Lawrence (Lawrie) Edward Cooke & Janice May Cooke Interview
Today is the 23rd June 2015. Today’s interview is Lawrie Cooke and Jan, his wife. They will be talking about the life and times of their family. Now Lawrie if you would like to start off with telling me where your folks came from and we’ll go from there.
Well my grandfather on the Cooke side came from a place called Broughton Astley in Leicestershire in England and my grandmother on that side came from Tasmania. She was Isabella Downs. Unfortunately she died when my father was 14. They lived in Hokitika. Two Cooke boys came out here in 1876 and one settled in Kaikoura eventually and the other one went to Hokitika.
On my mother’s side, my grandmother there was Mary Jane Woods and my grandfather came from Scotland and he was Robert Lawrence and they married down in Balclutha back in 1883.
Dad came from Hokitika and he came up from the West Coast or followed his father. His father was Clerk of Works down there – Ministry of Works – and he came up here and the family of four boys followed him up. There were five boys in Dad’s family and two of them, after their mother died, they were virtually out to work. And Dad stayed on down there with his aunty Marion.
They came up to Napier in 1902 I think it was, and they lived in Napier at the foot of the hill there, Craven Street [Terrace] for a while. And then when one of his brothers … eldest brother got married, they lived there in Bower Street with George and Ada, who was his wife, and the three big boys.
Dad became an apprentice to Bull Brothers at Port Ahuriri and became a joiner and cabinet maker and carpenter. He used to run over the hill every morning – get there by half past seven, so from Bower Street up over the hill. Became quite a harrier.
He and a couple of his brothers went to Sydney, or went to Australia in 1910. A chap called Snow Weller, and Denton Wyatt who had the bookshop, and Dad and a younger brother, Bob. We’ve got one of his diaries from there – it’s quite hilarious to read. He did a lot of work on Duntroon College when he was there, and he took on sort of an architectural school he studied at while he was there. We’ve still got some of his drawings – plan drawings – that he drew.
He came back and he set up himself, a workshop which he had at Elsthorpe behind McCauley’s store. And I was up there on my motor bike some years ago there and the old sign there was still there – Chas. E Cooke, Builder. And he lived with the Beacham family out there. His brother, Tom – elder brother – he lived up there too.
They both went to the First World War from Elsthorpe. We’ve got a diary of Dad’s that he wrote from the time he went to the camp just out of Palmerston – can’t think of it now.
No, No. Not Linton.
No. Out to the right. Anyhow I’ll give you a copy of that … from the time he left there ‘til the time they left in Wellington, and all the ports of call on the way to Suez, and that’s where the diary ended. But it was very full, very interesting to read.
He came back from the war – he survived. Survived the first battle and the second battle of the Somme, and then he got a shrapnel burn on his back but his brother Tom was killed by a short timed English shell. It dropped short and killed him. But Dad survived. He was on leave – he was in the Rifle Brigade, and was on leave … at Passchendaele … and actually in London so he missed out on that blood bath.
Came home after the war and he was invalided to Rotorua where a lot of the returned guys were in hospital up there. It was there that one of the nurses name was Ngaire, and when he eventually married my mother the first child came along and that’s … the girl’s name was Ngaire, and that’s my sister’s name. That’s where it came from.
My mother came up to Hawke’s Bay from Clinton where they lived down there, and she was one of ten in the family
That’s Clinton in Southland?
Yes. Place called Taumata where the home place was. Five of them seemed to explode out of the South Island, and I never really found the reason why they all moved up here. But a big family like that, there’s always a bit of skirmishing amongst them.
Mother moved up here, and she had worked as a shorthand typist in those days in Dunedin. But she moved up here because one of her brothers who was married up here found that his wife was a bit hopeless about looking after children. So she moved up here with the idea that she could look after those children – and that’s Keith and Ian Lawrence. Keith Lawrence had a farm up at Waimarie, and his son’s still got a farm up there now.
Anyway, she eventually boarded with Mrs Beech. And that’s the connection we had with the Lowes and the Mardon’s and the Hill family. ‘Cause Mrs Beech’s sisters were Mrs Lowe, Mrs Hill and Mrs Mardon, and of course then a great friendship sprang up with my mother and Ally Mardon, who became a District Nurse. And that was a lifelong friendship.
Mother got a job here – after initially looking after these two boys – got a job in Horton’s Nursery and she worked in the office there for quite a few years, virtually ‘til the time that the nursery wound up – I think about 1926 or something.
Just where was that nursery?
The nursery was in Lyndhurst Road right opposite the end of Nottingley Road. That’s where the offices were and the buildings are still there – or one of the buildings is still there. And ‘course Hortons became the biggest nursery in the southern hemisphere. They had the whole of either side of Lyndhurst Road, the whole of Frimley Park – that big playing field – it was all in trees. And there’s two or three older houses there, there’s one right at the top of the road – that one’s not there now, but there were two houses up there, they were both Horton houses, two storey house. And then further down the road on the right there’s a house there that Neil Manning had for a while with a tiled roof, opposite the park. And then right down the end of the road there was Phil McKay’s place. That was a Horton house too.
Tommy Horton was a very good nurseryman and he trained a lot of people. A lot of the old time people around here, orchardists and that, had worked there and of course one person in particular who worked there was Donald Wilson. He had trained there.
Well, that nursery eventually belonged to someone else at the end didn’t it? It moved away … because I know we used to get our tomato plants from the nursery there.
Oh, that was another nursery there. What’s his name?
No, no – Downer was at the top of Nottingley Road. Ray ..?
Jan: Oh, McCallum. Keith.
Oh, of course, yes.
Arthur Butcher established a nursery there but that wasn’t really attached to Hortons.
But Horton’s – the height of their business time was sort of about the time of 1914 when they had a ship load of trees going over to Chile and the Argentine. They sold most of their trees over there. And most of the trees in Mercury Hills in Nelson came from Horton’s Nursery. But they were in such a big way that they’d load a full ship. David Hagerty’s got some photos that belonged to his father and his grandfather before that, of the grey loads of apple trees all packed up going over to the shipping line. It was quite amazing. I haven’t got any actual photos of Horton’s themselves, but I’ve seen some of them of about thirty people out in a paddock digging apple trees. And that’s virtually behind where Ray McCallum used to live out there.
Because these apple trees for export would have all been bagged, wouldn’t they?
No, no. They were wrapped in the same method as Wilsons used to use – the big bundles with raupo round the outside. They cut raupo in big loads up in the swamp.
My mother married Dad and for a start they lived in Napier up in Enfield Road – built a big house up there.
Jan: They were married in Dunedin.
At the time of the earthquake they were back in Southampton Street here. Dad was actually building a garage at the time and he got thrown off the roof in the earthquake. And he managed to get home. And they weren’t very far away from Central School. The house is still there. Anyway, he built another house, or built a couple of houses in Fitzroy Avenue. I was actually born in Pepper Street. The story goes that – Dr Bathgate was the doctor – he was attending to my mother, and Dad’s outside chopping kindling. Dr Bathgate came out to Dad and said “oh, Charlie – don’t you want to know what’s going on?” He had a heap of kindling so high. [Chuckle] “You’ve got a son”. That was me.
In 1931 – well I was a shaken up kid, so …
Jan: Just after the earthquake.
I was born 4th May 1931, so I missed the earthquake. As I grew up I could see some of the things that happened from there. But we shifted then to 909 Fitzroy Avenue and that was where most of my younger days … oh, for ten or eleven years we lived there, and we had a lot of fun round there with the local guys. There was a big paddock behind us and no other houses. Wasn’t ‘til the 1940s that they started to break that area in for housing so we had a lot of fun in the paddock. One of the vivid memories I have was running round on the back lawn and my mother had put the washing out on the clothes line and the people trained horses. They had race horses in the paddock and one was the Goshawk and one was the Hawk. The trainer … they were down Frederick Street corner – Mahora – where they trained race horses. Anyway these race horses were galloping round the paddock and stirring the cattle up and everything. I could see a cattle beast jumped the fence and stuck in behind the house, in between the house and the fence. But one memory in particular was Mum washed the clothes and had my underpants up on the clothes line and this darned horse leaned over the fence and grabbed my underpants off the line and chewed them up to a green ball.
But we had a lot of fun those days. The roadsides there were long grass of course in the summer and one of the tricks the kids out there was tying the grass together and you’d trip over it when you ran through it … real trap. The Tweedie boys were down the road, Ian Stirling down the road, so they were good mates. We had a quarter acre section there.
My father at that stage did a lot of country work building, sometimes up at Taihape and some all round the country … Crownthorpe – so he was away and it left my mother and I to put the potatoes in and dig the garden and that sort of thing and I think that’s where it started me off as sort of green fingers. I can recall, about six I had my own garden – the lettuces, and the onions – a thousand onion plants, I’d go round and buy them and plant them up. Carrots, parsnips, everything … and the potatoes. We didn’t have television or anything like that, didn’t even have a radio, so that kept us busy at home. There were lots of friends round and we had some great games there making hills and waterfalls … ride your bike up the hill and down through the water. Kept us amused.
Did you play any sports?
Not at that stage, I was only young then, but I became quite a water rat. Mahora baths weren’t far away and I learnt to swim fairly quickly and Dad was a very good swimmer. He had lots of medals that he earned before he went to the war. And my sister was a good swimmer so yes, we spent a lot of time at Mahora baths. That reflected a little bit later on when I was 50 odd … 54 or something – I did a diving … under water scuba course. And – Mahora baths I could swim two lengths under water – they were twenty five yard lengths and I learnt to do that – as I say I was like a water rat. Doing the scuba course at the baths at Frimley Park there – that’s where we did our training. And this night the trainer said “well, I want you all to remember – just relax and just follow me, and we’ll swim as far as we can under water.” Well it was a fifty metre course then, and so in we went and the trainer sort of got two thirds of the length down and he looks up to see this old bloke beside him. That was me. He said he couldn’t believe his eyes. [Chuckle] We had a lot of fun at Mahora. I can remember coming home from the baths one day – it was the 31st of December. Dad came out to the gate and said “Where you been? You been at those baths again?”. “Yes.” “I’m not going to let you go to the baths again this year”, and I burst out in tears and balled my eyes out. Then I suddenly realised it was the 31st of December.
