Giles, Brian Albert Interview

4th July 2017

I’m interviewing Brian Giles from Waipukurau, with his wife, Beverley, as well. I welcome you, Brian, and would like you to just let us know the history of your family; when you came to Waipukurau, or into Hawke’s Bay; and anything you can tell us … all yours.

On my mother’s side my grandparents came from Cornwall in 1913 on the sailing ship ‘Corinthic’; it was eight thousand tons, my grandmother told me. They arrived in Wellington and from there they went to Ashburton. Their names were Lily and Sid Bowden. But they found it cold in Ashburton so they shifted up to Wairoa. My Aunty Hazel, who later on became Hazel Butcher – she was four years older than my mother. My mother, Myra – she was born in Wairoa in 1919 on the 17th October.

In 1921 they decided they’d come to Hawke’s Bay. They rode the horses from Wairoa; my mother was on the front of her father on the horse. But when they came to Hawke’s Bay my grandfather got a job at the Hawke’s Bay County Council and he was there over forty years. They had sections round Lumsden Road; they used to lease sections around Lumsden Road off Thompsons, the butchers; they let them have a paddock and they milked two or three cows.

In 1931 they balloted a little farm … thirty acres … in Crosses Road. Next to them were the Growcotts; and that was in 1931 they shifted there. They had two army huts, and during the Depression they had five families living at the farm in Crosses Road.

When I was a child growing up, they milked twenty-five Jersey cows. We all lived on the farm, the Giles’ – we lived on [in] a little cottage; it was actually a loose box, but they made it into a little cottage. They kept adding little rooms to it, and that’s where it all started.

My father, Len Giles – he and my mother – they got married in 1937, and it may’ve been a bit unheard of in those days, but my brother was on the way when my parents got married. So that’s in 1937.

Your mother’s maiden name?

My mother’s maiden name was Myra Tremayne Bowden. And they lived in Crosses Road until my grandparents passed away in … ‘68 my grandmother passed away, and my grandfather passed away in 1970.

I came along in 1941 and I was born at Sister Cooper’s Private Hospital, where CJ Wilkie had his truck yard; there was a big house there. I was born premature, and they didn’t have incubators, Mum said, but I was in Sister Cooper’s office by a little two-bar heater. That was the incubation for babies in 1941.

But then we went back to Trentham, because it was during the War of course and my father was a Quartermaster, looking after the clothing in the camp. [Trentham Military Camp] So we lived at Trentham, and we didn’t come back to Havelock until 1947. My father was in the Camp Band, and he was cornet champion of New Zealand at eighteen, so he was right into brass bands.

So we went on, and as you say, everybody found it pretty tough, but by having the cows, we used to have people come to the farm with their billies to buy milk. And we had a lot of boxes, and as a kid growing up we’d have these boxes; and the people … Harold Carr, [it] would be; Percy Elworthy, Mr Herrick … they would come down and get their milk in the billies. It was a great place to grow up, and there wasn’t many people in Havelock in 1947. So yeah, it sort of went on from there, it was just a way of life really. Everybody sort of knew everybody in Havelock.

My father’s first job was working for Bales in the orchard, and then he used to go down to the son’s – to Good & Bales – they’d work between the two orchards, and my mother picked fruit as well. And that’s the orchard that was opposite Cherry Grove Store – that opened up later on, and a man by the name of Mr Ellis … Jim Ellis … he started the Cherry Grove Store. So yes, I’ve seen a lot growing up in Havelock.

I went to the Convent School ‘cause my father was a Catholic, and his mother and father were Catholics. But my father’s biological father – he died of the black plague, carting coal in [on] the wharf in Wellington. And then my father’s stepfather – my grandmother married a second time. So I used to go to the Convent School – used to bike in. Sometimes they’d [I’d] go on the bus, and the Havelock Mayor, Joe Nimon – he was the driver of the bus when I was a kid; Gordon [?Diagen?]; another one was Sam Cunningham. And of course he got to know us kids, and of course if we spent our bus money, well they wouldn’t let us on the bus; well they would – we used to call them the good drivers and the bad drivers. Some of them would say, “No – you’ll have to pay me tomorrow”, because it was threepence on the bus. And then we liked to get off at Havelock; Mum said I had to get off up by Donkin’s Store by the Catholic Church and come down by St Hills Lane, but of course I’d like to get off at Havelock, go across the road and watch Bob Given – peer up over the door at Bob Given there with his braces up over his shoulders, shoeing the horses. And of course us kids … we loved that, you know … so that was great. And then we’d walk home the mile to Crosses Road from Havelock.

