and feeding him and getting everything right, because the men in those days – they were king of the house and they didn’t help with anything. And anyway, Mum stayed home and looked after everybody and looked after Dad and all this stuff, and when he died she went to work at Wattie’s. And before she married Dad she was a very clever shorthand-typist in an office somewhere. So anyway, after Dad died and things settled, she got a job at Wattie’s on night shift, and she worked her little butt off. And then off she went, all over the world.

Did she really?

She did!

That’s wonderful …

It was. And she went on several amazing adventures overseas; she did go with a girlfriend on one trip, and then she spent a lot of time going over and helping Jack Boston, her brother … Jack Boston, the doctor.

I interviewed Bob Boston in Napier who was a rugby referee …

Yes. Yeah, Bob was my uncle, the same as Jack was my uncle. And this actually was Jack Boston’s old walking stick; and when I brought it from his place when he died I never ever thought I’d be having a designer walking stick.

So you would know his daughters, too?

I do know them but we were never really friends. They were all little tiny things; Kay … I forget their other names.

Yes, but … well Mum used to go and help Jack when he was at his doctor’s thing [office] in the main street; she used to go and do his accounts and everything, and she liked doing that for Jack. And d’you know, he was a doctor there and you wouldn’t believe how many people stole his heaters and his kettles; he’d go out and he didn’t have a kettle – somebody’d walked off with it. It was dreadful.

Anyway, he also did that time over in Australia as the Flying Doctor, and he loved that, with the Aborigines. And I had a photo of him – I don’t know where it is now – where these Aboriginal children are sitting up on Jack’s shoulders looking for nits. [Chuckle] And Mum went over and met up with him there at the … you know, where that big red rock is.

Yes, Ayers Rock …

Yeah, Ayers Rock.

Uluru.

Yeah. So he really loved his time as the Flying Doctor over there.

And Bob came to visit me the other day because he hasn’t been well, and he’s now in Bryant House, the home, which is sad when you think he’s got that beautiful home in Taradale …

Just sitting there.

Just sitting there, it’s so sad.

When I went to see him at Bryant House I was amazed how much he’d changed in six months.

Yes. Oh yes, he became very frail because he was so ill. But he came here the other day, and he was quite a bit better. David Boston brought him to visit me. But my brother, Tony, said he’d sooner die early than live in a home like they live in. Their sister lives there too, Betty Mellor – she’s ninety-three or something.

There’s actually another reason he is there … to be looked after. He couldn’t stand the loneliness; he was on his own for twelve years after Joy, his wife whom he loved dearly, died. And he did venture out to see if he could find another partner, and every woman he got in touch with was a disaster, so that didn’t work.

He was a very clever man …

He was a very clever man. And what Bob said, Bob went [got] involved, you know, I think … but, well this is how life is. And there’s a saying, that when Cheryl, my sister, was very ill with the lung disease, she was having counselling with the hospice people. And they said to her, which is quite memorable – “You have to get used to the new normal. You’re not like you were before, and so you have to make the best of that day as your new normal, because you don’t know what tomorrow’s new normal might be.”

No. Absolutely.

And so that was good advice.

So you had an accident, obviously?

Yes.

How did that happen?

Well … it happened through stress; through a lot of stress in my life brought on by a person. And evidently with the stress, what happened was my blood pressure dropped. [Phone rings] It’s also called this word here … vascular …

Sandra’s attack was vasovagal presyncope.

Yeah – all the blood rushes from your brain. And it depends where the blood has come from, what part is damaged. And so my memory’s been damaged, and one of the most amazing things was, I couldn’t stop telling the truth. I told people the truth that I shouldn’t have told them, and they’re really wild with me, some of them. But my brain has improved enough now to say to me, “No, don’t ring them and say that”, or “Don’t do that.” So I’m definitely improving. But that can happen to anybody.

So were you still hairdressing when you had this attack?

No, no, because it’s only … I think it happened in November.

Oh, only last year?

Yes.

And you’ve been retired for ..?

Yes, but I still did friends – they used to come here and I used to do them here. So that’s all had to stop, I can’t … I can’t do it now, which is a big grief to me.

So, grandchildren?

Yes, I’ve got lovely granddaughters; Samara … now I’ve forgotten her second name … Samara Walsh. And the other granddaughter is called Shavannah Walsh. One of them was Brooke … Shavannah Brooke. And my son, Matthew – well, it wasn’t only Matthew’s fault, Helen was involved – she became pregnant when they were still at school. So Matthew brought up the children, And then he unfortunately couldn’t cope with life and he took off, and left the girlfriend with the children and went truck driving big rigs in America. And that caused a terrible rift, of course, so I stepped in and I had the children nearly every weekend. And we used to have so much fun.

I met him …

Oh, that was Anthony. Yes, that was Anthony, he was the oldest boy. But it’s very strange, this year … oh, and there’s another one; Anthony had a child called Madison … Madison Watson … to Anthony’s first wife, actually, Lisa. Anyway, [chuckle] Lisa went down to Wellington to learn to be a prison warden, and she ran off with one of the prison wardens. So that was absolutely drastic; and I ended up bringing Madison up because he wouldn’t run away with them and live. And Anthony was truck driving from here to Wellington every day, so I ended up with Madison, to bring him up.

Anyway, that’s all in the past, but it’s very sad that the girls don’t have anything to do with Matthew, but they do with me. And they went to Wellington to live, and we hadn’t really been in touch – I used to get so upset [when] I didn’t hear from them – but we’re now on Viber, and that’s marvellous. We just send each other a little note. It is, it’s lovely. And the other day I sent them a photo of that telegram – a young one wouldn’t even know what a telegram is – and Tony had sent it to me. And Cheryl must’ve been in Sydney, and I must’ve been thirty-three, and they said something about: ‘Now that you are thirty-three you’ll have to settle down. No more wetting your pants or giggling or … something, something, something’. So I photographed it and sent it to the girls, [chuckle] because they’d never seen a telegram. They live in the modern world, not … we’re in the old changing world, aren’t we?