And so obviously in those days you were at Hastings Boys’ High?
What happened – Mum and Dad moved around a lot … a lot of houses around here. There was one in Stortford Street there next to the Bank, that was one of Dad’s houses. One in Southampton Street, a couple more in Massey Street, two in Fitzroy Ave. The war came along and …
Jan: 2nd World War.
That was the 2nd World War. In 1941 they sold the house to people by the name of Burnham, and we – unfortunately – moved into Buckingham flats – 4 Buckingham Flats in Heretaunga Street. Well that had a concrete yard and that was all, and me being used to having gardens, it drove me silly. But I was lucky enough Mrs Beacham had moved to town and there was a bit of garden there I could use. The Flemings – Bob Fleming’s parents – they took our chooks. So eventually the chooks were moved to Aunty Beacham’s place and I had a bit of garden there but that wasn’t really as good as I liked. And finally, while we were in … Horton’s were over the road in Heretaunga Street, and Dad had dealings with them – they were plumbers, they had a big yard there, and I got over there and dug up the yard there and had my garden there, which was quite successful. ‘Til come along winter, and those days they were digging air raid shelters everywhere, and ‘course the convent school dug an air raid shelter next door, and we had a lot of rain and it flooded my garden, and all the potatoes went rotten. But that kept me going and I was happy.
But it wasn’t ‘til … I kept going to Mahora from there on my little bike, and it wasn’t ‘til 1945 that I started school at Napier Boys’ High School. What happened then was that I spent a lot of time out at the Clarksons’ place between Crownthorpe and Sherenden. They bought it on … actually on Sherenden. Big farm, a thousand acres.
Is this Philip Clarkson?
The Clarkson boys, they were only hill farmers in those days. I learnt to ride a horse out there – I learnt just about everything actually. I learnt to scrub cut, and to chop blackberries, milk a cow, separate, feed out, I could do a lambing beat. I did everything. I absolutely loved it. That’s what I wanted to be … a farmer. I spent most of my school holidays out there, and at Easter time I’d be out there – I’d go out there on the back of Sherwood’s truck up in the hay. They’d go out there on Tuesdays and Fridays, and I’d get a ride out there with Keith [?] and oh, I did just about everything. Made some good friends out there. Later on we moved from Buckingham Flats to Knight Street and they rented a house there.
While I was out at Clarksons’ on the first holidays of my 3rd form year, it was a dry autumn. And it’d been a wet summer then the dry autumn, and the long grass – great for sledging down the hill. And two of us got out there on the Sunday … first Sunday of the holidays. Another boy who worked out there got on the little sledge, and he went first and he fell off, because the grass was so slippery and this was a decent sort of slope. Then it was my turn and I get going and I’m going brilliantly, until I hit the sheep track. Then my leg shot out straight in front and … snap. And there I lay. Never forget the crack and the pain of it – though I couldn’t move, I knew what had happened. So eventually they got the neighbours over and a wire rope stretcher and they got me on that thing and carted me back up the hill and took the front seat out of the old Vauxhall Tourer car there, a big old square thing, and got me into hospital where I had my leg set in plaster right up to my hips – right up here. They didn’t have any walking things or anything in those days, and I eventually came home and that was the very day that the war ended in Europe – I remember it very distinctly. Came home to the Buckingham Flats. The first night the plaster on my leg hadn’t really set and I was in agony, but after that it was all right. But I had that plaster on for sixteen weeks. I couldn’t walk – everywhere they took me I had to be sort of carried. Eventually Dad made castors on a chair with a board on, and I could push myself round with that. But there was no such thing as crutches for that sort of break. Whenever I had to go to the fracture clinic they’d get the ambulance and put me in that. But eventually it was all set.
About that stage we moved to Knight Street. But I was in plaster for those three months – four months ‘til the day of … VE Day – VE Day was virtually when I broke my leg, and VJ Day was when I got the plaster off.
Jan: You were at Napier Boys’ …
In between times I had been at Napier Boys’ for that first term. The middle term I missed completely. Then we moved to Knight Street and when the third term started I went to Hastings High School.
Jan: Played rugby there.
Those days I had to walk to school, and I’d take a short cut through the racecourse and over the railway line and eventually old S I Jones would see me walking down there ‘cause I couldn’t ride the bike at that stage. He’d give me a ride to school. But it was really at Hastings High School that I made a lot of friends.
Eventually for next year … by that time my leg had healed up and I was pretty good. Those holidays we spent a lot of time at Clifton and I made great friends with Stanley’s out there, they had the store and looked after the camping ground. Max Stanley and I became great mates and of course fishing out there was great. We only had a row boat and we’d row out behind the reef and catch moki and snapper and set lines. Had a marvellous time with Max. I’d go back out to Clarksons’ in the holidays.
But while we were at Fitzroy Avenue, the next door neighbours were Jack Agnew, and of course he set up Agnew Refrigeration and Dad worked there. When the war came along he was stuck there as ‘essential work’. But I used to go out to Mangateretere to take Agnew’s father’s place, Exmoor, where the Research Station is. I’d go out there on my little bike and John Agnew, Jack’s father, and Doug, Jack’s brother … I made great friends with them and they looked after me and took me all round and did all sorts of things. In the summer I learnt to feed the wire into the stationary baler, take the balls out, put the wire in, tie it up. I learnt to stack hay. I learnt the smoko – getting the smoko out to the guys working in the paddock. So I had a lot of fun there. Old John Agnew was quite a character. He’d get me out on the dray with old Betty the draught horse going along. And he’d laugh like mad. He’d get me to say “woah Betty, woah Betty”, [chuckle] and he’d laugh his head off. So I’d get on my bike – I’d ride out there on my own – had a lot of fun out there.
Well, those days were any of the McEwen’s working at the farm, or was it just Doug?
No it was just Doug. It was Doug actually in his courting days, he was courting Margaret Campbell. Funny enough we saw their graves in the cemetery on Friday. Doug and his Allis Chalmers tractor. Up on the Mill with them. So those are some of the things that happened then.
High School – Boys’ High – yeah, I played rugby. Barracks was quite a good week at the start of the year.
Jan: The sports cupboard ..?
Yeah, in the 6th Form year Harry Baker and I ran the sports cupboard, where we just had all the sporting gear at the back of the hall and we eyed all the girls going into school every day. We could stay in the sports cupboard and watch all the girls going to assembly. We didn’t have to go to assembly.
Oh, didn’t you? My goodness you were privileged.
Yeah. And we could arrive a little late too sometimes, but Chook Fowler’d be looking at us a wee bit. I remember one day we were in there that Des Thompson and myself and Harry and two or three others – we used to change for rugby in there. And I’m half getting my rugby shorts on and there’s a knock on the door. And Harry opens the door and gets “looky, looky, look at Cookey”. And it’s Chook Fowler, wanting the rugby ball. [Chuckle] Yeah, the 6th Form was a bit of a learning curve. We sort of grew up quite rapidly after that. 6th Form parties were quite fun.
Time to leave school and I couldn’t see any future in me pursuing a farming career, although I had School Certificate and University Entrance. And really I had the idea I’d go to Massey and do something there. But in between time Stanley Rockle was the Careers Master and he suggested I go and see Mr Wilson of Wilson’s Nurseries because they took on cadets, so-called. So I went down there eventually, and I got a job down there and I started work on the 16th of January 1950. And having learnt to work out at Sherenden and do all that it wasn’t any great challenge to do things. I remember the first day was chop hoeing weeds down a row, and they could grow good weeds. I managed to break three hoe handles the first day. [Chuckle] But soon you learnt to settle down and eventually, come end of January, budding season started so Mr Wilson gets me out there. He says “this is how you do this, boy”. ‘Course he was left handed. “This is how you do this, and this is how you tie them”. And I’m tying them – a certain tie depth. That’s when he showed me again. “This is how you do it”. And he was left handed. He said “Good Lord, boy – you’re cack-handed”. But he was amazing with a knife in the left hand. He could cut bud wood with a left hand and cut it on to this thumb and not cut himself. Quite amazing. So I was lucky there to tie wood. Eventually I got apprenticed there.
Jan: They were tied with rattan and that.
Well, just before you start your apprenticeship, when did you buy a fishing rod? Because that’s one of the sports that you obviously had taken up, or was thinking about taking up.
Having Max Stanley as a neighbour at Clifton, I got out there as many times as I could during weekends and Christmas holidays and that. Even at Easter.
Jan: How old were you then?
By then I was twelve, fourteen. They had an old boat out there that they’d pulled out of the lagoon at Te Awanga. But it was very sound, it was kauri. And eventually about 1945, we refurbished the boat … in 1946 in the winter, and put new planking around the outside, modernised it. It was only 13ft 6in, but it was a carvel boat. We put a Villiers motor in it. We’d always talked about “wait till we go to the Cape, fishing out at the Cape’s great – we’ll go there.” We’d only gone out behind the reef and caught our fish there. New Year’s Eve 1946 we went out to Black Reef and I caught my first blue cod and I was thrilled with that. In those days we fished with hand lines. Anyway on the next day, New Year’s Day, right we were all going to the Cape. There was Max, myself, an old guy called Percy Williams who was a Model T expert, who was on because a lot of stuff in the boat – the drive shaft from the Model T steering column and the stuffing box was Model T. And the other guy who was there was Fred Stanley. Fred eventually became the …
He was in the Navy at that time. Yeah, the sextant at the cemetery. We went out there, chugged off round the Cape, round the other side there off Flat Rock, and moved around a bit, picked up the oars and moved a bit further and found another spot and stopped in there. Well we had the most fabulous day’s fishing. I can still remember it very clearly.
Jan: Couldn’t be 1945 in Clifton.
Blue cod … we had three sugar bags of blue cod, and we caught two at a time. We had five big red snapper, and we had five … when we brought them back, we had hundred weight scales, and they wouldn’t weigh them. We only got the head off the ground. Unfortunately I haven’t got any photos to back that up but Fred Stanley took some photos and we’ve never been able to get them.
Do you know George Stanley? Young George … his father was a brother. Wes Stanley?
