Graeme Allan Jones & Karen Elizabeth Jones Interview
Today is 5th November 2018. I’m interviewing Graeme and Karen Jones on the life and times of their families. Graeme, would you like to tell us something about your family?
Yeah. Hi, Frank. My great-grandfather came to New Zealand in 1872, right at the end. He arrived on the ship ‘Zealandia’ into Bluff and then into Invercargill. He was an engineer who grew up in Much Wenlock in Shropshire, in England, but his family originally came from Wales. He must’ve sent word back to home that life over here was okay, because he encouraged what presumably was his girlfriend back in England … or Wales … to come out, by the name of Elizabeth Green; and she came out the following year, 1874, and they got married in New Zealand. And then our branch of the Jones family in New Zealand came from there.
The other side of my family was the Joll family, which you’ve got history of in the Knowledge Bank, so I won’t go into the Joll family necessarily – I’ll restrict this to the Jones side. So Elizabeth and Richard Jones got married and had a family in New Zealand.
As I said, Richard was an engineer, and we think he came out in a group called the Brogden Recruits [better known as Brogden’s Navvies] which was a group of men who were encouraged to come to New Zealand to work for the Railways Department in building the railway in the South Island. But a number of them, when they arrived, broke that contract and went out on their own or went working for farmers, because they were getting higher wages for working for farmers than they were for working on the railway.
Anyway, over time he worked for the Invercargill Borough Council in those days, and he was the contractor that [who] designed and built the original water wheel to supply the town’s water supply for Invercargill. That was [a] very difficult operation because they met quicksand in digging the well, and he had to overcome the problems encountered when digging the well to a suitable depth to get the water. But he overcame that, and that was the original water supply which wasn’t changed until well after 1900. I think it was about 1879 or 1880 when he was doing that, somewhere around there.
He also, after that, went and built a gold dredge on Lake Brunton which was used for mining for gold; and after that went to the area [of] Nightcaps and worked for the Switzer [Freehold] Gold Mining Company, and he built a pump up to seventy, eighty metres down to take the water out of the mine that they dug there to extract gold. Not sure how profitable that enterprise was; he was working for this company which raised money to pay for the costs. I haven’t actually found out how profitable it was.
With the introduction of motor cars in the world, in about 1902 he returned to England and went to the Wolsely car factory to train in this new-fangled idea of motor cars. And he spent about three or four years over there in the Wolsely factory, and then came back and was contracted on his return to A A Jones Limited, a company in Hastings, which was the Wolsely motor car distributor or retailer in Hastings; and that’s how they moved him and his family from Invercargill up to Hastings. A A Jones continued for a few years, but there was no relationship between that Jones family and our Jones family. The company folded, and subsequent to that he built his own retail outlet in an area of Hastings behind what is now the Westpac Bank, beside the railway line in Heretaunga Street.
His son, John Edward, my grandfather, had a cycle shop which was in the Grand Hotel … the new Grand Hotel … which was on the opposite side of railway line. But then when his father, Richard … John Edward’s father, Richard William … started his own business, as I said, behind the Westpac Bank, they shifted the cycle shop across the railway line into the building in front. From there my grandfather operated the cycle shop and his father, Richard William, operated the Wolsely car dealership.
And then in about 1914, John Edward, my grandfather, purchased the land in Napier Road, Havelock North, off [from] my mother’s uncle, surprisingly – John Henry Joll, who had purchased a significant amount of land in Hawke’s Bay; because he needed the money to purchase land on Te Mata Peak – his son, Cargill Joll, lived in Rush Cottage up there for many years. So that was the connection between the Joll and the Jones family [families].
So John Edward Jones, my grandfather, bought the property there. And he had several children at that stage. Uncle Bill eventually took over – that’s Dad’s brother; Uncle Bill was James William Jones. He took over the orchard around the late 1930s. My dad, Leslie Ernest Jones, left school when he was twelve … Havelock North Primary School … ‘cause he didn’t like the teacher, or didn’t get on with the teacher, so he started work in the orchard. He was born in 1914, so in 1926 he left school and worked on the orchard, on and off.
In 1936 there was a major frost in Hawke’s Bay, and that wiped out their orchard completely. And my dad and Henry Marshall, who were great mates – Marshall family had an orchard in Middle Road in Havelock North between Joll Road and Lucknow Road – the two of them went to Nelson to work because there was very little work left in Hawke’s Bay. In fact, Dad said to me that [in] their orchard they had not enough apples left to make an apple pie, ‘cause it totally destroyed the crop. That’d be the 1937 harvest season, I think.
So Dad came back after that, in 1937, and worked on the orchard again. And then [of] course in 1939 the Second World War started. Because Dad was working on the land he wasn’t conscripted until 1942, or 1941 it might’ve been. My mother was Ida Joll, and they were married in 1942; and my brother, Brian, was born in ‘43. And he was very young when Dad was conscripted into the army and left for overseas – late 1943, I think. He served in Italy during the war. He was a truck driver; somebody in the army knew him, and knew that he was an experienced truck driver, or experienced with vehicles, so he worked for the Headquarters Company in 22nd Battalion, and landed somewhere in Italy after the Italy invasion, I think, by the Allied forces. On his way up he arrived at Cassino a couple of days as I understand it, after the bombing of the monastery. I think that’s right, I’m not a hundred percent sure, but he was certainly there around that time of the bombing. He said that he was sure that the Germans occupied the monastery, or certainly near the monastery anyway, so I think he was sure that the bombing of it was justified in the terms of wartime.
