Life Story – Brian James McFlynn

Jim Newbigin: Landmark[s] meeting, 12th June [2019], and we’ve got the hairdresser from Southland [Road], Brian McFlynn.

Joyce Barry: Thank you for coming tonight in these numbers – it says something about our speaker. When I trained in Dunedin Hospital, I trained with an English girl, and at her 21st her father came over to us and said, “If you pat Carol’s head, you’ve patted the head that’s been patted by the man that’s patted the Queen’s bottom.” [Laughter] And it was true – Carol was delivered in England by the Queen’s obstetrician. So I’ve got a funny feeling that Brian probably hasn’t patted the Queen’s bottom, but boy, he’s patted a lot of other heads. [Chuckles] So I don’t have to introduce him, ‘cause that’s why you’re here; you know about him. He’s going to explain his whole life today, and there’ll be a few funnies – I know there will. So welcome, Brian, and over to you.


Brian McFlynn: Nice to see you all; hope you stay. I’ll [I’ve] often thought Hastings was a fabulous place to grow up as a kid. I never was bored; still not bored, just old. [Chuckles] I had a joke … it’s annoying when you forget it, isn’t it? [Laughter] But tell me – if corn oil is made from corn, and vegetable oil is made from vegetables, what do they make baby oil from? [Chuckles]

We have two of our younger grandchildren going to Mahora School, and the odd time I’ve gone to Mahora to pick them up … three o’clock; and I feel very sorry for the children at Mahora School, and it wouldn’t be just Mahora, it’d be all schools. Parents park as close as they can to the school; they stand in the school grounds; they sit at the door of the school; they even go into the classroom. And three o’clock they walk the children out; and they put ‘em in the back seat of the car and drive off home.

The kids obviously get home, go straight inside. I think, ‘When do those children ever get the chance to explore Hastings like I did?’ [Murmurs of agreement] To go into buildings … one of the buildings I always remember was Williams & Creagh, the carriers. They were in Market Street, between Eastbourne Street and Lyndon Road; and they had two doors … trucks went in that door and came out there, and they had a platform in the middle. I’d get up on the platform, and there was always two men there and they’d load the stock straight onto the truck; the platform was [??]. And they’d let me do it, and they never ever ordered me away. I’d stay probably ten minutes, fifteen minutes, and then I’d go round and watch the Bowling Club. It was on the corner of Lyndon Road and Railway Road; had a high fence; well it was higher than I was anyway, and I could see over it. I went and watched what they were doing. No one ever spoke to me; no one ever ordered me out. It was just … I’d go to the back of a butcher’s shop; I watched them chop up meat. It was an interesting place, Hastings – I think it still is.

I remember me [my] sister and I going to St Matthew’s Church. We’d go in there; I sat in the front pew and me [my] sister got up in the pulpit and gave me a sermon. [Laughter] And there was no shuffling round, I had to sit there and behave myself. Didn’t have a clue what she was talkin’ about, [chuckles] but that was all right because I don’t think she did either, so [chuckles] … maybe the Reverend there got an idea for a Sunday sermon.

But [at] that time I had a friend, Jimmy; and his father had a billiard room in Hastings, in Heretaunga Street, upstairs. And we’d go along on Sunday and mop out the billiard room for him. And we were only kids, and our reward was we were allowed to play a game of snooker on that far table over in the far corner. And him [he] and three friends – one was called Pat, and one was called Tich, and I don’t know what the other [coughing] one was called – they’d sit round his office, talking and havin’ a beer. And one Sunday we scrubbed the billiard room, and we decided to scrub the staircase going down to Heretaunga Street; and we left the door open so it’d dry out. We went back upstairs, and a while later the police arrived, a Sergeant and a Constable, and they charged Jimmy’s father with being open on a Sunday and drinking beer in the [laughter] billiard room; and he went to court and he got fined. So I think that was the last [coughing] time we did the cleaning job. [Laughter]

But we walked everywhere; we never had a bike; we never had any money. We didn’t need it because everything we did was free. We didn’t have a City Council that gave us a bike park or anything like that – we didn’t need that. And when we got a bike we made our own, down the section down the road; we just took our bikes down there and rode them around until we …

