Page, Trevor Morton Interview
Today is the 9th of February 2017. I’m interviewing Trevor Page of Tamatea. Trevor is a retired electro-plater and at the time of interview his age is ninety-seven. Trevor, would you like to tell me something about the life and times of your family; if you can remember where your parents came from?
My father was about six weeks old when he left England; ‘course consequently he’s an Englishman. And his father brought the family out on a sailing ship. And my father, when he went back to England with Mum on holiday, they came to a little place called Bilston. My father said when he saw the house where they lived in a little stone cottage, he could understand why his father left England.
Dad eventually became the Mayor of Nelson about 1936; I think he was Mayor for a couple of terms. I was born there and went to Nelson College, which is a darn good college; never made any great intellectual progress there I don’t think, just normal common schoolboy. Then I joined the Post Office in those days. My father insisted that we had a government job; [of] course you got paid and you didn’t get sacked – this was virtually at the end of the Depression. And they were in business for many years when his father first came here to New Zealand. And he [?started?} the family business. There were about five sons and two daughters, and of course, all the money had to be spread between them and Grandma as well; and as Dad said, he was the Managing Director; and “My children are not going to have anything to do with the family business.” It’s a problem, you know, arguments and things. So then I applied to join the Royal Air Force, short term commission, 1938. There was [were] four of us at the same time from Nelson, and three of them got killed. I was the fourth – I didn’t. I went to get a medical and needed glasses. The chap said, “Sorry son, but you’re not going.” So I didn’t, and I was the only survivor.
So you couldn’t fly because you had spectacles?
Yes, they wouldn’t take me. So the War came on and I applied to join the Air Force as a wireless mechanic, and I spent the next three or four years in the Air Force on quite a few different stations. Well, we went through the course, and then we went overseas – [Guadal]canal, then Munda, and then Bougainville. By this time I’d been a year away overseas, so the fifteen of us, about, who went originally, we flew home. I got malaria and came out of the Air Force, and when the war finished I went … actually before that I went to have my teeth looked at while I was in Blenheim. And one of the nurses there looked in my mouth and said, “Yeah … his teeth look all right, I s’pose … probably marry him.” That’s my story anyway; but no, no, she was a dental nurse. So I met her there and then I was transferred back to Nelson for a while, and then we got engaged and married.
Where did she come from?
You got married?
Yes. I went to work for a firm in Wellington called Neeco. I came out of the Air Force and went straight to work for them; knew practically nothing about electro-plating, only what I’d picked up in a correspondence course. Went to work for them, and I was the only man out there in this department of thirteen women. And have you ever dealt with women in a bunch? They’ll get a snitch on one and they’ll all pile in; and it’d end up being snarly stuff – [???] impossible; so she had work in all directions. Then the person would see us and come to me and say, “What are you going to do about it?” That meant never ever will I ever employ a woman.
So you were working at Neeco. Did they make electrical ..?
Electric stoves … every State house had a Neeco stove.
And I’d been there about three months and a chap who was an electro-plater, George Leslie, he left. He went to work for Electrolux, which left me in charge of a department of which I knew practically nothing. And God! I had to learn quick.
So electro-plating in an electric stove factory – where did they do the electro-plating?
Oh, they also turned out some electric irons and toasters.
They were all chromium plated, you see.
‘Course they are. So chromium plated was electro-plated.
Yes. I was there for about three months; and on my own after that. I was there for about two years. And being young, twenty-five, I thought I’d start an electro-plating business of my own, because after being in one of the armed forces for a while, you do get tired of people telling you what to do. [I can] tell myself. I was there for a couple of years; and Gisborne was the only place that didn’t have an electro-plating firm, so that’s where I was going to go. After a couple of years – [you know] what you’re like when you’re young … nothing’s going to go wrong is it? You can’t fail; can’t possibly fail.
So I started in Gisborne, and built the whole plant myself and all the tanks and everything else, and we started there. I was there for seven years, and it got to the stage where electro-plating [was] mostly car stuff – bumpers and things like that. And I came down here to Napier and Hastings, because a lot of work here was going to Wanganui.
So I thought, ‘There’s no reason why it shouldn’t come to me.’ So I made arrangements with the National Airways, NAC it was called in those days, and they flew the stuff up in the old Dakotas for that chap Ernie Frew in Hastings, and minor parcels. He picked stuff up, put it on the plane, and we shot it back on the plane. And it got to the stage where about two thirds of my business was coming from here. So I thought, ‘Well, if I don’t go there someone else will.’
So I came down here and had a look around for premises, and there weren’t any. There weren’t any to be had. Somebody said to me, “Why don’t you build a place for yourself?” I said, “Where?” “Well, [??] out … place – they’re going to be calling it Onekawa. There’s a lot of land out there.” “How do I find out about it?” Said, “Go to Fred Watters”, who was the Town Clerk, and he pulled out a great big blind – “Here we are; it’s yours. How much do you want?” So at that time there was Rolls Woods and the Hawke’s Bay Power Board taking two sections; I took the third.
What year would that be approximately, ’53?
’53. So I took the smallest section I could. Then I went back to Gisborne and prefabricated a lean-to building up; and, you know, I had to sell the business there, which I sold to a chap, and came down here and put the [?] … got somebody to put a concrete slab floor down from the builders, and built the rest of it on there myself.
So you sold the Gisborne … to an electro-plater …
… as well? That was probably a risk wasn’t it? You probably wondered at the time?
But I tell you – that’s what I’m saying, you know – we were young.
I know – bullet proof.
Absolutely. We were in Gisborne seven years – built a house there [in a] place called Wainui Beach. Now, of course, they can’t afford to buy the section let alone a house. But I built that, and trying to run a business – come home at night and hammer away ’til the early hours of the morning. And what did I know about carpentry? Not a thing. But along the road was a chap who was doing one of these pressure cooker courses as a carpenter, and I could ask him questions. But the rest of the time was on your own. Built it; now I look back of course, I’d never ever think of starting something like that.
So Mum and I built that; we came down here about seven years later, and started the business going here. We already had customers, you see, by that time, and just built up. Then we had a fire and burnt half the building down, so we built over the top of the whole lot. By that time of course it was beginning to … there were sections again, buildings were going up in the industrial area. When I came down here [of] ‘course I was the third one; ’bout a year later, by the time I got everything cleared up, two others had started up – Alan Lawson and [a] chap, Harry Skews, doing concrete work; and Alan was making floor polishers and things.
You built the business – how many people did you have working with you?