One story that he told my sons, but he never told me, was that one night when he was driving in a convoy of trucks towards Cassino … he was third in [the] line of trucks. I’m not sure what the trucks were carrying, whether they were troops or whether they were supplies – but he’d lost contact with the two trucks in front … or lost visual contact, because they weren’t using their lights. And he stopped his truck ‘cause the road sign, as I understand it, was on the road, or had been run over or something; and he wasn’t happy until he sorted out where he thought he should be going. So the sign apparently said that the bridge was down ahead; and he took note of that and followed the course that he thought was the correct way of going. And the two trucks that were ahead of him were never seen again. The people on them … he knew nothing of what happened to them from that time forward. So if he hadn’t stopped and got out, I wouldn’t be here [chuckles] and you wouldn’t be listening to that. [Chuckle]
No. You’re dead right.
So he spent some time naturally, ‘cause that was I think 1944 was Cassino – I’m not sure of the exact time …
Yes, it was.
… and then went up the Italian Peninsula until the end of the war; and spent a little bit of time after the war before they were able to come back on their ships.
When he returned to New Zealand … well, possibly before he left for overseas, he was living in a house on the corner of the Napier Road property. Frank, you might remember a house being there? I don’t know – next to Basil Mawley’s place there was a house apparently – on the road boundary between Mawleys and the Jones house, and Mum and him [he] lived there with my brother, Brian.
I can remember a building there, but I can’t remember the detail of it.
Yeah, well I can’t remember that.
But the house was built later, wasn’t it? The one that’s back there now?
No, that was … my grandfather built that in 1914 after he bought the property, as I understand it.
1950 – the small house would’ve been there still?
Possibly in 1950, I don’t know; because when Dad went across to Italy, Mum moved into what was her brother’s house in Te Mata Road, where the retirement village, Summerset, is now. And it must have been a crowded house, because Uncle Len and Auntie Pat were there, I think; and Mum’s twin sister, Jean Brunton, ‘cause her husband was overseas as well, and she’d had twins ‘bout the same age as my brother, Brian. And so they all lived there while their husbands were overseas during the war and didn’t come back until probably 1946, I think, before they returned.
Around 1947 this property here in Thompson Road was purchased – I think by Dad’s father; but Dad took possession of it, in the sense of [that] he lived here. They had a portion of it planted in fruit trees, but not all of it – quite an area was bare land. Dad worked hard on it, and up until about 1952 it was part of the J E Jones Limited company; and then Dad separated what was twenty-two and a half acres of the two properties – one on Napier Road and one in Thompson Road – which his father, J E Jones, had accumulated. Dad had the Thompson Road side, eleven and a quarter acres, and his brother, James William … Uncle Bill … had the Napier Road property.
And from 1952 onwards, he operated this as his own business. And life was very tough in those days because this property wasn’t fully planted. Dad planted, in 1947, the bottom section of about four acres in pears and apples. He planted about half of it in Granny Smith trees, which was one of the largest blocks of Granny Smiths apparently, around that time; which proved to be the right thing to do later on; but he apparently was … not criticised necessarily, but people were wondering why he planted such a large area, relatively, in those days. These days now – it wasn’t a large area at all, but in those days it was considered to be a large area of apples, and Granny Smiths in particular. There was about three acres of older plantings on the Thompson Road side of the block near the house, which is a mixture of very old varieties which his father had bought off [from] … forgotten the name now. They bought that in 1947, as I said, and those trees must’ve been planted in the early 1900s – around the time that Thompson Road was being developed, I think. Frank might know when that Thompson Road was put in.
I always remember old Mr Eddy who used to have the land before. And I’m sure you know this, that prior to the Eddys having it, Noel Congdon’s family had it.
Noel Congdon’s father purchased this property ‘bout 1910, or whenever …
So they may’ve been the people that did the original planting here?
And I think he built the original house here on this property. But I don’t think they lived here for very long, because his wife died, apparently, and Noel’s father moved to Auckland and remarried; and Noel was from the second wife. And then Noel, of course, returned to Hasings and became a senior figure in the horticultural industry in Hawke’s Bay.
So that was probably planted at about the same time as the Crombie orchards, and this whole area was developed down to the bridge. This was all swamp down here – low country, flooded – this was all the people could afford.
That brings up an interesting point; on my Joll side of the family, one of the John Jolls … ‘cause there’s a whole string of them, about five in a line of John Jolls … my mother’s great uncle I think it was, he actually participated in … it must’ve been a number of men draining this area and digging out what became the Mangateretere Stream from what was probably a surface …
Yes, it was.
… sort of drainage area from all the swampy land. They dug it, I think about 1873 or somewhere about then, after the big flood.
They did a pretty good job when you think of it, because they would’ve had to use wheelbarrows, and …
Yeah. Well just recently I managed to get a few photos of the bank of the creek where there’s planks that lined the bank of the creek, presumably from that time, the 1870s, ‘80s, where they lined it. I don’t know whether you remember seeing the wooden planks on the side of the creek?
Parts, because the soil around the creek was silty, and it slipped in, so they had to put something there to hold the soil back.
Well, there are still some there now, today.
On Ivan’s side of the creek … Ivan Royal, our neighbour across the river, across the stream. A few of them were exposed probably twelve months or more ago, and so I took a photo of them going down the creek; all the ones that I could see from our bank. Because most of the excavation work to clean the creek was done from the other side, and our bank on this side was more damaged than the bank on the other side; so it’s probably removed.
