Lyndon, Russell Ivor Interview

Today is 14th March 2017. I’m interviewing Russell Lyndon of Havelock North. Russell, would you like to tell us something about your family?

Sure, Frank. Probably first up, my earliest memories go back to my grandmother and grandfather, George Matthew Spencer and Olive Dagg. And George was an interesting character; very much an entrepreneur. His mother came out from England and arrived to [at] the Victorian goldfields, and stayed there for a while, then moved over to Hokitika, and that’s where George was born. They moved to Christchurch, then finally ended up in Hastings and George ended up here at about – I’m not sure how old he was, but about twelve he left school, and he was out ploughing and doing bits and pieces like that, helping the family out.

His mother had about eleven children; lots of step-kids, that George had. None of them came to Hastings apart from George, so he settled here. He came here I guess in the early twentieth century.

He met Olive Dagg at some stage, and I’m not sure how or where; and he married her. The Daggs are from Wairarapa, and they are tied up with the Wiltons. She was a school teacher, so somewhere they must have met. They got married and they had four kids; there was Russell, the eldest, and Norma, Olga and Zita, and Zita’s my mother. Olga and Norma … perhaps I’ll go back a little bit earlier than that, because they’re a little later.

George ended up having a truck and did cartage; mainly he did fertiliser cartage, and spent a lot of time with Hatuma Lime Company. In actual fact he supported it; became a shareholder and owner, and the Hawke’s Bay agent for Hatuma Lime Company. I’ve still got some old invoices stating all that.

He set up the Super Service Station – it was then called Spencer Service Station – in Heretaunga Street West, down by Stortford Lodge; had one petrol pump, and my understanding is, one of the first in Hastings. So he was a bit of an entrepreneur in that he saw little gaps in the business area and decided to see what he could do. He had that for a long, long time. That service station was leased; it was then turned into the Super Service Station. He basically had nearly a whole block from Gallien Street through to the next street up from there towards Stortford Lodge … can’t think of the name of it, Frank … basically had that whole street there. He leased that out, and they had that property until ooh, 1970s round about, and then the family sold it. He had Mr Cornes … Mr Cornes leased a shed out the back, and I remember going round and seeing my first V8 engine. And the first V8 engine that Mr Cornes had was going to go into a boat, and he used to go round with this … had this V8 engine in his boat, and that was the first … and I was astounded to see this lovely gleaming new engine.

Out the back also was a mechanic, and as I say I can’t quite remember his name – I think it was Lowe. And also at the back were some sheds that were a car painting business that old George set up with his son, Russell. Russell was [an] interesting character, and he’d try all sorts of things.

And George was one of those old-style guys – women stayed at home, did the cooking, looked after the kids; the men went out, earned the money. But George – stocky man, always wore a bow tie; always wore a vest and a suit. Suit might be a bit crumpled, but always suit and waistcoat with a bow tie. Always had a little moustache, and he was bald. Stocky guy; probably a guy I wouldn’t cross too much, he’d be one of those guys who’d be very hard. Brought up hard and he was a hard businessman. He was one of these guys who used to go to the Club most nights – the old Heretaunga Club, used to be in Market Street upstairs. He’d come home and quite often he’d have his mates come home. They’d have whisky and a game of cards. And one of the people that I used to know – he used to have it in the front room of the house in Townshend Street – was Doctor Cashmore; used to come there. And that’s not … that was the old Dr Cashmore … the original Dr Cashmore. And they used to come round … don’t know who else used to come round … but they used to have cards and whisky. And I can remember in the shed George used to have cases of Johnnie Walker whisky, and I thought, ‘Oh, okay … whisky.’

As I say, he was a bit of an entrepreneur; he did the cartage. 1930s he was going to build a new garage down in Heretaunga Street East. However the earthquake came along just as it had been finished, and flattened it. So he got permission from the Council to build a theatre … a movie theatre. Basically it was just a tin shed, but it was backed by one of the top film people … trying to think what their name was … he set that up. It was known as the Rat House because it was [chuckle] … it was quite scary, they said. I’ve got a book here written by Michael Fowler about Hastings’ and Napier’s movie theatres, and it talks about the Arcadia Theatre and how [chuckle] the patrons used to have a bit of a scare now and again when the rats used to run up and try and [chuckle] steal their popcorn. [Chuckles]

Oh, good God!

They called it the Rat House, and it closed down in September 1935; no doubt it was a temporary licence because of the earthquake. So it was pulled down, and he built Monarch Motors, which most people in Hastings will remember. And he was going to build it for himself but he was pretty old by then – he was in his sixties – and he decided ‘No, I won’t do that – I’ll lease it’. So he leased it out to the Jones boys, and the Jones boys eventually bought the building and the site.

And so George basically retired after that – but, not quite. He got a little thought about building a speedway; and so down the end of Omahu Road, just about where Jarvis Road is … just opposite there … used to be Firth Concrete; in behind there. I think you can still see the mounds where the spectators used to sit. And he built a speedway track there, and he used to have the Morrie Dunns, and Split Waterman, and all these guys came out from England. Morrie Dunn was a New Zealander, lived in Hastings; but Ronnie Moore would’ve been there; Bruce Abernethy; got a list of the names here …

Yes, I always remember driving down to the speedway; first thing you saw was the lights that were strung around the track.

We had [chuckle] … it was interesting. He used to go to the milk station, and he used to get rolls and rolls of … you know the silver bottle tops you used to get? Well what they used to do was punch them out …

And they had the sheets with the holes in them.

Big sheets. He used to get those and bring them down to the speedway, and wrap them around so they looked like decorations. And I can remember my mum … I went down there once, I was very young … but I can remember going down there once, and mum was in the ticket box. And it was pouring with rain; and that was his biggest problem – every time he ran a meeting it was raining. And so it gradually dwindled, until he thought, ‘No, this is enough; I’ve had enough.’ So he pulled the plug after about three years. But he had Ronnie Moore and Eric Williams – now Eric Williams you’ll know … father of our real estate agent girl – can’t remember her name now – Pat Clark?

