Nankervis, Naomi Helen Desha (Helen) Interview

It’s 12th March 2020, and I’m out in Havelock North to talk with Helen Nankervis. So if you’d like to start, and tell us something about your family and about your life?

Hello. I’m known as Helen although my birth certificate says Naomi. At the age of sixteen, my grandmother took me to Woodville, which was a long trip from Hastings those days. We didn’t have a horse and cart, but we did go down in a pretty old car. When I was sitting there with all our family, I was listening to an elderly lady who was talking about her grandmother. I was so taken aback, or inspired, or left wondering … why would an old lady like that talk about an old, old lady when she’s so old herself? I made a note in this little notebook I had; never said anything to my grandmother about it, or anyone else, and later, round about the age of twenty when I was tidying up and moving on to another place to live, I found this little notebook. And I thought, ‘I’ve got to start thinking as to where and how we came from, and why we came from there to here.’ Because she had actually come from England, which [was] a place I’d only learnt a little bit about when I was in high school.

So as time moved on, I didn’t lose this feeling. I used to talk to my grandmother, and she started to tell me that she had seven sisters. And fortunately, not long after that they all got together and had a big ‘Hello’. Well, I got to meet seven ladies, and we talked and talked; and they all talked about different things in their life [lives]. Once again – I’m now in my twenties, but I was so taken aback with it all – but it just kept me thinking on.

And fortunately I started to write things down, notebook after notebook. I still have those old notebooks, but in the meantime I’ve actually put it all on the typewriter, and it’s formed what we call ‘A New Style of Keeping Family Tree[s].’ Instead of making a tree grow down to look like a tree … you run out of paper or you haven’t got enough paper … I came up with a new idea of starting the beginning of the family on the left side of the page, and as a generation was born, I drew a long line down and all their names. And then I put in their children, and make little … two Bs or three Bs … coming out from that name. And finally, out here I might even get to four generations – all on the one page. I did all that when I was in my twenties. I was very inspired with the look of it.

I went to a meeting one day with people talking, and someone looked at it and said, “Where on earth did you get that from?” I said, “What do you mean, ‘from’?” I said, “That’s how I think. Why have a tree that runs out of paper on the side when you can do it this way, and look straight up there and there are the generations age by age; and their children, age by age; and you might get three generations on the … ooh, and wait a minute,” I said. “You can go out to the left now, and go back and make it go this way.” Well!

I actually went to Auckland when I was in my thirties – oh no, in my forties – and I took this chart with me. And they were – it was a genealogist’s place – and they said, “Goodness me!” And a few people made copies of it. Well, all my family have, and there’re about three generations of them now. The eldest one still has those folders, and of course I still have mine.

Another thing that happened to me in my life that inspired me to want to do it – at the age of fourteen I moved out of primary into high school, and I cheekily said, “Could I please look after the library?” I was fascinated with books, and liked to read, ‘specially Shakespeare and things that were imaginative. I loved it. So in I went, and believe it or not, and I’m not boasting this time either, but I’m going to tell you – I’ve forgotten what it’s called – I looked at all this stuff that was muddled up, and I put it into sections; history, geography, whatever the subject was built around; and then the reading, I did it with the author system … the ones that wrote the book[s] that were popular at the time. When the inspector came – I didn’t know this happened ‘til many years later – he went around and he came out; and there’s a report there. [Indicates documents] He said, “Someone has changed this library.” He said, “I’d like to meet her, because,” he said, “it’s only just come online in America.”

That was using the Dewey System?

Yes.

And so you formed a card index?

I did it myself, and it’s because of my brain … how I function. And he couldn’t get over it, and he took a copy of what I’d done and looked at it, and left this nice report about me. I wasn’t to know that until years later. [Chuckle]

What school was that?

Sacred Heart in Napier. Getting back to that, I was born in, of all places, right out the side of Christchurch, near the water.

Near Lyttelton?

Yes. I was there for three or four months; and I came back to Hawke’s Bay and I resided in Taradale – what’s the one below that? Anyway, I lived at Otatara – in that area. Anyway, that all went along very nicely. And on the first photo that was ever taken of me, my name is Helen Maud, but it isn’t that today. Well, time slipped on and …

Can you tell us who your parents were?

