Hewitt, Norman John Interview
Good afternoon. Today is Thursday 27th May 2021. I’ve been given the privilege of interviewing Mr Norman Hewitt from Riverhill, Waipukurau.
Mr Hewitt’s daughter, Vivienne, is also present. Recording begins part way into the interview.
This house was just about demolished, or double chimneys coming through it, and so we couldn’t live here. My sister and I went to Dannevirke, and we were schooled in Dannevirke; stayed with an auntie and we were there for quite a while. By the time we got back home again they’d rebuilt the house, and we went back to normal school.
Vivienne: Where were you at school when the earthquake happened?
Norm: Oh, we were out in the playground, it was morning teatime sort-of business, and we were all sitting along the rocks watching all the chimneys fall over, and thought it was quite fun; but it wasn’t really fun. One thing I did notice at that stage was the whole playground below us went up in waves like the sea, and you couldn’t believe that a solid thing like that could go up in great big waves … went right across. Amazing, absolutely amazing. That was a sight that I never forgot.
So, you said you went to Wanganui Collegiate?
Yeah, I was there for three years.
Did you like being at that school?
Did I like being there?
No, I always hated school. [Chuckle] No, I didn’t enjoy it at all.
Not everybody’s cup of tea, is it?
No, no. And it was the first time I’d ever been away from home, so it wasn’t very nice.
And you would’ve been homesick?
Vivienne: You enjoyed the sports at school; you enjoyed your tennis and that at school, didn’t you?
Norm: Yes, yep. Oh there was one or two, but I was no good at cricket or anything like that, unfortunately, so it was mainly … I used to play tennis [and] golf. They had a golf links behind the school [speaking together] …
… and it was nine holes, so I used to play a lot of golf.
D’you remember what age you were when you finally left school?
When I went to school?
No, when you left.
Oh, about seventeen roughly, when I finished up with school, ‘cause that’s when I met Pam who I finally married. My mother said, “’Bout time you had a girlfriend.” She said, “Why don’t you ring Pam Hislop; she’s a nice girl.” So I rang her up, and we were together right through, and got married and everything – had kids. So that was quite successful, yeah. So then we finally separated in the end.
And then Evelyn arrived on the scene, and my mother and my sister knew Evelyn very well in Blenheim, so they’d sort of jacked it up that she was to come and marry me. So she finally turned up; and Evelyn and I were together for fifty-five years married, and then she suddenly died. So that ended that.
Vivienne: But you looked after Evelyn, didn’t you? Solidly – for two years before she died, he did everything.
Norm: Ten years younger than me she was, and we thought she’d you know, go on for quite a long time, but she’s just suddenly had a heart attack, so that was that – finish. But as you know we had children [chuckle] Pam and I did, and then Evelyn and I had twins … boy and a girl.
Shane was blonde with curly hair, and Robin was dark.
Shane’s just down here, and Rob – a boy and girl – and Rob’s still in Taradale.
Vivienne: And what about your car racing?
Norm: Oh yes, I did a lot of car …
Vivienne: So here’s Dad’s car – that’s the one, isn’t it, Dad?
Norm: Yep, that’s it. One of the Bathurst cars, that, and I managed to [speaking together] own it for a while, and raced it. But before that I had a … what they call a shaker, and I used to do drag racing with that at Totara [Thunder] Park, [door squeaking] which was in Hastings.
Vivienne: Grandad at Thunder Park.
Norm: So I loved that – that was amazing. And then finally … finish up I was [?] farming. My son and I both … there’s a road goes right through from the one next to the freezing works; it’s a very long, straight road. So they jacked up a day for us, Rob and I … my son and I … to drive one of these Bathurst cars – the one I had – and they were guaranteed to do – when you bought them – they were guaranteed to do a hundred and forty-five miles an hour. So Rob and I decided, ‘Right, we’ll try them out.’ So they had jacked up the road, and of course blocked the road off for us and everything, and we did five runs at a hundred and forty-five miles an hour. It’s pretty fast. [Chuckles] That’s miles, too, and not kilometres. Yeah. So they were guaranteed to do … you could buy them in Napier, those cars, from the Ford crowd … and they were guaranteed that they could do a hundred and forty-five miles an hour, top speed. So we proved it.