So it was quite interesting, this twelve year old, left school, was able to pick up all these little businesses along the way. And he did very well – in his day he’d have been quite a wealthy man. He owned a house at Townshend Street, which wasn’t built for him but was pretty well brand new when he bought it in 1921. He had a house … in fact it was two houses … in Queen Street where his son lived with his wife, Ivena Pothan, and she had a dance studio there; had the house next door that he rented out; he had a house out at Havelock North here which is now Porter Drive – they had half an acre in there with an old house on it that my mother and I and her second husband lived in. And she used to grow leeks and onions and that in the plot next door, to sell. So he was clever.

When I was a small boy I remember him coming to our farm, spreading lime. I always thought he had an International truck, but in fact it was a Rio. George was driving the truck.

He actually – talking about Rio, when he was building that station for Monarch Motors there, that was going to be a Rio station, ‘cause he had the agency for Rio trucks, But he decided to pull the plug on it, so they actually had … my understanding … they had a very flash Rio car that did a tour right throughout New Zealand and stopped off at Hastings to promote it. I wonder if anyone ever kept some of those old trucks …

Now your mother had two sisters and Russell?

Yeah. Born in the 1920s, and Olive was very much a stay-at-home mother and very much the old-style mother; she did preserves; she cooked. The interesting thing about it – they lived in Townshend Street which was considered one of the better streets in Hastings – Westermans used to live in Townshend Street …

Well they were high and dry – that was the reason they picked those little places, ‘cause Hastings being swamp, they were dry.

Yeah. Out the back George and Olive had a tennis court. It was actually on St Leonard’s Park; it wasn’t actually their land. George being George, he just used [chuckle] what was around, and no one said anything different. And so he built this tennis court; it had a pavilion … little pavilion to sit in, and I can still remember seeing the old tennis nets on a tree trunk – he used to lay them on there at the end of the season and they used to stay out there. But every Sunday they’d have tennis, and people’d be invited round for tennis and a cup of tea and that sort of thing.

My mother, Zita, had two donkeys that she kept out the back, and she loved her donkeys very much. Also out the back was a cow which used to be milked; and he used to milk the cow and had milk for the family. And that was in St Leonard’s Park. Eventually, St Leonard’s Park was used to dump all the fill from the earthquake; all the rubbish from the earthquake was dumped at St Leonard’s Park.

A little side issue was, where Townshend Street is – and it’s still there – they’ve subdivided the back off now unfortunately, but however … there was a [an] entrance to the park … into St Leonard’s Park, and George had an arrangement with the City Engineer, a Mr Fisher, because he’d built his garage facing onto this entrance into the park, and so George was allowed to use the entrance into the park as his driveway and his pathway. And no one else did; now and again we’d get a few cars go right down the end there to park up. But no, this was basically our driveway into his garage, and people used to come along who were visiting, and park in this pathway. Anyway, it was available to the Spencer family basically until Olive Spencer died – the mother … his wife. As soon as she died the Council came along and put up a fence. Soon as she died – it would’ve been no more than a month later, they put a chain fence across that entranceway and no one could use it.

So the garage had no access?

Garage had no access. Soon as she died; that was the arrangement they … I don’t know why or how …

The arrangement would’ve been between Fisher and …

And George. And it would’ve been done at the bloody Club … “Yeah, no trouble, George, you just use it.” So that was the story there.

And Townshend Street – that was interesting because my grandmother, as I said, was a stay-at-home mother. And she had people … family … arrive; I don’t know how she did it, but she always had food for them. They always got a feed and they always had a bed. How and where she put them I have no idea. We used to stay when we were young kids, because my mother divorced my father very early on; we were only young. And so we stayed there from the time I started school, which was ‘54 I suppose – might’ve been ‘53. And I started school at Raureka; and all the girls and Russell went to school at Hastings West it was called then; now Raureka. And so I stayed there, so that house was in our family from 1921 to about 1986.

Now just retracking our steps a bit – where did your father come from?

Born in Hastings.

And what was his name?

Ivor Lyndon. And his father was Bert Lyndon, and Bert was the manager, I supposed you’d call him, of the Hastings Club, and they used to live there. And Bert married my grandmother, who was a Banks [Mona].  And the Banks come from a family of Kirks, and Annie Kirk, which [who] is I think my grandmother’s grandmother, was one of the first white girls … babies … born in Hastings; and they used to live down by the town clock – round that area there.

And so you said your father and your mother separated when you were younger?

Young, yeah. My father was a projectionist in the movie theatre, and they met at the Regent Theatre. Mum was an usherette, and dad was the projectionist there. So then they got married; had two kids, myself and Stuart, my brother; but they separated after about two years, or three years. They were in Napier at that stage, and they were renting a house in Napier. I think times were pretty tough and so I suspect that that was probably the problem – I don’t know.

Norma and Olga, my mother’s sisters, both married American servicemen. Norma married a Navy man; she was down in Wellington at the time, and met this serviceman and they married, and he took her back to America, and she basically stayed in America for the rest of her life, tripping back to New Zealand now and again. My grandmother, Olive Spencer, used to go and see her on a regular basis – travel over to America. And she did that on her own quite often.

And then Olga married Gordon Breen, who was in the American Navy during the war. She went to America and met him over there, and funnily enough, [chuckle] I think after about a week she decided to marry him so it was a very short thing.

