George Foulds Interview
Today’s the 20th of the 10th 2014. I’m recording the life and times of George Foulds. Now George we’ll start off with some of your family history, the names and where your family came from. Ok?
Well I was born on the 4th of November 1919 in Waipawa and my parents then lived in the North Block Road in the Wakararas that’s just underneath the foot of the Ruahine Ranges, out from Onga Onga/Tikokino area. Unfortunately my parents, my mother then left my father when I was about three years of age and she walked out and left him to the farm up there and eventually my grandmother was Elizabeth Waldrom and she had a farm just outside Waipawa and she was anticipating handing the farm over to her son and then possibly somebody to look after her in her older age. My mother then, and the grandmother, that was her mother, then sort of made a partnership and they come to – us two children – I have a sister Elsie who was a little bit younger than myself and we come to Waipawa.
The first home we had was in Otane where we were only there for a short time and then we eventually come to 414 Southampton Street, Hastings and that was in March in 1924. And you might work that out that’s just on 90 years ago now. And then from then on I sort of – my life then started going to school. First I went to Central School which was just four blocks away from where we lived and then after the ’31 earthquake I went to the Hastings West, which is now Raureka and that’s where I finished up. And possibly our income was – with my mother sort of having no support whatsoever – just had to solely rely on my father’s 10 bob a week for the two children and the income that the grandmother had from her son’s farm in Waipawa and that wasn’t what you would call substantial. And so it was just a matter of being very, very careful with what money they had and how they spent it and there was no such thing as – we had no luxuries whatsoever, it was just a mere survival and that, and this was heading into the earthquake era and that was in the middle of the depression and there was no money around. The only money I had was I had a paper – no sorry – not a paper run, a milk run where I got 7/6d a week for delivering a bit of milk around Hastings and I did that for about a couple of years. And then at the same time I was managing a – to have another little job on a bakery delivery where I got 1/- for every afternoon that I was able to get there on time.
And that led up to the about 1935 when I was about 15 years of age and my mother couldn’t afford to send me to high school so I consequently had to leave and find a job, and I found a job. The first job I had was pulling weeds in Oliphant Road for a chap and he gave me 10/- a week for that, which was great money in those days, but very miserable. And then a few months later I saw an advert in the paper of a Mrs Ettie Ingram wanting a grocery assistant, so – and that was paying 15/6d a week so that was a bit of a heave along and then I was able then – and then I sort of had to give my mother a little bit of money towards buying groceries or whatever she wanted, clothes etc and then from then onwards this was the recovery of the depression years and then
I wonder if we could just stop there for a minute, just for a second. Could we go back to the bit, start where your grandparents and parents came from? Did they come from Ireland or England, or …?
Getting back to the parents, my father was born in Lyttelton and my grandfather was also born in Lyttelton and the great-great-grandfather he was born in a place called Shelton in West Yorkshire in 1818. He then come to New Zealand with some of his friends and he first came out on the boat “The Oriental” which arrived in New Zealand in Petone one week before the Treaty of Waitangi was signed, that was 31st of January in 1840. Consequently he married soon after, the girl he brought out was also from the same area back in West Yorkshire around Skilton and Keighley and unfortunately there she died at the childbirth of her first child and he was left with a widow with one baby and also that being his wife, she also had a child prior to this in England and he was left with an adopted daughter and it wasn’t long before he found another boat and was having a look at another boat coming in called “The Gertrude” that was in 1841 that come into the Wellington Harbour and he spotted a girl coming down the gangway and he made up his mind – that is going to be my wife, and Mary – her name was Mary Lingard – and consequently they made it up and they got married in Wellington and the family come along almost straight away and then after nine years in Wellington surviving the earthquakes and a bit of the hostilities of the Maoris stirring trouble up there and the Lingard family were contractors and building roads and there was an opportunity for them, coming from Christchurch and Lyttelton and Akaroa, for road builders, so all the Fouldses and the Lingards all packed up from Wellington in 1849 and they were then in Lyttelton just prior to the four ships that come in and they established the Fouldses they established the farm and land in there and that’s where my grandfather started his family and then the opportunity came later on in life for him and some of his wife’s family, which was the John Beazley family also from Christchurch and the Lyttelton area, and the grandfather was married to Emily Beazley and the Beazleys and the Fouldses then come up to a place called Tikokino in Central Hawke’s Bay and then from there a little bit up the Makaroro Road a place called Heathertree, where is was run by John Holden and they had – they were on a little bit of a farm there that wasn’t giving them wages and then gradually there was about the 1870s or 1880s land was then being developed up into the North Block Road in the Wakarara District.