Going back a little way, I remember my father telling me that the Milne’s orchard which was down the road from us here – I don’t know if you remember the Milnes? When they built their coolstore, which was one of the first coolstores in this area, they built a hole in the ground for water cooling; and to get that water to there, Dad helped them hand dig a drain from the creek across probably two hundred metres of ground to where the coolstore was, to the well. And I saw it when the new owners … few years back now … pulled down the old coolstore; and there was this big hole neatly lined with bricks all the way round, and that got filled up. But they dug this drain from the creek to the coolstore to supply water for cooling the coolstore.
Nothing was too much trouble. If they didn’t work by hand, there was no other way.
No. No. It was hard work in those days.
We were talking about neighbours; across the road from where we’re sitting in your home, that was an orchard as well.
Trevor Taaffe had it before him.
And Twigg before him. Frank Twigg – he was here before Trevor Taaffe.
So it was orchard and then it went into bare land, and then back into orchard again.
Orchard and a few pigs; few cows; ‘cause everyone had a few cows to make some money.
Oh, this is [an] interesting chat.
So then Dad operated this orchard here from 1952 on his own through ‘til 1973, when Karen and I got married and I took over the orchard. Times were up and down, as the industry is, but over a few years we expanded into other orchards, other land I purchased. The first one was in 1976 – somewhere around there – I bought what was Rod Jones’ … my cousin’s … property, which was the property in Napier Road that Dad had grown up in from 1914 onwards, and so we operated from Thompson Road through to Napier Road. And after that we bought further land at Whakatu; thirty acres down there which is now owned by Mr Apple. I sold that in 2002. I also bought some land in Waiohik [Waiohiki]. Eventually it ended up to be seventy hectares, which we sold in 2002; and the Napier Road block we sold in 2002. That was because times were moving on, and financially it was pretty tough. The bank had sent us a letter at one stage saying, ‘Pay up within six months’, I think; or it was a very short time anyway – pay up our debts, otherwise they’d take over. We managed to put that off … well, the bank accepted our cash flows. My accountant actually said to me that we were in the top five percent of fruitgrowers in Hawke’s Bay, financially, at that stage; but we had a fairly large debt with the properties that we had bought, and the bank saw the risk there. But through a bit of financial juggling of various things we managed to put the bank off and carried on through until 2002 when we sold the properties. If the bank had taken over we might have got our money back – or the bank might’ve had their money back – but I doubt whether we would have been able to stay on here because we’d delayed it … or carried on until 2002 before we sold.
The financial situation in the industry changed dramatically with deregulation of the New Zealand Apple and Pear Board, or deregulation of the industry, so that it became a free-for-all, which I was never in favour of; still don’t believe it to be [for] the long term benefit of New Zealand, but however – I’m in the minority there and will continue to be so, ‘cause the industry will go up and down. But we managed to survive and we’re still here, 2018, and we plan to stay here for as long as possible. It’s always been my home.
When you mentioned Waiohiki … [of] course the owner those days was Frank Gordon, which [whom] you would’ve bought it from. He had to go and negotiate with every Māori family in Taradale and Waiohiki, because it was multiple ownership, to actually freehold and get title to it. There were literally thousands of golf balls on the ground that people had hit but were never able to retrieve. You’d hear this sound; you’d look out the back and you’d see the ground moving for a hundred yards as the rotary hoe was rolling the fence up round the rotary.
Yeah, that would’ve taken you a while to finish. [Chuckle]
Course you had the block down at Whakatu – that was your first big block away?
Yes – away from here, yeah. That was thirty acres; I purchased that off … I can’t remember. I haven’t got that name on hand, but he’d only owned it for a couple of years and he’d tile-drained it, ‘cause once again it’s wet land in there; but he’d done a great job. We had planted that in the Ebro [growing] system, most of it, which had its life, but we did very well for the first few years. Ebro production was very good, but over time it’s been superseded by other systems.
So in 2002 Mr Apple approached us, and we sold it to them, ‘cause that backed on to their block in Lawn Road. And they subsequently bought the properties on both sides of our property and they’ve ended up with a huge … I think it’s one of their largest orchards; it’s over three hundred acres, I think, in total there. And they’ve done a lot of development, but it’s very wet underground there, as this area is here, and it needs decent drainage. So that was good that the land was tile-drained properly before we bought it.
Well, you’ve certainly seen some changes rung in the orcharding industry …
Yeah, I’ve got a photo here of Dad and his brother, Uncle Bill, and their father spraying their orchard by hand in the 1930s or thereabouts; the water’s reticulated by pipework underground to various points in the orchard. And I think … sort of every eight trees there was a riser from the underground pipes, which they connected to hand-held hoses to spray the trees. Dad said to me that by the time they’d sprayed the whole orchard once, they had to start again because it took them so long, so it must’ve been a continuous job spraying the orchard. How times have changed – now they do some of it by helicopter in a few minutes.
Well the orchard was self-contained, wasn’t it? You did everything yourselves?
Yes. We had our own packhouse here which Dad’d built up and we added to over time; and changed the grading system from the original Bensemann grader which was a screw type. I’ve actually still got one of the Bensemann graders sitting in the shed, unused; it’s probably one of the last surviving ones in the country. We changed it to a Treeways-type grader, and later on made it electronic, and we were one of the first in [the] North Island to put in a [an] electronic colour sorter. That was about 1986, or round about that time. When we closed down our packing shed in 1999 we sold all that equipment, and it went off to Australia … yes, it did go to Australia. It was a good grading system, but we’d lived our life packing our own fruit. Times had changed in the industry and we decided to shut down the packing shed. Frank’s sister, Pat, had worked here, as had a number of Frank’s family from time to time over the years; but Pat had worked the majority of years from 1954 through to 1999. She was a long-term employee of this orchard.