Yes, I’m just going to. It was Nina Desha and … it was my daddy’s name.

How did you spell the surname?

Desha. My name’s Desha. My father was William Desha.

Spelt?

D-e-s-h-a. It’s French …

That’s unusual​.

Mmm. Can’t think … I think I’ve got that right. William Francis Desha.

So your mother’s maiden name?

Slater. And she was a young girl, just turned twenty, twenty-one; and I don’t know how they met – I never asked that. And I was there at Otatara for about three or four years. I do remember playing around and going down to where the stables were.

Now, the reason why my father had come down from Hawaii to live in New Zealand – or it was actually just to visit – a Māori lady by the name of Mrs Maud Perry had been in Hawaii, and on the beach there were a lot of nice young men. And amongst them was my young father-to-be, and she saw what they were doing on the beach; and later on she heard that they had polo ponies, and she went out and watched all that. So out of all that looking and seeing, she said, “We want to play polo, but,” she said, “we’ve never had anyone to coach us.” So he was invited to come down and stay. She provided the horses and he trained them, and from there, a club was formed for a polo group in Taradale, and things went along really well.

Then as a Māori … what do you call those things that are kept as ‘Thou shalt not do?’ I don’t know how to name that. Anyway, father and a lot of men went out to Waimarama, and there’s an island out there, and he said, “Oh, I want to have a swim.” And he was told, “Well, if you go out, you mustn’t touch the rock.” But he went out and swam across and came back, and of course he had gone ashore. And the story is, for the Māori, that you have damaged yourself, and the thing is that you will die.

It was tapu …

Mmm, that’s the word, tapu. So once again – believe it, this did happen. Something started a disease that can’t be cured – muscular atrophy, and it can be a very short running time.

So in 1946 [1936] we got on a boat and all went over [to Hawaii] together. My younger sister had been born and she was eighteen months old, and my mother and father and the two of us went. We stayed at our grandmother’s place, Isabella Desha; and in the time that we were there, everybody knew what was happening; it was something they knew about. So we all came back home and tidied things up, we’ll say.

And then Mrs Perry, this lovely Maud lady, said, “Look, I’ll pop her into the convent in Napier, Sacred Heart. They’re very nice and very kind, and the fact that I’m paying up”, she said, “they will accept me [her].” She already had two grandchildren there. So I was left behind, and back they went to Hawaii; and my father died at the age of forty-seven.

Mother came home some time later with Miriam. They accepted Miriam into the school before she was five because there was another little child in the nursery at the school, and those two little children grew up as friends, which was lovely. And her name is Miriam.

Well, time went too quickly and the school was wonderful to me. I was never asked to become a Catholic. When the others all went to church in the morning, and they had thirty boarders that did that, I was told to get down and practise – I had started to play the piano. Funny thing – the first exam I ever sat, on the report it says, “Helen cannot read the music; she’s playing by ear.” [Chuckles] And I do know that, because my father used to play by ear and could sing beautifully. He had a voice that was known as a falsetto voice. And there were lots of [?] things about the farm where I lived, but when I could always hear my father singing I used to go in and listen to him. It was [a] beautiful [voice??], and apparently I said to my mother, “Have we got a lady singing in there? Can I go and see her?” And she said, “No, it’s your dad.” [Chuckles] So I learnt that.

I got a couple of hidings for things I shouldn’t’ve done, but the best thing in my memory I can remember is going down to the stables. And there were some lovely boys there, and they said, “We’re going to give you a ride. When you want to take hay up to the top, we’ve got a big sling.” Well they got me upstairs and put me in the sling, and swung me out to the forklift; and my dad saw it and he wasn’t very happy. And they all got a [chuckle] sound off, and I was brought down, and never allowed to go down there again.