And Russell eventually ended back in America too. After different things he tried – he’d lost his eye. He joined the Air Force; but he was at a fun fair shooting targets, and a piece of the metal flew out of the gun – took his eye out. And so he lost his eye which – he couldn’t become a pilot then, which was his dream – that’s what he wanted to do. He could still drive … he still drove; but he became a mechanic. And in 1956 he and his wife, Ivena Pothan, went to America, and ended up with Bell Corporation, which is making helicopters. And he was their safety man. But he eventually got himself into a position where he became the helicopter mechanic. And he came back here and set up a company called Whirl-Wide Helicopters, which was stationed in Hastings, and I think basically they did spraying and all sorts of things like that. So he came back and set it up with an American pilot who was a Vietnam pilot, and came back here. And he stayed a little while and then he went back to America – he loved America – and stayed there ‘til he died. His wife died very early on; she had cancer, but she had cancer for a long time. Then his son also died, Graham – he died in a helicopter crash; he was involved in helicopters as well. So Russell ended up on his own basically, in America. But he survived; he was a cab driver, and he leased the airport at [?Kalinga?]. And we went and visited once, and he had [chuckle] … Russell was one of these guys who started things and never finished them. He had a half-finished helicopter, he had a half-finished plane, he had a half-finished big touring bus thing. But that was Russell, and everyone knew what he was like and so they just went with the flow.

Norma had three kids; they were all in America, but she and her husband are both buried in Hastings. They wanted to come back here. Even her husband wanted to be back here. He loved New Zealand.

Olga – both of them are deceased now. Gordon was from New Jersey; never went back to New J[ersey] – I think he went back once in his whole time. But he came back into Hastings with Olga in about 1956 or so, and he started up a restaurant/takeaway place called ‘Fat Boy Barbecue.’ ‘Fat Boy Barbecue’ was one of the first places to start hamburgers. So Gordon started this up with his wife and they lived next door, and this shed that they started was a [an] electrical engineers’ shed; it was basically a dirt floor, and he built it himself and set the whole thing up. Did very well for two or three years, and then sold it. And then it was going under, so he went and bought it back again and spent another couple of years with it, and sold it again. And the second term that he had with ‘Fat Boy Barbecue’ I worked for him, and I was about thirteen, I suppose. I used to work Friday nights, and I’d work from six ‘til ten, and then on Saturday night I used to work from six ‘til we closed. And there was always two hamburger patties left, one for Russell and one for Gordon. We always had a hamburger at the end of the day. I can still remember the times I used to be so tired that I’d be sitting on a stool with my head on the bench, sound asleep at about twelve o’clock; we never used to close ‘til about half past two, three o’clock in the morning. And Gordon’d just leave me there.

Eric Taylor used to work with Gordon and Olga for the first three years they were there, and he said it was a great social place.

Oh, it was different; we never really had anything like … ‘Course in those days they had the milk bar cowboys … a little earlier than that, but anyway, they used to come along and he used to have a few people who [were] a bit drunk and get a bit carried away. But he never took a backward step; he never took a backward step, and he’d go out there and he’d sort them out. The odd bottle was thrown at him and things like that.

He had a big stature, didn’t he?

He was six foot; he was wiry, but he had an interesting life, Gordon Breen – that’s

Olga’s husband – he was actually a triallist for the Olympic Games as a speed skater for America, and his daughter’s still got his speed skates that he used. And he was also a landing craft operator; he lied about his age – he was only seventeen when he was in the Navy – and he used to drive landing craft from the boats to the beaches and back again. Never really talked much about that, but he just did say, “The bullets used to whistle around my ears a few times.” [Chuckle]

So that’s what he did during the war, and they ended up in California. Olga’d gone over there to see her sister, and they met … that’s where they met, and I think Olga enjoyed America too

And then Zita met Ivor, and married Ivor; and then … yeah, so they’ve all lived good long lives. George lived to eighty … just short of his eightieth birthday; Olive Dagg lived to ninety-three I think it was; her son Russell lived to ninety-four; Olga’s daughter Norma lived to eighty-one, eighty-two; Olga lived to ninety; Zita lived to eighty-nine … she was just short of her ninetieth birthday. So yeah. And they never held back on living life; they used to enjoy life, so it wasn’t eating healthy food or taking care of themselves. [Chuckle] They did what they liked.

I was just reading about Aunt Daisy; and this guy did an experiment using Aunt Daisy’s recipes, and said, “No one got fat on Aunt Daisy’s recipes, and yet easy recipes, easy food to get; very wholesome; very nice.” Didn’t worry about eating too much sugar or anything like that; no obesity.

George in his latter life was very immobile; he had to have two sticks. He had arthritis. Our days we’d get an artificial hip replacement; in those days they didn’t. He just put up with the pain; he had glaucoma so he wasn’t seeing too well; he had a chair ‘specially built for him, and it was a high seat so all he had to do was sort of basically lean back on it. And we’d call it the throne – beautiful chair; and he used to sit back on that.

I remember my grandmother’s house – she had a little kitchen, she had a gas stove in that little kitchen, and she used to have those pull out … you know those sort of tip over … used to put flour in, and sugar … bins. Bins, and all sorts of things. Used to have those, and in this little kitchen she used to cook Christmas dinners, family dinners, and how on earth she did, I don’t know.

But kitchens were like that; on the corner of Southampton and Karamu Road there was a big homestead ..?

On the corner of Southampton?

… and Railway Road.

Oh yes, yes, yes – I know.

That had been doctor’s home, and it had this very small kitchen with one of those terrazzo benches, and you thought, ‘how on earth ..?’

Did they have a larder? Or butlers … it was even bigger than the kitchen!

That was it.