Wes Stanley was Max’s father.
The one that used to have the Municipal Theatre.
That was Wes’s brother.
That’s right. You were fishing … because you were fishing with the Stanley family, this obviously introduced you to the thrill of fishing.
I’ve always been keen on fishing, used to go – when we lived in Fitzroy Avenue Dad used to like going fishing, and we’d get on our bikes and ride the bikes out to the mouth of the Tutaekuri there in Napier, and fish there. And ‘course there were big concrete slabs there we used to fish off. They were put in there to sort of control the river mouth. Even in those days I’d dive in and swim across the mouth of the river to the other side and come back. But we’d get herrings and that there – quite good fish.
But we used to go to the old Glasgow wharf in Napier and fish there. We had a lot of fun fishing there. Go through in the bus – the old bus – and go down to the wharf and fish through the holes in the – square holes in the wharf. I’d fish through there, but two or three times the fish I’d hooked there, couldn’t get them up through the holes. [Chuckle] No, I had a fair break in on fishing there, but Clifton and those fish we caught out there that time – we had four days like that. Max and Fred and Percy and I went out two days – in fact had two days’ fishing and my fingers swelled that much with crayfish bites, I’d have a day off. They went out and got some more, then on the Friday Percy and I went out and we did the same thing, just the two of us. It was just absolutely marvellous. Absolutely. No, we had a lot caught there.
And ‘course the other thing we did with Max in winter time – there were goats and rabbits round the corner in those days. You could shoot rabbits underneath the cliffs, but then we’d get up on top and shoot goats off the cliffs. But we tramped … Max and I tramped all over the Kidnappers shooting goats. By that stage I was fifteen and I was allowed to have a rifle and Max had one, and – man, we shot some goats.
However, eventually Max married Audrey and they built a little cottage out at Middle Yards and I used to go out there – I’d go out to Clifton and stay the night and walk round the beach in the morning, up Rabbit Gully and stay the weekend with Max and Audrey at the Middle Yards where they built the cottage then come back down the Rabbit Gully track on Sunday night. I’m coming down the track this Sunday night – it was pretty dark and I missed the right track to start with and I had to turn round and go back, and got on the right track. And I was in quite a hurry, and there was a big kanuka tree just overhanging the track. Just as I got to it a possum cackled at me. [Cackles loudly] I think I cleared the ground by about six feet and I was gone. [Chuckle] But I think my mother would have had kittens completely if she’d realised that I was walking around under those cliffs. You never knew when they were going to fall down.
Oh, I know – never thought about it.
No. So I had some great sport out there with that family.
And of course during the week I was working for Wilsons. I learnt to bud very quickly that first year. I worked with a couple of guys – one English guy called Charlie Palmer, and he’d trained in Reading in England so he was quite a good help for me. I had to tie for him while he budded. And then there was another old guy that trained Donald Wilson – a guy called Joe Brown. He was an Aussie. He was a great old guy actually. He was quite frail but he’d been the foreman at Hortons. He knew all about Tommy Horton and Jack Tomlinson who actually took over Horton’s Nursery. So I had a very good basis of training from those two guys. I’ve still got some labels out in the shed there, that … Joe Brown used to write all his labels. They’d paint the wood with paint … while they were wet he’d do this beautiful script writing for the names on the labels. I’ve got a couple out in the shed. Lovely, lovely hand – beautiful.
Jan: Tied with raffia?
At the end I’d be tying the other guy’s … Charlie Palmer’s … leg in. I was keeping up with him tying with raffia. Raffia was quite hard on your fingers, and you’d soak it to start with so it had a little bit of flex in it and you had to make it squeak. If you were making it squeak you knew you were tying well. Eventually old Joe Brown, who was a lot quicker than the others – “you’re going to tie for me, boy”. So I tied for him. And Joe didn’t come to work until half past nine in the morning, so I was allowed to bud on my own for that hour and a half and that got me going. After that year, the next year, I was a full time budder. There was another young guy too that worked there … he was a very good boy – Vin Simonson. He was a very good budder, but unfortunately Vin and his brother used to go deer stalking, and they were deer stalking up the top of the Tukituki and it rained overnight and the river came up in flood. Vin couldn’t swim. They crossed the river and he got drowned. So that was quite a sad effect. So I sort of popped up then – I was the budder – from then on I was budding.
From then on it’s history.
Yeah. [Chuckle] But of course after two years or so Peter Pattullo came along as an apprentice. He was under me and I taught him to bud. Peter and I have been mates ever since.
Wilsons – certainly their quality of trees and … they grew good trees, but it wasn’t only fruit trees I learnt there, it was shrubs and propagating and cuttings and all that sort of thing. I was always a bit sad that I didn’t do as much propagation side of things as I wanted to, because they always had somebody else there, but I learnt enough doing that, and potting and all those sort of things. Did a lot of pricking out of tomato plants and that was all just getting the technique right and getting the speed up. You get along pretty quickly. But shrubs, trees and that – when Peter came along it was quite good, we could go out and challenge each other. We’d go for a ride in a car or something and – “What’s that tree? What’s that tree? What’s that tree?” and we’d usually get a name for it. I don’t think I could do it exactly now.
I had four and a half years at Wilson’s, and while I was at Wilson’s Peter came from Raukawa [noise on audio] every day on his little Champion motor cycle – it was sort of 2 stroke. He came fresh out of Christ’s College and he had a lot of school ditties that he used to tell me and that was quite fun. But we got on pretty well together, but Peter was very friendly with a school teacher out at Raukawa, and eventually the school teacher’s sister was married to Ian Tustin. And Ian at that stage had a berry farm in Kaiapo Road and he’d just started to be a bit interested in growing roses. And he had a few roses there growing. At that stage he wanted some budding done so we went along there and did quite a bit of budding for him and eventually, about August/September that year, I finished at Wilson’s and went and worked for Ian Tustin and set up his nursery business that he ran there for a while. At that stage Stuart was a little guy of about three. I’ve told this story quite a bit – Stuart thought I was going to tell it the other day. But Stuart had little red slippers with bells on them, and a blue dressing gown, and this day he was all ready for bed and Ian and I were getting the bordeaux oil mixed up to spray the raspberries the next morning. So we were just outside in the shed there, and we got it all mixed up and it was lovely and blue and – “oh, that’ll be right, that’ll be ready for first thing in the morning to spray the raspberries”, and turned around and Stuart had got a pannikin out of the smoko room, and he’d dunked it in the stuff and was drinking the bordeaux mixture.
And that’s when I’ll say ‘that’s why he hasn’t grown.’
Jan: That’s why he’s so short.
It’s a wonder it didn’t burn his stomach out.
No. It was beautifully blue. Ian did a panic and turned him upside down and shook him, but … [Chuckles] Yeah. So that’s why on a couple of occasions I’ve had to tell that story. [Chuckles]
So yeah, we set Stuart up. He ended up quite nicely there and we expanded. I learnt how to grow raspberries and boysenberries, and he eventually planted a block of golden queens and black boys up the back so they were all developed. I’d learnt to prune a little bit at Wilsons with another guy that was there, but when I went to Tustin’s … by then my mother and father had bought a section in Karaitiana Road, and my mother in her wisdom told me that “you can buy the other section” so I bought the other one. She had me paying it off at so much a week. £350 I think it was for the section.
We eventually shifted from Knight Street round to Karaitiana Road, but unfortunately my father took ill at that stage and he was very sick. He had a twisted bowel and a growth and hernia and everything altogether – peritonitis – so he ended up in hospital over here, and I’d started working in Tustin’s and they called me up from the hospital and said “well, he’s not going to last the day.” Dr Bathgate came in and looked at him and said “you’re ashen grey.” They gave him some blood and the colour came back in his face and they took him back next day and finished the operation and they couldn’t finish it. He was pretty tough. He lived another twenty five years after that. Lived to 88.
Anyway the Tustin’s developed round there. And about that stage I had that section and I started to do a little bit of work around there and I planted the section in asparagus seed, which was … Wattie’s at that stage were planting asparagus – big areas. And I was still working at Tustin’s. And that was the year of the very high potato price, and Ivan Bradshaw had potatoes in between the peaches up the back of Tustin’s which was just straight through here. And Ivan dug the potatoes. They were £100 a bag – it was a terrific season. And I’d seen the potato digging well here, and I said to Ivan “how about you coming and picking some asparagus for me?” “Yeah,” he said “I’ll come and pick them for you”. So he brought the machine round, and … I always thought Ivan a great guy. And he just came round and dug the asparagus plants for me, they were all shaken up – I had to sort them off and off they went to …
So that was the start of my nursery career in some ways. I still continued on working at Tustin’s and I grew a few seedlings and budded peaches in the back yard, Karaitiana Road. And of course Ian expanded more down Kaiapo Road – he had a couple of leased blocks there. And by that stage Peter had joined me there too. And we gave Ian a oh, a couple of years, two and a half years I suppose – I was there from about middle of ’54 to sometime after ’57 – I think I might have been three years at Tustin’s.
But in the meantime while I was there, I started to establish a little sideline nursery there – asparagus plant was a good thing and I built up a few relationships with people around the country, and the asparagus plants was quite a good thing. And then of course Wattie’s were wanting a lot and I leased an acre and a half of ground in Nottingley Road off the Jobeys. And it was ground that had never been cropped before, it was lovely. I put rose stocks in there, and that was good – Ian was very pleased about that. He had a contract for growing roses with Woolworths, they were one year roses. And you could plant the stock and bud them round January, and cut them off end of January and shoot them, and you could get the rose eighteen inches high, and in this case they did marvellously like two year old plants. So that was very good. Ian had this order for Woolworths so – way we go and dig all those, and Peter had some roses and I had some, so we dug them all out between us. And the two of us worked together and got them all out and had them ready for sale. Ian Tustin came along and said “Woolworths have cancelled the order.”
Oh! You’re joking!