Strange part about it, twenty-three years later I’m taking my grandchildren … must be a bit longer than that … and we’d been at Waimarama. And we were coming home and I said, “Look, I must go and show you something where we used to come.” And as we came around here this darling little grandkid … “Can we please feed the ponies?” And I said, “Oh, it might not be the right grass.” But they got up and they had a play; and the guy came across and he said, “Oh”, he said, “they’re very welcome to feed the ponies; lots of people do that. As a matter of fact”, he said, “I used to do it myself, over at Otatara.” There was a full circle! I’m looking at the guy … and I looked at him and he said, “Who are you?” And I told him, and he said, “I was the guy that used to swing you out.” [Chuckle] Like, this is the strangest [?feeling?] that I’ve ever had in my life – another one of those … “Where did this come from?”

So I remember going home and writing a lot of things down, and thinking about what happened there; about when the floodings of the water came, and we actually walked along the bridge with the water running over our feet. That was known as the Black Bridge. Things like that, and I started to write that into little stories and little things.

Time moved on quickly of course. I finished my schooling; I was able to go through all my music exams, and in the final one I won a scholarship. I did achieve three gold medals; never a silver one. I sat every one of the exams – the As and the Bs of it – and finished right through. But I didn’t get my ATCL [Associate Diploma Trinity College London] ‘til just a little bit later; then I put myself for [through] that. And anyway, then I did my LTCL [Licenciate Diploma Trinity College London] and I received a reward from London. All my music was kept on, which led me into the life of music.

I married when I was nineteen to Bill, or William, Tucker who lived in Hastings; also a choir member of … the English one in Hastings. I was in that choir; loved it. Had two children, John and Barbara, two years apart, and they seemed to grow quickly – everything passes you quickly. I’ve had music pupils right through that time, for extra cash. The other thing I did with a lady friend – they’d all had babies in the hospital – was suggest that … we all had these little babies and no-one could go to town and shop … that we all take care of one child and let them have a day off. So there were five of us; we had this nice way of being able to help each other through life, which I liked. I always liked it.

Then again, a time came up that unfortunately that marriage fell apart.

So you lived in Hastings at that stage?

Hastings, yes. And my husband, Bill, started this … he was always changing his job, Bill Tucker – I don’t know why, but he actually had a good job in an office. And I won’t go through all the pros and cons of that.

Then we ended up with a ‘Fat Boy’, which was a little restaurant owned by somebody – an American or somebody from overseas had started it. And it meant working at nights, but John was now at the age of seven and Barbara was five. And believe it or not, this little girl, Barbara, was the only one that didn’t cry when we cut the onions [chuckle] ‘cause she was … I worked it out, she was below bench, [chuckle] and therefore she didn’t get any spray in her eyes. And John did all the tables; he was very neat, and good about that.

And in the house was a teacher that needed a place to live, and she minded the children; slept in and had free [board] – you do these things, and what she did for us was wonderful, and we appreciated what she did. And that went on for two or three years and was going very well, but I can’t give you the details on that because Bill walked away, and there was a big bill that hadn’t been paid. It seems it must have gone down the drain … but somehow it disappeared, and I was left – I said, “Well look”, unknowingly, I said, “I will stay on and do it.” Well, I’m still teaching; I’ve still got pupils. But the best thing that came out of those two years was someone knocked on my door, and he said, “I have heard that you are a pianist.” And I said, “Yes”, and I said, “and who are you?” He said, “I am Donald Munro.” He said, “I’ve come over from Australia to help form the New Zealand Opera Company.” And I said, “Yes?” And he said, “I know what your details are.” He said, “I’ve checked it out and I know you have LTC[L].” He said, “Would you be happy to train a group of twelve people?” “Ooh, yes”, I said, “definitely.” So he said, “You choose them because if they’re local people you’ll have no trouble getting to round them up. And could you do this all within two months?” “Yes! Yes!” says Helen. Well, we did. And when he came up to hear us, he said, “Perfecto!” That was the word he used – perfecto. And we had our first opera in Hastings.

So what years are you looking at then?

About twenty-seven.

You were twenty-seven?

Mmm.

But getting back to my grandfather and how he gave me inspiration to keep on the music – during the war years, Grandpa Slater, Charlie, rounded up two or three other men that had good voices and they produced a concert; I don’t know how often, I’ve never checked it out, but the money was raised for the boys that were going to return home, which I thought was a wonderful thing to have been done. So that’s what I’m recording about my grandfather in the writings. It could be looked up in the newspapers, which I’ve never got around to doing ‘cause it was knowledge that I knew. But they had wonderful sing-songs, and everybody was happy to go along and do it, which was good. That also led me into another avenue of what you continue to do.