Yeah. And next to that was the dining area, which was really what we’d call a family room now, with a big oak dining room table that sat I don’t know how many people. We had benches … pews along the back, and we used to sit tons of people around that table. And I remember sitting near my grandmother on Christmas Day, and we used to sit there and we’d pod the peas, you know? And we did that in the morning and filled a big pot of peas up. Used to do that, and they had a big back yard, and George at that stage was pretty immobile, but [chuckle] … can remember my brother and I – he called us the Kelly Gang, [chuckle] ‘cause we had no end of energy and we just went. And anyway, we were running through puddles one day out on this driveway area, and George had had enough. He said, “Stop doing that!” Anyway, he grabbed one of us round the neck with his [chuckle] walking stick … [chuckle] … said, “Come ‘ere!” Anyway, a neighbour was going past. “George, you can’t do that to kids – you can’t do that!” He said, “You mind your own business, this is my kids! I’ll do …” [Chuckles]

Old George … I can remember he used to sit by the dining room window; there was a window there. He used to sit – that was his spot so he could see out the back yard – he didn’t move too well, and we used to see him in that window the whole time. But I can remember in that same room they had an old wireless. I used to listen … my grandmother, believe it or not, she played hockey; played hockey for Wairarapa, and that’s probably where I got my skill from. But in 1956 we listened on that radio, and no one could talk while she listened to the tests against the Springboks and All Blacks on the ra[dio], and old Winston McCarthy …

It’s a goal!”

That’s it. And I can remember hearing that. Yeah.

Now – what we need to do now is come back and talk about Russell Lyndon’s family.

Russell Lyndon’s family …

Did your mother remarry?

Yep. Bloke by the name of Bill Smith. But we went and lived at my grandmother’s place … grandfather, grandmother’s place when they actually got divorced, and I started school at Raureka. And we were only there a year I suppose, and then I came out to Havelock North and we lived at Havelock North here for a couple of years. She didn’t stay long with this guy; she separated from him after about eighteen months, and then she was on her own, and so Stuart and I sort of went between my grandmothers and wherever mum ended up. And she worked for a guy by the name of Bill Little; he was a builder. And Bill said, “I’ve got a section down Grove Road”. He said, “I’ll build you a house”. So he built a two-bedroom home down Grove Road, right dead smack in the middle of all the State houses. So mum had this house built for her, so she was a solo mum from about 1954, ‘55. She stayed with my grandmother and in 1956 this was built, and she moved into the house with her two boys, and she worked; she worked at Slater’s … old Charlie Slate’rs … she worked there for a long time as the office manager. And she also worked at Findlay’s Bakery. Old Hugh Smith was the manager there; and she used to start at six in the morning and finish at three in the afternoon so she’d be home for us kids when we finished school. But we had to get ourselves to school. And she took in a couple of boarders … two guys; and in the two-bedroom, we slept in Mum’s room in bunks, and they had to share the other room. So she had these boarders for a long time, then she had two girls; so she’s had boarders all her life; she’s always had them. And then she – as I say, she was at Findlay’s Bakery; she must have gone to Findlay’s Bakery after Slaters. And Findlay’s Bakery closed, and then she went back to Slater’s.

Then she met Bruce Gordon, and Bruce was a Christchurch guy – he was an ex-jockey. And they married, and they opened up a dairy down Karamu Road and they had that dairy for a long time. They used to open that at six in the morning; close at eleven o’clock, and Bruce always said, “I open at six in the morning so I can catch all the freezing workers going to work, and they can buy their cigarettes and sandwiches and so forth; and I stay open to eleven o’clock at night to get all the drunks coming home to buy pies and cigarettes on the way home.” So they had that for a while.

They went down to Longburn; they had a pub down in Longburn, which is out of Palmerston North. They looked after the freezing works down there and also the dairy workers down there, so she was a pretty hard pub. They did very well out of it; sold that up … sold the lease on that … and went to Auckland. And Bruce worked at the Takanini race track and he was the guy who tallied them coming in and out – if they used the training track they got charged, so he used to take who was coming in and going out. So he loved his horses; and Zita worked at different jobs around there. And then Bruce died of cancer, and so Mum came back to Hastings and lived in Hastings till she died. But she’s worked all her life; she’s always been a worker.

She probably needed to, to support being a solo mum.

There was no solo parent payment in those days; the only thing she got was 1/6d a week on each kid, which was a child welfare thing, used to get a little warrant.

It wasn’t much anyway.

No. And my father used to pay maintenance – it was a guinea … one pound one shilling [£1/1s], and that used to arrive every Saturday morning without fail – never missed a beat. And that was to pay maintenance for the two kids, and my job was to go round the corner to the dairy in Jellicoe Street there, and cash that cheque. I used to buy cigarettes for my mother, which was Capstan Plain; I can remember those. And he used to cash a cheque every Saturday and I’d come home with the cigarettes. So Dad never missed a payment.

So did you maintain contact with your father through those young years?

Yep. We used to go and stay with him for holidays … the school holidays … and we might stay a week or something like that. He’d remarried, and she had four kids, so I’ve got half-brothers and half-sisters, and I’ve kept in contact with them. Always been most welcome; and his second wife, Lucy … always been very good to us; took us in when it was his turn to look after us, and there was no complaints or anything like that. No, she was very good. And he used to take us to the movie theatres and we used to watch for free … the movie theatres for free.

Coming back to Russell Lyndon. Did you move to ..?

Went to Havelock. I finished my primary school there for two years … Havelock Primary.

Kept that under your hat.

Yeah. And I remember they’d just opened up the top part, the new school – ‘54 or something. And I can remember, lunch used to be on the dell, and we used to sit there, and then after lunch we used to go into class and we used to have to lie on a mat and have a nap.