Well, most of the orchards were not that big; they survived by local labour, and they were either neighbours, friends, family. And that was the only way we could go out with our friends, because we had to help in the shed – picked all day [chuckle] and then packed all night ‘til ten o’clock. They worked and worked and worked; your family was the same.
Oh, Dad worked … when he came back from the war work was his life. We had a glasshouse on the property too, which was built probably in the early 1900s by one of the previous owners. And part of it had fallen down in the 1931 earthquake, Dad said, and so it was a bit smaller than it originally was. And Dad grew tomatoes and worked long hours; I remember my job after school was coming home, and into the glasshouse and watering the tomato plants. Dad set up a system for irrigating the plants and I had to just move the hose every so often to water the tomatoes. But Dad was well-known for his high-quality tomatoes he sold to the local shops around here.
Now, you haven’t mentioned Marion?
Oh, Marion … my sister, Marion. What would you like to know?
When she reads your history and she’s not mentioned, [chuckle] she’ll probably clobber you. [Chuckle]
Yeah. Marion is a little bit older than me … not much … she was born after the war when Dad came back, and I followed that. She was born in 1947 and I was born in 1949. Marion grew up here; she worked for the Lands & Survey Department after she left school, as a draughtsperson for the Napier office. She used to bike from here to Mangateretere to pick up the bus to go to Napier to work, and the reverse trip on the way back. Interestingly enough, there’s [there’re] two ways to get from here to Mangateretere – either along Thomson Road to Te Mata-Mangateretere Road, or along Thompson Road the other way, back to Havelock [North] to get onto Napier Road. Both of those distances are exactly the same to Mangateretere School, so it’s almost identical. That was the way she did it.
And she worked with a girl, Iona-Lindsay McKay, whose mother grew up along the road – she was a Crombie from the Crombie orchards. Marion introduced Lin to our brother, Brian, and they eventually hit it off and got married.
So you’re tied to the Crombies?
Yes, we’re connected to the Crombies. So the Crombies came to Thompson Road, I think about 1910. They built the house there which later was Rodney Gallens, and now his niece, I think, lives there. And Rodney did a lot of work on that property; but the Crombies left there, probably in the 1970s.
Gallen Senior moved in …
That’s right. Yeah, Rodney’s father, mother. Yes. So there was a connection there, and it remains so with Thompson Road.
So as you shut the packing operation and the orchard down, you sold off land you weren’t using; you’ve retained the home block?
Yes. We’ve still got eleven and a quarter acres here on the title.
And now you’ve become a caravan park, I see? [Chuckle] ‘Cause all those buildings needed something in them to [chuckle] make them work …
Well that sort of happened by accident. My brother-in-law, Marion’s husband, Ross Lang, he was associated with Age Concern and they had a bus that they used for transporting aged people around the district, and they wanted a home for it. Ross knew one of our sheds was empty, or might’ve been available; so he asked me if they could store it here, and so that was the first one. And then somebody else came along and saw there was something there and … “Can you store my motorhome?” So it sort of multiplied it a little bit. But it’s occupying space that would otherwise not be used. So we’re sort of … got a number of things around here – boats, and caravans, and motorhomes, and trailers – none of which we own.
So now that you’re not an active orchardist you must be doing other things?
Yeah. A friend of ours, Greg Miller … I grew up with his father; the Millers used to actually live in Napier Road, around the corner, many years ago. But anyway, so the Miller connection went back awhile, and Neil, Greg’s father, was the same age as me and he was at Hastings Boys’ High School when I was. And Greg’s mother was at school with Karen, my wife. They had a son, Greg, and he wanted to go into the food industry, so in about 2012 he approached us to see if we would help him. And we set up a company called Feed Catering Limited; then he operated the restaurant at Linden Estate out in Eskdale. So I’m a director of that company, and Greg is; and … oh, it’s a tough business, the restaurants … they’ve gone from one industry which has its ups and downs to the food industry which is equally difficult at times. But we’re getting there. He’s a [an] extra good chef – he’s got many awards over the years for where he’s worked. He was chef at Mangapapa for a time, in the old Wattie homestead down at Mangateretere, but now at Linden Estate. Things are ticking over okay.
And then we’ve just recently formed another company, totally separate, with Karen’s brother, Paul Messerschmidt, and we own some land in Hastings on which we’ve got another business opportunity which may eventuate in the years ahead with the land we purchased; so we’re sitting on that at the moment. So life’s pretty busy; we can’t really get away from home for more than about two weeks at a time.
Well, we’d better get Karen to come in. Karen, where did he meet you?