So you had music on both sides of your family?

Yes. So then as life moved on – my husband had moved on … first husband … I’m sitting there trying to wind up this ‘Fat Boy’ thing, and Antony came down, Antony Nankervis – he was known as Tony – from Vidal’s and sat there two or three nights with friends. And then later on came Easter weekend, and I’d run out of that very new orange drink that had just come in, and I can’t be without that ‘cause everybody wanted it. So, I went down to the Vidal things and said, “Do you think I could possibly have a crate of this juice?” And then two days later he stormed down here, this man: “Why did you want that orange juice?” He said, “why didn’t you buy it?” “’Cause I couldn’t buy it on the Saturday.” Anyway, we became friends – but I went back and returned it. We became friends and things developed, and we got married, and then there were three more children born, so I have five children.

Grandpa at this stage had died, which was very sad, but I made lots of notes and kept them about Charlie Slater. I worked in his office when I was sixteen, seventeen, as a typist. When they had the big evenings I used to go down and help in the kitchen; they used to have a big get-together once every six months or something. It was a very friendly group. [Traffic noise] I had two of the Galbraith brothers were working there – Robert Galbraith … Robbie Galbraith … and they did the packing. Another wonderful thing about Grandpa for that period of time – he always wanted to be the first to do everything, and he had heard that there was a possibility that you could send for a grader that would come along and set up; before that the apples were just dropped in a bin, and you picked out what you thought was a similar match and wrapped it up and packed it in a box. This one would come along and drop it in the right area, and out of that developed these big once-a-year competitions – who can be the fastest; and you pick it up and wrap it in paper and put it in; pick it up, wrap it in paper …

What did Grandpa do?

Fruit and vegetables. [C H Slater Limited]

So he had a shop that sold fruit and veg?

Yes. I didn’t know about his earlier life; that’s why I’ve jumped it, ‘cause that only comes as I am told about it. Yes, so fruit and vegetables … vegetables came later, it was just fruit. And then he decided that he would develop that further, and he got in touch with all the Chinese that – they were [in the] Westshore area and everywhere – and got them to grow certain things and would collect them, bring them in, and they were used and we started selling the vegetables. And we had a place around here, attached, but not inside. Well, when the apples and everything were going Grandpa came up with another thing which was very … quick and witty; he put in the first cool stores that had ever been put into any place for apples. And the last one to go in with [was] the Granny Smith; was the last apple. There is a lovely story about Granny Smith.

Grandpa grew up in Australia at a place called … it was known as Bismarck, and this is important. [Later renamed Collinsvale, Tasmania] And it was a German name and it didn’t go down very well. We’re going to talk about my grandfather; he only told me all this himself, much later in life. He was a boy of about twelve, and he had a lovely mother but no father – he had died – and he had an older brother. And one day, a bishop from Christchurch … I don’t know any more than that … came into this place called Bismarck and wanted to just see what was going [on]; and he noticed that these two boys were very well dressed, very well spoken, and they had polished shoes. And believe it or not, he invited both those boys to come to Christchurch. One went to university later, and my grandfather went to university later, so they had a full-on education, all free.

Getting back to the area where we [he] actually lived – unbeknownst to all of us, and I found out much later, there was a lady who came with her husband from England; and there were fence lines, and she had brought several cuttings for apples, because she was in the area where … what do they drink? From apples?

Cider.

Cider … was made, and she wanted to carry on. Well of all the apples that were there – the kids that lived next [door] used to go over the fence … climb the fence, and pinch the apples – and she came up with a brilliant idea: “Here’s a bag. If you can fill the bag, I’ll give you two apples.” My grandfather told me this story and it started to intrigue me, and I said, “What other one did you … you were about [?allowed?] to eat one as we [you] were doing it?” It was all a bit of a giggle. She became known as ‘Granny Smith’. Now, I know that story’s been written up and printed, and she made out it was in Napier. It definitely was not in Napier. I did try and contact her but there was no reply from her.*

This idea, this cider apple, just kept rolling. Well, Grandpa naturally wanted to have the continuity of what he knew he could do. And when he did first settle in New Zealand he stopped in a place called Woodville. He set up a shop – I have a name for it; I’m sorry, it’s all written in a … place … what he called it. It was to do with lollies and something or other; it was quite a catchy one. Now, he was born in Tasmania with parents that we didn’t know much about, as to where they came from.