And then on my mother’s side of it was the Holdens and the – Jonathon Holden come from Lancashire in England and the Holden name in the Lancashire there was just like the Smiths and the Joneses in New Zealand and I can trace the Holden name back to the 11th century but the accuracy of it is not what I call extremely good. In the 14th century there was one a little bit of a naughty boy. He decided to have a family or do something and he produced a girl and of course consequently the Church then kicked him out of it and for the next 100 years we were not able to establish good records of what this chap did. And he was known in the 14th century as the bastard Robert Holden.
Consequently about 100 years later, getting into the 15th century, it seemed to sort of die down a wee bit and consequently the Holden name was then spreading like flies over that, and they consequently then had some of them were then spreading their wings going to all parts of New Zealand – of the World, and one of them was Jonathon Holden and he decided he had a family in England of five, three boys and two girls, my grandmother being one of the girls, he on his own then decided he’d go and have a look around the world and left England and sailed for New Zealand, arriving in New Zealand in Auckland in about 1857. And then he had a few months in Auckland and didn’t like it and went to Australia for the mineral fields over there, both the opal and the gold and he didn’t particularly like that and then he come back to Wellington where he met up with his old, very old friend of his back in England? name Harwood and they in turn went down to the Gabriel Gully goldfields and like many of them didn’t make much money and … then he come back to Wellington. And he was a carpenter by trade and somehow in the Wellington company in Wellington there – oh – said there was land available in Hawke’s Bay with plenty of trees on it. And so that tickled Jonathon Holden and he walked up the coast the sea coast up to Porangahau and come inland from Takapau and come through Ashcroft and then had a look at this place called Springvale, and he absolutely fell in love, seeing all these old man totara trees, real old fellas, and plenty of wood, plenty of timber and possibly a lot of hard work. And so he couldn’t get back to Wellington quick enough to secure 200 acres of this land and at the same time sent a word back to his wife in England – sell up and pack up and come out to New Zealand – and that she did. She sold everything up and arrived in New Zealand about two years later in 1859 and after leaving her home in England and didn’t know what was going to happen in New Zealand and what house she was going to be living in. And she finally got here and arrived in Wellington on the liner the “Gottfried” and come to – from Wellington come to Napier by steamer and then by bullock dray from Napier up the Tukituki River before roads were built in this area and they stopped a few times at Takapau and then gradually went over and occupied this land in Springvale of 200 acres with his partner Harwood.
Just one second – now this was your grandmother’s family was it?
Yes, carry on.
With Harwood. And consequently that partnership dissolved and he carried on and through his sons, John, Thomas and Jonathon Junior – they finally made a great do of it with hard work, selling these totara posts and timber around the area and the three boys sort of did very well for themselves and at one stage the Holden brothers had farming areas of up to 25,000 acres between them. It was Jonathon Junior had 7,000 acres at Makotuku just out from Dannevirke, and Tom had 7,000 acres in Gisborne and John had the rest in Springvale, and that was the dissolving of the partnership and then Jonathon, not Jonathon, John then sort of sold up and sold a lot of the land and consequently Springvale today is of only 2,500 acres which has had the same surname on that same ground for the last 155 years. That part of it is quite amazing. Then my grandmother who was there, like the girls, they did a terrible lot of hard work, both inside the houses, looking after her other three sisters that were born in New Zealand, her and her next sister Alice Morrison then sort of – they married and went their own ways and it sort of left a bit of an ill feeling amongst the family that the girls did a terrible lot of work and they never got paid for any of it and they sort of married and went on their own ways. My grandmother then sort of married a Ben Waldrom who had come from Nottinghamshire in Central England and they established a first house at Ongaonga and then they took up a small block of land on the Tikokino Road just outside Waipawa and the Waldrom name has now been on that same block of land for the last 145 years there. And the grandmother had a family of 10 – I think six girls and four boys – and the matrimonial side of that family was very, very poor. There was two of them that – one, the oldest boy married and had no family and there was two girls that never married and the others were all divorced and parted and that’s where my mother sort of came in as leaving my father up in the Wakararas.