So we shifted to another building after, and there were thirteen of us working there, so there was … had four panel beaters working for me. That’s when they started giving exchange service – bumpers, you see. You get your bent one, see – give it to us, we’d straighten it, give you an exchange one. So by that time, we got … oh, then we got a bit bigger and a bit bigger, and we shifted that from there to another place which belonged to Odlin’s. They’d amalgamated with somebody and they had all these spare buildings round the countryside. So then we set up depots in Palmerston, Levin, Paraparam, [Paraparaumu] Masterton, Blenheim, and then we put a branch in Wellington. My son ran that; then he decided he wanted to travel the world, so he left; went to Australia. And they got a trimaran over there which came apart in the seas. It had been used for sailing round the coast of Australia; first time it had been in the open sea it all parted company. [Chuckle] Rescued by a ship coming along … took them back to the mainland. Talk about … young.
I had to sort of leave here at three o’clock in the morning, go down there, open up the place and come back. But then I got a chap to manage the place, who I discovered running a wood business using the van down there, for delivering his wood. [Chuckle] And so then we shifted it, and I went down and ran it for a while and eventually sold that part. And by this time the plastic bumpers were starting to come in and it sort of gradually faded right away.
But in the meantime we used to sell container loads of chrome tube to Australia – you know, chrome tube you cut up into towel rails? Used to send container loads from here over there.
So you used to buy blank ..?
Yeah. Southwood’s in Wellington made the tube and we plated it. But yeah, we had quite a good business over there; we had about a third of the market. And then one day I went over there and a chap said to me, “Can you do it for this price?” “God”, I said, “I can’t buy the steel for that price.” “Oh”, he said, “the opposition are bringing it in for that price.” Coming from China – every hardware shop bought their own; wouldn’t buy it from us. It was a firm called Arlec. So … [the] New Zealand market – we still continued to sell quite well here, but the Australian market stopped overnight.
And then Ajax Hinges from Wellington – they closed the place in Wellington; closed the whole show up. And they continued to make hinges here, shifted the plant up here. It was called Turners, and every hinge in New Zealand was an Ajax hinge. Look at the older houses, you’ll see Ajax, every hinge. We used to do about two thirds of a ton a day of hinges – we’d plate them. And in fact we had a big … a big plating plant we had here, because of the building we went into. And all the tanks were great big long ones because the tube came in long lengths, you see. And we put this plant in which I bought off him, cost about $20,000 or something, and we’d do all the hinges. And then the same thing happened – we gradually got less and less and less. The writing was on the wall and they started bringing them in from China. And they eventually they closed that part of it, which left us with a semi-automatic plant for doing engines and valves going round and round, and no business.
And there was a firm in Wellington we were doing a lot of work for, Robertson’s, and they started making things out of plastic instead of making them out of metal, you see – well, you don’t require a finish on plastics. And so we’d gone into it – we’d bought a big oven, the biggest in the country – powder coating oven. It belonged to General Motors in Wellington and we bought that, and we were doing powder coating – big balustrading and great big stuff – fencing and all that. And then they started bringing in fencing by the mile from China – you know, you buy … “How many metres do you want?” It’s in packets. And in the finish they sold out to a firm up in Auckland who make roller doors.
Well that was the plating side of it going down, then the powder coating, and I was getting older, you know? Eventually it got to the stage where I’d go into the office and I’d sit down to write something, and I’d fall asleep. Ninety fifth birthday – finish. So …
At ninety five?
Yeah, I stopped work, definitely stopped. And I tried to sell the business, but nobody wanted a business that was going downhill; and it’s chemicals, you see – a lot of poisonous chemicals.
They only had to look at you and say, “Well, they must be pretty safe. It hasn’t hurt you.”
Well to warn off people coming in I had to make a big sign: ‘Cyanide – No One Past Here’ – that sort of thing. As soon as they saw that people say, “Oh …” So we just closed up and sold all the bits and pieces of plant for mostly just scrap, because other electro-platers in the country didn’t want any more plant, they had trouble using their own. So the metal finishing industry, unless you are producing metal and getting it finished … well for instance, there’s a crowd in Hastings called Hustlers – they make a lot of farm machinery, feeding out hay and that sort of thing. Some of the things that feed out the hay – suddenly there wasn’t any. “Oh”, I said, you know, “you’re not making any.” They said “No, we’re getting it from China.” The first lot came out with the tines on them – they were about half the thickness they were supposed to be. We recut those, but it was the last job we ever did.
There was a window of opportunity that you took, and that point wasn’t there, was it?
It didn’t matter how bullet proof you were, there was nothing you could do about it.
Well, the best part about it was that in the days when I needed money, with a family growing up, and I’d started flying, I had money then – good money. We were making good money in the days of bumper exchanges and things like that. So when I got to ninety five, that’s it – chop.
So, now coming back to your family. You were married. You mentioned one son; you had …
And are they all local?
Janice lives in Otane. Michelle, she lives in Queenstown, that’s my next daughter. And my son comes in between there, and Rosemary – they farm in Taumarunui.
And your son, is he still local too?
No, he’s what you call a corporate pilot. Well, he used to run a flying school in America, so he’s done quite a lot of ferry work in South America; a couple of times there in a single-engined aircraft, flying over the Amazon jungle. He said, “Nup, Dad – twice, that’s enough for me. Two engines if you’re going in the jungle, but once there”, he said, “you’re finished.”
Now you mentioned flying – you did quite a lot of flying yourself, didn’t you?
Where from, Napier?
Napier Aero Club?
Yes. I finished and sold my last aeroplane when I was ninety. That was it. The last one, it was a little microlite. I never flew it. I bought it, I got in it and I nearly had to call the Fire Brigade to get me out of it. ‘Cause you just slip in you see, with your arms are up here; you try to lift yourself up with your arms up there – I was stuck. I thought I’d have to call them up and ask them to help me out, but I managed to get out. I though, ‘Right, this is stupid.’
So you would’ve started flying in a Tiger Moth?
No, I didn’t. No, no, I didn’t. Those days were gone. I used to fly something a bit more modern. Napier Aero Club was quite a good club in those days. Had a couple of instructors. And they just let it run to the ground. I actually have owned eight different aircraft. It’d just get so if I didn’t like one I’d try another one.
So what were they mainly?
Chrislea Ace – it was in a hangar down Tikokino way. Originally a chap – Terry … oh, he was a chemist in Waipukurau … he bought it. And he did speed boat racing and he got tipped out, and another boat came along and [ran] straight over him – killed him. Any rate, it had to be put in a shed and they hadn’t flown it, and all the dirt had been all over it and everything else. So I bought that and I recovered it in the factory building I had here – room at the back – recovered the wings and that sort of thing. And the engineer from Rotorua, Arch Finch, came and said, “Every now and again, [I’ll] have a look and see. Right, you can go and do a bit more. However, if it’s no good you’ll have to take it off, start again.” Livingstons were the people I bought it off – they were farmers at Tikokino. So I flew that one and then I sort of got a bit ambitious, and I bought a twin – twin, from Apache, twin muffler and that. It was good fun but very damned expensive. You’d be surprised, but two engines cost you more than one engine. I hadn’t thought of that. [Chuckle]
And I bought a Musketeer, and then I bought a Raleigh. I bought a Piper … I’ll remember shortly. I bought an Acro Sports which I bent – oh yeah, I forgot about that, yeah. It bent me a wee bit too, just a broken collar bone and that. The engine failed a couple of times. I landed first in a paddock over there; second time I did land in a paddock but there was a bit of a ditch. And – if I had only had another eighteen inches. Everybody says that … “Only another foot.” It flipped over on its back and I could hear a sound … dripping, dripping, dripping, dripping. And I knew quite well being an air cooled engine, it wasn’t petrol and it wasn’t water. [Chuckle] You’d be surprised what the air can get out from underneath. [Squeaky background noise]
Oh well, you would’ve had a lot of pleasure out of being a pilot then?