This was your Grandpa Slater.

Yes. And his name was known as Schlitzkus. [Spells] It’s in the writing. It’s a strange thing in life, how you find out things. But anyway, Grandpa was known as Schlitzkus and it stayed all the way through. He came to New Zealand, and that’s what people called him. So when the First World War came by, lo and behold if they didn’t break all his windows, take all his stuff from the shop, and call him a German. In actual fact, Schlitzkus is not a German [name], but we’ll find that out later. He went north, and gave himself a name, the same as his brother; they said, “Right, we’ll become Slater.”

Many, many years later … about the Schlitzkus name … I am on a trip around Europe. It’s creepy. Two lovely girls in the office were so nice to me ‘cause I had spent five days there. “Look, I can’t go out and walk anywhere at night, but I’d love to go across to the little …” pub we’ll call it – it wasn’t called that name – “and take you out for the evening.” So over we trotted, and we’re talking away with these two nice girls who liked to speak English. Two men came in, sat down at a table, and they were earwigging; and gradually their table came across like that, and they sat down. The girls were quite happy about it, and I said, “Oh …” They put their cards down and I said, “Oh, these ones don’t work. What other ones have you got in your pocket?” Because they had asked me a question, and I said, “I come from down under.” And they said, “We don’t … never heard of that”, you know. [Chuckles] And the two girls said, “They really are … they’re professors! They really are professors.”

So the cards that they put down were like the …

“Professor This and Professor …”

Oh, right.

My face went all colours, and I said, “I’m so sorry.” “That’s quite all right,” he said. “We couldn’t understand what part of England you came from.” [Giggles] Anyway, we all became good mates, and he said, “All right – I’m going to tell you what’s wrong”, he said. “First of all, there’s no ‘kus’ in Germany. Take it away. And you also remove every ‘c’ because that’s been added by the Prussians – not the Russians, the Prussians. It’s ‘Slitkus’. Go to Poland.” That was the answer, and sure enough, the wife that was married to him was a [?Kioblioky?], and it couldn’t be more Polish.

It’s an interesting name.

Kioblioky.

How do you spell that?

K-i-o-b-l-i and something else. It’s all written down. Kioblioky – that is Polish. So there – who was sitting on my shoulder again? I got the shivers that day. So Grandpa’s name they changed … all the brothers that were born, they made themselves Slater. We’ll leave it at that.

So they anglicised the name?

Yes. So that’s how it came about.

So did he come out to New Zealand?

Yes. And two other brothers.

From Europe, or from Australia?

No, from Tasmania where they landed; but he was born in Tasmania. The other two brothers were born in Prussia, [?Poland?] where they were living.

So he was sort of the original person in Hastings …

Yes.

who developed …

That’s right.

orchards, and cool stores, and selling his …

Oh, the orchards were already growing; people were growing apples here at that time. But he … because of somewhere to make sales and put them away, and put them on a railway line and send them somewhere else … it just went woomph! Like that. Yes. It all just came together. The building[s] were bigger, but there’s a photo in there of the original building that was there, owned by somebody else. And all those photos are in the pocket for them to have and use and keep, because who wants to hold them in one house and perhaps lose them all? I’d rather they go.

So from there, all the development of his oncoming changes were just always in his brain; to do better, do better.

So whereabouts did he set up his shop, in Hastings or in Napier?

No, in Hastings … oh, another shop – it was a factory, type of thing, you know, it’s a workplace where they make and pack and send on.

A packhouse?

Yes. And then they would be railed away, or trucked away. They even set up another one in Napier somewhere, not far from the church … the Catholic church … but that’s all changed over now. Somebody else is running Slater’s – I don’t even know if it exists any more.

Was the one in Hastings near the ..?