I’d been up there and sort of went back into the farming and carrying on from there. But my father then had a housekeeper, a Mrs Gregory, you might have heard of her too “No” and she was a real battleaxe and of course she kept Billie under her thumb and he made no contact with his family whatsoever at any time. I didn’t know my father until I was 21 years of age.
That was the first time I’d met him and course the War years come on and Tom King in Hastings knows, knew all of the family and he says to me one day – he says you going to come and see your father – and I says no, he’s not interested in me. Well he says I think you should and I said well I said I’ve got no car, I’ve got no petrol so he says, do you think you can get a loan of a car. He says oh well I’ll see Tom Faulkner in the Post Office and see if I can get you some petrol coupons, so he did that and he gave me a handful of petrol coupons and I got a loan of a car and went up there and saw him and went up to the house there up the Wakarara – North Block Road and this old housekeeper comes in there and she looked at me and she says – yes it’s about bloody time you did show up in here …
Is that right?
…and I thought Christ Almighty …
Oh, I can imagine.
Who the devil’s this old bitch talking to?
Yes, I can imagine.
And of course, then he sort of he then nearly bowled her over to see who she was talking to at the doorway, and he made me sort of quite comfortable and I had a meal up there and come home and went back there after the War years and she was glad to see me come back there but then when I started going up there too frequently oooh she – I got the cold shoulder (laughter) and she didn’t want me anywhere near the place because she wasn’t getting any wages or anything – he was just keeping her there and she was after the farm.
And so were you – were you like your father? Did he recognise you when he saw you. ‘Cause he hadn’t seen you for …
Well he hadn’t seen me since a baby, see 20 odd years. I was only a baby and here I was off to the War when he next saw me.
Yes, that’s interesting isn’t it? Yes, families you know, it’s surprising how many breaks there were in families, gaps all those things so, you’d been to see your father and obviously you saw him several times. We’ll pick that up later, but coming back you were working at Tom King’s obviously prior to the War.
And it was from Tom King’s that you left to go to the War.
Now if I can just stop at that point – what was it like growing up in Hastings as a boy from the country, you know you came from Waipawa – what was it like? Shingle roads, there wouldn’t be much going for a young person?
Well growing up from 10 years of age, when you’re sort of learning a lot and getting up into standard 6 and then it was the adventure of life going there – and there wasn’t a great deal of doing, it was all making your own fun. There was no such thing as money for sport in those days – if you went to a sports meeting there might be trophies if you could win or something like, something like that, and that was there and you relied more or less on any entertainment that your neighbours had, or going round to your schoolmates property after school or holidays, or going – having the essential thing in those days was having a good push bike – where you could go out on a day’s trip somewhere and get back by night time and that sort of lead up – motor cars – well when I was at Mrs Ingram’s I did learn to drive a motor car. And I got my driver’s licence at 15 years of age and the traffic inspector asked me my age or asked me when I was born and – he says oh – he gave a grump and he must have realised that I was 15 and not 16 and he bypassed it in there and that was the start of driving in there. And Mrs Ingram had an a Ford van which we did deliveries and then working for her, then I eventually sort of – oh I left Mrs Ingram’s there when I asked for a rise in pay and she said – oh, she flared up in the air and says that I hadn’t been here long enough to get a pay and the Union man told me oh well every six months you were supposed to get a rise in wages so I got a rise in wages and fired out the door more or less. And I went to the Labour Department and they went and they sort of went and had a look at it and when they come back and told me that I hadn’t been there long enough, and I said yes I’ve been there long enough, I says the Union Secretary got me a job there six months before she sort of put it on the wage book, that sort of covered her that everything on the wage book was everything was correct but I wasn’t correct.
So that sort of terminated her there – I sort of got to Tom King’s and then I was about 18 I think when 17 or 18.
So where was Tom King’s?