And then we moved back to Hastings; I went to Raureka again, and I’ve got a photo of that when I was at school [at] Raureka. And all those kids that were in my class, I went right through school with at different times – yeah. ‘Cause they were at Raureka, and then I met them at Intermediate; and then I went to Hastings Boys’ High so all these boys … there’s old Curly Clark and all these guys … I went right through school with. And the mothers, believe it or not – might have met them once when I was a teenager – knew me, all the way through. So those mothers knew all those kids, so when Mum got the house built in Grove Road we moved; then I went to Mayfair School and I finished my primary school at Mayfair. In those days, Frank, I used to go to Hastings Intermediate – at eleven, get on a bike and bike from Grove Road across town. And I used to do that at high school too. So I used to go right across town, and never thought anything about it – it was just part of your job.

And at some stage or other you started chasing a little ball with a bent stick?

I got introduced to that by one of the boarders that Mum had – Morrie Roderick, and Morrie Roderick played hockey for Hawke’s Bay. And he had an old hockey stick – it was worn down, and I think originally what he wanted was someone to hit the ball back at him [chuckle] when he was practising. So that was my introduction to hockey.

He was also a very good hammer thrower, and he used to practice out the back. He put a concrete pad in the lawn out the back, and he used to practice his hammer throwing. But anyway, that’s where I learned hockey, and I used to go over to the park, ‘cause the hockey park was at Windsor Park there, right across the road. And I used to practise and practise and practise and practise, running up and down the paddock; up and down the paddock. So yeah – so that’s where I learned my hockey. I played hockey at Intermediate, then went to High School and got into the First XI when I was thirteen, because they were short so I played games. So the next year they said, “Right – who was in the First XI last year?” So I put my hand up, ‘cause I was. And so I played in the First XI from fourteen ‘til I left school. And they had some good players in those days too. At eighteen I got into the Hawke’s Bay side; I played one game for the Hawke’s Bay Colts, and then went straight into Hawkes Bay Senior side. I played two years in what was called the Eastern Zone Colts, which was from Dannevirke right up to Gisborne, and they selected a team to go in the National tournament … captained that one year; [the] last year I was in it. And from that last tournament I got into the New Zealand Juniors – so the New Zealand Colts team that went to Australia; we had a tour in Australia.

Played rep hockey for about twenty years, from eighteen to thirty-eight – I retired at thirty-eight. I had most of it in Hawke’s Bay, but I had two years in Whakatane – I played for Bay of Plenty; and I had two years in London – played hockey over there; got into an invitation side there; and then came back in 1974 and played hockey until ‘80-something.

And so you also started work; did you join the bank?

Interesting about that, I left school and thought, ‘I wouldn’t mind joining the bank’. So we got references, and of course it was easy to get references – we had the family’s accountant and the family lawyer, and someone else got references, and I thought, ‘Yeah, I’d like to join the bank. They start at ten and finish at three.’

Little did you know …

Little did I know. And anyway, I said, “That’ll give me time to play hockey and go surfing and so forth.” Oh no, you start at half past eight and you finish at five, and on Wednesday night you stay to half past seven, balancing the books for the week. [Chuckle] So that blew that idea out the window. I enjoyed my time at the bank; I had thirteen years at the bank … BNZ, and they looked after you; they were very good, and it ended up almost like a family. It was very hard to leave in the end. But we had [a] very good social life, excellent social life, and we did lots of things together. You know, we used to have parties together; we used to have cricket matches, and all sorts of things. Went from … I didn’t do the junior’s job; I went straight into what was called Details which was looking after the tellers, balancing the tellers, and from there to [the] Foreign Exchange department; I was in the Accounts department which looked after all the accounts. And then I got transferred to Whakatane, and I was in charge of the Foreign Exchange department up there and that included a company called Bergs’ Game & Seafood, and they were a very big company who sent possum skins away, they sent venison away, they sent all gamey stuff away. And I used to have to look after the accounts, make sure their money was coming in and when they had to pay for something that was sent out and that sort of thing. So I did that for two years, and then I got transferred to London; and I had two years in London. And basically in London the Kiwi boys were put into positions that the Poms didn’t want to do, and they were basically reconciliation jobs, which I enjoyed doing. You had to search out where this money went and that sort of thing.

Funnily enough got transferred back to Stortford Lodge which was most unusual, you usually went to Auckland or Wellington. And I came back to Stortford Lodge as first assistant to Brian Bisley; and he was the Manager there and we had a little staff of about six or eight … something like that. And my job was sort of a non-executive accountant; it was first assistant after the Manager. Then I got transferred back to Hastings again and I was their Loans Administration Manager which was looking after the loans documents; making sure all the loans were all on line and had all the necessary documentation.

I stayed there for a while, then in 1979 I changed course and went and worked for Esam Cushing … [Sir] Selwyn Cushing … as a sharebroker. And I was a one man band; on my own with a part-time secretary – his secretary helped me out when she wasn’t busy with him. And he was at that stage a director of Brierley’s, so he was very busy. When I first arrived at Esam Cushing doing sharebroking, we were hand-posting, and I said to Selwyn, “This is ridiculous!” ‘Cause I’d just come from a bank … from 1969 had had a computer – we were all computer-driven, and mica-reading, and things like that.  And I was there eight or nine years; went from me on my own to twelve staff. And that was in the 1980s, so [the] 1980s were wonderful years. Everyone moans about the greedy eighties, but everyone had a smile on their face, and everyone was involved in the share market. Everyone was making money, everyone was happy.

Now at some stage you met Christine;  so where do her folks come from – were they local?

No – George is Scottish; he came out from Scotland when he was twenty-one.