It’s in Avenue Road. There’s the railway line, and it’s on the Havelock side. And then you’ve got the main one. You know where Nelson Street is? Well you come along … it’s in that block, but it’s on the next road corner – the one that takes you to Napier, and I can’t remember the name of that one, either. I don’t know when it all closed down because I’d moved away by then, but it had been taken over by A B Donald’s, in Auckland.

Did you keep up with your music?

Oh, definitely, yes. I went to Iona College as a teacher, because I was living in Havelock North, and they were looking out for someone. So I knocked on the door and I showed my credentials and they said, “Oh, you’ll have to have a classroom as well.” I said, “What do you mean, classroom?” [Chuckle] And they said, “Well while you’re here”, you know, “we might as well make use of you.” So she said, “You have a music class for each of the classes, and they come in.” And the children loved it, because they learned to sing things; I’m a great one at having … But when I got to the senior girls, when they came in I was always playing one of the pop tunes. I was the most popular teacher. [Giggle] Well, they’d say to me, “What’s the new pop one?” I said, “Sssh! Sit down!” I said, “You can hum it.” [Giggle] “You can’t sing it.” [Giggle] “We’ll just tune it.” I got on famously with the girls at Iona.

So how long did you spend there?

Ah, ‘bout seven years. I joined them up with the boys’ school – it’s down in Pakowhai Road.

Lindisfarne?

Lindisfarne – and I became, as I said, the most popular teacher that ever walked [giggles] because I joined up these two schools. [Giggles] Yes, a few little love affairs started, I know. [Chuckle] Well, you know, eye-balling.

Yes.

And I have known a couple of Iona girls to stop me in the main street in Hastings and … “Hello, Mrs Nankipoo!” I said, “Don’t you” – they’d started to make the sound; I said, “Don’t you dare [?ask?] the last one!”

In the operas – we actually did five operas that I learnt with them and trained, and then we did those. That was before Iona.

And where did they do those operas?

Oh, went down to Masterton and Napier, and Hastings.

In the Municipal Theatre in Hastings?

Mmm. And the group were just wonderful; we just all clicked in, you know. I got the boys to learn to produce the sound that I wanted to hear, not their usual voice [?] sing. And Grandpa of course wasn’t there at that time but I’m sure he would have been happy with the follow-on.

So you went to Australia to live – when did you do that?

Oh – I had two daughters, seventeen and eighteen, that had gone over there to work, and I was a bit concerned about them. So we both went over; Tony had walked out of Vidal’s at that stage – they’d been paid out. One of his uncles died and had left him a quarter share, and when we got to Australia, three days later there was a big crash in the market and he lost it all. Why he didn’t stay I don’t know, because – it had been taken over by Fistonich in Auckland, another firm, which was all right – but he was there running the office and keeping everything going, but he had [a] mind of his own about working over … And these things happen, and crash it went. Well, easy come, easy go. Because in life, if you have something bought for you and you don’t have to pay for it – you have a free house, and you have free cars, and you have free food and it’s all provided for you, what do you do about it? You do very little for yourself. Mmm. But that’s the thing in life that happens; easy come …

Going back to the polo …

Yes.

… was that the beginnings of …?

In Hawke’s Bay, for it; it was being played elsewhere, but my father apparently had the very unique way of training people. The other thing about my darling father was that he also played beautiful golf. I’m pleased about that, and he was at Waiohiki … that’s where he went. And two of the Māori boys that were walking around and doing things got very interested in it, and he showed them how to play golf, ‘cause at the time most people were just hitting a ball as if it was your walking stick, and my father had the full swing and brought it right through. And of course the clubs that he bought were totally different to the ones that were being used in New Zealand. Well those two Māori boys that were actually just moving around doing jobs, became wonderful golfers; and winners … champions … because he had taught them. I can’t name them, but he had taught them how to swing the club. Fortunately for me, I knew enough about that and I learnt to play golf, too. And I have had my grandchildren and four of their friends play golf, all starting with a Number 4 iron. You can’t do any more with another iron until you can put ten balls into a hole … into a patch. And I got my grandchildren to do everything slowly before they got the privilege of moving on.

So if your father had, you know, proper golf clubs, did he introduce them to …

Yes.

the area? So where did he ..?

They came through America; that type of club.