I sold The Dominion newspaper at the clock tower; it was tuppence [two pence] a paper. And one of the nice things in my reign as a newspaper man [chuckle] was they had a wharfies’ strike. And they brought in the Army to man the wharf, and the Army guys all stayed at the Drill Hall in Hastings, which was on the corner of Southampton Street and Warren Street opposite Central School. It was a long wooden building, and the soldiers slept in camp stretchers – I think there was about three, maybe four rows of them. And I’d get on my bike after I picked up my papers, scream round there; and a tuppeny paper … everyone that bought a paper gave me threepence, so I made a penny ha’penny [1½ pence] a paper. [Chuckles] But if they weren’t there – out havin’ a shower or whatever else they do – they’d leave the threepence on the pillow, and I’d just pick it up and leave a paper there. It was great; the only disappointing part was the strike didn’t last long enough. [Chuckles] It’s true.

But then I’d tear back to the clock tower and sell my papers for tuppence, and get a ha’penny a paper. But one Saturday the business was a bit quiet about half past seven, so I thought, ‘Well, I’ll move down to the King Street / Heretaunga Street corner’, where the old Embassy picture theatre was, ‘because I might get one or two going to Wattie’s.’ And I was standing on the corner there, and an elderly lady came driving a little black car from King Street. She parked on the other side of the road; she walked across to me and she said, “Oh, boy – I’ll have a paper.” And she gave me a two and sixpenny piece [two shillings and sixpence, or a half crown] for a threepenny paper and told me to keep the change. [Chuckles] I was made; I was a millionaire. [Chuckles] Two and threepence tip [chuckles] – it was absolutely fantastic!

But when we did get a bike, and I don’t know what age we were, we were mobile. I used to go down Omahu Road … way down Omahu Road, and pick blackberries on the side of the road. Used to get scratches and everything, because they weren’t in neat, tidy rows; they were just old bushes lying all over the road. I used to take them home and Mother’d do some baking with them. Used to go out to Havelock North and push our bikes up Te Mata Peak Road … [it] was a shingle road … and then we’d ride ‘em down. We’d come down at the rate of knots – no brakes. [Chuckles] We could probably get back into the village before it stopped. [Chuckles] We made our fun; we didn’t need money. We didn’t have things you pressed your buttons and things …

But when I was about fifteen, there was a group of us; quite often in the evenings we’d go to the racecourse. There was a lake in the racecourse – quite a big lake. It was next door to where [the] Cheval Room is; and we’d fish for eels. Don’t think there was any eels there – none of us ever caught anything. [Chuckles] I was quite pleased ‘cause I didn’t like fishing anyhow, but I went there. We used to have a ton of fun; there’d be all sorts of stories told and laughs. Mrs Johnson used to come, and she loved her cigarettes. And she’d come and sit on the banks of this lake with us. Her husband was the caretaker of the racecourse and they actually lived in [on] the racecourse, about where the sixteen hundred metre starting point is now; and their address was 706 Southland Road. So she was a great lady, but smoked a hell of a lot. [Chuckles]

My father was a farrier, and [cough] he shoed most of the racehorses in Hastings; and believe me, there was [were] hundreds of racehorses in Hastings in those days. There was [were] racehorse stables everywhere. And when they had a race meeting – which wasn’t as often as they seem to have ‘em now – they were always on a Saturday. He’d get up very early to go round all the stables. And they had special shoes they used to run in, so he’d take their everyday shoe off and put their racing shoe on, and then after the races he’d have to do reverse. I used to get up and go with him, ‘cause he could cook bacon and eggs like no one could. [Cough; chuckles] Loved that – he’d get the bacon so crispy, but not burnt that when you touched it it broke up, and the egg was always runny. And I used to love that. But we’d go round all the stables, and I’d take the nails out to … Then we’d go to the races, and spend most of the day at the races; and I’d go with him and stay part time.

The thing that fascinated me at the races was the vets [veterinarians] used to get the winner and take it away to test it for being drugged; and they’d whistle to the horse to make it pee. [Chuckles] The vet’d be there with a bucket.

