John Stewart (Stewart) Monteith (County Club) Interview

[No Introduction]

Im Stewart Monteith. I was born in Gisborne 1925. I shifted to Hawke’s Bay in 1953 when I got married, and in 1956 I became a member of the County Club. I’ve got two children, a son David and a daughter Prudence. I was farming.

I married Eve Donald in 1953. That’s when we shifted to Crownthorpe to live. I joined the County Club really because of friendship. I knew very little people in Hawke’s Bay at the time and joining the Club was a good move.

Now you asked me about snooker and billiards and one thing and another, and I have taken part in those things over the years. Club day for me was usually sale day, which used to be a Wednesday. You also asked about the servants at the Club, stewards as they were in those days. I do remember them. They were great chaps and when you went to the door … you wanted to go to the Club and you weren’t a member, you had to ring the bell and a steward would come and find who you wanted to see. We had a visitors’ room but I don’t remember that very much about because I didn’t use it after I became a member. There were card rooms and all that sort of thing there, reading rooms, but I was not a card player so I can’t give you much on those.

You also asked if wives were invited to the Club on occasions. Well they weren’t really, until about the 1970s and then we had a … what was once the reading room became a [an] entertainment room, that the women could go into and you could get them a drink if you wished.

You also asked about the macrocarpa bar. Yes I remember that, and that was all donated by Peter Grieve. He cut the timber down on his farm and it was beautifully done and put in. And the significance of this was that this bar was … that Albert Jensen was then the manager of the Club. He was proprietor of the Pacific Hotel prior to that, and he evidently had a bar of that shape at the Pacific. And when they were re-doing the Club that’s one of the things he asked for was the big circular bar.

Now you also asked here about meals served at the Club. Well we always got a lunch at the Club. You could always go and get a lunch at the Club. But different managers came and went ,and we had one there that was … had an experience of being a chef and they tried having meals on a Friday night and he was the chef. I think his name was Williams. I can’t tell you any more than that. But that had a bit of a rush on it for a while – it was quite successful for a short period and then it seemed to peter out. So that was given up.

[Can’t] tell you a lot more really. I still see quite a lot of the County Club chaps. I’m a member of the Havelock Club and quite a few of them joined there and that’s were I see them.

How about you tell us about what you can remember about the stewards?

Well the stewards I remember … was Dick Burfield. Another one was called Bert and another was called Snow. I don’t know their surnames. That all phased out – we ended up with women bar persons that served the lunches and what-have-you.

Can you give us a rough idea when that was, a date?

­I would think about the seventies really, at a guess.

Another thing I must mention about the Club is that – one thing I really looked forward to – every year they had a dinner and the wives were invited. At that stage the Club about five hundred members, so they were quite a big do. And as a young member, I remember the first time I went to the dinner it was in the billiard room, and they covered all the tops of the billiard tables with special boarding and all the food was served on the tables. That’s the only time I remember it being in the billiard room. As the numbers dropped in the membership they held the dinners in a different part of the Club.

Who were some of the local identities that you knew, may still be alive and may be a wee bit about … if you know … who they worked for, where they worked, what they did?

Eve: You could put the farming people into – well like the stock agents – they were very much [to] the fore too, because they used to come in afterwards, and you know, after hours. And that was a great social time wasn’t it for them?

Stewart: Another thing I remember is that we used to have snooker evenings. I’m not sure just when they were, was it once a month or what it was – but about five of us went in from the Crownthorpe area. And they were always played at night, so people took turns in taking their car. And that was discontinued too after a few years. And those chaps were Laurie Lowe, a farmer from Otamauri, Bert Treseder …

Eve: Well Ken’s a member – his son’s now a member.

Stewart: Yep, and Ken’s still a member of the Club. I can’t recall the other names, but so many of the people that I knew well at the Club unfortunately have all passed on. The members that I still see would be Campbell Jackson, an ex-farmer; Ken Treseder, also an ex-farmer; Peter Wilkinson – he used to farm at Tutira when I did; now Les Elvy, he was another chap who was a President of the Club – he’s into his ninety-first year. He’s still going, he lives at Taradale. He was a manager of the Seed Department in Loan & Mercantile.

And it’s just that someone’s told me that you mentioned the stock agents that came in?

Yes, there was lots of stock agents came in – Doug Grieve, Hawke’s Bay Farmers; Buster Craig was another Williams & Kettle’s man – he had something to do with the Seed Department. Yes, Athol Hutton, Jim Scotland – all Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ chaps. All these people are gone now but they were all businessmen in Hastings.

You mentioned that you still mix with some of the members at the …

I do.

at the Havelock North Club. Who are they?

Well that would be Campbell Jackson, Ken Treseder, Peter Wilkinson …

Eve: Occasionally Mick Small.