His surname was …

Coutts – George Coutts. And he ended up down in Dunedin and he met his wife, Joan Paton she was – Paton … Joan Paton; and Joan was born in New Zealand but both her parents were Scots – both came out from Scotland, and so she was full Scot. George was Scottish, and the one thing [chuckle] … she said, “I’ll never marry a Scotsman, and I’ll never marry a farmer.” And she married a Scotch [Scottish] farmer. He was in the telegraph business down in Dunedin. And anyway he went to war, and he was a prisoner-of-war for five years … four years, something like that; escaped, got caught, put back; he was in Crete, and he got caught in Crete, taken to Northern Greece. He was put in a prisoner-of-war camp there; he escaped from there; he was handed back to the Germans by some locals, so he was sent up to Germany and he was there ‘til the end of the war. And even some guys he was in the camp with from local … round here – Les … he was a builder. He said if it wasn’t for George he would’ve starved. George spoke German and could – or he learnt German. And apparently the Scots, the way they speak is very German; they don’t have an accent, they actually speak very well. And he was able to talk to the guards, and used to get chickens and bits and pieces from them, so he survived.

But George met Joan; he came up here; he came back from the war and got a rehab farm in Tutira and they stayed there until they retired. And George died ‘72, ‘71-’72, and they reckon it was through the time he had as a prisoner-of-war, the doctor said that the stress that he had.

And so did Christine have any brothers and sisters?

Sister, Margaret – just the two girls. Margaret married Mike Webster, who used to work on Tutira Station; they met there and married and went down to Turakina and they had a farm down there. They’ve just retired and sold the farm.

They got into Napier Girls’ High; they boarded at Napier Girls’ High … still very friendly with a lot of the girls that they boarded with, as they do. But she worked as a hairdresser to start with, and she finished up hairdressing; went to Aerial Mapping and she worked at Aerial Mapping in the dark rooms, developing all the films that old Van Asch used to take photos of. From there she went into the drafting department, and she used to draw maps by hand – and this is the contours; she used to draw bridges, and little bushes. And I said, “How on earth could you do that?” But she’s very precise; she did cake decorating, and she’s very precise, she used to do these big maps, like this, and spend hours doing them.

And so did she play any sports?

Not really. She played sport at school – netball and hockey and bits and pieces, but she was never a sports person.

So then you married in ..?

1970. We went to Whakatane virtually straight away, in 1971 – not long after we got married we went up there, and then went off to London together, and had a good time in London. Met up – her sister was over there already, and we toured the Continent in a Kombi van with her sister, and Chris and I. [Chuckle] Margaret was driving the van, and going into France – from Spain into France – and anyway, she got caught up in the wrong one-way traffic, and a policeman came over [and we] stopped. And we had a Kiwi sign on the front and the back, so he knew we were tourists; “You’re going the wrong way – you need to turn round and go back that way.” And he looked in the van and he saw these two girls and me; and he said, “Where you sleep?” And I said, “One girl there, one girl there, me in the middle”. He went, “Ooh la la!” [Chuckle] Off we went.

But yeah – no, we had a good time; six weeks on the Continent travelling all around. Saw lots and did lots – it was a lot of fun. But we came back; we were married six years before we had Matthew; and then [a] couple of years later we got Jodi. Yeah. Matthew’s got a girl and a boy, and so has Jodi, got a girl and a boy. The two girls are the eldest and the two boys are the youngest.

Now somewhere during this period you lost your brother?

Yes. Right, 1985. Stuart had been in America; he’d been to England, he’d stayed in England for a couple of years, then he went to America. His passion was car racing, and his next biggest passion to car racing was to drive a NASCAR – he just loved them. So he went to America; he spent about eight years in America, and he did that by way of our uncle Max, who’s my father’s brother. And he got an introduction to a Toyota factory … ‘cause Stuart was a mechanic; did his time as a mechanic … Toyota company in Canada. So he got a job up in Canada and then flicked across the border into America and eventually got a green card, and he worked as a mechanic building NASCARs for a guy by the name of Bosco Lowe. He originally went to California, and he was in LA; and then he went to Arizona and he had little businesses along the way. Then he decided, ‘no, I’ve got to go to where NASCAR is’, which is the southern states of America, so he went to North Carolina – drove over there on a motorbike – and he ended up with Bosco Lowe. Stuart turned his hand to a lot of things too; he was a mechanic by trade, but he learnt panel beating and he learnt spray painting. And what he did was he used to flare guards … the fenders … and it wasn’t an easy job, it was quite a tricky little job. Anyway, the NASCARs in those days didn’t have any flares around them, so he said to Bosco “I’ll do that for you; I’ll show you.” And so he got the job of course as a mechanic – he worked as a mechanic as well – and he used to flare these guards. Well, he built his own car; first car he had was a Torino … Ford Torino … it was a big thing. He raced that in the States and then he got himself a Ford and he used to race that. He never raced in NASCAR; he raced in ARCA. Division 1 was NASCAR and next one was ARCA. And anyway he raced that for a year or so … couple of years. And at Atlanta International Speedway which is a big bang speedway, he was racing his car and he saw his mate, Bosco Lowe, was up the top. So he followed him; he dropped down like that, and put his foot down to pass him on the inside; and as he went down he lost traction and the car went sideways and went down into the bank area and hit a [an] earth bank. And all drivers will tell you that you don’t hit earth banks, because you don’t bounce; you just stop dead. You go ‘boof!’ … stop like that. Well it broke Stuart’s neck, ‘cause he hit his head against … it went on that angle there, and the driver was on this side … hit his head on the roll bar, and that was the end of him. If it’d been concrete he would’ve bounced, but it was earth. From that day basically, they took that earth bank away and put a … ‘cause there was an entrance in and out for the ambulances and that sort of thing, and they put a concrete thing there. So he got killed 2nd June 1985, and I got a phone call from his girlfriend over there to say he’d been killed, so we got – I think my passport had expired, and I rang them or something like that, It was a Monday anyway, which was Queen’s Birthday weekend. Anyway, we got tickets up to Auckland. When I was at the airport in Napier … who was the MP for Hastings here? Big tall guy – Labour guy.