My father had a friend called Alf; he was a horse trainer in Gisborne. And when the horses won the race, or the race was over, they came back to the enclosure, and the attendant’d take ‘em straight over to the place where you hosed the horse down … gave it a shower … and some official’d come along and escort that horse down to the end stall where the vet was with his bucket. And this Alf’s horse won; and they went to the hosing place and they couldn’t find Alf; and they hunted all over for him to get this horse. And my father’s blacksmith shop was right across the road and it had double doors in front which he’d lock, and just had an ordinary little door at the back. And I wanted something from the blacksmith shop, so I just bowled in the back door, and here Alf was, sittin’ in the dark, hangin’ on to this horse. I don’t think he had to hang onto it because it didn’t look as though it was going to run away – it’s head was down. But he was hiding from the officials, and I thought, ‘I know – that horse has been drugged.’ Yeah – they never did find him, but … I don’t know whether my father knew about it or not, but … yeah.

I got an apprenticeship as a barber in 1952, and I was lucky – I got a hell of a good boss. He was really good; I stayed a few years with him after I came out of my apprenticeship. But he was the biggest bookmaker in Hastings; highly illegal. [Chuckles] He had a billiard room half a block down the road that he used mostly just for his betting shop on a Saturday, and on Saturday there’d be three men sittin’ behind a big table at the back of the billiard room, just writing out bets. There’d be this queue of people right across the billiard room, ‘cause the TAB [Totalisator Agency Board] wasn’t in – the TABs didn’t come ‘til about the 1950s … ‘55, I think.

And what I did … I had lots of jobs as an apprentice; first job in the morning was sweep the footpath. No one does that today; second was clean the windows – no one does that; and on a Monday you put the rubbish bin out. Friday night, clean the place up. We’d always … supposed to knock off at eight-thirty, but it was closer to nine-thirty. If there was a haircut to be done, you did it. Didn’t matter that you were only paid to eight-thirty; nine o’clock you cut that head of hair. You didn’t say to the boss, “You owe me half an hour”, or anything; that was not … you were the boy; you did it. And I’d clean up the salon.

The boss on Monday morning would put his hand in the rubbish bin; he’d be down there, ‘cause Saturday night he’d come and hide all the money that he took [laughter] in the rubbish tin – and he’d pull this money out. Fridays in the barber’s shop was absolutely fantastically busy. We started at eight in the morning, and you were lucky if you finished at nine-thirty, and then I had to clean up. And we had a big cupboard under the basin, so during the day I’d sweep the floor and just sweep it into the cupboard … never picked it up. And Friday night I usually … in my cleanup I always picked it up, put it in the rubbish bin. But this Friday night I didn’t, I just … oh, too lazy, I just swept it into the … So Monday morning when I came to put the rubbish bin out I had to pick up the hair from under the basin; there was a big lump in it, and it was the biggest roll of money I’ve ever seen in my life. [Chuckling] The boss had taken the money out of the rubbish bin, and he was countin’ it [??], and I come [came] across this tied up with string. [Coughing] It was all £10 [notes] and … big money. You know, when I was gettin’ £1/10/- [one pound ten shillings] a week, two quid [£2] looked a lot. [Chuckles] So I said something … aah, probably, “Golly gosh, look at this.” But he said to me, he said, “Oh, good God!” He said, “Give me that”, he said, “I hid that there Saturday night and I forgot all about it.” [Laughter] And I often wondered, even today – how could you forget? If you [??] But we had good times.

I had a note here and now I’ve lost me [my] way, but … this cowboy said to his son, “Son, if you want to live to be a grand old age, every morning on your breakfast cereal, sprinkle a teaspoon of gun powder.” So the kid did – he sprinkled a teaspoon of gun powder every morning on his breakfast cereal, and when he died at the age of a hundred and one, he left behind eight children, twenty grandchildren, thirty-seven great grandchildren and a five metre hole in the crematorium wall. [Laughter]

You know when I started there was [were] seventeen barbers’ shops in Hastings; there was [were] fourteen boot repairers, and eleven bike shops. We were a busy town.