Karen: It was actually through St Columba’s Presbyterian Church, and Ivan Muir, who was the Minister, ran a cross-section group. But I was actually an Anglican; I actually used to belong to St Luke’s Church in Havelock North. And when I was at high school we took on an exchange student to board with us, and one of the school’s criteria was that they had to go to church. And we looked around for something for that age group and St Luke’s didn’t have anything for that particular age group. Ivan Muir, who was a great friend of the family too, said, “Well, come along – we run a cross-section group which follows the Sunday Service, and [we] discuss what was being said and all sorts of things; and have a cup of Milo and cookies and things.” So I said, “Okay.” So we went along to that, and then it was some time later that … at this group, sort of took a shine to this person dressed in a nice suit … because the guys always dressed up [speaking together] to go to church, and he had a suit and tie on. And one day there was [were] these three guys standing on [at] the fireplace at the Manse – oh, there was [were] four of them – Graeme, Ross Lang, Nigel [speaking together, inaudible surname] and Sam Brown. And I thought, ‘They look very impressive!’ [Chuckle] For a young person. And then Ivan Muir asked us one day – he would always ask us questions and we’d go home and do our homework. He said, “D’you know why the Catholics have candlesticks on their altars”, or something. Anyway, after I left school I did some work at Whitcombe and Tombs, [booksellers] and apparently Whitcombe and Tombs was Graeme’s favourite bookshop, and he liked to go in there of a Friday night to look at books and things, to see what he could buy; and he recognised me. [Chuckle] And we talked about it, and I just went over to him and said, “Oh, by the way, the answer to that question – I found out what it is.” We talked and he said, “Oh, can I take you home, please?” And I said, “No, thank you, I’m fine – I can catch the bus.” And he said, “I know where you live?” And I said, “Oh! No, no. I’m catching the bus, because you don’t go home with strangers, mother said.” But anyway, after a couple of weeks – he came in every Friday night – eventually I agreed to let him take me home, so long as it was straight home. And that was it. And he did take me straight home, and dropped me off and said goodnight; and that was a huge relief. Then it just snowballed from there.
Now, we’ll go back to you; you are a Messerschmidt. I knew Louis very well … very, very strong opinions. Most of the time he was right …
That’s the trouble … [chuckle]
He stood up to the death if something was …
Yes. And that was Dad … he was always right.
So you grew up in …
23 Lucknow Road.
… and you went to school in Havelock?
Oh, definitely. There weren’t many schools around at that time.
When was Te Mata started?
Karen: So that was about the same time I started school at Havelock North Primary, and it was a great school; nothing but praise for that, ‘cause that went right up until Form 2.
So you went off to high school then?
From there? Went to Hastings Girls’ High. There was Karamu; that’d been going for a few years, but it had a bad reputation … very bad reputation. So I decided I’d go to Girls’ High, and the government paid to bus us in every morning; there was [were] three buses going to Girls’ High every morning, and three buses to Boys’ High, and so that’s what we did.
But can I just go back a little bit, to kindergarten? I was actually a … what you call it, a foundation pupil of the Havelock North Kindergarten, where it currently stands.
Yes; Napier Road?
Yes, ‘cause prior to that, we had … I briefly remember we had kindergarten in what was the Havelock North Pavilion, and then this new kindergarten was built. And I can still remember going in and seeing the lockers, and they were all painted in different colours; we all had a locker with a shelf. Very fond memories of that.
Well the Pavilion – that was my classroom for two years, and Eileen Crombie was my teacher. Isn’t it amazing?
Yes, that’s right.
So did you work permanently at … Whitcombes?
Yes, after I left school I … well, it started off as a christmas holiday job, working there; and then I decided to leave school and continue there. And my boss actually was – not the manager of the store but, Pat Boyce. He used to have the bookshop in Havelock North when I was growing up, and then when he closed the shop in Havelock North, he went to work for Whitcombe and Tombs. And of course he had no hesitation in taking me on because he’d seen me grow up from a little girl. And I worked there for three years, which was very enjoyable; I specialised in the stationery department. We learnt all about the fountain pens and the inks and refills, etcetera.
You have other family members too?
Paul, yes. Paul Messerschmidt, my only brother, yes. Yeah, well we were always very close because Mum died in 1971. And Graeme and I were married in 1973. It was interesting talking about the churches – when Mum died of course, you know, I was eighteen and Paul was only fifteen; he was sitting School C; [Certificate] it was very difficult. And there was tremendous support from the neighbourhood and everybody around me – it was wonderful. And even the ministers came together, and Ivan Muir said to us, “How about I’ll take half the service and the Anglican minister”, which [who] was Ken Wilson, “will take the other half?” And they did; they jointly took the funeral service, and it was … it was lovely. I really appreciated it, you know – I don’t know whether that happens these days.
You don’t strike it very often. It’s peculiar I think, to the personalities who were driving the ship.
They were very special. Yes.
And you have children … what are their names, and when were they born?
First of all we had Richard, and he was born in 1979 … 24th August, 1979. And we trained him up well in the packing shed; taught him and the other one, Michael, who was born in 1986; they both learnt to pack and grade and inspect, and keep a check on the workers. And they were very good at that. Those days we were fully wrapping, so the children, even though they were little … I mean, even though they were in nappies and could stand up, we taught them to pack. That’s what they had to do. And I know in later years, Michael would even scrutinise the packers; he would go out to the reject bin and pull any good apples he could see, and he would march into the packing shed and he would go up to the graders and said [say], “Now, why did you throw this one out?”
Graeme: Before he went to school.
Karen: Yes. And the packers and the graders were aware of this and they said, “The trouble is with Michael – he was always right.” [Chuckle]
Graeme: Tell the story about Pat, Frank’s sister, when she was … Karen: Oh, yes – got to tell you this one. Michael was in nappies – he was about two, might have been three – he was standing on a stack of two trays to reach the packing stand to pack, and he was packing behind Pat, your sister. And [of] course we had trays in at that time … trays had come in, you see … and Michael was watching Pat. And then he called out, “Pat, you put the wrong tray in. It should be a B tray and not an A tray, and that won’t layer.” [Chuckle] And he was right. Pat turned around and said, “I was thinking about something else.” [Chuckle] As small as he was … I mean, it’s just amazing. But they loved having him in the shed. [Chuckle] Anyway, shall I go back to Richard?