And we were a bit annoyed about this I tell you. I thought ‘I can’t believe this’. I’m not going to get beaten. We’ve got them all dug, we can’t just put them back in for next year – which could have been done, but that wasn’t what we were going to do. So I went up – I thought ‘oh, I’ll go up and see the manager at McKenzies.’ He said – he was a little short guy, and he said “I’ll come out and have a look.” He came out and had a look at them. He said “if you do what you do and put them in those plastic bags like that, we’ll have a go at it.” We sold the whole damn lot. [Chuckle] Which was about fifteen thousand I think, between the two of us. Sold them all through McKenzies.
That would have been pennies from heaven.
So when we finished doing that Ian Tustin rings up and says “when are you coming back?” I said “Ian, after what’s happened I’m not coming back”. “Oh, oh, oh …” But we knew that Ian had got another guy from England. Didn’t tell us, but this guy was coming. We thought ‘well, it’s time we moved.’ We set him up, and in the meantime Peter had bought some land in Farmlet Road and I’d got this other block, so I thought ‘well that’s it.’ Peter stayed on for a while but I said “no, I’m not coming back.”
Funnily enough I got the roses going quite well there and got a few other trees going as well. Blow me down the guy that Ian supplied a lot to was Doug Webb. Doug Webb saw these roses and came and said “I’ll take the lot”. So for two or three years old Doug Webb would bring his cheque book round. And I started to grow a few standard roses, and Doug Webb didn’t like that, but he was still taking the bush roses from us. Anyway, I sort of looked between the lines and thought ‘well I’d better start building customer base for myself not just one person.’ So I managed to get a few others. From then I was full time on my own.
So what age would you have been then?
Twenty one … twenty two.
Now at some stage or other you will have met Jan.
When you meet Jan then, we’ll get Jan to introduce her side.
I grew quite a lot of asparagus plants. I started to grow peach trees. At that stage I was still playing a bit of rugby. Mike Crooks was a great mate of mine. Mike got a job – he came out of Department of Agriculture in Nelson and he got a job at Wattie’s under Bob June. And funnily enough Bob June had been pestering me for the same sort of thing. ‘Cause Bob tried to get me interested in growing tomato plants. And I wasn’t over-keen about that – it meant a lot of different work. But I looked into it, and worked out that Webb’s were doing tomato plants, and Bob was a bit inclined to say “well, we’ve had enough of Webb’s. Had enough of the crowd in Napier and we want somebody else to grow for us.” Anyway, talking to Mike and that, he took a lot of asparagus plants. I went out and helped Wattie’s with their research stuff. They’d bought that block out at Brookfields. In between the asparagus plants there they had the vegetable trial round there which I ran for a couple of years. Just part time, and when I wasn’t busy I’d go out there and sow the seeds and they’d harvest them and check and see which ones were which.
One of the other jobs I did while I was out there was to walk through those asparagus blocks and look for asparagus that had multiple scales on them. Scale is the start of the seed head, but some of them had lengths like that – had no scales on them so they didn’t have a very good … big … return. But if you got one that had multiple ones like that, low branched, that was the one they were after, and we’d count the spears on that and mark it. Yeah, I walked for days walking through those blocks – there was thirty or forty acres – looking for those things. We got some very good plants out of them. They were planted up in the garden, one of Wattie’s manager’s blocks. And after all that work some clown went and ran the discs through them.
Oh, you’re joking!
I did that, and I had quite a good relationship with Bob of course. Bob was a member of the vestry at church – St Matthew’s. I used to prune the roses there for him, and I’d go out there and help with buddings and stocks they had and that sort of thing. So that sort of started me off in the nursery business completely. I did a little bit of work in the season down at Mardon’s. Like you were there packing once or twice too.
Yes, that’s right.
I’d go down – Percy would be on the grader and …
And Nell would be somewhere.
Yeah. Listening to the horses. “Pull those bins down, pull those bins down.” He’d look up and the bin would be full. So I learnt to pack down there. I learnt to prune more down there than anywhere with old Sid Carrington. And he was another guy that learnt his time at Hortons. He worked for Tommy Horton. And he was able to tell me a lot about him. Tommy Horton went broke, and he wasn’t supposed to start up anywhere else and he started up where Wilson’s Nurseries were, and they booted him out because he wasn’t allowed to start up. And Donald Wilson took that block, that’s how he started. Tommy Horton went to Pukekura Park he became Curator of Pukekura Park. He was responsible for planting all those trees over there.
I started out there and of course Mike Crooks and I were pretty good mates, and we’d go fishing out of … by that time we’d moved from where we lived in Karaitiana Road. My mother and father sold that place. Dad had been crook again. He had a hernia and in the meantime they sold the place to Dr Young – and he was the guy that sewed Dad up – fixed him up. And we moved out to the Horrocks’ out at Omahu Road. They were sort of family friends through the Flemings, ’cause Mrs Horrocks and Mrs Fleming were sisters, and we lived there for four years. And it was at that stage I developed the nursery in Lyndhurst Road. And Mike and I were pretty good mates and … got invited to Mike’s wedding, of course. He married …
Jan: This is when I should come in. He married Susan Creighton.
Anyway, Wattie’s manager Gibbie MacMillan and I were pretty good friends. Did you know Gibbie?
He managed No 1 farm. We were pretty good friends and we went along to the wedding, and had a few drinks – had a lot of fun. Anyway, this is where Jan comes in.
Jan: I was invited to [noise on audio] Mike Crook’s wedding because we were next door neighbours to his bride, Susan Creighton. And the funny thing about me actually going is that my Dad had died just a year or so before, and Mr & Mrs Creighton had some discussion as to who they were going to put on the wedding invitation … on my mother’s invitation to the wedding. Should it be my older brother as her escort, or should it be me being the only daughter. And they had two different opinions as to who was going to go on this invitation. Mr Creighton wanted to put my name on it and Mrs Creighton wanted to put my brother’s. Well apparently the invitations were being written and Mr Creighton happened to have Mum’s invitation in his hand so he put my name on it. So that’s how I happened to be at this wedding.
Lawrie: It was May 1959.
May 1959 it was. So that’s how we met because he was with this rather jolly Gibbie MacMillan and they’d had a few drinks. And we ended up – oh, I was just a young … what was I seventeen? And we ended up at somebody’s flat … Peter Somebody’s – the lawyer. Somehow I was taken along with the young ones, anyway. And they decided that we were all going to go to a dance at the Premier Hall. And – “oh, who are we going to put Jan with to go to this dance? Oh – Lawrence Cooke. He’s alright, he’ll be okay. She’ll be safe with him” or some such words. [Chuckle] And that was the beginning of the romance. It was quite unexpected. [Chuckle]
Well, just going back a few steps. Where your folks came from, and if you just come through, because you’re part of …
From now on I fit in.
My Dad was born in Scotland in a little place called Larkhall which is just south of Glasgow. He came out as a twelve year old with the family, and they came and settled Hastings – Mangateretere first and then various places in Hastings …
Lawrie: They came out and settled with friends on the corner of Lawn Road and Napier Road. [Speaking together]
Jan: Mangateretere Road and Lawn Road. They were relations actually … the connection, a cousin. He went to Parkvale School … didn’t go to High School. Trained to be an electrician at Loach & Price in Napier. He used to go through on the train and this is how he actually met my mother. My father was Alexander Lindsay. My mother was the only one of her family. Her name was May White. She had six sisters and one brother. Sisters were all named after flowers and Mum was May, and she was the only one of her family who went to High School. She was a fairly intelligent young girl. She was dux of Havelock Primary School in 1922 and had the scholarship to go to Napier Girls’ High School for a year. And it was while they were both travelling on the train to Napier, Mum as a thirteen year old and Dad as a fifteen year old I would think, that they actually met. But I don’t think … Mum talks about hating Alec [chuckle] at one stage, and there’s a photograph in an album of hers when he’s about sixteen years old, and she’s torn it out as if she’s getting rid of this photograph. However, they eventually got together and were married in 1935 at St Andrew’s Church in Hastings.
Then, of course you had one brother, was it?
I had two brothers, David and John. I had an elder brother, David, and he was born when Mum and Dad lived in Goddards [Goddard] Lane in Havelock. And the house there was quite old I imagine, and it didn’t have a toilet. And it was in the days when the night cart used to come and take away the night soil, I think they called it. And then when David was just some months old they moved to Te Aute Road which is where we all lived and I still lived in that house until Lawrence and I were married.
Dad worked for the Borough Council … the Town Board maybe. Oh, first of all he worked at Mokopeka Station at Maraetotara, then he worked on an orchard at Grasmere that his younger brother owned. It was a rehab block. Bill, his brother Bill. John Sunley took that orchard over. He was custodian of the Havelock swimming pool on and off, and was very involved with the swimming club. He used to judge the diving and he taught us all to swim. I did quite a bit of swimming in my teenage years and before.
So my older brother David ended up in broadcasting – he worked for the radio station here. Eventually went to Wellington and my younger brother John, who was a baby boomer born in 1945 after the war – he worked at Morrison’s Industries for quite some time. Very, very good at his music. He was in several bands. Played the rhythm guitar and sang, and he lives locally here in Meeanee.
Yes, I always remember your father, and I’ve mentioned this to you before, when he was working for the Town Board. He used to mow all the verges …
Oh, did he?
… and the park in – Domain, it was called, you know, across from the old school – with a 3ft sickle bar Gravely mower. And they’d wait until the grass was about this long before they mowed it in the spring, and then us kids used to tie these things into ropes and then belt hell out of one another with it. But there was no such thing as a mower those days – they just mowed it like a hay paddock. And of course us kids used every bit of grass we could to … it was like a war when … But I always remember him going down the verge cutting and this mower going, you know. Nothing like the tractors and mowers that Ross Pollock’s been driving for the Council, it was all hands on.
And so then you left school, you met Lord Fauntleroy here?
When I left school I worked for a few years at the Girl Guides’ Association Headquarters that were in Hastings at that time. And they eventually moved to Christchurch and I had a couple of other jobs that I wasn’t terribly happy at.
Lawrie: Victoria Publications. [Speaking together]
Victoria Publications, just for a few weeks and I hated it. And it was about then that I met Lawrence at Mike’s wedding. And after that I … Lawrence’s sister had four children under four. She lived at Fernhill, and I spent a year out – think it was a year – helping her in the house with the children. And then I worked for him before we were married.
Lawrie: You went bean picking.