Not like today where you get picked up by Mum, and taken to school by Mum.

That’s right, yeah – no, we found our way home. Then later on of course we had the bike. When I got big enough to handle a bike, we’d bike in. It was a great time to be brought up; we didn’t have computers to play with; we didn’t have any electronics like a lot of people. But we had tree huts, and we had mud, and we had cow manure to slide in, and we had hay, and we had all … you name it.

But in October was the big garden – my grandfather would put the old draught horse in the plough, and he’d say, “Righto, you kids – don’t make any plans for the weekend because” he said, “October … Labour Weekend … the main garden’s going in, so” he said, “you kids be here.” So we had to be here, and even when I was seventeen, eighteen and had a girlfriend – “Doesn’t matter. You’re here to help us plant.” And after the garden was planted, the same when the hay and the lucerne was got in. Down the paddock came the grandmother with billy tea in a big basket with scones in it, and we’d sit there and … We’d be the Butchers, the Giles and the Bowdens – the grandfather and grandmother. I suppose you could call it today … it’d be like living in a little commune really, but that’s how we lived. We were like a lot of people in Hastings and Havelock, we didn’t have a lot of money. But money didn’t worry us, ‘cause the word ‘money’ never came into it. Money never came into it but we had clothes and food, and it was a great … yeah, it was a great life, you know. It wasn’t ‘til we got older that we realised just what a life we did have, you know.

Can you remember then, just what the price was of a loaf of bread?

Well I can really, because my father – later on when he went from Bales he went and worked for Roaches, who owned the Trading Company in Havelock, and that’s what took Dad into groceries; he went from the Trading Company to de Pelichet McLeod, doing the wholesale groceries; making up the orders for the dairies and the shops. And butter was a shilling [a pound, which is what – ten cents today.

When I was thirteen I got a job weighing up after school; used to weigh up three pounds of sugar, three pounds of flour, and sultanas and dates and apricots; they’d come in a box and you’d have to weigh them up into bags. And then stuff would get short. And of course old Mrs Bale would come in … Mrs Bale Senior … she would come in, and Dad would say, “I’ve put a tin of apricots, or a tin of pineapple – I’ve put it away for you; would you like it?” “Oh yes,” she’d say, “Len, yes”, she said “I’d like that.”

And then Dad had a trick – he’d get a big tin of hundreds and thousands – lollies, Tom Thumbs they called them … little lollies. And of course the kids would come in, so of course Dad would give them a few of these in a little bag. And Dad said, “What you do … you do that because”, he said, “if little Johnny’s mother asked little Johnny to get a pound of butter, where does he go? He goes down to that shop where those Tom Thumbs are, and” he said, “it worked every time”.

Can you give us some prices in those days, of different items?

Yeah – well we used to get as you know, Jim, we used to get biscuits in tins. Biscuits always came in tins, and you’d get paper bags and you’d put so many biscuits in it – half a pound, quarter of a pound, or whatever. I know the milk price that the grandparents used to charge was threepence a pint. It was threepence, and then they stuck it up to fourpence, and Grandmother said, “Some of the people are complaining.” And the grandmother used to dip the dipper in … the pint dipper … in the can, in the billy, and then she’d dip it in again and put a little bit more in so they’d got well and truly over their pint, and it was threepence a pint.

Beverley: What were the prices of groceries?

Brian: The groceries, as I say, definitely a shilling a pound for butter. The dearer items were like one and six [1/6], one and threepence [1/3d].

A bag of sweets?

A bag of sweets – you’d come in and get ten or fifteen lollies for a penny. You’d get twelve or fifteen sweets, depending on what they were, for a penny.

Beverley: Two gobstoppers for a penny.

Brian: You’d get two gobstoppers for a penny. [Chuckles] You’d have two pennies to ring up in the phone box, and press A; and if you pressed B you never got your money back, so … [Chuckles]

As I say, Dad … I’ve jumped over a bit, but Dad worked there at the Trading Company, and then when the supermarkets came in – because at that time in Havelock you had Bourgeois Brothers; they were on the other side of the town, not in Havelock – you had Harold Bush; he was the other one, and you had Norm Donkin up at Te Mata Road, ‘cause there was [were] no supermarkets or anything like that.