Tom King was a well-known grocer in Hastings here where he worked probably up in Tiko where he met all the family relations up there then he likewise had come to Hastings for work and he worked first at Roach’s as a grocery manager and then finally he started out on his own about 1937 on the corner of King Street and Heretaunga Street, where Richardson’s the chemist is now. And then I had the time there and it was very interesting in that part there – sort of growing up and getting to know Hastings and delivering groceries, and behind the counter and sort of and possibly knowing most of the people from Nelson Street down to Market Street and beyond. You knew everybody in those shops in those days and then the War years come on and I was called up then at the age – I’d just had me 21st birthday and from thereon for the next five years it was spent in the War years where I had two years in the Western Desert and seeing the first campaign in ’41 and then men were in Alamein and then life up in Palestine and Syria and then the North African campaigns and then back to Egypt. And finally in ’43 I think it must be, then the Italian campaign started, so the Second Division with General Freyberg and then it was over to into Italy there with – where I spent the next two years sightseeing in Italy with the campaigns of around the Sangro River and Cassino and then up to Florence and then over to Rimony and then finally from Fawley the final campaign, the final big push to Trieste. And then had about a month’s leave unofficially up in Trieste where us old soldiers who had over four years in the desert we were fairly free to go where we wanted and we had a great time up in the north, up there before we were then called back and said well you’re the first on your way home and it was back to Cairo and then finally The Strathaird took us from Port Tuthick to Colombo, Melbourne and then our first sight was in September in ’45 seeing Cape Farewell.
Just stop there for a second. Coming back to the War, were you an infantryman or artillery or, ASC or ..?
No, I was in the service in the Army, I was in the artillery, I was in RHQ for a while and then over to E Troop and 46 Battery and I was more or less a driver and spent most of my time as a driver in the SIG truck, and a period on – you always had other jobs to do and you served your time on the 25 pounders and that sort of thing. It was quite interesting there sort of having the truck and called upon to do this and do that and go there and come back, take this there and bring it back and all that sort of thing. It was sort of – gave you great opportunities to have a look behind the lines in Italy which was far different to the life in the Western Desert.
That was a long period away George, wasn’t it – four years for you as a young man?
Oh – well – life then, sort of going into the Army it was made up of all sorts of people. Particularly in the ? Regiment where you had homosexuals, you had jailbirds, you had accountants and lawyers and farmers, every Tom Dick every Tom nationality in the world you had there, but there was always one thing that all the homosexuals and the jailbirds never lasted long in any of the regiments. They would commit a crime and they got out of the Army life. It was better for them in jail than up at the front line getting shot up.
OK, so you came home on the ‘Strathaird’ and you saw the Cape, when that was the first thing you saw?
Yeah. It was back to – coming back we saw the – coming through Cook Strait that night was the – our ship was in total darkness and here The Rangatira goes sailing in front of us in all lights blazing. We couldn’t understand why the Captain didn’t turn the lights on. And we headed down – the first port of call was in Lyttelton where the South Island people disembarked in Lyttelton the next day and the next night we sailed from Lyttelton back to Wellington and then it was Wellington up to Hawke’s Bay and then the – the most amazing brilliant thing that I can ever – I still visualise it – it was a shame that nobody could have ever had a camera to record this event is that the train was sort of blowing its whistles at all the principal stations and then it got to Pakipaki, just outside Hastings and it was the Maoris giving a terrific welcome to their homecoming returned servicemen. And that huia outside the Pakipaki Railway Station held that train up for half an hour, so we could all witness what was going on. It was amazing but the Stationmaster thought well the rest of them are only going to go to Napier and they might as well see all this and of course when we got – coming into Hastings the train whistles were blowing and there was a terrific crowd on the Hastings Railway Station and that sort of coming home it was sort of … oh, it’s very hard to sort of. There – you were sort of were looking around and people were looking at you and sort of some of them were speaking well to you and then as soon as you got into your civvie clothes and you walked up the main street – ugh – everybody was looking at you – so there – nobody spoke to you and you were looking in the shops there to see if there was anybody there that you knew. No, there’s nobody there, and it was – for a while it was sort of not very pleasant walking around Hastings there. This was straight within the first six months after the War, after we come back. That’s from – we arrived back in September in ’45 and that Christmas was sort of, well, was a better Christmas than the last four we ever had. We saw Christmases in [?]lia, where did we have another one – oh, we had one must have had one in Cairo and two in Italy.
Yes, I’ve heard other soldiers saying when they came home – they were out of contact with their communities. The communities were out of contact with them, that all of a sudden you’d been with this tremendous group of men with for four or five years and all of a sudden they weren’t there.
And the people in the community didn’t know how to communicate with you soldiers. They didn’t – they were – I don’t know whether they were embarrassed or – but I know I’ve heard that said several times George.