I went bean picking with his Dad.
Lawrie: Broad beans.
So yes, I kind of was initiated into the nursery side fairly early on. We met in 1959 and were married in 1963.
And you have how many children?
We have 3 children. Margot, who was born in 1965, and Martin was born in 1967, and Lisa in 1969.
And any nursery persons amongst them?
Martin has taken over the running of the nursery now.
Okay, well now we’ll start back, Lawrie, with you. And we’ll develop because what you’ve done from this point on you’ve done it together. And so I’ll leave it to you to pick up the story there.
Jan had a BSA Dandy.
Jan: Which was a motorbike. [Chuckle]
Motorbike licence she had, for that. And she used to buzz off into the Girl Guides office, and after work she’d quite often come down … I’d hear the Dandy coming down [makes noise of bike] … [chuckle] … pull up at the gate. At that stage I had an acre and a half leased in Nottingley Road from the Jobeys. Had a little shed there with my telephone in it …
Jan: And where we first lived.
My mother and father lived over the road and I had a little nursery in that.
Jan: Bought the section in Hart Drive – lived in the garage.
We sort of developed things along there and Jan came fishing with me.
Jan: I don’t now.
I built … while we were staying out at Horrocks’ there I built a couple of boats. Still got the one out in the shed there, the [?] boat. And I built another boat that was … Serena ply boat. And we’d buzz off, and Mike Crooks did too … off round the Cape and had some great fishing. I’ve got a photograph of Jan – says she doesn’t like fishing, but she’s got fourteen snapper. Decent ones.
Is that right? Now you also were a great duck shooter too, weren’t you?
Oh, yes, yep.
Jan: And clay bird shooting you did too.
Yeah, well my sister married Colin Gunn, or Brick Gunn as he was known, from Fernhill. And Brick and his brother Digger were New Zealand champions.
Jan: Clay bird shooting.
Clay bird. And of course inevitably, I got keen on duck shooting through Brick on the lake out at Opouahi. I got really keen on duck shooting and had some absolutely marvellous duck shooting. ‘Course Brick and Digger were great gun club guys and they got me interested in going along and having some skeet. And skeet shooting is … you’ve got to be quick and … good for your reflexes. Air force pilots – they had them shooting skeet too. And I got quite keen on that and got my eye in and had some marvellous shooting out on the lake, but I also later on had some marvellous shooting in Taupo with Digger and Brick and quail. The quail up there were in plague proportions in those days. It was just when they were developing the bigger land up there and they were pulling all the pine trees down they sowed it in clover, and oh, the quail just loved it. Most of those places were Government properties – you were very lucky to get on there. We had one shoot we got eighty six in a day, which was absolutely fabulous.
That’s a huge number.
We walked … fired one shot off on a hill … they were black on the hillside. Fired one shot and they dispersed down into this gully. And we walked up the gully, three of us … “your turn”, “my turn”, “your bird”, “my bird”, and kept the dogs in and retrieved everything. And it was an absolutely fabulous day. And a lot of those birds were poisoned out when the rabbits built up, because rabbits and quails go together. That’s just an aside about the shooting side of things.
Well [chuckle] the trout fishing was …
Jan: Supposed to be talking about the nursery.
… it was a real great recreation. I’m sitting here looking out at that photo of Waikaremoana … painting of Waikaremoana – Panekire. I’ve spent a lot of time up there and the first time I went up there was 1948. Ngaire, Brick and I went out and we stayed at Kaitawa with some friends, the Hickeys. He was an engineer on the Kaitawa power station. That’s where I first learnt to fish.
Jan: Trout fish.
Trout fish there, on the lake behind there. And his son, Jim Hickey, he was a real character and was a very good fisherman too, and he showed me a few tips. And Brick, my brother-in-law, was a very good caster and from then on when I got back to school – that was our school cert year – I had a mate at school, John Chudley, and John had spent a lot of time at Taupo and learnt to fish the Waitahanui. So we got fond of each other and really that’s when I … that year is the year I started real … really trout fishing rivers here.
I caught my first trout on a Sunday. I rode down to Pakowhai where the old Karamu joined the Ngaruroro. I caught my first trout there. I was thrilled to come home with that trout. And of course after that John and I got together, both in 6th Form, and when we broke up from school we rode our bicycles – we got a ride out with Dad out to Claytons on the corner of River Road there. Dad was doing work there for Ron Clayton. And we rode our bikes up the Tukituki, up to Rockford Road, crossed the river there with our bikes and got up a bit further and there’s a big backwater there. John got three fish out of it. Beautiful fish. That really whetted my appetite – I think I lost a couple at that stage, but after that I caught a lot of fish in Tukituki.
That day we rode our bikes back up the No Exit road from Tom Lyon’s, and back down Middle Road and John suffered very badly from asthma and hay fever. And he had an attack on the way home and I thought he was going to die on me. He lay on the ground and gasped and that. Finally got right and we got him home. Quite frightening.
But we did a lot of fishing after that, and we went to Auckland at Christmas time. John and I got in the car and we went down and fished down at Papakura – the … what’s that little stream down there? First stream we could find we could catch fish in. There were a few fish there. Clevedon – the Wairoa River at Clevedon – comes out of Hunua Ranges. So that was really the start of the fishing. And then I caught up with an old guy – used to call him Zane Grey – and he’d bike off on his bike with his rod, and I’d see him going past when we were down at Wilson’s Nursery in Pakowhai Road and he saw me, and say “oh, I’ve had a great day today. I’ve got five”. [Chuckle] So I used to take him out. He was a bit of an old character, old Bill. On the way out to Tukituki “oh, it’s a cold day,” he says “we’ll call in to Les Vidal’s and I’ll get you a pair of thigh boots”. Because I was wading just in shorts. “Get you a pair of thigh boots”, and he’d come out – “look what I found in the thigh boots” – a bottle of brandy. [Chuckle] And he always had a flask and he’d fill his flask up and he’d have two or three beforehand. One day we were fishing up the gorge up the Tukituki and he got this beautiful brown. It was 10½ lbs out of the pool. I followed him down the river and I lost three by the time he was landing his one. He didn’t know what to … talk to me. So that was fishing there … Fishing after that – oh, the Tukituki was marvellous. I had a few other mates I used to go fishing with – Howard Corban. Oh, I found some great fish in the Tukituki.
And once I was playing rugby for Old Boys’ Football Club, and I got to know Ed Renouf who was the President of the Club. He was the secretary at Whakatu, and he’d been a fisherman all his life – very good fisherman. A lot older than me of course, but we became great friends. He and I went fishing all around the place. We had some marvellous weekends at Waikaremoana with David. Did you know David?
Yeah, I fished with David. David used to work for me too. In fact I’ve got most of the books that used to belong to Ed.
I bought them off David. I called round to see David oh, only last week, but he wasn’t home so I missed him.
I rang David. We sent him an invitation to my 80th birthday. I rang him up – “David are you going to come to my 80th birthday?” “Oh,” David says “You only invited me because you’re a friend of Dad’s.”
Yeah that would be right. Because he was adopted, really – it took the wind out of his sails.
He found out that quite late in life I think.
I know, and it was always sad because he is a very sensitive person. But you know I’ve learnt a lot from David over the years fishing. We used to go to Waikaremoana. We had a group called the …
Oh, that’s right – we started that off.
… Waikaremoana Tours we called it. We’d go up and go to the Ormond Lodge with Spears and Farr, and a whole lot of reprobates.
Yeah. Dick Klingender go with you?
Yep – yeah, Dick went, and Fastier. They were all there. I still … actually Cliff King and I meet George Stanley up there. He’s got a key for the Ormond hut still, and we’re back in there again. One of the places I love to be. It’s a place – once you learn to catch fish there you’ll always catch fish there.
Learn to catch those browns round the edge of the lake.
Now just coming along, although you lost quite a few fish, there was one quite big fish didn’t get away. We’d better put that in the story.
Well the Waikaremoana trip, they were great weekends. The first time we went up there the weather broke and it poured and we were down in the Cameron hut. We went there with Hugh Campbell, and the place had been neglected. The rats had taken over and we had to clean all the rat poo out of the place before we could get into it. And we had some wild weather. It was blowing – the lakehouse boat couldn’t … it was so rough it couldn’t come down and get us so we had an extra day down there. But while we were there, that’s how I learnt how to catch brown trout. And we’d wait round the edge of the lake there to see them coming and drop the fly in front of them and when it came along, give it a twitch and you had it.
Yep. So yeah, I learnt how to do that and we caught lots of trout that way. And a friend of mine eventually – from Gisborne – we met up and we went down to Waikaremoana and I taught him how to catch fish at Waikaremoana. And this day we had [?], and Ossie. And what we’d do – we’d go round from the Waiopaoa hut and drop one off and move along, park the boat, and he’d come round and catch up to where I was and I’d walk on ahead and he’d come on and catch me up. This day we’d parked the boat and he walked on and I dropped him off, and came back to the boat. And I had a beautiful fish. Oh, it played me, it jumped … did all sorts of things. And I parked it up in the scrub behind me … just a little thicket of manuka … and I carried on fishing. Then Ossie came along – “well, how many you got?” “How many you got?” “No – how many you got?” I said “well I’ve got one. It’s a beautiful fish but I can’t find the thing. It’s gone! How many you got?” “I’ve got six.” [Chuckles] And I taught him to fish. [Chuckle] That was Waikaremoana.
But the big fish I’ve got on the wall – I’d been to the Hastings District Angling Club the night before and we all tied flies. And “we’ll meet out at the river tomorrow morning”. And – who was the chap who had the chemist shop in Havelock?
[Speaking together] Gilmour – Ed Gilmour.