When did supermarkets come in?

Well, Harry Triplow owned the first supermarket …

Beverley: In the sixties.

Brian: … in Havelock, and that would’ve been in the sixties, yeah, ‘65 probably, I would say.

Beverley: Your Dad’s band?

Brian: Yeah, my father had an orchestra, and Alan Harris used to play in the orchestra. He had a three-piece orchestra that used to go round different halls and play on Saturday nights – Haumoana Hall, Raukawa Hall. He played at the daughter of Glazebrooks at Washpool. She married the Aide-de-camp to the Queen, and Dad was the orchestra that played out at Washpool for their wedding. He used to play at the Police Ball up at the Assembly Hall; the Hunt Club Ball; the Aero Club Ball out at the aerodrome … Dad’s orchestra would be out there. Dad played the trumpet and the saxophone, which I’ve still got here. So yes, so we had a full life really; we had a wonderful life. Mum and I used to go when Dad played on a Saturday night, ‘cause Dad used to do a bit of drinking so Mum used to go to drive him home. So of course I was only a little kid, so I tagged along to sit up the back of the Assembly Hall, and all these places while the orchestra’s dances were going on.

I remember some of those dances, too.

Yes. Great – great dances.

Packed them in.

So that was fine.

I went to the Convent School, and I left there in 1956. My uncle got me a job at the Hawke’s Bay Herald-Tribune, and Mr Whitlock owned the Tribune, and he used to come around and see us every morning, and he knew everybody by name at the Herald-Tribune.

My first job – Alan Anderson was my first boss … great boss. The runner boys worked in the publishing department. Now every paper boy in Hastings used to come to the Herald Tribune and get their papers – there was no agents those years, it was 1956. And I can remember it well because the Falcon Bomber came over, the big white one; came on a tour of New Zealand. And they let us get up on top of the building on the corner, and let us out on the roof and we could sit there and when the bomber came across … well, later on as you know, that bomber went back to England and crashed. So that was 1956, and my first job was going down to the lino operators. And they were little old men – well they were for me, ‘cause I was only fifteen – and these little old men were on their linotype machines, and they would give me a list of what they wanted – a pie, and one wanted a doughnut, one wanted a pie; and of course I had to go and get these things and bring back the right money for Mr So-and-so, ‘cause he had the doughnut and he give [gave] me two shillings or whatever it was. And we went to Faulkner’s Pies in Karamu Road – I had to go to Faulkner’s Pies and get these jolly morning teas, the sweep the floor, and go up to the Railway and get railway stamps and put them on the papers. And then of course, every runner boy from all over Hastings came to the publishing department and got the papers. And then later on they decided they’d have agents at different dairies – agent in Mahora. So that was my first job.

But I didn’t like inside very much because I was an outside kid; I’d been brought up that way in Havelock, and so I got a job for Miss Nelson and Miss Burbury at Taruna up in Havelock – Te Mata Peak. And I was sixteen and a half and I milked five cows morning and night, and they had a little bucket plant. So that was my second job. And they also had Dorset Horn sheep, and then they decided they’d would go out of cows, because you know, they didn’t want the cows really.

So then my grandfather was a foreman on the Hawke’s Bay County; I got a job with him. And we used to do the bridges, and Sandy and Eric Coombes – they had an orchard opposite McClintocks up Te Mata Road, and they’d have six weeks off during the fruit season, and the rest of the time they’d be back on the County. So we’d go to bridges, and clean culverts and all that.

And then 1963 I got married, and I went up to Otamauri up the Taihape Road, and drove a grader up there for the Hawke’s Bay County for eight years. And then I came back to Hastings in ‘71, ‘cause we bought the grandmother’s house in French Street in Hastings, and that’s where three of the girls were born, when we were up Taihape Road … Dale, Toni and Bobbi … and we came back to Hastings in ‘71 and I got a job in Tomoana Works, and stayed there for twenty-three years.

Could I just ask your wife Beverley what her maiden name was?

Beverley’s my second wife.

Beverley: My maiden name is Smith, and I come from Christchurch. I’m not a North Islander.

Brian: No, but my first wife was Cheryl Hercock, and her brother Colwyn was a jockey. She was Roy Hercock’s daughter.