Oh, yeah … in the barber’s shop, and I was probably still an apprentice, a man came in one morning, and I think it was 1957, and asked did we do blade shaving, which was with cut-throat … the old cut-throat shaver. And I said, yes, we did, so he got in my chair; and I shaved that man every day until 1994; 20th August 1994 I shaved him at one o’clock, and he died at two o’clock. I’ve often wondered if the shave [chuckle] wasn’t done too well. [Chuckles] But he was a fantastic man; he had a permanent ten-thirty appointment. He would fix everything up at the end of the week, and if he owed you $100.01, [a hundred dollars and one cent] that’s exactly what you got; you could say to him, “Oh, scrub the one cent” – he never ever would do that, and if you owed him $100.01 [a hundred dollars and one cent], that’s what you paid. The last two years of his life I shaved him at his home every day. I called in on my way home at night, ‘bout six o’clock at night; I called in on Saturday at about one o’clock on my way home, and Sunday I’d wander round about eleven o’clock. He was so very crook with emphysema. But we had a very long association; he was a great guy. He was a Dutchman called Will Franssen; he did a lot for Hastings.

Talkin’ about a Dutchman, when I got my own shop – I’ll tell you about that too – but I was only down the road from the Lilac Cake Shop, and a Dutchman called Jerry Denis had that – he was a fantastic chap. At five o’clock on a Friday night he’d send along one of his staff with a big box of beautiful cakes; rich cakes – all the cakes that’s [that’re] really good for you, you know, lowers your cholesterol or liver; [chuckles] and they were for the Hillsbrook Children’s Home. Some kids would come in out of a van at six o’clock; they’d like, pick up their box of cakes; and Jerry always said, “It’s leftovers”, and I always used to think, ‘Funny how it’s always the same leftovers.’ He made ‘em for them; he was a good guy.

But that was another story – back in the fifties there was [were] no empty shops in Hastings; you couldn’t get an empty shop, didn’t matter how much I tried. My boss closed down … oh, we had our shop at part of the Carlton Club Hotel; and he wanted to get out of cutting hair, and … gettin’ into car sales and things, he was. Max Rae Datsun was the agency he had then. But the lady that [who] owned the Carlton Hotel wouldn’t have a bar of me … I don’t know what I ever did to her, but she wouldn’t lease the shop to me at all, so I went and worked for Austin Donovan for … I don’t know, a few months. That was a laugh and a half – he was a hard case, was Austin. Greatest spitter I’ve ever seen. [Chuckles] He could be cuttin’ hair, and go [spitting sound] and he’d hit the basin or the pipe. And his wife in the summer time’d go [a]cross the road to the Maine Milkbar and get him a milkshake. Now … and I used to dread that milkshake, [chuckles] ‘cause he used to make the spitting … ten minutes after he finished the milkshake he’d be hittin’ the basin. [Chuckles] He was a funny fellow; he really was.

But a shop came down in the Council Chambers; it was before the Council built their offices in Lyndon Road. And right next door to the Assembly Hall on [the] Havelock side of [the] Assembly Hall was … a joker, Jim Cleary’d had it – he was a boot repairer and he closed down. He must’ve been the untidiest man in Hastings, because the shop was a mess. I don’t think he ever picked anything up, so when I took over I had ball bearings, I had bits of leather; nails and everything on the floor – I had to clean up, and I used to go down there at night … clean it up, then paint it. Interesting thing, the shop never had any water, so a friend of mine who was a plumber … a back door, we had and you went into a little courtyard, which was as useless as a glass eye to a keyhole. It was … you know, it would never be used. So he said, “There’s a tap out there”, he says, “we’ll connect up to the tap.” He said, “Get a cold chisel and chisel a hole through the brick on the bottom, and we’ll put the pipes through.” So I got the cold chisel, started tappin’ the brick, and the whole brick slid out. [Chuckles] It just slid out, so we used that, and I put the brick back. Seven years later when I left the place I turned the tap off, disconnected the pipe and slid the brick [chuckles] back in. Still sittin’ there today, I’d say. [Laughter] But carpenters were doing some alterations up in the Assembly Hall, and one of them come [came] down and he said to me, “This building withstood the ‘31 earthquake, but”, he said, “the next shake, you run like hell.” [Chuckles]

But when I went there – finally we got the place clean and got started up; this side of the Assembly Hall there was three or four shops; and one of the shop owners came and welcomed me to the block. And he said, “Now”, he said, “I’ll tell you what you do.” He said, “Every year, write to the City Council telling them that you’re having a hard time; it’s a struggle to make ends meet; could they see their way clear to reduce the rent.” He said, “They won’t reduce the rent but”, he said, “they won’t put it up.” He said, “I’ve been doin’ it for years.” [Laughter] Yeah.