You certainly did by the sounds of it.
Vivienne: Did you want to be a farmer?
Norm: I never wanted to be a farmer.
You wanted to be a racing car driver?
No, I wanted to be a salesman for cars. I love cars and the car I’ve just given to my son, it was my eighty-eighth, I think … yeah … car that I’ve owned; actually owned.
Well sounds like you should’ve had a licence to sell …
I just love cars. All those cars were bought on hire purchase, and of course I was a bit of a mechanic myself, so I’d just drive a car round the block and I’d know if there was anything wrong with it in Hastings; and if I thought if it was right I’d buy it. So that’s how I got so many damn cars. [Chuckle] One year I had seven cars – I’ve got a photo of them all in a row at the farm there. And I sold three of them to my kids; I don’t know what I did with the other ones … no idea. But all of the last years of my life my wife and I always had three cars parked out there – two Mercedes and my car, which was a very fast little car.
So how fast could you get the Mercedes to go?
Oh, they weren’t really a fast car, no – just average.
What was your most favourite car of your eighty-eight?
Oh, I think my favourite car was a … what was it called? Ha! Can’t think of the name of it now. It was a Jap [Japanese] car put out for the young Japanese. It was a very fast car, turbo and everything. Oh, hang! I usually know the name but I … just at the moment I … skips my mind.
Eighty-eight is a lot of cars to sort one out … [Chuckle]
Yes. But this one was very fast, and I had it for quite a few years. And I finally gave it to my grandson and I said, “Do what you like with it.” So he immediately sold it to a young chap from Auckland and he got $3,000 for it, and I just – I’d given it to him you see. So the young chap came through and took it back to Auckland and he blew the supercharger on it on the way through, and this young grandson of mind said, “No, that’s your problem, not mine.” [Chuckle] So he didn’t offer to pay for it or anything, so …
Vivienne: [Speaking together] I don’t remember any of that.
Norm: … anyhow, we never heard anything more from the bloke.
So dare I ask – did you ever get any speeding tickets?
No. I never got a fine for a parking ticket, I never got any fines right through. The only one I got, I went to a parking building in Napier, and I’d never been to one before. And I got the ticket and then started walking down the town. And then I looked at the ticket and it said ‘this should be left in the car and shown so an inspector can see it through the windscreen’. So I thought, ‘Oh, Jesus!’ So I went back, and he was there when I arrived, saw me get the ticket and then he saw me leave. And of course I didn’t leave the ticket there – it was in my pocket. So when I got back there was a fine of $45 or something on the windscreen. So I thought, ‘Well this is no good’; so I walked all the way through Napier and finally found where all the police were, and I went into this room full of cops and I said, “I’ve just got this ticket for parking in your park building.” And I said, “I’ve never been to one before; I’ve never even parked in one before.” So one of the policemen there – there were quite a few – he said, “You’ve been a very naughty boy, Norman, haven’t you?” [Quiet chuckles] I said, “It looks a bit that way.” He said, “Well put out your hand.” He smacked my hand. [Chuckles] And they all just … they thought it was a great joke, the rest of them, of course. [Chuckle] Anyhow, I was let off the fine, yeah. All my life, I never even got a fine for parking, never.
Vivienne: And even accidents – you only ever had one car accident, didn’t you? And wasn’t that with the cattle beast?
Norm: Oh I lost the cow, yeah, I ran into a mob of father’s … I went in to get cigarettes ‘cause I smoked heavily then; and Pam was going out for the evening so I went to get cigarettes before she left. And coming back it was in the dark, and quite a windy road over by where we lived, and I was travelling fast as usual. And I came round the corner just … fairly close to the house, and here was this black cow in the middle of the road. So I was doing about … oh, sixty or seventy miles an hour at this stage. I was [?], farming so I knew I’d never pull up. But I actually worked it all out though – I just had room to get through, but I knew there was a drain on the side. And the cow backed into me, but no one ever believed me. [Chuckles] It did – it actually backed into me; I killed the cow and wrecked the car.