Ed Gilmour. We met out at Moore Road and Ed says … we walked down there and I said “look – there’s a couple of fish rising there, Ed – look”. They were right on the end of the willow and there was a fair rapid coming down and a fair current there. I said “I’m going to catch one of them”, and he said “you can’t, not there.” I said “well I’ll cast the lure upstream and pull it past his nose”, and I hooked it straight away. “Oh, that’s pretty tinny.” So Ed went on his way. Walked down the river a bit, and I had this – it was a nice fish, it was about 6lbs. And I walked down … Ed Renouf had been out there the previous weekend and he came home and he told Ed, he said “look” he said “I lost a pearler of a fish on Saturday.” He said “it took me all the way from Moore Road right down to that backwater on the other side, and I lost him in the mouth of the [?].” He said “it was a huge fish.” So I thought ‘well, I’m going looking for this fish.’ It was a lovely day – it was Show day, and I got down to where this backwater was. And I hadn’t seen any fish at this stage, and I started walking up the backwater, a big wide backwater … willows on the other side where the Catchment Board had chopped them to hold the bank, quite a big wide expanse. And I walked up and it narrowed up a little, and I’m getting up the side of this narrow piece and I saw this fish coming along the edge. “Man – look at the thing!” And I dropped my fly out of my hand and it sunk in the water right by the edge of the water and it sunk in this weed, and I thought “Oh damn.” The fish came along and I gave it a little bit of a move, and the fish dived in and grabbed the fly and there he was on the – I’d hooked him on the end of the rod. Well! The fish took off across the backwater and leapt out of the water. Hell! That bet’s on with my brother-in-law and his cousins. [Chuckle] There was a dozen of beer that was all on.
Well, I’d been to the Angling Club the month before, and Sid Peterkin who was the dentist from Waipuk – he’d come and given us a talk about trout fishing. And one of the things that he impressed on me when he gave his talk – he said “brown trout you can hold but a rainbow – you’ve got to let run. But” he said “if you get a big fish and it’s a big brown, what you do – you put your rod straight out from you, take the pressure off, put your rod straight out and you can lead him round to your feet.” I did that and it worked. Yeah – he had thirty metres out I suppose, and I got him round to my feet again. He took off again, did the same thing, I did it again, he came back.
Jan: It’s a she.
When it went round the back, there was some snags, I thought ‘oh, oh – we’re in the snags.’ So I straightened the rod and it stopped. Stopped straight away, caught him round his head. What do I do now? I tried to net him – I couldn’t. I had my dog with me. He sat there with his ears pricked and watched every movement. Finally, after half an hour I heard the Tomoana whistle blow over in the showgrounds. I got him up there. I thought ‘he’s belly up now, I’ve got him but what am I going to do?’ He was just – the rod was like that with the weight. I managed to edge him up in to a little side runnel about 2ft wide – there was a bit of weed and water there. I got him into there and blocked the link into the backwater. And I wasn’t going to hit him on the head, but it was too good. It was a beautiful blue fish, it was blue, bright blue. I established it was a five year old hen fish on it’s second spawning round. And it weighed out at 15lbs.
And so did you have to rush it somewhere to preserve it?
Well, I …
Jan: No. [Chuckle]
When the dog … when that fish got into that … when I’d got it into that thing the dog went mad. He tore all round the river bed and tail between his legs. [Chuckle] Yeah. He enjoyed it as much as I did. So the next thing was – well, how do I get it home? And I had a bit of bale twine and I stuck it through its gills and up round my neck, because it was dragging on the ground. On the way I stopped at another pool and caught another fish on the way home, so I had three. No, that’s the story of that fish, but it frightened a lot of people. I remember Nan Rusbatch came round – ’cause Gordon Rusbatch was a great fishing mate of mine. And I remember I had them lying on the back lawn under the clothes line, and she came and had a look and opened the door. I said “come and have a look at these, Nan”, and I pulled the sack off them and she squealed. [Chuckle] I’ll never forget it.
So then we’re back full time with the nursery.
There was a lot on the fishing. But that day I came home, deposited the fish and went back down to the nursery. By then we were leasing some land – Phil McKay’s in Lyndhurst Road. And Phil had been out fishing at Waimarama with Dr Bostock, and they’d come in with a few fish and they were cleaning some fish there, and they were groper, about so big. I said “I’ve caught a trout today, it’s bigger than those”. “Eh?” [Chuckle] So they had to go and have a look at the fish too.
So at that stage we’d started to develop …
Jan: We bought a section in Hart Drive first.
That was a long time before then. We were leasing the ground in Nottingley Road. Shortly before we got married we bought the section in Hart Drive and managed to build a garage on that. And when we came back from our honeymoon it wasn’t quite finished. So the Vickers boys helped me – Ivan and Brian Vickers, Dad, and we finally got that finished.
Was that Eb and Zeb? Were they builders?
They were joiners.
Jan: Ivan was our groomsman. And Brian’s since had a stroke, and he actually rang this morning.
Ivan died of mad cow disease.
Brian rang me up and said “Ivan’s crook”. I said “What’s wrong?” ‘Oh, he’s crook”, he says “they’ve …” He was actually in hospital and they didn’t know what completely was wrong. And he rang me up this day and says “Oh, Ivan’s crook. He’s got this funny … … …” He couldn’t say it. “[Attempts pronunciation] “ I said “not Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease?” “Yes, yes” he says “that’s it.” That’s what it was.
Good Lord, is that right?
How the hell he picked it up … he’s always been a shepherd, you see. Working with stock and that. Yeah, Ivan was quite a mate.
Jan: We lived in the garage that they built.
Yeah, we lived in the garage for a start while …
Jan: Six months.
Eventually Geoff Treacher built the first house here in Hart Drive.
Jan: Where we lived for 9 years.
Yeah. And the apprentice boy on the house was Jim Oliver, and Jim eventually became a very good friend, mainly through their boy Paul and Martin going to Scouts together.
Was he Reece Oliver’s brother? Is Reece still alive?
I haven’t seen Reece for years and years and years – a really nice man.
Jan: Just the same … yeah, you’d still recognise him.
Did a lot of work for us. Jim became a very great friend … they still are. Lovely guy. And we’ve done a lot of fishing together too. So we developed … we leased these blocks – two acres of land on either side of Phil McKay’s house.
Jan: In Lyndhurst Road.
And that sort of … we expanded from round Hart Drive. When we were living there we had sections – we used them. And of course in those days we were growing roses. We expanded into roses and a few fruit trees, not that many, a few plums and standard roses.
Jan: We didn’t grow apples for quite some time.
No. Standard roses. And the section next door to the house in Hart Drive was absolutely a real picture. All the roses were in flower and people were coming along, and they’d park the car and get up on the roof of the car and take photos, and just … lovely.
And then of course we expanded that side of things into … we got out of the block over the road in Nottingley Road, and moved into these sections round there. At one stage I had some peach tree seedlings growing inside of Greg Hill’s house, Lyndhurst Road. And oh, Greg was … I’d helped Greg planting tomatoes out at Sisson’s. He never got paid for it but that didn’t worry him, it was experience, and old Dan McPhee had helped too – worked together and Dan gave me a quite a good hand. But we got the nursery really established there and we leased the Church section on the corner of Hapuka Street and Frimley Road right next to the school.
Jan: Opposite the park gates.
And that sort of set us up very nicely. That was the year we got married. We started digging the trees there, got the machine in … in those days they would undercut them, then we could go on and dig them by hand – lift them out. That was a heart breaker. When we lifted there was three thousand, four thousand trees there. Most of them sold through the Fruit – I had a very lucky break. The Fruitgrowers’ Federation Nursery in Levin was closing and they wanted to get out of producing trees, and Jim Charlton came along to me and said “would you grow some trees for us?” At that stage there weren’t a lot of Golden Queens, but Wattie’s were still wanting Golden Queens. So I was lucky enough to grow a lot of trees for them. They really sort of set me up and we started to lift these trees – I couldn’t believe my eyes. Beautiful trees, lovely stuff up there, but they had crown galls as big as this – big as your head – on the roots. And I had to ring Noel Condon and said “oh, you’d better come down.” So he and Bill Miller came down, and a couple of others and they couldn’t believe their eyes. Beautiful trees, these things, and we were pulling them out. “What are going to do with that?”. “Fire here, fire here, fire here, fire here.” Crown gall affected more than forty per cent. And there was a great heap of these trees there. Unbeknown to me a few other people knew they were there and came and helped themselves at night.
A few years later I had an agricultural inspector come and … talking about the nursery, talking about crown galls and I said “oh, well, they’ve got to go out – you can’t do anything with them.” “Oh, yeah – but once before you did something with them”. I said “what do you mean? That time they went on the fire here.” “Yeah, well” he said “I got a whole lot of them planted at my place.”
And he said that they never looked back.
Isn’t that amazing?
Yeah. I said “well I put them on the fire here, and you came and helped yourself.” They went out to Mangateretere. Who had the garage out there at Havelock? Ernie McClintock? The guy had got Ernie’s block and they were planted there. Can’t think what his name is now.
Anyway that was another thing about that, but since then luckily, crown gall is not a problem because we use Diegall. That’s a culture of crown gall and it just eliminates crown gall completely. Even when we came to this property we had some here and it still affected about forty per cent and that was new ground. You wouldn’t think it would be there. But since then we got on to Diegall and that’s eliminated it. So that was a godsend.
We expanded that piece at Lyndhurst Road and we built up our roses and our fruit trees. Had some nice blocks. Had that for about four seasons I think. I leased a piece of land out at Fernhill and I had standard roses out there and some fruit trees there. At that stage the standard roses became harder to sell, and I couldn’t make up my mind. And we bought this place and had a little block of peach trees and that’s all we thought we’d ever plant in Wilson Road.
Jan: 1971 we bought here.
My brother-in-law came and said “well, what are you going to do with the rest of the place?” At that stage it was still leased to George Hay but he dropped the lease so we had it back. So I had what I wanted to do all along – have some sheep and with Frank Twigg’s help, who owned the place – sold it to us. And we were very lucky with that, because when we were looking at buying a section at Waimarama and the guy who was a land agent for …
Jan: Chap McKay, his name was.