Stewart: Mick Small used to, yes. Michael Thomson, Rob Grant, Jim Harvey, people like that – yeah, all Hastings people.

You also mentioned earlier, which I don’t think we recorded, someone that you knew enjoyed playing cards … card room?

Oh, that was Treseder and Stan Small and Mick Thomson – they were very keen on their cards. There were other people that played cards but I can’t recall who they were now.

So it sounds like to me, the dinner was sort of like a highlight.


Very important event. Have you any other fond memories of things you did with any of these people, or because of your connection with the Club, or ..?

No, but in the eighties – I’m not just sure when we started it, but Bruce Tweedie, an ex-member of the Club – he’s passed on now – he was very good at organising trips. And we made several very good trips out to the different places. Well we went up with the rangers and four wheel drive vehicles – we drove right up to a very high point and saw a lot of country that a lot of people hadn’t seen before. Another time we went out to Cape Kidnappers and went all through the sections that they are fencing off for wildlife. They were great days. We also did a trip right up towards Puketitiri, crossed over through the forestry and came out towards Tutira, and stayed a night away. Another trip I think they did right up the coast to Te Puia, but I wasn’t on that one unfortunately. And we’ve got pictures of those. They were at the Club – I don’t know what happened to them – of the groups of people and the dates are on them. I don’t know if you got hold of those or not.

I don’t … I’ve no idea. Now these little bits you’ve added on about the tripping away and so on – I think it’s important. I think it’s good because it’s bringing … it’s not just a bald statement about the Club, it’s a bit more interesting – it’s bringing the people into it. ‘Cause that’s what the Club is for anyway, it’s for the people.

And they had a meeting there every month. That went on for quite some time.

So, would you like to say something about how closed it was to females, and how they – quite honestly, how they were treated, which was normal in those days but we would find very strange today.

I could say that I suppose, yeah. I know if you were at the Club and your wife was calling for you, you rang the bell and the stewards would answer the door. They were asked to wait there while they came and told you you were wanted. Women weren’t invited into the Club at that stage.

In fact they weren’t allowed over the threshold.

That’s right. As the Club changed they put in a ladies toilet and conveniences and things there, which wives were allowed to come into the Club and use. I just can’t tell you the dates of those either, but I would think about the seventies or something like that, those sort of things started to change.

Is there anything … I don’t mind if we have you talk because while it’s about the County Club, it could be worthwhile having your input as to how you found … the association, if I can put it … as a – almost excluded female from the Club. Because it was a reality.

Eve: Yes, it was – it was very difficult to get beyond the front door, but I must say they were always – it was done with such an aplomb that you know, you took it for granted that that was what it was. I was very pleased from my point of view when they did open it up, because it meant when you came in from the country – well, I could use the Club, and I could go in and wait for Stewart sitting in an armchair instead of standing on the doorstep or freezing in the car. So to me that was a big plus.

And later on the women gathered on Friday evenings – we had a group of us – our friends were one side of the river and we were the other, and there was equal numbers. And we had a lot of fun about the boundary of the river and how we enjoyed it, and then we always used to go off for a dinner afterwards at some restaurant before we went home. So that to me was the social side of the Club as well as the dinner. And I think the wives really enjoyed being included. Not every day – I mean we didn’t want to trespass into the men’s domain, which we didn’t have a chance to do, but the dinners and the social evenings was [were] a really good thing.

Stewart: They made teams up to challenge other Clubs. We used to play two Clubs in Napier – the RSA, and the Napier Club it must have been. Also they used to play the Waipukurau Club – I think they went down in the evening by bus for that. They were evidently a lot of fun. We still – we did play for a long time against Havelock and then that was for some reason stopped. And just before the Club closed we’d started up the challenge again. We also had town versus country and you put your name down to play. They were great nights.

Eve: Town always won.

Stewart: No they didn’t always win, no, no.

So the competitions were – bowls?

No, just snooker.

Okay. You didn’t have golf competitions between the Clubs?

Yes, they did – that’s something else they did. Chap Reid had a menswear shop in Heretaunga Street. He became a President of the Club and he was very keen on golf evidently, and they always played a Gary Reid Memorial Cup. And they played a golf tournament once every year out at Bridge Pa, and teams were made up for that.

And that was internal, rather than involving other Clubs, it was an internal …

No, just an internal thing. Yeah. You put your name down, yeah, and play someone at the Club. At times they got a professional billiard player would come to the Club and demonstrate shots and things, and play one of our better players.

Do you remember any of the names?

Yes, Eddie Charlton. He was an ex-professional. I think he might have been an Australian actually. Trying to think of some of the other ones that came. There were several of them, but his name sticks in my mind.

No that’s fine.

Original digital file


Additional information

Interviewer:  Leslie Morgan


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