Yeah, and sort of with your army life you got to know those chaps and you had to live with them and you got to know them and understand them, their various ways, some of them what they talked about, I mean to say, an army life well it was good sort of living with them and you got to really know them and then some of them you made real life membership friends with them. Even myself getting into the – up to the 90 years of old – I was still able to sort of go out and see some of these chaps and we’d have a great pow-wow of their – but our relations, our families were all sitting there listening – oh what are they talking about, a whole lot of rubbish. They didn’t understand what we were talking about. We knew.
No one – and you know they couldn’t understand why you didn’t want to talk about certain things and it was only something when you’re with your mates that they were on the same wavelength that you were.
So then after you came back from the war you obviously got back into the grocery trade?
Yeah, after the War years went back to Tom King’s and it sort of – it was alright there and um I couldn’t understand the ration books and the petrol coupons and, it sort of gradually disappeared – and one thing that we did after the War years I was very friendly with Frank Newrick and his two boys, Ivan and Reg, who had the Havelock North Hotel in those days.
I knew them both.
None of us were drinkers but we had a great time in that hotel and then after the War years when we come back Frank had the Otane Hotel and the first thing he did he called us in there and he said you’ve got to come up here for a week’s holiday and we had a week’s holiday in the Otane Hotel and we didn’t have to pay for a penny of it. And then at the end of the week’s holiday Frank says – oh he said there’s a car out in the shed out there um about a 19 something Oldsmobile quite a good car and Ivan and Reg could drive it and he said well here’s the car he says, have a trip round the North Island and we said well yes we’ve got the petrol and that – so Reg and Ivan and myself and another Newrick boy, Charlie Lansdowne and Johnny Pankhurst from out at Havelock.
Yes, Johnny too.
And there was another one, Tui McNeil I think his name was.
Was that the big tall chap from Whakatu, Tui McNeil?
Yeah, that’ll be him.
And we sort of – six of us bundled into this there and away we went around the North Island. And then of course the blooming thing was hungry on petrol.
It would have been.
And we had a Government grant of 30 gallons of there and so what we did for the first one – oh put 10 gallons in will you please, yeah put it in – got your card? – oh yes, will you write it in pencil? Yes I’ll do that for you. That’s right – put it in – put it in pencil – and we got down the road and the first thing we did was we got the rubber out and rubbed the 0 out so we got 1 gallon showing on the card and away we went round the North Island.
With a ration book and a pencil and a rubber.
Yeah, and we got up in Auckland up there one day up there and we were filling up up there and an old chap in the garage there was doing petrol and he said – where have you chaps come from? – oh we’ve come from Central Hawke’s Bay – oh God he says, he says you must have a good car he says here it only takes 1 gallon of petrol every time. [Laughter] He knew what we were up to. And so we went all round – went up to Palmerston North, Taranaki up to Auckland and I think Wellsford and then come down and went round Gisborne and then back to Hawke’s Bay.
Yes, that’s a wonderful trip. Yes, the Newricks were very well-known in Havelock. Reg used to run a little dairy.
The dairy, yeah.
And his brother used to make these monuments out of that stuff they use for putting on …. thing for them to have done for you.
Oh yes, well of course down in Otane down there well it was all the local come in there and we were in uniform – oh yes have a beer on us – oh godfather it got to the stage where we were getting outside and mowing the lawns and doing the work outside and getting away from the pub.
So obviously between Tom King’s, you obviously went into business on your own, or you got married or – some of those things?
Oh yeah, well from – after Tom King’s for a few years there then I sort of oh got a bit stale in there and went round and Don Doak in the Farmer’s and he said oh there’s a job going round here he says if you want a change and I said oh yes I says, I’ll come round. So I went round to the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ Grocery Department then for a few years and in that time I sort of got married and had a family, had first child come along and then Max Pledger in Hastings here oh he said there’s some sections coming up in Duke Street he says and the preference is given to World War II veterans to – applications to sort of build and establish a shop if you’re interested – and Max said oh well he says yes that’s better than blooming wages so with great help from Max Pledger who was a lawyer and a chap that I first peeled spuds with in Papakura in ’41.
There was a kinship there.
And it was the friendship coming out and sort of with a bit of push from him and I sort of won the grocery site for the grocery/dairy and also for to build a house on the residential site.
Is that building still there?
It’s now the Duke Street dairy and grocery.