Right, right.

Beverley: We’ve only been married thirty-four years.

Brian: Second-time round, so it’s not bad really.

Not bad.


No, not too bad at all.

No. So that’s where it was, and I had twenty-three years there, and of course as we all know Tomoana closed in ‘94, and so we decided to come down this way, so its been a good move.

Beverley: We had ten acres at Takapau for years.

Brian: Twelve years, Takapau.

Beverley: Reared calves, and did relief milking.

Brian: Yeah … yeah.

And family? Your daughters?

Yeah, Dale … Dale now is fifty-two, isn’t she? Yeah, born in 1964. And Toni was born in ‘65, and Bobbi was born in ‘67, and Kelly was born in ‘72, so the four girls. I’m lucky to have them all around, really.

But no, growing up in those times, we were very lucky as I realise now, to have grandparents; well on both sides really … my dad’s mum, but I don’t know a lot of history. Well I do … contradicting myself there a bit, because Dad’s mother was a Paynter; she was a Miss Paynter.

From Hastings?

Yeah. She’s one of the Paynters from Hastings, yeah.

Did they live in Ellison Road or Hastings Street?

They would’ve lived in Hastings Street, I think, ‘cause my grandmother’s related to John … you know, the Paynters at the Yummy orchard in … those Paynters.

John and Janice?

Mmm. Dad’s mum – she was a Paynter.

Did you belong to clubs?

I did. Yeah, I was very involved in rugby, and I was President of the Havelock Rugby Club for seven years from ‘91 to ‘97, so I was privileged to be the President when they had a centenary; we had a centenary in ‘94. And I was also in the Hastings Hibernian Club.

Beverley: You were also on the Hastings Sub-Union.

Brian: I was on the Hastings Rugby Sub-Union with Harold Robinson, and Bill Crawford, and Lachie Cameron …

Beverley: And you were on the Hawke’s Bay Sub-Union …

Brian: … George Lobin was on the committee. And then I was also on the Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union for nine years when Kel Tremain was the Chairman. I was lucky to be involved there. So yes, I’ve been heavily involved in rugby all my life, really.

Did you play rugby?

I played rugby; I did – I made the Hastings Fourth Grade Reps in 1960. I’ll get a photo. You’ll know some of these fellows; Mark Jones … [looking at photos]

Mark Jones was in our cricket club too … Cornwall.

You’ll be interested, Jim, about this photo. Now Father Taylor, a priest – he was Deputy Principal of St John’s – this is 1960, this photo, and he was the selector/coach.

Yes. I can see now why he was a winger.

Oh yeah, a good player. Trevor Pedlar … you go through those names and there’ll be quite a few you’ll know there. Ivan Woodham, good little boxer. So I played rugby with my leg and I was lucky enough to be made Captain in 1960.

You were a fine-looking man.


Beverley: Changed, didn’t he? [Chuckles]

Brian: So lot of these photos are Hastings people through and through.

G R Geenty – was he the accountant?

Yeah. Geenty & Walsh …

Oh, Kevin Walsh.

Yeah, they were all there

Cause we had the Walsh family that worked at the brewery … Basil.

Oh, Basil, yes. Well that’s his boy there, isn’t it? Which is the one that had the Hunts … Barney Walsh. Barney – well his boy’s in there.

Beverley: He’d know Bill Hopcroft?

Well that’ll be Kevin.

Yeah. His boy’s in there; one of the Walshes – you see in there?

There’s only one Walsh here.

Yeah. Trevor Pedlar’s there. What was the boy Wilding? I went to school with a boy Wilding – he was an accountant too … John.

Woodham, wasn’t it?

Yeah, that’s right. Yeah, well Dick Geenty’s there – he’s the Vice Captain there. Beverley: Was Bill in your team?

Brian: No, he wasn’t there. That goes back a bit.

Lovely to have these old photos.

Yes. Yeah, they really are.

So any other mens’s Club you belong to, like the Hibernian?

The Hibernian I belong to. When … what’s the fellow Stinson? Keith? Keith Stinson, well he was the treasurer or … no, was he the President, for years and years?

Course he worked at the Tribune too … Hawke’s Bay Tribune.

Yes, he did.

He was a dapper little man, wasn’t he?