Yeah – Richard was interested in the packing shed and in the machinery, but not as interested as Michael was. Richard went to Te Mata School and then went on to Hereworth School. He found that he was more advanced in his academic side; the teachers were starting to use him as a teacher to teach the other kids maths and things at Te Mata, which I actually did not approve of. We took him to Hereworth where he thrived, and loved it. And he learnt music as well; he was learning the piano off [from] Gwen Moran, and then Jean Crowe after that. And of course at Hereworth he had a music teacher called Margaret Cooper; they got on really well. He did extremely well there; he became runner-up to dux at Hereworth …
… he and then got a scholarship to Lindisfarne College. He did extremely well there – he was really progressing with his music, playing the saxophone and the clarinet, and still playing the piano under John Snowling. He really thrived and enjoyed that and joined the band; and music today is still a large part of his life.
Now – he went to Massey and he qualified as an accountant, and worked at PwC … Price Waterhouse Coopers … in Wellington for about thirteen years, twelve or thirteen years, I think. He was an auditor; his speciality was auditing and he would audit for very large companies in New Zealand. And then he went overseas to Scotland on a three-month leave to also work for Price Waterhouse Coopers and audit some banks over there. He came back home; and then Scotland said, “We’d like that boy Richard Jones back again, because our customers really liked him; the way he handled things.” So he went back again – I think it was for about a five-month period – and came back again. And then the next year they requested he go back yet again, so he did, and for two years. He helped them with their computer work and their fraud detection set ups. He was offered a very high position in the company.
Was it the Bank of Scotland that went broke some years ago?
Yes. They had a lot of problem[s].
Graeme: There was another one involved there, too.
Karen: A couple of them, weren’t there? But he said, “Mum, I don’t know whether to take this position or not … I’d like to come back to New Zealand ‘cause I haven’t had a summer in so many years, and I miss New Zealand and the weather and everything.” But he turned the job down. He would’ve been the most qualified in that field in the country … in New Zealand … but he was saying. “That’s not really where I want to be.”
But he’d met this wonderful girl over there called Vari Spiers, and she worked for Price Waterhouse Coopers and had done for ‘bout twelve years over there … I think it was like an HR [Human Resources] person, organising the training and the flights for all the workers in the UK, [United Kingdom] and she used to pick him up from the airport each time he would fly into the country. And this was kept secret from us for many years. So when he decided to come back to New Zealand ‘cause they were on the verge of getting engaged … talking about marriage, he said, “Well I want to go back to New Zealand, and I’d like you to come. Will you think about it?” So she said, I’ll think about it.” So he came back to New Zealand and she followed a few months later, but Price Waterhouse & Cooper[s] in Edinburgh did not want to lose her, so they said, “We’ll keep your job open for twelve months, and if you decide to change your mind, you’ve got your job back.”
Bit of pressure there …
And I said to Richard’s friends, “Well, I hope you make her very welcome and make sure she doesn’t want to go back to Scotland.” [Chuckle]
Anyway, she decided to stay, and they eventually married in Scotland. They went back to Scotland for the wedding ‘cause that’s where her family are, and that was June 5th 20…
Karen: …’13. So we all traipsed off to Scotland; and Paul came over too, and brought his two boys with him, and had a lovely Scottish wedding. Oh yes, Brian and Lin came over; Marion and Ross couldn’t make it, but Brian and Lin came over, and we had just …
… wonderful weather; it really was great. And now – he was headhunted when they came back to New Zealand, and he’s now Financial Manager for ANZ in Wellington. He’s doing very well; he prepares their quarterly accounts, so he’s doing very well. And he’s bought a house in Newlands, and he’s got a little girl, Isla Susan, and she’s a lovely little girl. Susan was Vari’s mother’s name, and of course Isla is an island, in Scotland.
So what do you do in your spare time?
[Chuckle] I don’t have a lot of spare time. I have through the years after I left … ‘cause I had been doing ballet most of my life, and I stopped doing ballet when I was about sixteen ‘cause I twisted my ankle running, in a rabbit hole on the side of the road. And that finished that; because I really wanted to be a dancer. And then it was after I had Michael I managed to find time to go back and do some modern jazz and lyrical ballet. And I did that for a few years; and stopped doing that and then had another break. And when we closed the packhouse down my girlfriend said to me, “Now what are you going to do? You’ll have nothing to do”, she said, “you’re coming back dancing.” And I said, “Oh, I’m far too old for that.” She said, “No, you’re not.” She said, “Well, it’ll be good exercise.” And I said, “All right – for exercise only.” She threw me into classical ballet class – major, lyrical and jazz.
And you’ve enjoyed all of it.
I enjoyed everything absolutely immensely; but I ended up picking up where I left off in the ballet when I was sixteen; and progressed. And I was still sitting exams when I was fifty in major classical ballets. So that was pretty impressive, wasn’t it?
Okay. Now is there anything else you might have forgotten to tell me?
Oh, we haven’t touched on Michael. All right.
Michael went to Te Mata School and Hereworth, the same; and then he went on to Havelock High. He didn’t want to be an office person, so he went to EIT [Eastern Institute of Technology] and did a mechanics course where he qualified as a diesel mechanic. And from there he got a job in Palmerston North as a diesel mechanic, and lived there for many years; met a nice girl. And then she said she wanted to go down – she got a job opportunity in Christchurch, at Lincoln [University], so he decided to go down there. And he works down there now, and they’re still down there; and they’ve bought a house and doing very well. But they haven’t got married yet, but that will come.
Graeme: They’re just engaged.