Absolutely. But to be truthful it was pure pleasure as far as I was concerned. I had the idea of using it for business. But then again, see if I went to – tried it once; Masterton – had a couple of customers there. And you ring up for a taxi to come and get you [squeaky background noise]. You go into town, you see the people, you keep the taxi waiting or whatever it is, and another taxi back again. By the time you’ve done all this you could have driven by car.
But anyway, you know, you had to try these things.
Oh well … take the family round.
‘Cause the twin engine – it would’ve taken six people?
Supposed to take six, but it would be loaded at four. You’ve only got … after all if one engine fails, you’ve only got a one engine aeroplane.
But it’s better than a single engine plane with an engine failure, though.
Well, you’ve got to have a lot of flat land to be able to climb out.
Yes, I know. So coming back then – your son is still a corporate ..?
He flies for a chap over there who is a property developer. He’s one of these people who develops commercial properties, and he must be very good, because he’s got that; he’s got a twin he flies, and a single one which he flies just for fun. Well you see, as they said, by the time you go to the airport – an hour and a half beforehand is it? Then you wait for the plane at the other end and the next one won’t connect. So, wait there, and at the other end. This way he can say to Dean, “We’re off to” … whats-its-name … “Seattle tomorrow.” Go down there and about three and a half hours later he’s there; does his business and come home. He’s got a home in Palm Springs; he’s got a condominium in Seattle; a lodge in Alaska.
Well, it sounds as if life is good.
No, this is the owner. Got a great big launch in Seattle. I said to Dean, “Has he got money?” He said, “He has got money.” He’s apparently a heck of a nice chap.
During your time in Taradale, Trevor, you’ve also been very involved with the local Taradale Rotary Club?
I was for a while. Actually I started off like all younger people did in those days, you started off in the Jaycees. The idea was the Jaycees taught you procedures and that sort of thing – how to run meetings, and then you graduated to become a respectable Rotarian. And then my wife … I used to ride motor bikes in those days. She said, “Don’t you think it’s about time you grew up and became respectable and become a Rotarian?” Which I did, and I was the first joining member of the Taradale Rotary Club, and one of the initial …
Yes, Charter members. [Speaking together]
… members to join. I was there for about four years and then they started the thing called Napier West. They took about three of us from Taradale and a couple from Napier, and the rest were people round about. So in those days you had districts, so if you wanted to belong and your business was in that area, that was where you belonged to. Changed that now.
So yeah, I was president there for a while, or a year, at Napier West. And eventually Napier West died, principally because they cut out the districts and a lot of people who belonged to it lived in Taradale. They used to have to go in there and do their thing and of course they didn’t want to go there, and the Napier ones didn’t want to come to us, so eventually it got smaller.
Well I remember the Napier West club. We used to visit you as well, and it was a strong little club.
Very strong – had eighty members.
And so when Napier West folded did you ..?
I’d left before that. I’d left a couple of years before that, and I went back to Taradale.
And so you’ve been there ever since. You mentioned being a motorbike man. [Noise in background is rain] Well those days you would have been riding – what, Triumph or Norton?
Ariels. Oh, just by the way, nothing to do with this, but I’ve been to see my doctor this morning – he bought himself a Honda 170 horsepower. Then he went back to Ducatis – he’s a Ducati man, but now he’s down to about 130 horsepower.
How do they hold them on the … you know, in high gear you have trouble keeping the front wheel down.
Well the old Ford V8 – big powerful engine – turned out eighty bloody horsepower.
I know. Did you play golf?
No. I didn’t play any sport after I got married. Couldn’t play rugby of course after I was married because there might’ve been an accident, and you had a family and a mortgage, so you couldn’t.
You obviously played rugby in your younger life?
For local teams here?
No, mostly in Nelson before the war. Never played here. I played in the Air Force, and I never played again after that. As far as any sports and that I wasn’t involved with anything else. I was always busy building something. Built the business. Built a house and that took the first seven years of married life … and after that building business and machinery and plant and that. We had three quarters of an acre down in … it was at the end of Avondale Road over here. By the time I had finished that there was a hundred and something roses, and at the end of the weekend I was done for.
So obviously at some stage you lost your wife?
No, no – she’s in Summerset. She lost the use of her legs and that …
… if you can’t walk or stand up you’re sunk, so you have to sit in a chair all day. So I go to see her every day.
So she has to have full support.
Yes, yes. Well she swears blind she can stand up, but … I say, “Righto, show me”, and she goes off to another subject then.
To lose your mobility; and you know, for you walking is part of your routine, isn’t it?
Yeah. Once you stop it’s hard to start again.
Grandchildren – I’ve got about six grandchildren.
[Voice of daughter]: Nine.
Trevor: That’s right. And I’ve got only two great-grandchildren?
[Voice of daughter]: No, four. Jack, Sophia, Isaac and Leon.
So when you sold Avondale Road did you come here?
No, we went – you got fed up with these big places. Never going to have a big place again. We went to a place in Ngarimu Crescent with an eighth of an acre. The back fence was just there. So we were there for about … oh, must have been about a year. That was enough. So then we bought another place with half an acre; and after that common sense played its part. So we were there for about … oh, about three or four years, and we sold that and then we came here.
It’s a wonderful outlook.
That’s why my wife finds it so hard sitting in her room, on the sort of lounge; and she misses being able to sit here.
Is she able to move in an electric wheelchair or anything like that?
No, the nurses put you … push you around.
So what other major things have happened that you’ve seen … you’ve seen a lot of growth in Taradale over the years, and Greenmeadows and Tamatea. They were just open places when you came.
Yeah. One thing I have seen is parking metres in Taradale. “There’s never going to be parking metres – never.” But somehow or other they snuck in.
I was very surprised when Taradale – Napier City Council – let that slip through.
I’ve looked, and people don’t sort of stay there very long really. They’re just doing their shopping and going. They said the people in the shops will park their cars there. They do for a while until they realise that it’s stopping their customers from getting there, so they park their cars all round the area. People don’t spend an hour shopping.
Taradale moved from a little village into a fully-fledged city?