But that was the only really … well, I did have another bad accident but … The bloke in front of me, he suddenly stopped going up a rise, and I thought, ‘What’s he stopping for?’ I couldn’t see any reason for him stopping. It was pouring with rain; so I suddenly realised that he’d stopped. He had no brake lights anyway, and I went into a slide of course … the brakes in those older cars weren’t that wonderful … and I hit him first, and then it spun me round and I put a dent in the fence of the next home – and it was a long, long fence – and it went right along the fence and there was a big dent in the fence. I think that’s still there, I’m not sure, but I think it is. And the car finally stopped; and I had a jug of cream in the back of the car, [quiet chuckle] going to the dairy factory, and when I hit him it shot up in the air, so I was covered in cream; all the inside of the car was covered in cream. I got out of the car and this bloke started swearing at me straight away, and said I’d have to get a car for him. I bent his boot up in the air and he had samples; he was a salesman for … I don’t know what it was for; had it packed with samples, and they all got wet, so he went mad at me. [Chuckle] And then he rang up and swore at my mother. So my father was a very strict man, exceptionally strict, so when he came home my mother told him what had happened. So he rang the bloke up; we never heard from that chap again, we don’t know what my father said to him, but he never came near; never wanted anything done. Nothing. [Chuckle] He just disappeared. [Chuckle]
Vivienne: What was it you did in Norfolk during the war?
Norm: Chap in charge of us, the Colonel over in Norfolk Island … they sent all of us Grade 2 over there for the last year of the war, and we were the only Grade 2 to ever leave New Zealand. So we went to Norfolk Island to make the airstrip good for the planes; all the American Kittyhawks flew from America and right through to the Pacific Islands, and we were one of the islands that refuelled them and everything. So I was there for about a year, so we actually did a lot of good for the Yanks. [Chuckle] There were still submarines cruising round … Jap subs cruising round … so we had to keep an eye on them. And then the war ended just as we were coming back from Norfolk to New Zealand, so they just put us straight out in the civilian life again.
And I started farming then on my own little farm, which Dad had bought for me; it was an old worn-out dairy farm, a hundred and nine acres. And my father had a two-hundred-acre farm right beside it that he had for many years. So I worked for him and for myself for the rest of my life, or his life. [Chuckle]
Anyhow, this boy doubled me home from town, from the school, and when he arrived here my mother wanted to know, “What’s that boy doing out there?” I said, “He’s just doubled me home.” “Well you tell him to double and go back to Waipuk” [Waipukurau] “smartly.” She wouldn’t have anything to do with him, and so I could never bring a friend out here.
She didn’t really want you to bring your friends home?
No. No. so … it was pretty tough on me, but anyhow, she didn’t want me to bring any other boys out here, and that was that … that was the finish of that. I had no option then.
So with your children, did you let them bring friends home?
Oh, God yes! Lot of friends. Oh no, no … they had a very normal life, my daughters and that, and I had the one son, and he was a twin; but his twin sister lives down here, just across the road.
Mmm. That’s Shane, yeah. She married Gavin, and they had just the one boy. And he’s since married, and they’ve just had a daughter; they had a son before that, so they’ve got two children now.
So that makes you a great-grandad?
Great-grandad, yes. And the last one they had was a girl, and of course we haven’t had a girl in the family for a long time, so it was lovely; very sweet little girl, lovely girl. Mmm. So I spend money on her now, buying her presents. [Chuckle]
Neat to be a Grandad, isn’t it?
Mmm. Yeah. Now, I don’t know … from there, when I was at Collegiate, I came home; and I wasn’t allowed to come home ‘til I got my Matric – they had Matriculation those days. And I finally got my Matric the last year at school, so I came home and I started working for my father. And I worked for him the rest of his life, and we combined the small farm he’d bought me, we combined that with his two hundred acres, so we farmed it as a complete farm between us. We had a beautiful little farm actually; it was very pretty. It was over by Lindsay Bush, and it was a lovely farm. Anyhow, I decided finally that I could make just as much money having the money invested as I could working the farm or even leasing it. So I decided to sell the farm, so we sold it.
What age were you then?