Karen: Yes. Yeah, but they’re doing well; the family’s starting to grow.
Graeme: He’s Service Manager …
Karen: Oh yes – Michael is Service Manager there, at Cochranes. It’s a big firm, and he deals with huge machinery and big tractors. They’re absolutely enormous; and all the harvesters, ‘cause it’s such a huge harvesting area, on the Canterbury Plains, down there.
And your father, Louis, when did he die?
I think it was about two and a half years ago.
Karen: Yes, he was. And he had a stroke, and it really finished him off. Although he wasn’t paralysed it affected his speech, and he really didn’t enjoy that because … you know. And he wanted to do what … Louis being Louis, he wanted to do what he wanted to do, and if he couldn’t do it well … there’s not much point.
Well, he was a perfectionist, wasn’t he?
It was everything he did.
That’s the way he thought and did …
You want to get painting instructions off him as well … [Chuckles] Everything had to be perfect. He was a gardener … because he actually wanted to be a gardener as his occupation, but his mother wouldn’t let him because that wasn’t [a] ‘proper’ job. He had to get a trade. So he trained in Denmark as a cabinetmaker. and got his certificate and did beautiful work, and French polishing … everything.
Graeme: War broke out.
Karen: Oh, yes, okay – war broke out. Dad actually spoke several languages because his mother was Italian, and his grandmother was German; oh, this is … yeah. [Whispers] This is exciting! His grandmother was German, and his grandfather was Danish, wasn’t he? If we go back a bit, his grandfather was the founder of Nilfisk … vacuum cleaner company. And his grandfather was a hunchback because he fell off the changing table as a child; so he could not do manual work. But he had a great brain, which he used. He was a stockbroker, and he earnt [earned] lots and lots of money, and he was one of the wealthiest men in Denmark. Apparently, the story goes – I don’t know how true it is – that he owned three-quarters of Denmark at one stage; I don’t think that’s quite right, but I’m not sure. But he put up all his money for the Nilson and Fiske to start this company ‘cause they needed money … backing … so he put the money up, and a lot of the Messerschmidt family ended up working in the workshop there, and in the office, ‘cause [the] Messerschmidts was [were] a very large family. The grandfather was Louis Messerschmidt too – he had seven children; and a devout Catholic. And he said to the Catholic Church one day, “Well, I’m living here and there’s no school nearby for my children to go to.” He said, “Well if I give you the money, will you build a school so my children can go to school nearby my house?” So that happened. He was even given some medal by the Pope for his dedication and work to [for] the Church – we have got all the information somewhere. But that was very interesting; he earnt [earned] so much money that his seven children didn’t actually have to work, and he would just give them an allowance. Dad’s father was one of those. And my dad did not like that, because he believed that everybody should have to work for a living. He always said his father was lazy, but you know, I guess if he didn’t work …
Well, you know, he was just a victim of circumstances, wasn’t he?
Yes. Yeah, Dad’s grandfather gave his father money; he bought him farms and all sorts of different things. But he wasn’t cut out for it – his heart wasn’t in it. Of course when war broke out, Dad … having this Italian mother and German background … Dad could speak many languages; so Dad worked in the underground in Denmark. He was employed as a night serviceman doing repair work at night, and he would go into the offices – ‘cause Germany was occupying Denmark at this time – and he would go into the offices that the Germans were occupying. And read the teleprinters and get the messages … what was happening … and he relayed that to the underground. So that would help them in the war effort.
Now, you haven’t told me when he came out to New Zealand – he must’ve come out after the war?
Yeah, 1947. He was two years in Wellington.
Graeme: Well, should I just say that he got an assisted passage to anywhere in the world that he wanted to, and he decided that he wanted to get as far away from Denmark as possible, so he chose New Zealand ‘cause [of] it being on the other side of the world. And he landed in Wellington from a ship, and started life there for a couple of years. Whilst he was in Wellington he heard about the possibility of the Australian Government offering land to settle people in the Northern Territory; somewhere round … north of Brisbane – Cairns, way up there. [Cairns is in Queensland] And they were given £10 … oh, I think it was £10 and they were given a hundred acres of land. And he thought that was a great idea until he spoke to a few New Zealanders, and they told him what the land was going to be like and it wasn’t worth going to.
So he cancelled that idea of going to Australia, and then from Wellington, he wanted to go to the sunniest place in New Zealand; and he was told that Napier was the best place to go to; so he hopped on the train from Wellington and got off one station early in Hastings instead …
And that was it?
… and that was how he landed in Hastings. That was in 1950, and in 1951 he bought a section in Lucknow Road to build his own house, and that was bought off [from] my mother’s uncle. So the connection between the Joll family and the Messerschmidt family was …
Karen: Yeah, that was Mary and …
So the Jolls had land in Lucknow Road, too?
Graeme: They had an orchard there as well, across the drain next to the Marshall orchards. So the Marshalls and the Jolls had land between Lucknow Road and Joll Road. And it’s all in housing now.
But Dad being a foreigner, Mary Joll was not really sure about this person; had a German name. And she laid down the law very heavily, and all these rules that he couldn’t do. He was not allowed to make loud noises; he was not allowed to mow his lawns on a Sunday; no washing to be done on a Sunday … “Washday is Mondays only!” Your property is to be kept in pristine condition …
And his was the newest house in the street!