Well you see I walk up the Sugar Loaf, and I’ve been doing that for about forty something years, and there’s houses there that I’d never ever think they would put houses on sides of hills. And it’s sort of spread. Back of our house we used to … in Avondale Road, it’s three quarters of an acre … behind that was paddocks. They were growing maize there. Now of course it is completely covered in houses.
So is there anything else that you may not have covered? You’ve obviously travelled during your married life?
I’ve been to Seattle, Singapore and Vanuatu, the back country there, with a daughter; and Australia … I don’t know, about thirteen or fourteen times I think. I haven’t travelled much overseas after that. I came back to New Zealand saying, “God, if you’ll get me back to New Zealand I’ll never leave the place again.” [Chuckle] I go to Church every Sunday, but things sort of lapsed a bit once I got back here.
Well that’s wonderful actually, Trevor. Thank you for giving us a picture of your life, and of all the happy things, the sad things, all the things that happen that make up ninety-seven years. How do you explain ninety-seven years – it’s what’s happened isn’t it? Obviously you’ve filled your life to the full; when you weren’t working you were building things.
This has got nothing to do with it, but I did a lot of pig hunting, and I started at forty – finished when I was about fifty-two. My knee had gone on me by that time but I used to hunt away over the back of the hills over here and that was all land brought in after the First World War. Every now and again you’d find a bit of wire stuck in the ground – people didn’t remember, but we hunted there for about ten years. And the dogs got old, and I got old. But some years later I went right through there with my son. You could go then from this side right through on to the Taupo Road, and where we used to push our way through scrub and hunt, it’s covered in blasted fir trees now. Bloomin’ pine trees everywhere.
I tried to find where I was, but that’s how things change.
On that note we could probably finish, and once again thank you very much and if you think of something that is really important you’ve forgotten I can always come back ’cause history never finishes.
[New interview recorded on the occasion of Trevor’s 102nd birthday]
Good morning. Today is Thursday 5th August 2021. I’m Lyn Sturm, and I’ve been given the pleasure of interviewing Mr Trevor Page of Tamatea, Napier.
I was born in Nelson on 1st June 1919, which makes me a hundred and two now. And I had a wonderful life, because Nelson was a comparatively small town then and we lived on the outskirts … outskirts just on the edge of the town, and the grandparents behind us, so we could play up on the hills with the other boys behind us, sledging and things like that; great fun. Dad was Mayor, and at that time the Great Depression came on and they were busy; my mother and Dad were busy on various committees raising clothing and that sort of thing.
But I went to Nelson Boys’ College, which was a wonderful college. In those days of course, because of the Depression, the idea was to put you in a government job. You didn’t get a lot of money, but it was permanent. And so I joined the Post Office as a telegram boy, and became a postman after that.
But I was about … just turned nineteen, and at that stage they were bringing out what’s called Short Service Commissions for the Royal Air Force in England; and there were five [four] of us joined. There was myself, Bill Vasey, Ken Hastie, Reverend Rowe’s son and myself. We all joined and we were all accepted. I had a heck of a job getting my mother’s permission, but we were accepted. And last thing of all was a medical; and the other three went away, and I needed glasses. They all got killed; I didn’t, so I suppose you could say my glasses saved my life, did they?
But any rate, when I was a postman I think the highlight of my life as a postman … which wasn’t very long, because the war had come on … well I was in a run on … there was a place called The Wood in Nelson. And there was a place … there were some people next door to my auntie, and they let rooms and there was a man and his wife were there. And we used to blow whistles in those days; and I blew the whistle and threw the letters – you had to deliver them to every house. You just threw them; nobody had letterboxes so you had to deliver them through the door, an open door. I threw the letters in for this lady, and a voice from the bedroom said – oh, the phone was ringing – “Answer that, postman, will you?” So … ‘cause I was only a kid, you know, of eighteen or nineteen; knew nothing … innocent, or ignorant, whichever [way] you look at it. And so I went – the phone was just in the hall – and as I went past I looked in the bedroom, and saw things I never knew existed. She was wearing … what do they call it? Ninon and none on. [Ninon over noneon] And I answered the phone and a voice said, “Who’s that?” And I said, “It’s the postman”, and this man’s voice said, “I want to speak to my wife.” [Chuckle] There I was, a young kid, and I turned round, put the thing down and said, “It’s your husband.” As I went out I could see that … well, she had everything that I could see … and went down the road blowing my whistle madly, thinking I hadn’t had time to get up to hanky-panky; and all I know is next day I was put on a different run altogether. And that was about my highlight as a postman. [Chuckles]
And then of course I got transferred to Wellington in the Post Office. And the war was becoming imminent, and I joined the Air Force as a wireless mechanic. And so it was quite a while after that – we used to do assignments before we joined the Air Force. And I was in the Air Force quite a while and finished up … oh, quite a few Islands I was in. And I came back and after the war – I’d met Virginia, my wife, in the Air Force – and we got married about a year after I got out. Well we had to save money, you see. We had what we had when we came out – practically nothing; and you had to save money to buy a house, but you did get a State Advances loan, about three percent. We bought a house in Wellington, and then I worked with a firm called Neeco in Wellington as an electro-plater; I was there for about two years, and you know, you never think that anything can go wrong. You’re bullet-proof, and everything’s wonderful.
So after a couple of years there we decided I’d start in business in Gisborne. The reason for that was it was the only town in the North Island big enough [that] didn’t have an electro-plating firm. So we packed everything up, and bought a house in Gisborne and started the business up there; built all the plant myself. God – I look back now, you know – why we didn’t go broke completely I don’t know, but we never thought about it. We had one child by that time, so I started a business there and I was busy for about eight years in Gisborne.
Then it got to the stage where sixty percent of my business was coming from Napier and Hastings. In those days bumper bars were the big thing, chromium plated bumper bars; that was the big … nowadays of course, they just use plastic. But you know, I used to get work from here – used to come up on the plane, one of the first early freighters; they used to put them onto the old Dakotas, and [they] used to come through. And I made arrangements with a firm in Hastings to pick stuff up and send it up to me, and I used to send it back.
Then it got to the stage – I could see that if I didn’t come down here someone else would. So we packed everything up; and I came down and had a look where we were going to start. And people said, “Oh no, there weren’t any businesses”, because Napier in those days had been surrounded by water, and there was only the Onekawa Industrial area, a new area out of town, you see; that’s where the land was available. So I thought, ‘Oh well, I might have to build a place.’ So I said, “Well you know, land, where it is?” And they said, “Well go and ask Fred Watters, the Town Clerk. He knows all about the industrial area they’re talking about.” So I went to see Fred, and he pulled down one of these big blind, map things, you see, and he said, “Well there you are, you can admire it, buy it, whatever you like.” I said, “Well, how much can I take?” He said, “You can help yourself, take the lot.” Yeah, if only … but I didn’t have any money anyway, so I took about the smallest piece I could take. People said, “Wouldn’t go out there, son; no one’ll ever go out there, it’s out of town; it’s too far out of town, you won’t get any customers.” That was the Onekawa Industrial area. Now of course, it’s joined to [chuckle] Taradale and everything else.