He was. No – mainly the rugby, and as I say, the Hibernian Club. Yeah – I worked at the Mayfair after … when I worked at the Freezing Works, we used to go at four o’clock – four ‘til seven shift, you know, I worked in the public bar of the Mayfair when Bill Franssen was the boss.

Ooh, brother … yeah!


Mayfair had quite a name didn’t it?

Oh, I’ll say!

I remember going to the opening of the Mayfair. And the public went through, and we weren’t to go into the other bar because that was for dignitaries, and they had all the food and everything laid out. Anyway, somehow the public happened to get in there before the dignitaries – cleaned up all the food. Beverley: Oh, dear …

Brian: But he was a good boss old Bill Franzen. He had a big Christmas party every Christmas. And he had one stipulation: “Don’t throw me in the swimming pool.” ‘Cause he had come without his suit; he said, “I’ll shout you food and drink; don’t throw me in the pool.”

Peter Bure was the other man.

Yes. And Lester Drake was the Manager when I was there, but Peter was the other one. And then they brought in Robbie Huegalls – the big fellow … was a big Dutchman.

And there was another guy that was there as well, and I think he came down here into the Waipukurau Hotel. He had throat cancer.

Ooh, who was that? Not one of the O’Sheas?

No, no. He was a Dutchman.

They were the times. But no, people … I mean you know, they go on about all these rules …

Beverley: You were there the time of the Blossom Parade that got rained out?

Brian: Oh, 1960; the battle of Hastings, with old Brownie on the fire engine firing the people.

Well I was in the Hastings Citizens’ Band for a while, and we used to march as you know, from Stortford Lodge to Windsor Park, and that was a long way to march, I’ll tell you. And I was only a kid; and another thing we used to go with the band was over to the races, and play at Christmas time or New Year’s time. And we’d play at the races and they’d give us a ticket – I never forgot it – they’d give us a ticket, and you could get a pie and a drink – that was your lunch. [Chuckle] And you’d go into the kiosk at the racecourse.

But no, I’ve had a lot of lovely memories growing up in Havelock, you know, with hopping on the bus, and you’d have Gordon Diagen, and you got to know all the bus drivers.

Beverley: But didn’t Mr Nimon say they weren’t to leave any kids behind?

Brian: No – I was talking to Bill Nimon – ‘cause I was a member of the Hawke’s Bay Vintage Machinery Club – and talking to Bill Nimon … oh, last year. And he said, “No – my grandad said, ‘you’re never to leave any of those children in town; they’re all to be on the bus’”. ‘Course we didn’t know that, but we used to get a telling off, ‘cause we’d either spent our bus money, or lost our ticket, or …

Beverley: But you always got home.

Brian: Yeah.

Brian, did you have any war service?

No, I didn’t do any Army service, no.

No Home Guard?


Beverley: Bad eyesight, bad leg.

Brian: Yeah. But no, rugby was my love, and as I say, I was President of Havelock for seven years.

Beverley: And you coached.

Brian: We coached them and we …

Which teams did you coach?

I coached in ‘84 – Bill Hopcroft and I; Dolly Hopcroft’s son, Bill – we coached the Colts … the Under 21s … in ‘84, ‘85 and ‘86.

Beverley: And you were the Manager of Hawke’s Bay B Team for years.

Brian: Oh yeah, I managed the Hawke’s Bay B Team for six years, and I used to make them clean their boots and tie their socks up. Yeah, so it was really in my blood, and I was lucky I had an understanding wife, so … [chuckle] that wasn’t so bad.

Yeah – it makes a difference, doesn’t it?

Oh yeah, makes a big difference, yeah. I’ll say.

Beverley: You could be at three meetings a week

Brian: Yeah. No, it was a good life; it was a busy life, but you didn’t notice it. You were at that age where it didn’t worry you so much.

Beverley: We looked after all the gear for Hawke’s Bay.

Brian: Yeah – we washed all the Hawke’s Bay gear for six years …

Beverley: From the Ross Shield right up to the A Team.

Brian: So we were heavily involved, but …

Beverley: And mended.

Brian: … I used to have the adage that if you wanted to join something, well you should do it properly – you’re either in or you’re out.

That’s the way people were in those days.


Unfortunately now, it’s a bit slack.

Beverley: We’ve done a lot of voluntary work down here.

Brian: Yeah, we’ve done Victim Support here with the police, and …

Beverley: I did that for nine years; you did it for seven.