And so he set about … it wasn’t a very wonderful section from all accounts; it had humps and hollows. He had to move all the dirt, make it level. Did it all by spade and wheelbarrow. And first of all he built a shed out the back for Mum and him to live in which later became his workshop, which later became Havelock North Joinery. And then he built his own house, and the house actually won a House of the Year award as well, which he was very proud of. But he came to New Zealand with virtually nothing and worked hard, and he said, “Just get on with it and work hard.” He said, “So long as I’ve got my mortgage paid off by the time I retire and I don’t owe any money to anybody, I’ll be happy.” He did achieve that, yeah.
Graeme: Can I go back a little bit on Louis, too? When the Second World War finished in Europe, the British army as still active because the war in Japan hadn’t finished, so they were calling for volunteers. And twenty thousand Danish young men volunteered to join the British army; and Louis was chosen in the first group of ninety who left Denmark to go to England to join up with the British army, which he did. They travelled in railway wagons which he said was a terrible trip through Holland. One of the reasons I think he got chosen was for his ability to speak several languages – English, German and Danish; he was fluent in those three languages and could understand several others. So you wouldn’t necessarily believe him knowing him later in life, that he could understand … or [was] fluent in these languages, but he was.
Karen: He did some Court work, didn’t he?
Graeme: And then when he came to New Zealand, yes – he was a translator in the Court for the British Army, and if any of the European men who came across got into difficulties, he told us that he didn’t always translate the language correctly; he translated it into a version that the judge would approve of. [Chuckles] So he helped people.
But when he came to New Zealand he was part of the British Army when he arrived, because they allowed him to be demobbed anywhere in the world. And he arrived in Wellington and got demobbed some time later … very shortly afterwards. And at that stage he became an alien because he wasn’t an English citizen. He became an alien, and as a result, New Zealand didn’t necessarily accept him readily, and he had to report to the Police every month – where he was; where he’s [he’d] worked; if he went on holiday he had to notify the police [of] what he was doing; where he was going to around the country; so life was difficult. As a result of that everything had to be done correctly, and he was dead scared of doing something wrong against the law, because he might have been sent away from the country and that was what he was afraid of.
Karen: He was a stickler for doing everything correct[ly], you know.
Anything else on your side, Graeme, that you’d like to tell me?
Graeme: Well – yeah, my great grandfather, Richard William, when he landed in Invercargill in 1872 … right at the end of December, the last few days … he brought his cornet with him from England, ‘cause he was a member of the [a] band over in England. And he sat on the balcony of his house when he left the ship – on that very day – playing his cornet; and a member of the Invercargill Garrison Band happened to be walking past and invited him to their practice that night. And from there he became a senior member of the Invercargill Garrison Band, which was a highly decorated band in the South Island, and in New Zealand. That was his welcome to Invercargill, so he had fond memories of Invercargill.
Karen: My mother’s side of the family are quite interesting, too – that’s the Gumblie side of the family, and they resided in Fernhill mostly. There was quite a number of Gumblies, and most of them as it turned out, were midwives … the women. A lot of the women were midwives, and of course they came out on the ship in the early days, and I think they landed in New Plymouth … not sure, I’ll have to check up on that. But most of them settled around Napier.
Graeme: No, they came to Napier.
Karen: Did they come straight to Napier, did they?
Graeme: They were transferred to Napier, I think, after they arrived in New Zealand.
Karen: Grandma had money of her own, and she had a little cottage in Fernhill which her sister used to rent off [from] her. She used to work at the local store in Fernhill, but that’s all gone now; the hotel I think is still there. We’ve got photos of the old Fernhill bridge and how the layout used to be.
But it’s interesting to see the connections because Gumblies were a large family and spread far and wide; and we are related to the Baylisses and the Taylors. Do you know of Robert Taylor? He was a pathologist at Royston. [Hospital] Yeah, he was Mum’s first cousin. But we sort of used to keep in close contact with them; and the last of Mum’s cousins has just died a year ago, in Palmerston North. But they were a musical family, too, and I think that’s where Richard got his piano experiences from. My grandmother’s sister as a concert pianist. She was a little lady, five foot nothing; but that’s probably another story [for] another day.
When I went back to ballet … my girlfriend who owned a ballet school got me back to doing ballet … and I was doing point work at forty-eight, fifty years of age. And the examiners would tell me, “You know, my dear, you’re not supposed to be doing point work at your age.” The reason is that normally the bones in your feet are not strong enough; she was most impressed, and I got ninety-seven out of a hundred. And she said, “I love you, my dear”, she said, “I want to take you back to England with me.” [Chuckle]
Graeme wouldn’t let you go …
There was a new … I’ve trained under RAD [Royal Academy of Dance] syllabus, and then this new syllabus came out, which was an extension with a different ballet organisation. And I was one of the first lot to sit this exam, and received the highest marks anywhere in the world. And I was the oldest person [speaking together] to have sat that exam.
Isn’t that wonderful?
So that was quite an achievement. [Chuckle] And now I don’t do ballet any more and I’ve got time … a little bit of time … I’ve taken up Scottish Country dancing which I do four days a week, at night. And I love it. It is keeping me fit, and using my feet; and everyone remarks, “Oh … lovely pointed feet! Your feet are doing the right thing.” When you’ve trained in dance … I don’t think about my feet when I’m dancing, they just do their thing. But I just love it, and get a lot of enjoyment out of it.
That’s wonderful. All right; that probably gives us a fairly broad-brush picture of the Jones family and the Messerschmidt family. Well, thanks, Karen and Graeme; and for your contribution you’ve made to Havelock North, the fruit industry, and dancing; so thank you, and we’ll complete that now.
Original digital file
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Interviewer: Frank Cooper
- Graeme Allan Jones
- Karen Elizabeth Jones