Butcher. Butcher was at the airport. And anyway, my mother and I were going over, and we were in a fluster of course, trying to get things done. And I didn’t have a passport; and I recognised him, and he said, “Don’t worry – it’ll be ready for you in Auckland. By the time you …” you know, “it’ll be there.” And so I went flying up there, and my passport was ready. All they needed – I can’t remember how the photo got in there – whether they used an old photo, ‘cause I had one from England. So whether they used an old photo … I don’t know how they did it, but anyway the passport was waiting there, with a visa.

And we flew out that night and got over there, and we flew into Atlanta Airport and got a rental car and drove all the way up to the Atlanta Speedway, which is out of Atlanta, Georgia. And … be [a] good hour … at least an hour out. We found our way there, and people were very good to us when we got there. ‘Course they had to be, because they weren’t too sure whether we were going to get hold of a lawyer and start suing people; but we didn’t, we just let it slide, just carried on. We had him cremated over there and we brought him back, and that was a [an] [chuckle] interesting thing … my cousin from the States, Norma’s son, Spencer, came over, and when we flew back to San Francisco I had a little box of Stuart’s ashes. And anyway, we were going through Customs or something, and they said, “What’s that box?” And I said, “Oh, that’s my brother’s ashes.” “Can I have a look at it, please?” I said, “You go right ahead; there it is – you open it up, and you do whatever you like with it.” “Um … um … oh no, it’s okay. No, it’ll be okay”. [Chuckles] Let it slide. So we brought him back here and buried him here. He was thirty-five; thirty-five. He was a man a bit like George – did his own thing. You might call them selfish, but that was the way they were in those days; they were blinkered into what they wanted to do in their life, and away they went. It was interesting times, following their lives.

Now you’ve been … for twelve years, a sharebroking man?

Yeah – ‘bout eight or nine years. Then the share market crashed; 1987, and suddenly there was no work. And so twelve staff went down very quickly to three or four, I think.  And then I started off with Tremain Real Estate. And I started off as their … well, it was the Manager in the branch, but really it was advertising managing more than anything else … and I was to look after all the advertising, run the office – except that the accounting side was done by Kay, and the overall licence was held by Jim Simkin. But my job was to run it; do all the advertising, do all the marketing; make sure the signs were done, make sure I kept records of all the open homes; all the staff sales, and who was doing what, and what commissions were paid – that sort of thing. Everyone who was working at that time, I kept a record of all the open homes they did; all the people they had through, and that sort of thing. And then Kel died, and that threw the cat amongst the pigeons, and Chris decided to take over. And so he came along … came back from England, didn’t he?

Both the boys were overseas.

No, well Simon was in BNZ, in Foreign Exchange in Wellington.

But he was on an OE, [overseas experience] because Pam took over first.

She had the licence. She was given a temporary licence at that stage, and they had six months I think, before they had to find someone else, and that’s when Chris did his, and Simon did his eventually, too.  So I did real estate for twenty-two years, Frank.

And during this time Christine became a flower person?

Yep. She was at Turners & Growers in the flower department there. She went from drafting – she did drafting in Whakatane; she did drafting in London. In fact she had a security clearance that she could go anywhere in any government department in London, and – if they even had a high meeting, she could walk into that meeting and do whatever she wanted to do, and they couldn’t stop her. And her job was to go into these … like the Ministry of Defence, or Naval whatever … and she’d go in and her job was to sketch out the building. ‘Cause quite often these places – they take out a wall, and so people didn’t know what was in there, so every year they’d go through and check what had been done. And then she’d draw that up.

And one of her jobs was, she started the drawings on the Channel Tunnel; and one of the other jobs she did just before she left was, she was going to be invited to go with one of the guys into Buckingham Palace and they were going to go through and check all the rooms hadn’t been changed.

And then she came back here, and she got a job at Turners & Growers in the flower department; a friend of hers used to work in there, and she did a part-time job and loved that ‘cause she loved flowers and gardening. And then the friend left, and so they said, “Well – who’ve we got?” Well, Christine put her hand up and said, “I’ll do it.” Then they changed it from wholesaling – it was an auction at that stage; another girl was doing the auction and that girl left, so Christine did the auctions; so she did auctioneering there for a little while, and did the flowers. And then Turners & Growers in their wisdom decided to close everyone except Auckland and Wellington, and Christchurch – so Palmerston North, Tauranga, Gisborne, Wanganui – all those other flower departments all closed. Christine was doing very, very well, and I think they regretted closing Palmerston North and Hastings ‘cause they were doing so well.

Anyway, she finished on the Friday and Ken Harvey was working at Fruit Packers – he was the CEO over there. And he knew Christine from when he had Farmer Joe’s down at Stortford Lodge; he used to buy flowers off [from] Christine, and he rang her and says, “What are you going to do now that you’ve left?” And she said, “I don’t know”. He says, “Come and work for me.” “What doing?” “Selling apples.” “Okay, Ken, but I don’t know one apple from another.” Anyway, she started in there and set up the local market sales there. Prior to that a girl just sat …

And waited for orders ..?

… orders to come in and just sent them out. So Christine got into the markets, and she changed them; she got them so they weren’t just rubbish apples going out, they were good quality apples going out, so got a good reputation for them.

And so she’s still there in 2017, isn’t she?

Fifteen years. Fifteen years she’s been there.

Your two children … what does Matthew do these days?

Matthew trained as a mechanic with Murray Wellwood in Havelock North here. And he finished his apprenticeship and he went down to Palmerston North and he worked for an engineering firm down there, and he did all sorts of things. He worked on the dam at Shannon there – there’s a power station there – he worked in there. He used to go round the country fixing up things like cranes – he had to go in if a crane had broken down somehow, he used to fix up cranes. Floodgates; if floodgates weren’t working properly he’d go in and fix up those, so it was a big engineering firm.