St John’s do Red Cross driving. I was driving the bus ‘til the eyes sort of started to fail; I was driving the Red Cross bus and taking people for dialysis through to Ballantyne House, for dialysis.

Ballantyne House being where?

At the hospital – it’s the wing that does the dialysis.

Beverley: It’s a new wing that …

Brian: They call it Ballantyne House after Dr Ballantyne.

Well of course we’re in Doctor Ballantyne’s house …

Ooh, that’s right.

… the Knowledge Bank; that’s where we are.

Well the new wing that they’ve made now into a dialysis unit at the hospital …

Beverley: You go in off Orchard Road.

Brian: Yes, you go off Orchard Road, the first drive as you’re coming up from up from Pakowhai Road. And they call it Ballantyne House, and there’s a big photo of it there.

But no, it’s been a great life.

But when my grandparents went to the farm in 1931, of course they walked, and took the horses and a couple of cows that they did have. But they had five families there during the Depression; big communal garden. My grandfather used to tell a story about, you know – he had road gangs looking after the road, like a lot of them worked on the roads, and they’d jump the fence and grab the odd turnip and all that to take home to their families, and you know, so …

And another thing he used to say about Thompson’s Butchery … he said, “You’ll never know how much meat those people gave away to families; sausages and …” He said, “You never hear about those things that … you know, people do”. And we had another fellow living down Crosses Road from me – old Bill Spaling, Murray Spaling’s dad. And ‘course I thought he was a great fellow, because he said to me, “Young fellow”, he said, “I want you to come to the Show and help me lead this bull.” And of course … ooh, this is great – I got a day off school, I was able to go to the Show, put this white coat on …” [Chuckles] You know, things that really excited you. Oh, gee!

Great memories you’ve got.

Yeah – great memories.

Beverley: You walked the calf from the home to the Showgrounds.

Brian: Yeah -Grandfather give [gave] me a calf. He said, “You can have that calf, but you’ve got to feed it”. Four day old calf. He said, “You’ve got to feed it and brush it and look after it.” And he’d say, “Then you can take it to the Show and all that.” And of course when I had the polio I had the caliper on the leg … I suppose like your sister … I had this caliper in [on]. I … fumble-footed … and then fall over and stumble, and he’d say. “If I get over there”, he said, “my bloody hob-nail boot’s going fair up your bum”, he said. “So get up and get moving! Stop crying!” Well, it wasn’t until I grew up a bit I thought, ‘Gee, he’s done me a favour really’. And he said to Mum one day, he said, “Myra, take that caliper off – it’s doing no bloody good”, he said. “What you want is go and join a swimming club,” he said. “Go and do something active,” he said. “That’ll do more for your leg …” and he got it and he threw it away. [Chuckle] He threw the caliper away. But when I look now … we often talk about, don’t we? He did me a favour, you know.

Beverley: But you did swim.

Brian: ‘Cause I joined the swimming club … Havelock Swimming Club … and then I joined the Waimarama Surf Club and go out there with the Groobies, ‘cause they’d take their old truck out there, and go out every Sunday … Saturday and Sunday … out to Waimarama. I was seventeen – ooh, this is great! Yes – those are great memories, you know. Yeah.

So you were involved in quite a few clubs, you know – I’ve really had to sort of pull it out of you, haven’t I, really?


You’ve got a way about you, really … [Chuckles] You know you forget those, sometimes. You do, you know? They were good times. The swimming clubs were great, because they had that thing called the Rainbow Shield, after the mayor of Hastings. And we’d go round and swim against Mahora and Heretaunga, and the other one at Raureka there. We’d go round swimming on a Monday night, and [if] you win your race you’d get so many points, and then at the end of the season whichever Club had the most points, they’d get the Rainbow Shield.

Beverley: But that did wonders for your leg …

Brian: And that was a thing – that Rainbow Shield was like a Ranfurly Shield at swimming really, you know, ‘cause every club wanted it. It was a sought-after trophy

And you virtually had a full house of spectators …


… at the pool.