There was a plane crash; three soccer players in a private plane. It crashed in the middle of the bush; they were lost. The pilot was killed, and after three or four days sittin’ there, one of the soccer players said, “If we’re going to survive”, he said, “we’re going to have to eat the pilot.” So they agreed; and one joker said, “Well”, he said, “I’ll eat his legs; I play for Leeds.” Another joker said, “I’ll eat his liver, because I play for Liverpool.” The third guy said, “I think I’ll give it a miss”, he said, “I play for Arsenal.” [Laughter]

I don’t know whether I’ve got much more to say to you; you’re going to say you’ve had enough already. [Protesting] So yeah.

Only thing I find fault with Hastings at the moment is … it’s wonderful I think, the sports park out there; I think that’s fantastic. I go walking there some Sundays, and I look at it and think, ‘This is just a fantastic park, and it’s going to get better.’ I think the BMX track’s fantastic, the skate park – the Council’s done a lot of good work. But they’ve forgotten about the oldies. I go walking, and some days my legs don’t work as good as I want them to and I think, ‘I’d love to stop and have a sit-down’, but there’s nowhere you can sit. And I know a lot of other guys that’re older than me, and they’ve given up walking because they can’t find anywhere to sit down and watch the world go by for five minutes. And I think, ‘Why don’t they put a seat every block?’ Doesn’t have to be a La-Z-Boy chair; just a plank that you can sit down on. Even Heretaunga Street … there’s seats in the mall around the clock, but it’s hard work gettin’ there; you haven’t got a place to stop. You know, that’s about my whinge.

We used to bike down to – some of you might be able to help me – we used to bike down Maraekakaho Road to a creek, or a lake, and we’d go fishing for tadpoles. You remember that? There was one down there, was there?

Comment: It was deep.

Brian: Deep, was it?

Comment: When you dived in you couldn’t get to the bottom of it.

Brian: Oh, couldn’t you?

Comment: No, I tried.

Brian: No, I can never recall swimming … oh, there was; I often thought that, or was I dreaming that there was a creek. Oh, well there you are.

Joyce: Brian, I’m going to get people to ask questions …

Brian: Well that could be embarrassing; they can ask but they won’t get an answer. [Chuckles]

Joyce: I’d like to know how many houses you lived in in Hastings?

Brian: Two … just two. The one I left when I was two, and the one I’m still in. Eleanor and I – Eleanor’s my wife – she’s the one covering her face back there [chuckles] … her [she] and I bought it when my parents passed away. So, two houses. We’ve done a few alterations; I haven’t wanted to go anywhere else. I live opposite the racecourse; I’ve got a great view. I can have a cup of coffee in the morning and watch the horses running around; I never do, but I can. [Chuckles] I look across the racecourse to the Havelock hills; but I just love the area, always have. Great neighbours; never see them or hear them. [Laughter] Yeah.

Question: How many different shops did you have in town over the years?

Brian: More than I’ve had houses anyway. [Chuckles] Oh, I only had two to be honest. I worked in four different places; I had two bosses and I’ve had two of my own shops; first shop was next to the Assembly Hall, and I was there for seven years, and then I moved around to Warren Street, and I was there twenty-five years. And I’ve been home twenty-five years, so … yeah.

Question: Brian, who cuts your hair?

Brian: Actually style it? Eleanor; she cuts my hair. She never does it quite right; she never gets the part on the right side, [chuckles] but I don’t complain.

Comment: I thought it was John Simons …

Brian: John Simons has cut my hair; we used to cut each other’s. We used to run together, John and I. Yeah, good bloke.

Question: What schools did you go to?

Brian: I went to St Joseph’s Primary. And any [of] you people that’s [who’ve] heard me sing will be surprised to know I got kicked out of singing class, for misbehaving, actually. ‘Nother boy and I, we both got kicked out, so … went behind the singing hall, and we sat in the sun and had a cigarette. [Laughter] Told one of the nuns some time later, I said, “The only thing I learned at your school was to smoke.” [Laughter]

Question: Of the various mayors that Hastings had over the years, which one in your opinion did the most for Hastings?