He left there and came back to Murray Wellwood’s here, and worked for Murray there for a while; and decided to go out on his own. Murray collapsed – the business broke down. So he went out on his own with another guy in partnership for a couple of years, and the partner said, “Look, I’m going to buy you out; it’s not working with two of us here.” So he bought him out, and Matthew works at Norwood’s now; he started in the Parts Department, he’s now selling and enjoying it. Married Sonia … known Sonia for a long time. Matthew went to England and he worked over there as a [an] engineer, and then as a painter. He used to work on boats … houseboats … and he used to do welding and then he’d paint them. And that was over there, and in the winter he used to go over to Aspen. And he got a job in Aspen on the lifts, and he used to go and see all the film stars going up and down the … Then he met Sonia and they went over there together; and they came back, got married and had two kids.

And Jodi – quite proud of little Jodi, because she’s our first in the direct family of going to university and getting a degree. So she did a degree in Industrial and Organisational Psychology, and Criminology – that was [those were] her two degrees. And she thought she’d go down the criminology line, but there’s no jobs here for criminology so she went into … funnily enough, Government department there – what’s the big one there? And she was their Worksafe person, and so she had to go round the countryside making sure these offices are all okay. And then she left there, and worked for a computer firm; and she worked as HR [Human Resources] in the computer firm. Then her husband, Greg, used to work at Russell McVeagh as a tax lawyer; they decided to go to England, so they went to England for about four or five years. They both worked for … Jodi in HR and he as a lawyer … in a big law firm over there; and right in 2008 when all these places were crumbling, Jodi’s job was to make these lawyers redundant. She didn’t actually make them redundant, but she sat in with a partner who would tell these lawyers, “Sorry, there’s no job here for you.” Jodi had to sit in on the meeting and make sure the guy said the right things so there weren’t any comebacks. So she did all that; then she came back here and went to Auckland. And they had a couple of kiddies; Greg decided – he worked for Russell McVeagh up there – and he decided to come down here and work for Crowe Horwarth as their tax lawyer. So he’s been there for the last three years … four years. And Jodi’s been working part time for them as a HR consultant, and now a Worksafe consultant. So they’ve done well. It’s quite nice to have both them back in Havelock North.

Yes. And did you mention how many children they have?

Matthew and Sonia have two – Sophie and Harry. Sophie’s eight and Harry is six. And Jodi and Greg have Payton who is six, and little Fletcher who is four.

You have another couple of interests you haven’t mentioned; first one is golf – it’s actually almost an obsession …


… and the second one is that you fill in some gaps at the Knowledge Bank.

Yes. I was talking to my very good friend, Frank Cooper, and my other acquaintance I know who’s Jim Newbigin, and they said, “Why don’t you come along to Knowledge Bank?” And I said, “What on earth is that?” “Oh, it’s good; you can just come and go as you please, it’s no problem.” I said, “Oh, that sounds like me … just a little volunteer job”. Well! It’s not quite like that. [Chuckle] It’s very, very interesting – you digitalise the history of Hawke’s Bay. And of course it’s quite nice looking at the history of Hawke’s Bay ‘cause it jogs your memory about different things you’ve seen. For instance, one of my first jobs was to do the pictorial publication, Photo News; and to go through those old photos – I saw a lot of old friends, 21sts, weddings – quite good; quite interesting, that one.

And I play golf; I thought, ‘Now, I’m not going to be at the Knowledge Bank if it’s going to interfere with my golf.” And Jim Newbigin is a fanatic golfer … said, “No, it doesn’t interfere with your golf; it’s okay, you can fit it round your golf.”

You blend them.

So I’ve been playing golf at the Hastings Golf Club, Bridge Pa, since 1975. Never got any worse and never got any better. [Chuckle]

But you had a lot of fun, and that’s what it’s about.

A lot of fun. And I’ve seen changes to the golf course, and seen change of personnel. You make very good friends out there … very good friends. I enjoy my golf – very frustrating, but it’s enjoyable. So that’s really me – not very exciting.

But it’s amazing just how much history you’ve talked about in Hawke’s Bay, and you know that’s really important because we’ve covered things that a lot of people wouldn’t even know about.

Mmm. There’s little things you’ll notice I’ve said along the way, like – the little things like where the Heretaunga Club started; the Hastings Club.  So the family over the years – Max never had any kids; he married Rosie and she was an Italian; he was in tanks in Italy, and – that was Ivor’s brother – and he met Rosie over there. Never spoke any English, and married her, brought her back to New Zealand. She got a law degree not knowing any English … got a law degree and became a lawyer. And she worked for the Public Trust for a number of years as their lawyer.

And then Tony – Tony married Glenys, and Tony was a mad racehorse man … mad as a … Loved them, trained them. And he had three girls – Marie Lyndon who was a very, very good jockey. And I gave her her first hockey stick – she played hockey … she was a good hockey player … and Marie was the first woman to win the New Zealand Cup, galloping. Then there was Kelly, and Kelly worked in a bank; and then there was Fleur, and Fleur was a hairdresser.

Then Judy had one boy, and he was into computers … and his name will come back to me … not Graham.

And Brendan – I don’t know how many kids he had.

Ivor had two kids with Zita, and had four kids with Lucy. The Lyndon name will carry on; there’s one – Stacy’s a Lyndon. And had a boy – he adopted, and his name is Lyndon. My son, Matthew, is a Lyndon, and he’s got Harry Lyndon; so the Lyndon name will carry on. The Spencer name has stopped, apart from his half-brothers. It’s interesting how you see in children that bloodline, the character traits, you know, you can see it, and think, ‘Oh yes, I can see my grandfather in that kid; I can see my uncle in that kid.”

Is that enough for you Frank?  Pretty boring, but it’s a bit of history there.

No, no, no, no, no. Thank you Russell …

That’s all right.

and long may it last.

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Interviewer:  Frank Cooper

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