Mmm … I sold the farm … might’ve been around about … oh, I’ll have to think about that one. [Chuckles] I’m not too sure.
Would you’ve been in your sixties?
Yes, I’d be at least sixty. Anyhow, I sold the farm and invested the money – most of it – and my wife got quite a share of it too, so she had plenty of money. And she always wanted to go and visit her auntie in Wales, so I finally got a return ticket for her to go to London where she stayed with friends, then she went to Wales and met her auntie and two cousins. And that was a thrill for her … real thrill. And then she finally came … she wasn’t there very long; I think she had about six weeks roughly, altogether. So she had a good trip that time. Well … no, I’m not going to say anything about any differences we had or anything like that. She finally died … eighty-seven when she died. And she’d been ill; she’d gone to hospital, and then they put her in Mt Herbert Home. She was there nearly a year, and Shane used to take me in to see her every second night. And then she’d just been there a bit over a year, and they got her dressed in the morning … the hospital staff … and left her sitting – they had a great big chair she used to sit in – and they could also push that – it had roller wheels on it – they could push that down to the dining room. So I used to put her in the chair and then take her down to the dining room; and I left her sitting in the chair, went down to the dining room, came back and she was dead in the chair. So they said she either had a heart attack or something like it, but we never got any real details. Strange how that’s [?]. [Chuckle]
So what’s your recipe for getting to a hundred, sir?
I never drank much at all in the way of liquor; and when I was young I never went through the stage of having beers at the hotel, because my father never drank so I never went and drank. So I never got to the stage where I drank beer and all that sort of stuff, and lived it up. And I smoked heavily for a while; during the war I started smoking, and then when it was over I still went on smoking a bit. But I was doing a bit of tractor work to start with, and I used to just light one from the other, so I went through a terrific lot of cigarettes for a short while. And then, oh -that’s when I met Evelyn and she didn’t smoke, so I stopped the day after I met her and I haven’t had one since. No smoking, no drinking. That, I think, is one of the main features of why I lived this long. [Speaking together]
Of long life …
Yeah, I think so. Apart from the fact that when I was round about thirty I think, roughly, I read about bee pollen and all the essentials and vitamins and everything. So I bought bee pollen tablets; so I’ve had them for a long, long time.
Part of it …
And I bought those and deer velvet for my joints – I’ve still got all my own joints.
Your hips, your knees …
At this age …
Yeah, and your elbows …
… I’ve had nothing replaced at all, they’re all still good. And that was the … I think it must be that stuff I was taking for your joints, deer velvet, ‘cause I’ve still got wonderful knees and everything. Hips, everything. I’m getting old and very stiff and that, but …
So when did you last go to hospital?
I’ve had my gallbladder removed; that was the last thing I had, and that was about … oh, five years ago, ‘cause that was poisoning me. And you wouldn’t believe it, but when they took it out they put four holes in my tummy. One of the little things inside the bladder … the little balls or [gallstones] … oh, I don’t know what you call them. When they were pulling it out it stayed in my stomach, and for the next two or three days I was having terrible pains from this thing in my stomach. [Speaking together]
So they x-rayed me; they did all sorts of things but they couldn’t find it … couldn’t trace it. But they knew it was there ‘cause of the effect I was getting from it. And finally it just faded away. That was the last time I was in hospital for anything, yeah. I think I was about ninety-four or something then … yeah, somewhere there.
As a child did you have any illnesses?
Yes, I had … now what was that first ..? Oh, I had … it was stomach trouble, and I was put on a diet by a specialist in Wellington. And that finally cleared up, but I was sick every day just about for … My father thought I was putting it on. [Chuckles] But anyhow, I finally recovered from that, but that lasted for quite a while. But apart from that, I broke my leg right up the thigh here …
I was playing golf, and I was practising down the paddock down there. And to come up I had to jump across the creek. So I put the club on the other side of the creek and jumped; and when I hit the ground I slipped, and sat on my left leg and broke it right up near the hip there.