Brian: Oh, I don’t know – I think they all do their bit, don’t they? I wouldn’t want their job. Oh, I think they’ve all been pretty good; I don’t take a great deal of interest in politics; I think that every mayor’s contributed a bit to [the] good of Hastings. Hastings is a great place. Some years ago I voted for Social Credit, and my friends gave me heaps about this, but I’ve never been a one party person. I voted for Social Credit, and people told me they don’t have any money; they only have funny money … crazy. But only a short while ago we got two banks, so I said to Eleanor, “Go to this” … whatever the name of the bank, “and transfer some money to Westpac.” When she came home she said, “Oh, that was easy. The lady at this SBS Bank said, “Oh, you don’t have to do that; I’ll do it now for you.” So she got on her computer. “There you go”, she said, “it’s in your bank now, in Westpac.” I said to Eleanor, “That’s Social Credit’s funny money.” [Laughter] There ain’t no money. [Chuckles] Just because they pay it – where’s all these jokers that used to sling off? Yeah.

Question: Brian, I was just wondering if you had any neighbouring kids that you used to get up to pranks with?

Brian: One of our neighbours next door to us was a joker, Mr Wilding … Clint Wilding. He was the manager of New Zealand Loan & Mercantile. I can remember him coming home one day, and he had a brand new car … the firm’s car. So he sang out to us kids over the fence, Would we like a ride? And he took us for a ride in this brand new Ford 49. [Chuckles] You know? Yeah, he was a good guy. You’re not related to him, are you? [Chuckles]

Comment: Actually I am, that’s why I asked … [Laughter]

Brian: Ahh … glad I liked him. [Laughter]

Comment: He’s my grandad.

Brian: But no no, they were good; Clint Wilding was good. ‘Cause my sister, [cough] she used to lead me a bit astray; and there was this lady lived round the corner, and we used to play tricks on her. She was mad, mad … and I don’t know where we got it from – we got an empty beer bottle one night. We went and sneaked round the bushes and hid it by her bedroom window. She used to tell us men sat outside her window. And Clint Wilding was outside and he saw it, and he never pimped on us. [Chuckles] Yeah; no, he was good. Yeah, he was good.

Talkin’ about that, I went to cut a lady’s hair one night in Whitehead Road; and she was deaf … as deaf as deaf. She used to have a big thing here, and she’d scream at you; when she talked the rest of Hastings heard it. It was gettin’ a bit dark, and there were a lot of bushes around; and I knocked and knocked and knocked on the door, and couldn’t get her. So I went next door … joker, Pat Russell, and I said to them, “How do you get this lady to hear you?” They said, “Go and jump on the front verandah.” So I’m jumping up and down on the front verandah, and I … ‘They’re havin’ a loan of me, those people; someone’s going to ring the cops and say there’s a strange guy at the neighbours jumping up and down.’ But it worked; she heard it, yeah. She’d get the vibration through the floor, so they told me. I thought, ‘I got sucked in here’. [Chuckles]

Joyce: Brian, the styles of hair cutting …

Brian: Yeah – when I started it was definitely short back and sides; and Friday nights we were expected to do some six-minute haircuts; you wouldn’t get away with it today. If you were longer the boss’d be saying, “You’re draggin’ the chain.” But everything had to be neat … tidy. I remember one Friday night, you know, there was a barber in between my boss and I, and my boss came over to me and he said, “That last haircut you let go out”, he says, “you had a scissor line on it. I don’t want to see another one.” It was just one little scissor line – I thought then, ‘My boss has got great eyesight.’ [Chuckles] You know, but that was it; it had to be neat and tidy and every hair in place. Nowadays, stick it up and … I’m trying to get that style. [Laughter] Yeah. The styles have changed, but they’re coming back to what they were; it’s come around, circle … I found it very, very hard when young people’d come in and ask for a bowl cut, or steps in their hair … found it very hard to do because it was right against what I’d been taught, yeah.

Eddie was a great boss, I was extremely lucky; did my ten thousand hours with him which were – I did it in four and a half years. Every apprenticeship was ten thousand hours, which was five years, but I did it in four and a half because I worked at night time. And I stayed another four years with him afterwards, yeah.

Question: Did you ever draw blood?