… Murray Roberts, said “I’ve got a property you might be interested in.” I said “well, I couldn’t buy that.” Anyway, out of the blue … we had a look and ‘oh, yeah, it’s interesting, but how will I get it?’ Frank Twigg comes round and says “I want you to have a look at my place, and I’m going to come round and have a look at your place in Hart Drive.” He said “well, that’s a good place – that must be worth $20,000. I’d like you to have our place.” He’d tried to sell it and it didn’t sell. Anyway I got a phone call from Des Thompson on a Friday and he said “I’ve got Frank Twigg in the office. You’ve just bought Wilson Road.” I said “no I haven’t – I haven’t said I’m going to buy that.” “Well” he said “you’d better get in here, because Frank Twigg wants to sell it to you.” So I got in there and Frank said “I’ve had a look at your house in Hart Drive. How much cash can you raise at the moment?” I said “about seven thousand.” “That’s okay. You give me that as a deposit, and I’ll give you this place for thirty five and a half thousand.”
Jan: Thirty six I thought it was.
It was thirty six but he took something off for the fencing. “I’ll stand you bridging capital ’til such time as you sell your Hart Drive place.” And that’s how we got in here – I never dreamt we could ever get in here.
It’s amazing. They used to be our neighbours, and so I knew them very well. But no, Frank was – he was really a very nice man. His wife was too.
So we came out and had a look at it on the Saturday, and – oh well, that’s good enough. He’s going to sell it. It was three years at 5% and then thereafter at current rates. Well at that stage three years at 5% … we were … very nicely, and current rates at the end of that was 12½% or something. Might have three good years from there – I’d clear the lot. So we leased it out for a year to Bill Sutherland and eventually we moved in here not ever thinking that we’d fill it up with nursery like we did.
Jan: And then need more and more.
As I say they had sheep with Frank’s help. It was bloody amazing, and I was back into lambing beats. The kids were having a Sunday roast there and they were watching the old ewe [chuckle] having twins out here. Oh, the kids thought this was marvellous. And of course the house was nothing like this. We’ve knocked it about completely. This room was only that wide.
So then between times …
Jan: We bought the place at Waimarama next.
… my mother died and an uncle of mine died, and there was a wee bit of money left. And I bought a caravan out of that. And – ‘course we were going along quite nicely in Lyndhurst Road. We’d had that very good … in Lyndhurst Road we had another block where Neil Manning had lived, opposite the park. We had that leased and most of that stuff went to the Fruitgrowers’ Federation nursery. Well that gave us a real boost along completely. And then we had that other block where we had the problem with the crown gall. And we had the sections around there so we were getting along pretty well. As well as that I was cropping some spuds and we leased a block down the end of Arbuckle Road. The Vickers were next door …
Jan: We had beans there too.
… and got to know them very well there. And when Margot was a baby we’d had a few crops of beans and we did very well out of beans. We had another block next to … in Arbuckle Road … it was Eddie Tait’s, and we leased that, and that was virgin soil and the beans did marvellously there.
Jan: Hand picked … hand picked beans.
We used to hand pick, and we’d cart them with the ute and the trailer, a bin on the back of the ute – it was a well side ute – bin on the trailer. And that’s when I started to get to know Graham Hassall because they were picking beans at the same time and we’d been racing each other to get into Wattie’s to get them loaded and get back again. Graham became a very good friend too. So that was the cropping side.
But then once we came here things moved along again. The sheep. We filled this piece up with nursery and then we started to expand into the bottom. We had gherkins in both blocks for a while and we did very, very well out of gherkins, I tell you. And I had to make up my mind at that stage – am I going to be growing gherkins, or … they were just amazing, the return we got from them – absolutely. But we had to make up our mind and we had some roses here for a year and Jan picked the flowers and sold them off. [Speaking together]
Jan: Sold them to the florist at hospital store.
But then you couldn’t get – the sales of those things just dropped away. Couldn’t sell them. So I took the bull by the horns and said “no – we’ll just grow fruit trees.” Peter Pattulo couldn’t believe that I’d do that. But we had a market for fruit trees and it expanded, and we dropped the roses and I never looked back. Peter did the same in the end.
Jan: And we bought the section at Waimarama with your father’s money.
Yeah, well, my father died and he had a house in Nottingley Road and we got twenty three thousand or twenty five thousand for that, and a third went to my sister. But I thought ‘well, I’m not going to spend that money. I’ll just put it into a section so the family can utilise it’, and we bought the section at Waimarama. We bought that off Brian McAra. I’d seen old Roly Wall out there, and we’d stayed that Christmas out there with James Clarke on Hope’s section, and James became quite a good friend and we tripped round the caravans together – said to Roly Wall “oh, if you ever know anyone that’s got a section for sale round here …” “Oh, yeah, okay”. And blow me – out of the blue one Sunday night Brian McAra rang. “Oh,” he said “I hear you want a section at Waimarama.” I said “yep”. He said “oh, well I’ve got one out there.” He said “that one that Roly Wall is on.” I said “I thought that one was Roly’s.” He said “no, no – he’s only keeping it tidy for me.” He said “look, we’re short of money for the business – it’s yours for thirteen & a half thousand.” [Speaking together] Couldn’t believe my ears. [Chuckle] We shot out there on the Monday night and had a look at it, and got up on the ladder and …
Jan: We still own it. [Chuckle]
Yes – this’ll do us we’ll have this. And we had it. And then eventually …
Jan: We parked the caravan on it for seven years and then in 1983 we built the house.
But in the meantime as far as the nursery goes – the advent of Royal Gala and Braeburn – they were climbing along nicely at that stage and everyone was wanting them. So there was Royal Gala, Braeburn, Red Delicious and Granny Smith and Gala. Or Gala had dropped out … and Royal Gala. And then Fuji came into it. So they were the five varieties that we were really going for. Then came along Pacific Rose. And I can remember Tripping came out and took my photo down the back here with me crouching over the Pacific Rose. Well we filled this place up with apples
Jan: Nursery apples. Nursery trees.
Nursery trees, yeah. With apples you’ve got to have new ground or fumigate it, so we had to find new ground and we found some luckily from Geoff Drinkwater. They were planting trees down there in Ormond’s Estate so we moved down there and filled that up with apple trees and then we left it – we had to plant the orchard when we left it was stone fruit.
Jan: You didn’t mean Geoff Drinkwater, did you?
Yeah, Geoff Drinkwater – he was managing the block.
Jan: In Ormond Road?
Yeah. It was the Ormond’s property.
Jan: Karamu Stud I called it.
That’s it – Karamu Stud.
Geoff – was he an accountant?
No, Geoff was manager.
Jan: Have you talked about his buying Lyndhurst Road – 1985?
No – coming up. Anyway, when I was leasing McKay’s place in Lyndhurst Road, old Billy Meech was in the next door property. And Billy was deaf and dumb. He’d come up to the fence and [makes noise]. I said “Billy, why don’t you lease that to me?” Billy sort of stood back there and [makes noise] – ’cause that’s what he … just to keep his hand in. Anyway Billy died, and I saw the place was coming up for auction. I rang Bob McKay, who was with Murray Roberts and I said “what’s happening, Bob?” ‘Cause he nearly bought the place next door at one stage. He came in and saw me, and I knew Bob quite well. And he said “it’s coming up for auction on Friday, and you bloody be there.” I said “what do you mean?” “You be there.”
So in due course I got along. ‘Course I’d been leasing the block of Robertson’s at the end of Railway Road, and I’d leased McKay’s place, so that block on the corner there, I knew all about it. And in due course I got along to the auction and I sat there with Hugh Robertson. They were talking about the water in the well, and the purple colour in the porch of the house and gargoyles and that. And then they started bidding – bidding went on and on, and Phil McKay puts in a bid, and Ted Hill had a bid, and then it all stopped. And Bob McKay comes down “where the bloody hell have you been?” I said “why, what’s wrong?” “All this for $220,000 – now make up your bloody mind.” I said “how long have I got?” But I hadn’t intended buying it. And I said “give me twenty minutes and I’ll let you know.” I’d rung the bank before I went up there and just told them, and they said “no that’s alright, go for it.” Once again there was money left. But I couldn’t believe my ears I’d got it for that price.
How many acres?
Eighteen and a half. I did my homework on it though, but out of the blue one day I had a couple of people come in. This was a few years ago now. One was a valuer. He said “oh, it’s only worth about $1.2 million.” Mike Donnelly and Alan Duff – they came in. “We’ll give you $1100 for it.” [Might mean $1.1m] I said “don’t be silly. I’ve already turned down $1.2m.” It started off at that – kept on coming back, and by 5 o’clock it was up to $2.5m.
And you let her go at that?
You still own it?
Yes. Oh, I did my homework – I rang Malcolm Taylor, and I said “hey, Malcolm, our Lyndhurst Road block. I said “I’ve had an offer on it.” I said “$2.5m illion.” He said “how big is it?” He said “hang on – you don’t go by hectares or acres any more – you go by square metres.” He said “the best price we got was out at Arataki which was $45 a square metre.” He said “he’s not paying you enough.” He’d offered the next door neighbours … like ours, worked out at about $39 – he’d offered the next door neighbours $42, and somebody in Nottingley Road was a bit more. Anyway I said “well if you can find me another block equivalent to this I might be interested. In the meantime I don’t have to sell it, and I don’t need to sell it.” And I did my homework on it and found out yes, there was money bloody owing everywhere, and all he’d have done was paid you a deposit on it, and held on to it until such time as zoning changed. Bottom of Lyndhurst, on the left. It hadn’t been ploughed for 65 years. So we planted – peach season was round there, and we had a crop of peas straight away. Ted Hill leased it for beetroot first year, and we gradually moved in there and got power in there and … Bob Hewlett grew some marvellous trees. And of course we planted a block of Golden Queens there after we had gone through a cycle of apples, peaches – they were in for twenty years. The best year they did a hundred and ninety tons. I’ve never seen peaches like it.
Now you also have another block – part of Mahora Stud, don’t you? Or is that leased? You’ve currently got nursery in there.
We had a nursery in Lyndhurst Road. But we moved out of that one. We had the Karamu Stud block down here. No, at that stage from there we moved into that block at Lyndhurst Road. Oh, in between times we had the one at Fernhill. But the apple business has expanded so much. Not only apples – we’re into pears as well, and the stone fruit side of it we’ve really kept that going well. Where there are a lot of other nurseries here that were growing apples, Ross Duncan and Riverview and Peakview – they were all growing them. When the downturn came they all crashed out of it. But we had this other side of the business which sustained us, and we had – also built up the garden centre side. We established a very good market with Harrisons Trees, Vernon Harrison in Palmerston North and that was guaranteeing thirty thousand trees a year. And that’s still going. They dropped away a couple of years ago but they’ve picked up again this year, but they’ve told them this will be the last year and Martin will take over the people they were supplying.