So at that stage there was Rolls Woods, who had a Qantas hut – that’s a rounded hut that they had in the war – that’s still there. That’s the first place you strike coming into the industrial area; they sell boats there now, that was Rolls Woods – that was the building; and the next building was the Hawke’s Bay [Electric] Power Board; then a building where the Star Fish people are there. There was only one road, that was Dunlop Road, and you came down off the Embankment – or not the Embankment, causeway – there was a causeway from Napier to Taradale. It was up above, about three feet above the rest of the ground, because it was mud flats then you see, before the earthquake. Rolls Woods, Hawke’s Bay Power Board and that was it.
So at that stage I was committed to coming down here, and I made arrangements for some chaps to put down a concrete slab. Well, by the time I started to build a place – I was then living in Gisborne; used to leave there at five o’clock in the afternoon. Little baby Austin, all gravel roads; arrive here, spend the night and Sunday night I’d drive back home again. Fourteen round trips I made in the little Austin, then she gave up. [Chuckle]
But opposite me by the time I’d built the place, opposite me was a chap, Harry Skews. He made tile surround fireplaces and concrete tubs, because every State house had a concrete tub, and they used to make concrete tubs. So there was Rolls Woods, the building by the Hawke’s Bay Power Board, Harry and myself. That was it – we were it; we were the industrial area. [A] chap, Alan Lawson, came along, just along there; we were there for a long, long time; just that by the time another year went past, our orders were building up, I suppose, and then we made the big shift. I’d built a lean-to building by that time – absolute minimum. We had iron for the roof – we got a permit for the iron – we couldn’t use it ‘cause the outside was made of fibrolite and wood, because you were only allowed a certain amount of iron, you see.
And then I sort of built the business up, and built it up quite well, but only because I was here in amongst it. And eventually it got so we got fairly big, and we had a fire and got burnt; we just said, “Got to have a firewall.” The building wasn’t much of a building by that time, so they built over the top of it, and then we sold it and then we went to where we were when … was in the next street over … yeah, it was, Odlin’s building. It was quite a big building. We put in a darned nice plant, it was a big plant then; it was a big plant compared to other electro-plating firms in the country, so of course, you know, [it] means you’ve got to have a lot of work coming in.
And we opened a branch in Wellington. My son went down there by this time, and he managed the place in Wellington; and he got fed up with life, living in a flat on his own there. He decided he’d go to Australia; and he went away and I had to find somebody else which wasn’t very satisfactory at all – I’d have to go down there … be something, or he’d be sick, so I’d have to leave here at about three o’clock in the morning, tear down there; open the place down there, spend two or three days down there then come back home again. It’s all right having branches and all that sort of thing, but they don’t always work out very well.
I shifted the branch – I shifted it to Naenae in a building there – and I went and brought in an automatic electro-plating plant in Melbourne; the chap had been plating handbag frames; I don’t know why, but it was quite a big plant. We went over there with a bag full of tools, dismantled it and shipped it back to Napier here, and got it going. The idea was that you just hang things in one end and stand back while these transporters go backwards and forwards like this, [demonstrates] then you’d take the finished article out. Marvellous in theory, but it didn’t work very well. Sometimes they’d sort of miss halfway across different tanks, and then there’d be bits and pieces in all directions. But we got all that fixed up, and then as I said, I took it down to Wellington; well, that was the idea in the first place for it to go there after I got it all going and everything else, only to discover that there was only about one firm in Wellington that wanted production work – everything else had gone to Auckland. See, they closed the Ford factory there; General Motors had closed. It took me about a year in between … generally about a year … practically everything had gone to Auckland, so there was a plant in Wellington and nobody with that kind of work to put through it. There were electro-plating firms there doing stuff by hand and that sort of thing but … ah well. So we eventually sold it to a firm in Perth, and I had to go over there and install it over there. And yeah, I made a loss on that, very much so.
Can’t think what the devil we did after that; we just continued on in Napier anyway, and sold the plant in Wellington and the business down there. My son had gone to Australia, and glad to get out of that; and we were doing very well in Napier. We used to sell chromium plated tube in big long twelve-foot lengths – that was the standard length you bought it from overseas – twelve foot you see, like half-inch … oh well [chuckle] … sorry, half-inch and inch, twenty-five millimetre [?], and we used to do a lot of that.
And then a firm from Wellington started up, came up here, A R Turners, and they bought his business. And they were making hinges, Ajax hinges. Every hinge in New Zealand was an Ajax hinge, and there’s thousands and thousands of hinges used, you know – go into a house and there’s hundreds of hinges. And so we did the plating on them, and I bought a plating plant from them. They shifted up here and we were doing big business. And they wanted satin chrome hinges; I said, “Oh, I don’t know about that – would anybody satin chrome?” “Oh yes”, they said, “we can sell satin chrome.” So that cost me $20,000 to put that plant in, but we were doing well – extremely well, what with the tube, and we still did bumpers and everything else, and the hinges.
And then the business started to drop off a wee bit, and I thought, ‘That’s a bit funny.’ So I said, “Chinese?” And they said, “Yep.” And eventually they stopped making hinges because they were bringing in [?] hinges. They said, “They’re not quite as heavy; not quite as good but they do the job”, and they could do it for a price of course we couldn’t even look at. And when they mentioned it I said, “I couldn’t buy the bare steel let alone plate the stuff.” So it just got less and less and less, and my staff were … by this time, oh, Bill had been with me forty-six years, and I think Alan had been with me about forty years, and the members were all dying off, you see; and gradually the staff came down and down. Others had wandered off, different directions. And it go to the stage in the finish where I said, “Righto, if we’re not getting enough money in to pay the rates, pay interest, I’ll finish … finish this month”, which we did. And I closed the doors and then we had tidying up to do, but [at] ninety-five, I shut the doors and sold the business.
A lot of it, ‘cause at that stage I found that I’d be going to the office to do something and fall fast asleep. [Chuckles] Yeah, it was time for me to give up. So we pulled everything out from the inside, cleaned it out and sold the factory building and that was that; haven’t done anything since then, and retired.
So what age were you then?
I’ve been … it was seven years ago. Yeah. I was ninety-five when I retired and I’m a hundred and two now.
Were you ninety-five when you retired?
Yeah. So you see, people say, “What are you going to in your retirement?” I say, you know, “I never retired, I’ve worked; I’ve loved doing what I’m doing. I enjoyed my retirement ‘cause I was working.” And each day there was something new, something’d go wrong. I’d go to work in the morning, and Alan was the foreman. I’d say to Alan, “What’s gone wrong today, Alan?” [Chuckle] ‘Cause there was always something – always something you had to fix, and always something different to do. I’m always sorry for people who retire when they’re sixty-five and they sort of … then they’ve got to look round for something to do to occupy their life. [Lives] I was always too busy to retire, even though perhaps I’d slowed down; I couldn’t lift things like I used to. And so I’ve been retired since then and I don’t do anything now, do I? My wife died, and I live on my own.