Brian: Yes, I did actually, and I …

Comment: Yes he did! [Laughter]

Brian: I was there on my own, and a guy came in; and we were right next door to the Carlton Hotel, so we used to get a few guys in that’d [who’d] had a few drinks. And this guy came in – he was fairly tanked up – and he wanted a shave. So I was keen as mustard. So I was shaving him, and I was pulling the blade around here [demonstrates] and a noise happened outside, and he swung his head. I’m going that way … I think he blunted my blade actually. [Chuckles] But he bled badly, that guy, and I was never so pleased to see the boss come in, and he stopped it; got rid of him and then gave me a rocket on shaving a drunk, so I never shaved one … but yeah; no, I did draw blood. But it’s a long time since I have. [Chuckles]

I always had the ambition of writing a joke book, so any joke I heard, I’d always write the punch line, and I finished up with a little book full of punch lines, and didn’t know the rest. [Laughter]

When I was a little boy my older brother had a car that he used to take girls out. And I didn’t know what you did when you took a girl out; so one night he’s takin’ this girl out and I hid in the back of his car. [Chuckles] And he drove this girl to the river. And when he got to the river, he said to this girl, “Now are you going to be a good girl, or are you going to walk home?” So she opened the car door, got out; walked home. And I thought, ‘Oh … that’s what you do.’ [Laughter] So a couple of years later I got a pushbike, and I got a girlfriend. One day I doubled her out to the river; got to the river and I said, “Now are you going to be a good girl, or are you going to walk home?” And she says, “Oh, I’ll be a good girl.” I thought, ‘Well that’s buggered it – now I don’t know what to do.” [Extended laughter]

Well, I’m a member of the Orphans’ Club in Hastings – that’s a fantastic club, by the way. We have a lot of fun; we’re entertainers; we have singers and musicians, and we have a group that go to Rest Homes and sing; and I’m in the skit group, and we have a lot of fun. And we sit round a table on a Wednesday night – every fortnight we have our own little concert; we’ve got to put a skit on – so we sit round a table on a Wednesday night and come up with ideas for a skit, and that’s where your jokes can come in.

Joyce: So the book’s going to the Orphans’ Club?

Brian: Well, they don’t want it – they’ve got heaps of their own, but … yeah. No, it’ll probably go in the wheelie bin or something.

Question: Did Morrie ever get visits from the police while you were still barbering? Max …

Brian: No, he didn’t. He got caught once, and he reckoned that was fantastic advertising, because everyone knew he did it. [Laughter] So he just carried on.

Question: Can you tell us how your rugby career started?

Brian: It’s quite funny; I had an operation on my eye a couple of weeks ago, and the surgeon there, she was fantastic; but she didn’t sew it up, she packed it and then put plaster all over it; my eye was completely covered. And we had our annual Orphans concert for the public that we raise a few bob. And years ago in 1962 or somethin’, my club, which was a very clean club … we weren’t dirty players … we played Hastings Old Boys. And there was a guy on the wing for Hastings Old Boys called Kevin Norris; he was at [?north?] – you’d get away with it today, the way the game’s going, but … he’d join our maul. So our captain said to two of us, “One of you, whichever’s the closest, hang one on him the next time he comes into the maul.” So it was me; so I hit him. And Mark Jones – a lot of you would know Mark Jones – he played in the same team. And Mark told me … oh, many months later … he said, “Jeez, it must’ve been a good hit you put in, ‘cause in the dressing room afterwards his mouth is all split.” I said, “Oh, that’s disappointin’ – it’s taken me all this time to find out how successful I was.” [Chuckles] But I’m at the concert the other day, and Mark Jones comes up to me. He says, “I see Kevin Norris is … [inaudible, laughter] My claim to fame at rugby. [Chuckles] Yeah.

I refereed rugby for twenty years, and that’s when I had this covered; and one young guy said to me, “You’re lucky”, he says, “you’ve had years of practise at being one-eyed.” [Laughter]

I was a front rower … the workhouse, you know.

Joyce: Brian, it’s fantastic. Thank you so much …

Brian: Pleasure – thanks for havin’ me. [Applause] Thank you.

Joyce: Brian, you’ve come to the right place because our Landmarks people here will certainly take your message about seats back; well, they’ve got to listen to us because they don’t pay us; so we can sit in at these meetings and tell them things. I think it’s a very valid point.

Brian: I thank you all for staying; not often I’ve got the same crowd at the end as I did [chuckles] at the beginning.

Joyce: I think he deserves another round … [Applause]

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Landmarks Talk 13 June 2019

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