Well it’s there today with the chap that’s got the model aerocraft stuff into. That was the shop that I had. And sort of with the family and my daughter and son were there, they grew up in that area and we were in that area for 18 years serving the public from seven in the morning until some hour at night time and then sort of sold it out and had a rest for about 12 months from that and then there was another opportunity for a shopping complex and that was out in Poole Street in Flaxmere and this one was a bookshop. And I thought oh well that’s a bit of a change and so I put in for that and got that site, paying rent for the shop and I was able to establish a Post Office agency at the same time which was very, very beneficial in the long run for me and had 10 years in there where I built the Post Office up from nothing to quite an amazing figure where the Post Office auditors, which have got nothing to do with the activities in there, they come from Wellington up there and each time in the latter years they used to flare up in the air about this agency out in Flaxmere doing far much more work than we were expecting to do. And that and then they were then sort of put into with the complex in latter years, put in a for that – put in a full time Post Office in the shopping complex there.
And then that was … the same time that was terminating and I was 60 years of age at the end of that and tried to sell it and nobody there and just finally closed it all, run it down and finally closed it and then virtually retired, semi-retired from that and then I finished up with knowing another chap in the Apple & Pear Board and he says – what are you doing with your time? Oh I says mucking around more or less and – oh he says do you want a seasonal job? Oh I says yeah well why what’ve you got? Oh he says there’s plenty of work he says er for a few old people round here. I says oh well what time from? Oh March when the apple seasons on and they used to have the – a section of it in what they call the export – an export sort of inspection there and it was mainly drafted up of older people who had just retired and had a job and no real pressure on them and…
I know because I used to have to take our apples through there and all of you retired people you had the power though.
We had the power yeah – yeah well you might remember some of them – Nicky Harman, and Clarry Napier and – Bill Carrington.
Yes, oh they were all there I know. Well that’s interesting. So, you went down and became part of?
Yeah well I was on the outside part of it there doing – er – pulling the ones in.
Yes. That’s probably, see – possibly have seen you – you were talking about the Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ grocery, we used to get our groceries, we either had them delivered by the little short man in the little car that used to come out to the farm, or I would go, my father would go and buy groceries there because Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ you could buy salmon from Canada, you could buy.
You could buy cheeses from – it was like a Harrod’s, yeah. And then coming back I must have seen you at the Apple & Pear Board too – because we had to go through export, you would have been there.
Yeah well I was on – when you first went in the gate there, I was sort of ticking you all – everybody in and they used to give me the – any – was more or less a random inspection sort of thing and it was more or less keeping a tag on the Board’s own inspectors. It was an interesting sort of job and a very educational sort of job for the orchardists themselves, and we used to pick up sort of all sorts of things in that there and refer it back to the Head Office and let them sort a bit of it out there, but there was one amazing one day there was the chap– you remember the chap Mills down in where – down Norton Road.
Yeah I do, yes.
Yeah well he was one chap that we spent a lot of time with one afternoon – he come in and he had a granny smith apples and the lot were beautiful apples and he – on his count of about 125 or something and they were beautiful apples there and the next load he come in I put him in the shed again. And he comes out and he says ‘where’s this coming from’? I said the Millses and he said he’s got good apples and he says ‘look at the bloomin’ … the moth … the … what’s the … ‘
The mealy bug. And that was the count of about 70 or something and he pulled the chap Mills up and he was absolutely staggered he says that’s not my fruit. Well he says there’s your carton there, there’s your lorry there. God he says, how’s all this happened. He didn’t know – we had to downgrade the whole lot. And he went home very, very sad. And he went and looked up his diary on the fruit where he’s spraying and that day and that fruit. Yes, he was spraying alright and what happened is that his spraying took only about half of the lower part of the trees down and the upper part was a bit of a breeze blowing and it never got any spray at all, and this was where all these high counts were all up on the top.
It should have been seen on the sorting table on the grader though. Yeah. Shouldn’t have got past there ’cause you can see it so easily. Oh I know. I used to, you know it’s funny, we’d see chaps with their loads turned down and they’d say well just take it back home, turn the pallets round and I saw – one day I saw the inspector, I saw him climb up on top and he went to the far side of the truck and he pulled this out and the driver said “why don’t you take” – he said “I want to make sure you haven’t swapped them across the truck” – which he had done. So they downgraded and sent them home. I know.
So that chap Mills then afterwards when he found what was happening he was amazed and he couldn’t thank us enough for helping him out and that. And he sort of – well he said, I’ve learnt there a lesson – not to – be careful with the spraying on a windy day.