So I was in this room for three months on a mattress, with this broken leg; and it was very bad. And I [chuckle] was in pure agony for those three months. They put a big mattress in here and my wife fed me and everything. She’d look at me and say, “Come on, eat your lunch – eat it!” [Chuckles] So I couldn’t even stand – well, it was just pure agony to stand even, so I very rarely stood at all. So I just lay there for three months. And they x-rayed me on one of those long boxes you go in … MI something …
Yeah. And the night before I got the results I took some sleeping tablets, ‘cause I couldn’t sleep at night; and I went through to go to the loo. I got to the door of the loo and I just collapsed on my face – I couldn’t stop myself, I couldn’t … hands out … the sleeping tablets had done something, so I crashed down on the concrete. And … oh, they thought I broke my nose; they got the doctor … hadn’t broken my nose. Anyhow, at the same time I’d gone through this x-ray thing that does your whole body, and the next morning after that fall, the pain which I’d had for months – there was nothing. It’d completely disappeared – no pain, nothing. So then I rang the specialist, told him that the pain had suddenly gone. He said, “Yes, we know why.” He said, “We photographed you, all your back, and your nerve was touching one of your ribs in your back, and that was causing all that frightful pain you had.” And he said, “Apparently, when you fell over, the stuff that … your disc … had gone all over your nerve, in your back nerve.” And he said, “That was there all that time, and every time you moved it moved that fluid on your spine, and that gave you all that terrible agony.” And he said, “Now when we photographed it, that’s gone. It somehow, when you fell, it knocked the fluid off your nerve.” I came right. [Chuckle]
Just like that. All those months in agony, and just had a fall and that did the trick. Mmm. So that was lucky.
Very lucky. You’ve actually seen so many things change in your lifetime, haven’t you? When did you first fly in a [an] aircraft?
Yes – I can remember it very well, because a relative of Evelyn who lived down south, the husband had been flying for many years and he loved flying. And he brought them all up here in a plane for a holiday, and during that holiday he decided to take me for a flight over the big station that my father owned in Wairoa, and photograph it all from up in the air. That was all right, we did all that; and then on the way home, back from Wairoa, which comes over very rough country … frightful country … and they’d already lost two planes they never found again. And the motor suddenly started going crook. And I said to David – I said, “What’s wrong?” He said, “I don’t know [chuckle] – no idea.” I said, “Oh, that’s lovely”, I said. And I had a heart attack not long before then – the only heart attack I’ve ever had, and I was still pretty bad from that. Oh! I said, “It’s upsetting my heart.” He said, “I can’t do anything about it.” I said, “No, I know you can’t.” [Chuckle] Anyhow, he couldn’t accelerate at all; it was just … the engine was going a certain speed and that was that. So he worked out that with a bit of luck we might get back to the airport from Wairoa; but we had all those huge terrible hills to come over and everything. And at one stage he said, “You know, I could possibly go down and land on the beach.” I said, [chuckle] “No thanks.” I could just picture us trying to pull up on the beach; it was mostly … So he kept on flying, and we were just losing a fraction all the time, getting closer and closer to Napier. So they got ready for us at Napier in case we got there, and as we were coming in to land I said to David, I said, “Oh thank God!” He said, [chuckle] “Don’t thank God”, he said, “I’ve got to land the thing properly first; I’ve got no motor to rev up!” [Chuckle] So he made it to landing, yeah.
You just glided in?
And they took the motor to bits; and the trouble … one valve had broken off and that had damaged the piston. So he had it repaired, and he went through to Hastings to take it up and see what it was like; and when he got up in the air not one motor went which once before … you know, it was missing, you see … but two motors packed up. And [of] course he got in a terrible state, and he didn’t know where to land; he nearly landed on Thunder Park, which was for drag racing at that stage. And he thought, ‘No.’ So he got back to the airport again – they had everything, ambulances, everything ready for him, and he landed it. And I was there, and he said, “Just take me home”, he said, “and I want to stop at every pub on the way home.” So [chuckle] by the time we got home he was absolutely pickled – well and truly pickled. [Chuckles] But he had a terrible shock that second time.
So did he fly again after that?
Yes, he flew it back down south, but the family wouldn’t go with him, so they [chuckle] … went by boat. [Chuckle] It was quite amusing really, but it was …
Funny but not funny …
Parts of it were pretty tough when we thought we were going to fall in amongst all these ravines and things; that was pretty tough, but anyhow, we survived it.