So how long ago?
Four years ago; four years ago, but she was … hang on … ninety-eight. What’s the year? This is 2021; yeah, she was ninety-eight when she died; so was I, and I’m a hundred and two now. That’s four years ago, that’s right, so … oh, there’s all sorts of things to do. People say, you know, “What are you going to do?” But there’s always something; just like you’ve come for an interview today. And yeah – there’s not a heck of a lot to tell you more than that, is there, really?
[The] first house we bought was in Tripoli Street, round Anzac Avenue way … round there. And we were only there about three or four years I suppose, and we needed a bigger house so we bought a place up on top of … you go up Shakespeare Road and you go to Madeira Road; a little street leads to Madeira Road off the bottom and up the top; you’ll see up the top a big two-storey place up the top. Now it’s a sort of Bed & Breakfast I think, but that was a lovely big home – Madeira Steps. We went up there, and we were there for quite a few years; and the idea was the view; we had a wonderful view, and then damn me -they built a cathedral in the middle of it, which sort of ruined our view to a certain extent. [Chuckles]
But we left there because I was sick and tired of … I had a bit of a garden … throwing the dirt uphill all the time. It was very awkward to turn to get into it, and so we sold that and we bought a place at Avondale Road out here. And at the back of it we had three-quarters of an acre, and it backed onto a big paddock at the back, and from there it went across to the winery area over there – Tom McDonald’s area. They used to put crops in there, and my son shot two ducks there. [Chuckle] There was a little creek round – the Taipo Creek [Stream] – round the back of the section there. Shot a couple of ducks on the water … Taipo Creek. Now there’s three houses there, what was by our house. We had a swimming pool and spa pool and that sort of thing. I understand the lady who … we didn’t sell to them, the next one after that … they had dogs, and one of the dogs got drowned in the spa pool. So they filled the spa pool in and that was the finish of that.
Rosemary, my daughter, had a horse; she had a horse there, and we kept about three or four sheep. Eventually they finished up on the floor of the bedroom, some of the sheep did, after they’d been skinned and that sort of thing … kept the fleeces.
Then we went from there to … oh, place in Ngarimu Crescent … bought a place there. And the idea was to go down from three-quarters of an acre to something smaller, but it was too small. The fence was here and the house was here, and nothing in between. And so we sold that and went and bought a place in Avenue Road; that was half an acre. And then one day we said, “Look, this is stupid – we can’t keep on going backwards and forwards.” So we sold it to the people who are there now, Ustickes [Nowell-Ustickes], and they’re still there.
And then we bought this place. The idea is that the only time I’ll shift from here is when they put me in a Home, and I’ll hate that! I would like to stay here for as long as I possibly can. I’ve got a daughter in Otane – she comes up once a week; and I’ve got one in Taumarunui, and another one lives on Great Barrier. So they all ring up. I’m quite happy here … very happy here.
Well I’ve got nine great-grandchildren – ten, sorry. It was ten; it should be eleven shortly, great-grandchildren. Don’t ask me to count them, I sometimes go through them and work out how many there are; I’m never too sure. [Chuckles] Yeah. They keep on beating me all the time, and I’m supposed to know all their names. I do get mixed up with the boys and the girls as to whose names which, and which ones. I go over to my daughter in Taumarunui quite often, I can drive over there and say hello to them.
So you’re still driving?
Oh yes, yeah. Yeah, why not? It’s easy driving, just sit back and drive along. Have you ever tried to get out of New World over here at about six o’clock at night? Have the entrance and exit in the street over here; there’s cars coming here, there and everywhere. Tell you, it’s a damn sight more dangerous on the roads here in town than it is on the open road.
And the Barrier … yeah, I’ve been up there about three times. It’s a different way of life up there. You know, you go to have a shower … “Dad! Dad, we haven’t got much water! Go careful, Dad.” [Chuckle] And you turn the light switch on and the blessed solar panels haven’t been giving enough light … power, you send into town … and you’ve got to start the generator going. Aarrgh! I suppose it’s a good way of life; ‘tis really. Everything you buy is at least double the price, but people up there like it. So that’s my family … children; grandchildren.
Which way do you go to Taumarunui?
I go through Taupo; then I stop in Taupo, have a cup of tea and then you can go down this side of the lake or the far side of the lake. The far side of the lake is very little traffic and that brings you out on the road to Taumarunui; normally go to Tūrangi and then branch off
Do you go through Te Kuiti?
Oh no, that’s way up … getting up towards Auckland way, up there. There’s only one road to Taumarunui, and they put it in during the war years with the idea of shifting troops [chuckle] over. And then eventually it got asphalted, but there’s very little traffic between Turangi, which is the Taupo side, and Taumarunui. And at Taumarunui they go through the other side of the mountain. They’ve got a farm over there. I used to think farming was wonderful, you know, nothing to do … all they do is drive round in cars all day and just have holidays whenever they feel like it. But then I went over there in the middle of winter, you know – you’ve got to shift the cattle to another strip, and you’re frozen; there’s frost on the ground; your hands are frozen; getting up at about six o’clock in the morning, ooh … and it’s raining. It’s a lot harder life than people tell you. Sounds wonderful in theory … [?] says oh, they’re always in the home – “Come up and have a cup of tea”; so you get up in the early morning, go down [and] shift the electric fence for another strip for them to do; come back and have a cup of tea at eight o’clock, then off doing fencing, fixing up the fences ‘cause something’s gone wrong or that sort of thing; makes a hard life. I reckon farmers earn every penny, and they’re only good, you know, ‘til about sixty-five or so really, because they can’t do the actual hard physical work which needs to be done. Ah well … that’s my experience as far as the city is concerned. It’s expanding; [as] I say we bought the place in Tripoli Street; eventually finished up out here. By that time Taradale had gradually come to get bigger and bigger and bigger, and now of course it’s virtually filled in. The Onekawa Hotel – that was just a paddock, bit of grass next to the creek; nothing there like that in those days.
So the ‘31 earthquake ..?
Yes – I wasn’t here. We had our own earthquake in Nelson, called the Murchison one. I left Nelson when I was transferred to Wellington with the Post Office when I was about eighteen, nineteen. The earthquake here – as I say, we had a causeway through to Taradale. [Of] course Taradale was a borough on its own … had its own mayor, councillors and everything.
Didn’t know that …
Didn’t you know that?