Yes, we did. My swimming coach was Robert Frater. Bob Frater was my swimming coach, and John Beaumont later on, but Bob Frater was my original. And it’s a funny thing – when I went to training, I thought ‘Oh, I’ll go and have a go at this rugby; I kind of like it – I reckon I can play that rugby.” So I went along to the Celtic training, and they saw me and ‘course I had a limp, and they said, “Oh, no, no’, they said, “I don’t think you’ll be suitable. You won’t be suitable to be playing.” I never forgot this – I thought, ‘Oh, bugger this – there must be a way – I must be able to …”

So anyhow, I went to Havelock training, and there was a fellow there, Sandy Coombes … Sandy and Ben Coombes … Sandy’s there. Had the orchard opposite McClintock’s rarage. I didn’t know who he was then, but he said, “Gidday”, he said, “I’m Sandy”, he said. “Yeah – come in, yeah”, he said. I said, “Oh, I’d like to play rugby”. “Look,” he said, “how old are you?” And I said “Oh, sixteen” or something, and he said “Right. You’re in the Under 18s”, he said. “Go over there, see the coach”. Well Colin Page was the coach … my first coach … and then the next coach I had was Bruce Wakefield, who was for years out at the golf club as the greenkeeper. But my first coach was Colin Page, so Colin said to me, he said, “Look, if you like to come to training for a couple of weeks, we’ll give you a game.” I thought, ’ooh, this is all right’.

I went along to training and I got pelted, and I’d go home and Mum’d say, “Oh, that’s a rough game, and now you’ve got a stitch in your eye, and you’ve got something else, and your knee’s cut and all that”. “Oh, never mind – that’s all right”. And after that I got a game, so I thought, ‘boy, this is …’ And I tell my daughters the same today; I said, “You want to go and join something, ‘cause” I said, “it’s just the feeling of being part of a team; being involved and having mates. It’s not about winning – it’s about being involved”, you know.

And so … oh, I was king, and ‘course the time comes, you get a rugby photo at the end of the year – boy! You feel ten foot tall. It was great, you know.

But no, it’s been a great life. A satisfying life, too, you know, you look back and – just little things – don’t we? Quite often. ‘Course I idolised my grandfather, ‘cause he took a step; I took a step, and … you know.

Beverley: You were his shadow.

Brian: I was lucky because I loved the cows, and he called me George. “Come on, George. Come on!”

Beverley: You’d get up and milk the cows in the morning.

Brian: I’d get up with him, and we’d go and get the cows. He’d say, “Here’s a torch; go and get the cows.” Half past four in the morning; he said, “Don’t miss any.” He said, “Don’t miss the black ones. Look around.”

And of course you’d go out … and of course that carried on ‘til we started … we got [to] seventeen, eighteen; we all went to Millar & Giorgi’s and bought a suit. So we went to there, and Bruce Giorgi was there – no, his brother, Arthur Giorgi. And Arthur said, “Well, if you buy a suit each, I’ll give you a tie.” So of course our mates all went; we got this suit, and we were going to play merry hell – we were going to go and go to dances. So we could go to the Premier Hall, or we could go over to the Top Hat, or go over to the War Memorial Hall. ‘Course we’d be like … you know, we were too shy to ask the girls. [Chuckle] Anyway, we were going to play merry hell with all our suits, and … yeah, but they were the days! You’d go along and they’d give you a tie if you bought a suit, so we thought that was all right.

But my father worked – he served his time at Millar & Giorgi’s, and he was there during the earthquake. So of course when he went into the Army he went into the Ordnance and the uniforms and all that type of thing. But they found he had flat feet, so he didn’t go overseas but he was in the band … the Camp Band.

Beverley: Your uncle did.

Brian: And Uncle Albie, he went overseas … Dad’s brother … he went overseas, and he was a prisoner of war for a while, but he come [came] back and went into the Government Printing House in Wellington … Owens the printers out there. But no, it was a great life.

Just going back a little bit – us kids living at the farm – there was my brother, and myself and Susan Butcher and Max Butcher, ‘cause Aunty Hazel married Peter Butcher. And old Mrs Bale Senior, opposite Cherry Grove, on a Sunday she’d want a jar of cream, so of course us kids – we used to fight over that because we knew when we went over Mrs Bale was going to give us some home made toffee with walnuts in it, or some cherries in the season. [Chuckle] So we wanted that job by hook or by crook. And the grandmother got a notebook in the end that she used [chuckle] say, “No, it’s not your turn. You can’t take the cream over to the Mrs Bales.” Yeah, Bale Place, out at Havelock.