And did your dad appreciate the photographs that he took?
No, he didn’t really. [Chuckles] No, he was already dead so … [chuckles]
How old was your dad?
He died at eighty-seven, yeah.
And your mum lived ‘til she was ..?
She lived to ninety-two, in the hospital, yeah. And my sister …
She had two boys, didn’t she?
Yes, and one’s just rang up just a while ago. And she was just … nearly a hundred, and she had six days left to go for a hundred, and she died. All the messages from the Queen had already had to be through ‘cause they’ve got to be done reasonably early. So she got everything, but she never saw it ‘cause she died. So Vivienne, who was here today, she drove through to Auckland and they put all the things from the Queen on top of June’s coffin, and she photographed it all, which was very thoughtful of her.
So June never saw them though; she died six hours [days] before she was a hundred. And now I go, and I’ll get to a hundred and I’m just waiting for a hundred and two now, this September coming, 1st September; in other words, the end of August …
First day of spring …
I’ll be one hundred and two … that’s if I make it. So it’s not far away, ‘bout three months or something. Mmm. So … [Chuckle]
Well put it this way, I wouldn’t mind living to that age if I could look like you now.
Yes, well they all say to me … people that haven’t seen me for a long time … they all say, “You haven’t changed, you’re just as you were when you were young!”
That’s what I thought when I walked in the room this afternoon.
Oh! I don’t feel it. Apparently according to everybody, I still look quite young.
‘Cause I haven’t got big lines on my face and that. I need a shave, I know, but I shaved a bit of it this morning but the razor went flat, so that was that. Viv said to me, she said, “You’d better have a bit of a shave.” [Chuckle] And I said, “Oh, okay”, so she got the razor out for me, and I just cleaned this part here.
So how do you occupy yourself these days?
How do I occupy myself? Well, I can’t go outside at all ‘cause I used to be so worried about falling ‘cause before I actually got really bad I was falling every other day in the garden, and all over the place I used to fall over. And I was just having fall after fall after fall. Well I never broke anything in my body, and I don’t know why, I had terrible falls. Some went backwards … fell on a concrete block thing, and all sorts of things like that … but I never broke anything. And I’ll tell you why that happened, because when I was young, ‘bout fourteen or fifteen, I used to play golf down the paddock; and when I was coming home one night I slipped when I hit the other side of the creek, and I sat on my [leg] and broke it, which I think I’ve told you. Anyhow, when this doctor came to fix me up it was a very cold frosty night, so they had another car there with the lights on so they could see me clearly; and they set my leg in the paddock there. In those days they just had a frame and they put that over your leg and then stuck it all together with sticking plaster and stuff, and it stayed there until your leg was knitted properly. [Chuckle] So I had that done, and the doctor said to me that night, he said, “You know lad”, he said, “your bones are just like chalk at the moment; it’s just broken” A piece had broken out of it up by my thigh there, and separate from the other bits. He said, “If I were you, from now on”, he said, “if you’re going to drink something, drink milk.” And I think that’s what happened; I was only fourteen then, and I think the milk did the trick. I’ve had milk ever since then, and I think that built my bones up and I’ve had nothing broken except my leg; but I sat on that … that was that night. And he was the one that told me that I should drink milk. “Don’t drink wine and stuff”, he said, “drink milk.” [Chuckle] So I did, I’ve never had much to drink at all in my life.
So are you a reader?
I was until my eyes got bad, and my eyes got bad a long time ago. And then I lost the sight of this eye, and that was only because Loughlin was the specialist for eyes … do you remember Loughlin?
Well he died, and between him dying and me getting another specialist was nearly a year, and during that year I lost the sight of this eye because the pressure was too high.
Mmm. So that was unfortunate. So once I lost that eye I finally lost my licence too, which was a terrible blow for me ‘cause I love driving. So I lost my licence because they reckoned that this eye wasn’t enough to cope with this eye gone, so that was that – I couldn’t argue the point. So that ended my driving career.