Oh, so he had connections?

Mmm. They cut back as they go further back; the club gets almost like that. [Demonstrates] So when you’re in a bunker, it’s like that.

It’s flat. It’s interesting that polo and golf sort of … married each other here in Hawke’s Bay.

Yes. In the polo, you’ve still got to do the same thing when you’re sitting in a saddle – not that I played it, but I watched it a lot.

Were there other polo clubs in New Zealand at that stage?

Yes, there were, but who travelled all those roads in a horse and cart? There weren’t many people that had cars. Mrs Perry did. She always got the first ones that came to New Zealand, sort of thing.

But she lost all her land later on, you know, Otatara was taken over. Out at the beach, the Mohis lost … there’s a family member that married into one of the children – down the side – one of our cousins … and they lost their land, too, at the beach … called the Mohis. But there is a cemetery there.

How do you spell that?

M-o-h-i. Mohi. I’m not very good with pronunciation.

No, I was just trying to work it out.

Yes, but as they say it today, you know, Mohi.

But I’ve been happy with the family, you know, we’re all as we are. And Grandpa – now back to him and what he did with his lovely members – he played a lot; he’s in here. I don’t think you have that photo – I’m going ask someone to take a picture of it. He always had picnics; he was very chummy with people, and they would stay out for the day and play, and there would always be food provided. He was just one of those people that did that.

So going back to the golf and the polo, were the grounds already there?

No. Grandpa … actually when the Hastings Golf Club was formed, my grandfather planted the trees. Yes. And how he knew all that, I don’t know, but they’d drawn a plan. But he improved on it, and they go up and down and come back, you know, twisting around on two sides; ‘cause he actually planted the trees, and they were beautifully set out.

That’s the course in Hastings, or Waiohiki?

In Hastings. And because of his golf interest, later on I was able to become the one and only lady that ever joined up the business club [??] to start the Flaxmere Golf Club.

Now there’s a funny story ‘bout that [shows photo] – that’s me – I’m in Hawaii on a trip to see family – I was only twenty-seven – Grandfather wanted to go across and meet the family. And the Jaycees were [a] big thing at the [that] moment … they’d just all taken off … Jaycee members. And someone said, “Oh, there’s going to be a conference over there. If you get a chance do you think you could walk along and ask if you can go and see what’s going on?” So I did. And the thing I learnt there was the most impressionable for me; they were all talking and the only thing I picked up was, ‘successful delegation is the way to be on a committee’. So it’s how you delegate out.

So I joined a ladies club in Hastings – this is not a very good story – and it was the club night … bridge night. Then I found out after a few months or so that someone was being blackballed, so it was a very … downer. So I came in with my resignation, sat down at the table and said, “My reason for resigning is the fact that I do not go along with the thought of blackballing.” You should’ve seen the red faces. “Thank you and goodbye.” [Chuckle] Now another lady in the club found out about that and she spoke to me, and she said, “We can’t believe this.” She’d told her husband about it, and a couple of weeks later he rang me and he said, “I’d like you to come and have a chat with me.” He was a solicitor. So down I went and had a chat – sorry, can’t remember his name. And he said, “We’re thinking of forming a golf club. Do you think you’d like to come along and listen?” “Ooh, why not? Yes,” I said. And that’s what came [about], because he’d heard what I had said. So I went out and I ran that club. And then later on we did have a bit of trouble there … some people came from other clubs, and it was getting a bit tough. I can remember thinking … [Speaking together]

Was that Hastings Golf Club, or ..?

Flaxmere. I said, “Look, I’m sorry, if you don’t like the way we run things, might it be best that you go back to where you started?” [Chuckle] I’m calm about it; I don’t get piquey-piquey about things, I don’t do a [??] with them. I try to make it so that it’s more business-like. So I might not have a very good name with some people.

[Chuckle] Okay. I think we’ll stop there.

Yes.

NB:

* Maria Ann Smith, known as Granny Smith, died in 1870 in Australia, approximately two years after the discovery of the apple named after her.

Source: http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/smith-maria-ann-13199; Megan Martin, ‘Smith, Maria Ann (1799–1870)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Interviewer:  Jenny Hall

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