Oh that’s wonderful. So each year now you’d be budding … you, know, you don’t have to tell me the numbers, but how many trees are you – do you propagate a year here now?
We got up to about sixty or seventy thousand for a while, then it got to over a hundred and twenty [thousand], but this year Martin’s budded a hundred and sixty five thousand. And they’re all virtually pre-sold.
We ran out of land again – habit – but we started to use about five acres out at Brian McLay’s, out at Carrick Road. And that was very good to have that. Not having to buy land … even though we still had … bear in mind we had Lyndhurst Road which was in nine acres of peaches, and so that wasn’t there. So we had to move out there and we had some lovely trees out there too. New ground. First of all we interplanted with these young orchard trees – we supplied him with the orchard trees so the trees were fairly wide apart, so we had two rows up every so many rows. And then we got – he had some other land there and we were able to use that. And gradually … we had stone fruit out there too. And that moved us along beautifully, and he had his house block, and we filled that up with apples completely. Then when that sort of ran out … and of course at this stage Martin had got married, and he bought a block in York Road where he’s established his homestead now. There’s six hectares there, and we bought another six hectare block down Portsmouth Road on the other side of Flaxmere. And – oh, gee – that grew the best apple trees we’ve ever grown.
Silt ground I suppose.
Funnily enough, on the soil map it virtually said it was rubbish. But it wasn’t. It was perfect.
So currently you are still active?
I’m still active.
I mean as a nursery man yourself – you’re both still doing some …
Jan’s done a little bit. We actually retired two years ago.
Martin didn’t really take over ’til November so we were working right through there. But they backdated everything back to the 1st April, though we’d done a fair bit of work.
It’s quite a story isn’t it? And so this will allow you more time for fishing and doing those sorts of things. Civic community awards?
Some years ago …
Jan: Committees and things we’ve been in.
… we had a nurserymen’s meeting down in Wellington with FIPIA and we got a gold award from FIPIA.
Jan: Tell him what FIPIA is.
Remember FIPIA? Fruit Industry Plant Improvement Agency. And they were quite remarkable because they gave us a real boost along. They were behind new varieties coming in, and new varieties of stone fruit. And that was great because we were given a contract to grow new varieties of stone fruit for them and get it off the ground. It was just that stage when Rex Graham was starting to be a nuisance. [Chuckle]
Waving his arms round.
Oh, yeah. “I’m not joining any clubs.” [Chuckle]
When Royal Gala came along we’d been working quite close with Dr McKenzie. And do you remember Roy McCormick? Well Roy and I went down to Mardons’, and they had the only block of virus-free bud going. And we came to the conclusion that the thing had to be really selective. What had happened in the past Joe Leith and some of the other people, they’d just collected budwood and budded like that. And there was a real hotchpotch.
Royal Gala is very prone to reversion, and we realised that unless we were careful the thing would get mucked up. So we went along – instead of marking whole trees we marked branches and brought it up from there. And then with this idea the budwood scheme was formed. The budwood team … Des, Ray, and whatever you like to call them … Dave, Rich and co … Noel – they went out and marked the trees. Well, I reckon that that actually saved Royal Gala. Because the Americans had got Royal Gala and they couldn’t believe that we could get Royal Gala. We grew it, they couldn’t. They grew them on hedgerows and just took the budded wood and budded them and they had all this mixture of poor colour, reversion. But we got over that reversion factor by doing that, and we put all the varieties into the scheme – even the new Pacific Queen, Pacific Rose – all those went in the scheme. And it certainly woke a lot of people’s ideas up.
We didn’t go entirely for virus free budwood, but what we had done in the meantime, we’d realised there was a problem with root stocks and we started to develop virus free root stocks. Previously when virus free Grannies came out, growers couldn’t control them – they didn’t know how to do it. The problem there was that a little bit – actually the blame … Dr McKenzie – that he selected the wrong lot. Instead of selecting while it was fruiting nicely and cleaning it up by heat treatment – they didn’t do that. And ‘course they [?], the thing was too vigorous.
1994 – hail storm? Which devastated the district. We were rather lucky that we had a block in York Road – who owned it?
Jan: Oh, Rosenbergs.
Rosenbergs’ block in York Road which – we grew trees in there and established the orchard at the same time which was producing – it’s a few years ago now. But that was the only block that really got tickled up with the hail. The Golden Queens at Lyndhurst Road – Jan had a new car at that stage, and luckily we poked it in the old shed round there and we stood in the shed and … watching the hail pummelling the Golden Queens.
Jan: And that was March and they were just ready to pick.
Luckily Wattie’s were very good. And what happened there was – they stayed on the trees for about four or five days and suddenly they dropped and what was left was pretty good peaches. They looked after us quite well and paid us out on them at quite a good price.
The Golden Queen block round there stayed until …
Jan: 2009 was when they …
2009, the year we went overseas. Martin had enough of peaches – he didn’t like them. He pulled them out when we were away. [Speaking together]
Jan: So he pulled them out when we were on holiday.
So that block went and we’ve only got eight trees left there now. But it did us very well, because it worked in very well with the nursery. It came at a time when we had to rush a bit but the thinning was carried on earlier, and we got kids in to do that and that worked out very well. As I say his crop was a hundred and ninety tons.
We ran out of ground again of course and we had the other blocks – York Road block, and we had the Karamu block. We filled up Lyndhurst Road completely again, and fumigated the ground and started another cycle. And interestingly enough once you fumigated the ground and went into apple stock again, those trees grew brilliantly. The next crop was followed by peaches, and the peach seedlings just seemed to love that ground. Even though apples had been in they grew brilliantly, and the trees were brilliant and we found this was quite a good way of following through.
Yeah – we mechanised ourselves with a tree digger …
2006 was it? Made out of the – originally out of the old Australian [?] down in Nelson – hydraulically driven. For a start it just undercut the roots but we put a shaker on the back and now it’s brilliant. Where we used to dig by hand and kick the dirt off and shake it off by hand, the vibrator takes all the soil off.
Budwood Section Scheme – I eventually became a tutor for budwood cutters and eventually I became the Chairman of that scheme, ’til eventually – after the Apple & Pear Board disbanded, the scheme was wound up because a lot of the varieties were then privately owned, so it was up to the owners to do that.
Belonged to the Lions; for the summer fruit – growing summer fruit for so many years, they made me a life member of Summer Fruit New Zealand, which staggered me at the time. I couldn’t believe that would happen.
Everything starts with a little tree.
And then a few years later … [Speaking together]
Jan: Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers’ Association.
… Philip Mardon and I were sitting there at the annual meeting of the Fruitgrowers’ Association and they were talking about presenting life memberships. And I knew that Stewart Horton was getting a life membership there, and so they talked about Stewart. Then Leon Sellars starts talking. Philip says “he’s talking about you.” I said “he’s talking about you.” “Oh, no.” Carried on. “Will Philip Mardon come forward?” So Philip was presented with a life membership. He comes back grinning a bit and talking to Colin Wake beside me, and next thing I hear my name come up, and “would you come forward?” [Chuckle] So yeah.
I was Chairman of the Budwood Scheme; I was Chairman of the Cadet Scheme which was a great thing, and I was very happy to be able to train people. At one stage we had three cadets, all young fellows. And Jan was very much part of the training of those cadets.
Well you really had an opportunity to have had a … quite an influence on fruit growing in Hawke’s Bay, haven’t you? And Palmerston North, and wherever else your trees went to. Because it really is a story of development of an industry, and everything starts with a bud.
We had a great boost along years ago. When we started to expand we really knew we couldn’t cope, and we couldn’t get budders locally and we managed to get these contract budders that had come out from England. and they taught us a thing or two. And they were good especially when we first had apple stocks down here. We’d be out cutting budwood and they’d be doing twenty thousand a day.
Jan: I’ve got down here they did ninety three thousand in nine and a half days in one year.
The best day – we went out and Jan and I would cut budwood and de-leaf it – have heaps inside here, de-leafing at night. And we thought we’d got ahead – we had about twelve thousand ahead, this day – we had more than that actually. And we came back and we’d cut a lot of buds. It was a Sunday. And they said “oh, we had a record day today.” They had done fourteen and a half thousand.
Jan: In a day.
In a day. [Chuckle] But they gave us a great kick along, especially … they weren’t [?]. They had three thousand or four thousand Reds, four thousand Royal Gala, four thousand Braeburn and same with Granny Smiths. They’d just go. What they did was something that I never even dreamt you could allow. Because if the tyer got behind, you’d be growling about it. What these guys did, they had a budder and a patcher, and the budder would start at the end of the row and the patcher would walk up a couple of hundred and start budding too. And when the …
Jan: The budder caught up.
… the budder caught up, they’d go back and start tying. When I saw this I … miles behind – what’s going to ..? But they’d catch up, and away they’d go again.
Jan: And everything grew.
And it wasn’t a failure. I couldn’t believe this. I was told by the other nurseries that patches were no good, these rubber patches … just got a staple in the back of them – “they were no good, no – we proved they were no good”. I said “well I don’t know … come and have a look.” I couldn’t fault them.
But in saying that now, there used to be two or three of them would come out. They’d stay here with us, they’d party at weekends and do all sorts of things, but we became quite close to them, didn’t we?
Unfortunately Lyndhurst Road block is zoned for housing so until the Council makes up their mind how they are going to go about the drainage in that area, ’cause there’s other blocks there too, we’ll still have Lyndhurst Road. Martin is leasing a block in Maraekakaho Road now and a block in Percival Road for apples.
And that one in Percival Road was that part of the Mahora Stud?
No, no. That one in Percival Road was opposite Ted Hill’s. It was originally part of the – the block goes right through to Evenden Road.
Okay, well …
Jan: So he’s got quite a few blocks he’s running. Portsmouth Road he’s only had cropping in, hasn’t he? Portsmouth, York, the block here, Lyndhurst Road, Maraekakaho Road and Percival Road. He’s got all those.
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper
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