My great love of cars which as I say, I had eighty-eight altogether; I’ve got photos of them all. Then I got the Bathurst car; someone brought it back to New Zealand. A chap in Auckland bought it, and he used to do weddings and things with it and all flash. He used to come through to Thunder Park there, and of course he always beat me in my car ‘cause those cars were pretty fast. So I said to him one day, I said, “I can’t beat you, but perhaps you’ll sell me the car?” He said, “Oh, yeah, I might do that.” So we finally arranged for me to buy the car off him, and Evan took me up to Auckland. And when I got there he said, “Oh, I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to sell it.” I said, “What?!” I said, “I’ve got the money and everything for you, and made all this big trip up to Auckland.” He said, “Well I’ll tell you what”, he said, “the car’s got masses of spares that I’ve bought over the years. You’ll get the car but no spares.” [Chuckle] He says, “There’s quite a huge amount of value in the spares that I have bought over the years for it.” So I said, “Right”, so I gave him the money. Yeah, I think I paid $8,000 for it. And of course not long after, that same model car was winning just over $1million in Australia. It was amazing; absolutely amazing. ‘Cause all the miners bought those cars ‘cause they had the money; and then of course the mining collapsed, so they had masses of them to sell for a while. But I think everybody just wrecked them driving them too fast, or something.
That man that wanted all the spares … what was the use if he didn’t have the car to fit them on?
I don’t know. But just in case something went wrong with a car, he’d have spares. They weren’t a car you could just go and buy parts for.
But what use were they to him when he didn’t have the car any more?
Oh, I don’t know, I never worried about that; that was his worry. He’d sell them all, no doubt. Mmm. But that was his worry, not mine.
So I finally did get the car. We had a terrible trip back though, ‘cause he didn’t tell me it was running on aviation fuel, and I was just putting ordinary pump petrol on the way home. And it got to the stage where it would only just go and that’s about all – it was missing and everything.
And you must have been thinking, ‘What have I done?’ [Chuckle]
Yes, I know. Yeah, I got a bit of panic over it. Anyhow, I finally found that it should’ve been having top grade petrol; but I had a young chap that used to drive it for me, a mechanic; and he was a wonderful mechanic. So we had a bit of trouble with the motor, so he took the whole thing to bits himself – rebuilt the motor. And as that motor was in those cars then, it had all special pistons and special high compression … everything. So this mechanic of mine who was a real wizard, took all that stuff out and put all new pistons … Falcon pistons that you could put in any Falcon car … and renewed all that. But he was also a specialist on [in] tuning heads and getting the most out of a car. So he put it all together again with all the new – just ordinary Falcon parts – and he spent quite a bit of time himself on doing the head – the valves and all that. And as it turned out we were getting higher speeds out of it than they did before, so he was a great mechanic and a very good driver; he used to drive the Te Onepu Hill Climb for me. No, he was amazing.
So you were a member of the Hawke’s Bay Car Club then?
Yeah. Yeah. Mmm.
How many years were you a member?
Oh, for a long time, I don’t know. It’d be round about thirty years I think, altogether … at least.
So you would be one of the original members?
Yes, quite likely, yes. So I just love cars. And I’ve got an envelope in there with all those cars in it – just small photographs of them.
But then of course, at the finish there I bought the big car for Jess to race at Bathurst. And that’s the one that Rob and I finally did five runs of a hundred and forty-five miles a – why we did the five runs, we were trying to get it over the hundred and forty-five; [chuckle] but we couldn’t. It would just get to a hundred and forty-five and stay there; and that was it. We thought we’d get a hundred and forty-six out of it, just to nark them. [Chuckles]
Did you ever go to Bathurst?
No! I never went there, no. I always taped it, the whole thing, always did. No, I never went to Bathurst. Well, it was a matter of … partly [the] financial side of it; I’d have spent money that should’ve been going to the family. I was very strict about that sort of thing, so …
Mr Hewitt, thank you so much for giving me this time this afternoon; and I’m so proud knowing you and knowing how old you are, and your recipe for good health. So I’d like to thank you very much, and we wish you all the very, very best.
Original digital file
This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).
Commercial UsePlease contact us for information about using this material commercially.
Interviewer: Lyn Sturm