What?! Oh yeah, the mayor of Taradale … Miller was the mayor, and my brother was a councillor. He lived out here, built a house out here. And out here they had their own drainage people, their own works and that sort of thing; separate borough altogether. And they had a meeting with the Napier City Council who promised if they joined up with them they’d put footpaths in Taradale. Taradale didn’t have footpaths you see, just the road and then [a] bit of grass. Yeah – well they did – they put a footpath down one side of the road down the main street and that was it; and they took over Taradale. If you go past to Lee Road … [if] you look there you’ll see Borough Council Chambers … the same as City Council Chambers. So that was run separately. Virtually you were forced into it; the government was insisting, you know, you had to have sewage systems for towns, that sort of thing; so inevitably it would’ve happened. Taradale wouldn’t expand ‘til those things were done, and then once all that was done they started to sell sections all round the place. [Of] course they had to be able to service them, you see, and it was a long, long time after that before they put the water in – a long time. We were on a bore; ‘bout five of us on a bore, and in summertime it didn’t come up out of the ground very high, so me being bright of course, I put a pump on. And then the neighbour came screaming in – he wasn’t getting any water at all. He said, “It’s sucking instead of blowing.” [Chuckles] Well that was all because once we amalgamated, then you got water and all those sort of things. The city council could sort of borrow money then, against a big scheme sort of thing, but … oh well. Now of course, it’s still got a village atmosphere you know, to a certain extent, Taradale has. It’s a very busy place now; practically all food takeaways – have you noticed? Every time there’s another food takeaway, and there are a lot of non-Europeans; I think it’s nice they put in non-Europeans. I tell you what, they work – long, long hours. They earn their money, yeah they do.
[Of] course when we shifted to Napier I was in my thirties, and in those days we had the Jaycees. The women were excluded; men only – Jaycees. And a good thing in my opinion. However, they did have a rule that when you got to forty you were turfed out; you were finished. That was their limit you see, that age, because the Jaycees … Junior Chamber of Commerce, that’s what it was … and it was virtually expected it was a kindergarten, as it were, for Rotary. So you learned all about how to run meetings and those sort of things, then you were expected to continue on with your public duty. And so I got to forty, and in those days you had to be invited to join; you didn’t say, “I’d like to be a Rotarian”. They had a committee and they interviewed you and your wife and told her what was expected as a Rotarian and that sort of thing. And the area was cut up – you didn’t have Taradale and Napier, it was cut up – there was the industrial area, Taradale, and wherever your business was, that was the Rotary Club you belonged to. Nothing to do with where you lived. We had Napier West; and by that time I’d joined Taradale Rotary – I’d been invited to join Taradale Rotary. I was just forty – thought I knew everything. Yeah, I did, too.
And they said they were going to start a new one, and so they took about four of us from Taradale and about three of them from Napier. And then we went and got enough members from businesses round about, ‘bout twenty of us. Became a big club – we finished up with eighty members. And then Rotary decided there would be no such things as districts, you could join whichever Rotary club you wished. And that was the finish of Napier West because a large number of them lived in Napier or Taradale, ‘cause there was nothing in between but that’s where our club was and our business came from, you see; then no longer were you tied down to where your business was, so you could shift. I was ‘bout the third president in Napier West … wonderful club. The reason for that was that all of us were in our early forties; physically you could do anything from forty to fifty. Then of course later on, and I see it in Taradale now, I think the average age is about seventy-one. [Chuckles] Yes … we can barely lift a paintbrush. [Chuckles] So that was my years, and I’ve joined back; when I left Napier West the writing was on the wall; so they were going to finish … just couldn’t get any new members. And I came back and joined Taradale so my total time out there has been say, sixty-one years in Rotary, which is about as long as you get; don’t think many of them are much longer than that.
And the Masonic?
Yes, I’m still a Mason now, but [chuckle] you know, it just shows you how times have changed. When I joined the Masonic Lodge there were quite [a] lot of us – as I say, same as Rotary – comparatively young members. And television came in, and wives didn’t like their husbands going out at night and coming home half past ten; perhaps you had children going to school and all that sort of thing, and life’s changed. Life has changed. Every organisation I know are hard put to get members, and so the members in Rotary and Masonic we’re getting older and older. They sort of weren’t going out at night … they were staying home at night. So they have formed what they call a daytime Lodge; it meets in Taradale down here. I’m a member of the daytime Lodge; and one of the conditions of joining is you’ve got to be eighty. [Laughter] Well, it seems like that anyway. But everybody is just getting old; we have no young ones coming on. And so the daytime Lodge is almost entirely old members, but it means that they don’t give up going if they have to go out at night; this way they can still be a Mason during the daytime. The Rotary Clubs you see, we finish eight o’clock … oh, well, usually half past seven … so you’re home fairly early, see, so that’s different; you’re not out late. No, you just get old I’m afraid, and you can’t get new members to do things; and I can remember when Napier West … a widow down the port area there, she really needed the roof of her house painted. Right! So we got down there, be about ten of us, all with paint brushes; we had her roof finished in a morning. But of course nowadays, you wouldn’t be allowed to get more than three feet up off the ground, would you? A metre off the ground? You have to have scaffolding. In those days you had a ladder; climbed up the ladder and walk all round the roof. Nobody had an accident. [Chuckles] I can remember – and this has got nothing to do with the interview at all –
How do you get to a hundred?
People always ask me that question. I think we were well fed. They talk about … silly business about meat and three veg, sort of thing, and I think it had a lot to do with it. We used to go home at lunchtime – that was dinner in the middle of the day. We didn’t have dinner at night … night time we had a light meal. We had the main meal in the middle of the day. And my mother’d cook me a meal, you see, and then she had the afternoon to herself because we were all gone. She didn’t have to cook a meal at night.
Oh, just by the way, the church on Sundays … says, ‘Six days shalt thou work and the seventh rest’, you see. And all the family – my father’s other brothers, they lived with Grandma – all went to church on Sunday; came back, and there was always a cold meal on Sundays, because why should the women of the housework if the men in the house were not going to work on Sundays? They had the day off; it was right that the women should have the day off. So everything was already prepared – cold meal on Sundays, and I think when you come to think of it, it was not a bad idea either. Quite rightly so.
Any rate, how do you get [chuckle] to be a hundred? I don’t honestly know; a lot of it’s luck, you know, a lot of it is luck. I mean, you can cross the road and get splattered, and what does that mean? Was he going to live to be a hundred? Who knows?
I think as far as hobbies go – because I wasn’t able to join the Air Force ‘cause of my eyesight – and then of course after the war, bringing up a family, starting a business – I didn’t have enough money to go flying until I was about fifty. That was when I gave up pig hunting, and I had enough money to start learning to fly. And learning to fly is a very, very expensive business. It’s a lot of money today; you’re looking at a minimum of $100,000 … minimum; to get your licence, probably more. But I started buying one aircraft, and I did one up and bought another one; eventually finished up … I’ve owned nine aircraft. ‘Cause I’d get fed up with one, try and sell it and buy another one. So with the last one, I sat in it. I didn’t ring up; I was about to, but you can get in a plane, sit on top ‘til your legs go in, and drop. How do you get out? Because you try and lift yourself up with your arms up above your head like this; I was nearly going to call the tower up and ask them to send the fire brigade chap over to help me out. [Chuckle] But I managed to get out, and I said, “Look, this is silly.” So I flew for my last time when I was ninety, and I gave up. That was that; my last plane ride was when I was ninety.