And my grandfather’s got a street, Bowden Place in Whakatu, named after him. But he was a Cornishman, and he was a big Cornishman; and he was on the County with the Leslies that owned land round the hospital … all those big Irishmen. And as I say Murray Spaling’s dad, Bill Spaling, down the road – he had a [an] Ayrshire stud. And so we had a real great life, really.

Well we got a job at Barcoe’s orchard when we were kids; Mrs Barcoe … oh, he was a traffic cop, but of course he died early. But we’d pick raspberries, and we’d get punnets of raspberries and they’d pay us, you know. ‘Cause if you wanted something you had to save for it. ‘Course Dad knew a lot of people working in grocer’s shop, ‘specially the Trading Company, ‘cause they used to deliver [in] the old truck. and when you’ve come in and paid your account … the farmers came in or the businessmen came in and paid their account – we were talking about it the other night, weren’t we? There’d always be a box of Winning Post chocolates put in your order, because you’d just poaid your account.

Yeah – those things are gone now.

Dad worked for Arthur Pearce – he had the Havelock Taxis for a while, Arthur Pearce. He bought Fine Fare down the Havelock Road. But Dad used to say to him. – he used to be taking too much out. Dad said, “You can’t take that; you’ve got to leave that, because” he said, “we’ve got bills to pay.” It wasn’t very long before she was gone.

I’ve seen Havelock grow; in 1947 before we came back from Trentham – ‘cause Dad was going to go into the regular Army, but they wanted him to go to Linton – there was only eleven hundred people in Havelock. And of course old Rewi Starnes, as you know, used to cut the sides of the road when he was sober enough. So anyway, I’d bike to school’d go down Crosses Road and into St Georges Road, down Ada Street … end up down the Catholic School where it is … still there now, St Joseph’s. And I’d see old Rewi Starnes, and Rewi would say, “Hello, young Bowden,” he’d say to me. He said, “I hope the teacher smacks your bloody arse for you.” So anyway, [chuckle] I’d go to school; [chuckle] and I’d come home. I’d say to mum “Mum, I saw Mr Starnes.” “Oh, lovely man, that” she said. “What did he say to you?” “Oh, he said ‘have a good day at school’”. [Chuckles]

But we had Dave Beck, the old Havelock cop. His daughter married one of the Elms boys … John Elms. And we had a fellow lived up Te Mata Road, Les Manley – you heard about Ed Manley? One Sunday old Les was in the hotel after hours you see, and he filled up these flagons, and he saw Dave Beck coming so he shot into the Post Office where those Post Office boxes used to be. And it’s a true story; and he went up and he said, “Morning, Les.” “Oh, hello Dave, lovely morning.” “Yeah,” he said, “what have you got in the sack, Les?” “Oh, I’ve got some vegetables, Dave.” “Oh,” he said, “Let me have a look.” Well with that, Dave Beck evidently got the sack and he just dropped it on the ground. [Chuckles] ‘Cause he knew [chuckle] … he knew there was [were] two full flagons in there.

Beverley: And what about the time he came through the hotel and you boys [cough] were there?

Brian: Yeah, he come [came] through the hotel – “Send Bill Hopcroft in.” Six o’clock closing; “go and see if the cop’s in there.” “Okay.” And anyway, so he said, “No, no – he’s in the private bar.” “Righto.” So we went in the public bar.

Beverley: And you were under age.

We were seventeen, playing Havelock Under 18, ‘cause that was Under 18s, that team. Anyway, we’re in the corner – there’d be Ken Slade and … and old Dave comes through. He said, “Hello boys.” Said “Yeah, hello Mr Beck,” ‘cause we were being polite. He said, “What time did you play today, boys?” “Oh”, we said, “three o’clock, sir.” “Oh, no, no, no, no, no”, he said, “I’ve been down the Domain”, he said, “I saw you playing at half past one.” So [chuckles] that buggered that up. So he said, ”When I come through in half an hour, if you’re still here I’ll have to do my job, won’t I?” Anyway, [chuckles] we were gone, you know.

But we had a lot of fond memories growing up in Havelock.

That’s a pretty good talk you’ve given us.

Oh, well that’s good – if you can get something out of it …

Oh, we will, yes. Well, Brian and Beverley, I’d like to thank you very much indeed for this talk … thank you very much indeed.

You’re welcome.

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Interviewer:  Jim Newbigin


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