And grading. Yeah. Well, that’s interesting. So then that was your second – you carried that – now your children – you got married somewhere between Tom King and Duke Street.
Yeah. Sort of – yeah that was the year, time, and Janice got married in – when more or less I’d sort of just retired and in Hastings here and she married a chap called Kevin Reisima he was a cabinetmaker and – for Murray Stark’s.
Made all our furniture.
And then Charles, my son, well it was five years difference between them and he got married to a Palmerston North girl and he took up horticulture in a plant nursery and he was with the Harrison’s for a while in Palmerston and then finally got into horticultural side of the Palmerston North City Council and where today he’s now a manager down there in – looking after the sports stadium and things down there. And Janice and Kevin well they have their family – they both have family of three each.
And Janice and Kevin have just retired this year and they’ve got three children each, so I’ve got six grandchildren and Janice has got a married son with a boy and a girl. So I’m a great-grandfather of two – three, the other granddaughter she’s got one child and she lives in Auckland.
Right. And your wife, she’s still ..?
Sort of married Rose in – her and I then were sort of looking after the shop and her family come along and then – what year would it be – about 19 – oh yes late 1980s – she then was sort of – I was waking up to her – that she was getting into – developing a bit of Alzheimer’s and that gradually crept in and got worse and worse.
That’s sad, yes.
And then she died 11 years ago – 12 years – 11 years ago.
Right. And so now you’ve got your grandchildren, you’ve got your genealogy.
Yeah. And so … was in the hobby of – sort of in the running years when I was in Tom King and the Farmer’s there, I was in the running on the track and the Harriers and then when I got too old for that and then I sort of run into another cousin here in Hastings and she said “oh what you doing for a hobby these days?” I said “oh not much.” She says – “oh,” she says “come on to a genealogy meeting with Lily Baker.” I thought – oh, family history – and I thought oh, sounds fairly good and so for the last 25 years I’ve been doing nothing but family history work and the last 10 years I’ve also been in the Founders’ Club.
Where they don’t do much but it’s more of a social event of going around looking at historical places.
Yes, my wife’s in that actually, Kay Cooper she’s a redhead – and Andy Duncan, I think he’s…
Oh yes, old Andy, yes I know Andy.
And so – well that’s good, so you keep yourself quite busy then with all those things.
Yes. Is there anything that comes to mind that we may have missed. You’ve had a fairly broad experience in life you know – from Wakarara …
Yeah – to …
Trieste, to – you know we can say you’ve been everywhere.
Yeah. Sort of following genealogy along and then sort of shifting around and then there’s all this, James Morgan and Stoneycroft then sort of come into the picture a lot, and sort of knowing James a little bit there and sort of it’s rekindled a friendship that I sort of started and knowing his wife out in Flaxmere 40 years ago.
It’s surprising how that sort of thing happens in life isn’t it? Yes, well that’s interesting.
One of the – one thing that I’ve done that I’ve helped a lady out in – at Cassino as you know was a very bad – at Cassino it was a very, very sad sort of place for some of us there. We hadn’t been long there and one late afternoon I was told to go and get something with the truck and I passed this crossroads and I was coming back and I was stopped – he said ‘you can’t go any further’ he says ‘they’re shelling the road up there.’ And I thought oh yeah and I duly stopped and then just got passed and then was stopped again and the chap must have been one of our regimental jokers and he says ‘oh’ he says ‘did you know that the Padre and Reg Ferguson were killed’? And I said ‘oh, I know’. I says ‘the Padre’? I said ‘what was he doing?’ And he said ‘oh he was going to the rescue there at those crossroads’ and he says, ‘well’ he says ‘if you hadn’t have been stopped’ he says ‘you would have been in the middle of that too.’ And that was that. And that instance sort of, coming back to New Zealand, everybody knew that the only Padre in the Army had been killed and then one reunion in Wellington I had the pleasure of meeting his son, er, he wanted to know all about his father – what his father did and what was he like and whatnot and that sort of passed on and then – about three years ago I was lying in bed here and I was – well I always try and listen to that Sunday programme “It Sounds Historical” by Jim Hopkins, and here he was mentioned about this Padre Harper being killed and he was interviewing his daughter. I thought good God what the devil’s this coming up and so I sort of couldn’t listen there and I was able to get there that his daughter lived in Waikanae so I went and had a look at the electoral roll and got her address and wrote her a letter and then I got a great reply back and she was wanting to have a talk to me about her father, me being one of the – possibly knowing her father better than what she ever knew him.