So whereabouts was your first salon in Hastings?

Oh, my first salon was in Karamu Road. And it was an old coffee lounge called ‘The Web’, and it had this terrible metal thing as you walked in the door, like a spider web. Anyway, Dad offered to do it up for me, and he spent hours and hours decorating and doing up the salon for me.

He also built our first little car, and he also built our fridge.

Did he?

Oh, he was a brilliant person. Yeah. He didn’t waste … he also did all built-in furniture in Massey Street. And [of] course when Cheryl took it over when Mum died, she ripped it all out.

When Cheryl first contacted me she said, “As soon as I’ve got the house painted”, but every time she rang me she still hadn’t finished painting the house.

No. Cheryl was absolutely obsessed with that house … was absolutely obsessed. And she spent fourteen years doing it up; pulling it to pieces, and if she did get in a tradesman, it wasn’t good enough – she’d redo it all. And I used to go and help her, and she’d pick on everything I did – it wasn’t good enough, so I put the paintbrush down one day – I said, “Right, that’s it! Do it yourself.” But I told her what she was doing to that house would kill her, and it did. She smashed all the concrete all round the house and she carted all this broken concrete. Anyway, she was planning on replacing the roof on the shed which didn’t need to be done, to sell it, and she was going to put in a gate. And I said, “But Cheryl, new owners might not want a gate.” It was like she couldn’t stop. And then of course …

It became an obsession.

It was. And the lung disease took over; she couldn’t walk anywhere, she couldn’t breathe. It was shocking. And my son, Anthony, found her on the floor, dead. Yes, it was terrible. Yeah. And then he came in here one day and I’d had a fall down the ramp; and he thought I was dead on the floor too, so the poor boy! He’s had a terrible time.

Where did you live most of your life when you were married?

Well I was married to Winston. When we were married Winston got this great idea he was going to buy the Mahora Wine Shop; and he was told, “Don’t buy the Mahora Wine Shop because wine is going into the supermarkets.” But Winston wouldn’t listen. And I stupidly signed over as a partner, and I lost everything too.

So the wine shop destroyed you?

Yes. And so my lovely home on the corner of Fenwick Street and Willowpark Road was our lovely Lockwood home. And I used to go and visit a girl called Peta Minton, who got a flat just down the road; and I found I couldn’t do it – I just couldn’t look at what had been my house. I used to go down with the pushchair … I think it was Walkers were down the …

End … the little shop?

Yeah, and I used to put Matthew in the pushchair and go down and buy some trees, and then I’d come home and put these trees in. And now of course the trees are thirty or forty feet high.

It was the only Lockwood down there.

Well I was gone by then – I’d gone to Napier to live, and I wasn’t there to keep the house looking really nice, unfortunately. And I might just say that my son, Anthony, that you met, finished off Cheryl’s house for her. And the lawyer, Malcolm Taylor, employed him on an hourly rate to finish what Cheryl hadn’t done. So it goes on the market fairly soon because Probate will be through. And I think she’s left most of it to charity and a little bit to her nephew [nieces] and nephews. And … anyway, she’s free of all her suffering.

Okay, well I think that gives us a broad brush of the Fox family, so thank you, Cheryl, [Sandra] for allowing me to interview you …

Sandra.

Sandra – my God!

That’s all right – it’s just our minds. [Chuckle]

There is a lovely photo of Dad standing by the plane with … I think it’s Glen Paterson.

He must have flown a lot of different planes besides Tiger Moths?

Yes, he did I think, yes. Yes, it wasn’t just the Tiger Moths.

I saw his log book, and it had nine thousand hours in it, and that’s a hell of a lot of take-offs and landings.

Yes, it was, and Cheryl donated the log books to the Aero Club I think. But he loved the flying, and when he had to give it up he was so depressed it was dreadful. It was so sad.

Well it was his life, wasn’t it? From a young man training in the Air Force, and then the top dressing planes, and … well you lived it.

Yeah, they did live it. It was their life. We didn’t realise. And I used to feel quite proud you know, “Oh, my father’s a pilot”, you know.

Did you ever fly with him?

I didn’t really like flying very much. The day I was the fairy throwing out the lollies, I was quite … I don’t like little planes.

Did you fly in big planes at all?

I have flown, yes I flew to London and I flew everywhere, flew all over the place.

So you’ve been around the world, too?

I have. I took myself off, and I left staff running the salon. Yes, I did. But oh, I know what I was going to tell you. Dad’s final wish was that his ashes would be thrown out of the aeroplane; and I forget which ones of our family went up in the plane to throw Dad’s ashes out. They threw his ashes out the window and they all came back in their face[s]. Oh, those ashes are terrible things to get rid of. We tried to do my brother’s down at the sea, and put them in and they all kept coming back.

[Chuckle] Didn’t want to leave …

Anyway there’s a very good invention has been invented – the funeral place I’ve … or the one I’ve seen do it. They can put your ashes into like, a bag with a weight, so you can be thrown into the water and they sink; and then all that dissolves and there you are – you’re spread out, and you haven’t gone in anybody’s face or anything. Yes. [Chuckle]

Okay. So thanks again, Sandra …

That’s all right.

Some of the photos we’ve picked up we’ll need you to identify.

Yes. Well I can probably identify them. And I was so pleased when I thought of Jim Crook’s name, you know – names just popped up.

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Interviewer:  Frank Cooper

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