When did you see your first aeroplane?
In Nelson, landing on the … it was a seaplane … landing on the inner harbour. Ooh, God – I must’ve been about, eight or nine – wouldn’t have been any more. That’s about the first landing … people were saying, “Hey! there’s an aeroplane!” People in shops, shop assistants, everybody, [would] rush out into the main street to see the aeroplane go over. It was – it was really something in those days to see a plane.
So how old were you when you had your first flight in a plane?
Be about 1935; Cook Strait Airways had started, and that was Wellington to Nelson; Cook Strait Airways. And Mum and Dad must’ve given me some money; I don’t know where the money came from, [chuckles] but they paid for my trip to Wellington and back, flying in a plane. Only used to hold six of us; but that was a good organisation, Cook Strait; they were eventually of course bought out by Union Airways which was financed by the Union Steamship Company. That’s where the name Union Airways came from. And of course became … what was after? National Airways, then it became Air New Zealand – that’s where we are now, isn’t it, Air New Zealand? That’s been – since I gave up pig hunting – that’s been my real sport, was flying.
When did you start pig hunting?
When I was forty. I was late starting, but principally because I didn’t have any dogs. And Ron Jones who lived over just behind the shops over there, he had about an acre there. Ron had dogs, so there was Ron, Alan [?] and myself and Ray Jones – used to get in the car Sunday morning, ‘bout two o’clock or three o’clock in the morning, off up the back of Tutira; hunt all day and come home done for, [chuckle] worn out. So were the dogs. But Ron had dogs, and when the dogs all died off … oh, it was about ten years … and my knee was giving me trouble, that’s when I decided to give it up. I couldn’t walk any more like it, so I then started just walking up the Sugar Loaf when I was fifty and I’ve been keeping at it ever since. It’s become … you say to yourself, [chuckle] “I’m going to lie in bed this morning”, tuck the blankets round your neck, you see. And so … well, the others would expect you up there; there’s about … usually about six or eight of us up there, the usual ones; arrive there in the early morning, and you’d be surprised how many people do go up there. And I say, “Oooh, I won’t get up; I’m not getting up”, and something inside you says, “Yes, you are.” I don’t know what it is, but … well, you have to, you see. So I take the car to the winery – and I used to walk when I lived in Avenue Road – and then start to walk up. I used to walk up through the grass – just paddocks in those days, it was paddocks; and I asked their permission if I could walk up there through their paddocks instead of up through – there’s a walkway up Cumberland Drive. And then of course they put a road in, Tironui Drive, which enabled them to sell the houses way up the end there, you see. And now we’ve got a concrete footpath going up it. But then you come to the carpark at the top where there’s sort of a saddle goes over the hill, then down there’s a steep bit goes pssht! Up there like that – that’s still just mud. Well it’s mud in the wintertime, and when it’s wet; present time it’s dry as a chip. And you walk up there; that is steep, and I’m very slow now. I used to gallop up once upon a time, but the years go by and the speed has dropped, remarkably. [Chuckle]
Do you take a walking stick with you?
Two. Well one’s useless, because you’re walking over clumps of dirt and everything else. No, two – that’ll steady yourself; and [you’ve] got your lights on this time of the year, and people coming and going; dogs, people have dogs up there. And you know all of them by their first names, and if I don’t go, you see, they’ll say, “Where’s Trevor?” One or two of them will wander up round the hill to see if I’ve fallen down the bank; [chuckle] so I have to go. I’ve got a … one of these things you hang round your neck. This is the …
Yes. Paid for by the Veterans’ Affairs; you hang it on your neck and if you fall over or trip and that sort of thing, it goes off. Sometimes it goes off … and I said, “Well, look, I’ve just taken it off my neck.” “Yes, but you’ve dropped it down on your neck. Do you require an ambulance?” “No I don’t, thank you.” But it’s just the thought that it’s there if anything goes wrong. Yeah. I’m getting a new one today, Thursday … supposed to be getting a new one. Different, bit more sophisticated. That one there I can’t use it in the shower. Don’t really want the new one, but it can be used in the shower, because that’s where you’re likely to fall over and have an accident. ‘Cause when you get old your biggest worry is tripping and falling over. I was over at my daughter’s place eighteen months ago … a year ago. She started a farm, big hills at the back of it ,and I’ve been up the top there and back and walking along uphill; it was uphill and a couple of the sheep … sheep have got little tiny feet ‘bout that wide apart, haven’t they? I want something that’s about that wide apart because I’m trying to walk on this track; and oh, I tripped and fell backwards; went down thump! And it takes a little while to sort of … I said, “What the devil am I doing this for?” Pulled myself over to the fence and pulled us up; but it shakes you up when you’re old. You’d be surprised, and you think, ‘Aaaahhh …
So I don’t go up the hill on Saturdays and Sundays; those are my days off, and I use my pushbike and go for a ride round the park on the pushbike. Once you’re on the bike, you know, it’s easy going because your weight’s taken off; your weight’s taken by your back end, and your legs are only there to push them up and down, there’s not the weight on the knees. They’re wobbly and they hurt, so I’ve been to the doctor, oh … a few times and to a specialist, and he said the cartilage is worn away. He showed me the gap in between … nothing there; other knee was filled in. “What can I do about it?” He said, “Not a thing.” [Chuckle] He said, “They’re just worn out.” And I said, “Well, you know – I’ll have a couple of knee replacements.” “No you won’t”, he said. “You hear about the good ones; there are some bad ones”, he said, “you don’t hear too much about. And any operation no matter how small, carries a risk of infection, so if you can continue to walk, you stick with it.” That’s as far as I ever got with my knees, so they just hurt. [Chuckles] Yeah. I’ll continue as long as I can, and I think perhaps … I was thinking, my next birthday if I get there, I’ll just coast up the road, Tironui Drive, up the top there where it goes over the hill and down. You never walked up there?
Where do you live then?
Over in Hastings.
Ah I see, that’s why you wouldn’t go there. You can walk up Te Mata Peak can’t you?
Mr Page, on behalf of the Knowledge Bank I would like to thank you very much for giving up your time to me today so I could interview you, and I’d like to wish you the very, very, very best for the future.
Thank you very much; been a pleasure talking to you.
Original digital file
This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).
Commercial UsePlease contact us for information about using this material commercially.
Interviewer: Frank Cooper
2nd Interviewer: Lyn Sturm