She was only three years of age when he was killed, and sort of – this led on, and then I wrote her a letter and I says “well I’m going down to the 70th anniversary of El Alamein” and I said “I’ll call in and say hello to you”. And she says “yes”, she says “do”. And so one morning – when we left there to come home we called in to see her and gave me a great welcome and she wanted to know all about her father, and what was he like and what did he do for us etc and I was able to tell her a few pieces and give her a bit of information – and then the thing comes back to the history of her father and parents.
His parents lived in Hastings in 1927 to 1937 – they went back to England and he remained in New Zealand and he married a niece of the Clive Mortimer Jones who was the Vicar of St Matthew’s Church in that time and sort of in this book it sort of reveals all this sort of thing and here I sort of – St Matthew’s sort of knew the Mortimer Jones and then at the end of this bloomin’ conversation down there I says – I waved and I said “you’d better go back to the 70th anniversary of Cassino”. “Oh” she says “no” she says “I don’t think so”. And then a couple of months after she wrote me a letter and said she’s going back. And so she went back on a private trip – on a tour trip – alongside the Army trip that was at the same time and she went over – she said she got there and everything was going alright and then she said she went to the first service they had there was the – at the Railway Station with the Maori Battalion – that was their strong point, was the Maori Battalion and the Railway Station at Cassino. And then she says on the New Zealand service she says the Vicar there was an Italian, born in Cassino and then he got educated in America and then come back to Cassino where he undertook bloomin’ clerical work and also the history of the New Zealand Army in Cassino, and somehow he must have picked up that she was coming and when the service started she was in there and he goes up and greets her and takes her right up to the front and the whole service at Cassino was dedicated to her father. And that’s the …
Isn’t that a wonderful story?
And that was her.
Oh my God, isn’t that wonderful though?
Yeah – and of course she’s been back and she’s been back here – and I have – she was only up here about three weeks ago and she come back and told me all about it and showed me photos of the new Cassino and that and she points the finger at me this time – she says – it’s through you that made me go back to Cassino.
Have you ever been back?
No, you’ve never been back?
No. Sort of carrying on from after her father was killed there and the four or about a month afterwards there was a gun accident and the gun – where we lost four of our mates on the same day through an accident with guns and another chap in Hastings who died at there and I thought – no, got no desire to go back.
Different memories. No – it’s – and I’ve heard other soldiers that I’ve interviewed – they said no.
The thing – in hindsight afterwards and when I learnt that the Army Department had had great support taking these old boys back as whether in the other ways, when they went to Cassino, there was only about one caregiver to about three there, but this time when they went to Cassino they had three doctors and 15 nurses looking after them plus caregivers. They had a terrific bloomin’ staff with them.
And so you know – these things are really quite special because you’re the last of a group of people we’ll never have the opportunity to hear these stories again. Well, that’s amazing George. That’s a wonderful story isn’t it? Especially when you talk about the full linkage between people, your linkage with the Church, with the Minister, the – you know all those things really make it – very personalised isn’t it?
Yeah. Well you see the Padres over there were – well they were sort of totally different because they didn’t have any pews or any hymn books or prayer books and they just had to go and do what the soldiers did there.
So you made a comment – was he the only Padre killed in the War?
There was only one Padre, yeah.
That’s incredible – I would have thought there might have been more because they were close enough to be caught weren’t they?
Oh yes, there was a Padre in every unit and particularly some of the battalions, the infantry battalions, well they were up there with them as well and – but she wrote a – I’ve got the book here somewhere.
Oh. She wrote a book about it did she?
Yeah, about her father’s – about her life.
That needs to be attached to the story. Yes, I know what the bidbidi is all right – it’s just that’s interesting that it was called ‘Bidibidi Farm.’ [Bidibid Farm]
The Founders are going up to Tikokino, up to Springvale at the end of November and this is a plaque that’s going to be – that Nanette Roberts has got to unveil.
Right, that’s amazing.
But in other words a Padre should never have – with three children in New Zealand a Padre should never have gone into that …
Yes so that’s really I think gives us a pretty good broad brush of your life from woah to go and if there’s anything else that you remember we can always come back and add on, but I’d just like to say thank you George, it’s been very enjoyable listening to your story. With that …
Well, I hope it’s been good for you, and as I say James has always been after me.
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Interviewer : Frank Cooper