Pamela (Pam) Mildred Sharron Tremain Interview
Today is the 11th April 2018. I’m interviewing Pamela Tremain – Pam would you like to tell us something about your family?
Oh, thank you, Frank. My parents were Sydney Delmar Hibbard and Mildred Susannah Francis; were married on the 2nd December 1931. Brian, my brother, was born in 1933. They lost twins, a girl and a boy, in between and then I was born in 1940. Possibly I may not have been here if they hadn’t lost the twins in those days.
My grandparents were William Knap Francis, who I called Pa, born in 1879, and he died in 1957 aged seventy-eight; married to Isobel Claire Tidd, born 1880, died 1939, aged fifty-nine – just a year before I was born.
Was this in New Zealand?
Yes, I believe so.
Well, see I don’t know. Because I know that William Francis, Mum’s dad – he came from England as a teenager. I’m not sure about Isobel. And my Pa lived in Augustus Terrace, Parnell, directly above the Auckland train station in a large home later owned by my Uncle Ron, his son. I used to pick nasturtium flowers across the road, and play with a girl in old apartments which are still there today. The Commercial Travellers’ Building was built there where his house was.
Pa had a bach at Maraetai Beach and owned a launch. I had many happy times there, and would go down to the back orchard to squash some bugs on his trees to earn money for an ice-cream, and then run down a track, across the next road and down a zig-zag track to the beach to purchase my treat.
Bobby, the next-door boy, and I used to spend some time around the rocks exploring the rockpools. He had a cousin, Gay Mazzelini, who ended up the same year as I did at Auckland Girls’ Grammar.
I remember my Pa’s name advertising real estate on the grocery shop as you came into Maraetai. Funny that years later my husband, Kelvin, became a real estate agent, followed by my sons.
Pa had a second wife, Elsie, who I called Aunty Elsie. She had quite a large family of her own, and I was friendly with Diane and Paul Vlasic who lived in a large home at the time in Mount Albert. They had great parties, and lots of music. Aunty Joan was Elsie’s daughter, and they owned a fish restaurant in Custom Street West, which was quite big at the time.
I remember living in Castle Street when I was about four, and this was in Grey Lynn and my Aunty Joy lived across the road. Aunty Joy was married to a John Culpin who was at War, and Aunty Joy was friendly with the Americans, because I remember them giving me chocolate. Aunty Joy was sixteen years younger than Mum, and I loved her.
I went to school at Grey Lynn Primary. Miss Carnahan was my school teacher, and she was really old – or was she? [Chuckle]
She was probably only in her thirties.
[Chuckle] Oh, no she looks older than that in the photo I have – I still have a photo of her.
Pamela Young was in my class, who later in life became my sister-in-law. Kay Emerali, Glennis Gilmore, Marie Buchan, Margaret Seddon, Gloria Bridges – from a very poor family. So were we, really. Johnny Simpson, Hector Martin, and I could go on – I have a picture, I’m sure.
Through primary school I was in Graeme Milne’s class which was a Standard 3 to 4 class. He was the son of my mother’s friend Enid, who I called Aunty Enid, and they lived behind Ponsonby Road shops, along the other end of the road from where Amanda Holland had Small Acorns in Auckland in recent years. Fay Lindsay was in that class a year ahead of me, and was at AGGS. Faye married Roger Meek who played rugby for the Grammar Club, and I still visit her in Edmund Hillary Village.
I learnt piano from the nuns at the Catholic School next to the Grey Lynn Public Library – used to catch the tram to school … to Grammar … and to music. I belonged to the Western Springs Athletic Club where Les Mills and David Norris were members. And when Les Mills married, he built a home high above the park. Les Mills went to school with my brother, because my brother was the seven years older than me.
The Dunn family lived across the road, and Ian was my friend. The three Sutton boys lived in Stanmore Road at the end of Castle Street where I lived at Number 22. I used to ride their trolley down Stanmore Road, turning into Castle Street, with someone standing on the corner for safety.
Pamela Hotchin lived further down Stanmore Road. I learned ballet with Pamela from Da Kapita, off Queen Street in the city, from when I was ten to fifteen – then I was too tall and lanky. Her son, Hugh Lynn, went on to make a name in entertainment.
The Buckleys, friends of Mum and Dad, lived in Stanmore Road too. They had daughters Ann and Margaret, who were older than me. I can remember staying the night there once, and waking them up in the middle of the night because of their chiming clock. Tom Buckley loved the races like my father Syd did. They were good cobbers, and I think worked together on a totalisator at the races – that’s how they could afford to send me to ballet and music.
I had a friend in the next street down, Lindsay Lead, and I used to cut through the Dunn’s property to play with her. We often played ‘florists’, and used a small door by our garage to have our shop in. Lindsay was younger than me and she died early in life, and he mother contacted me and still keeps in touch. Lena, her mother, is in a home in Tairua and I visited her when I went to Leigh, my niece’s, at Matarangi for Christmas a couple of years ago.
We used to drink milk at school, delivered every day to be healthy. I’ve always loved milk – I never remember it tasting awful like a lot of people say. Maybe we had it first thing on arrival.
I was quite an asthmatic, hivey child. I remember I had a sun porch bedroom with a door into my parents’ room and a door into the lounge. My mother used to pour something in a lid sitting on top of four nails, to make my breathing supposedly better. It was heated by a candle lit underneath, which would be these days considered rather ridiculous. [Chuckle] I can remember being put into long white stockings to stop me scratching my hives. Nowadays you would know what you were allergic too.
Castle Street house had two brick pillars each side of my bedroom, and I used to have a loose brick that I could hide things under. [Chuckle]
I was given allergy tests, and remember having these up my arms, and some reacted and that is what you were allergic too – cats, rats tail grass, dust, etcetera. I used to have injections for my asthma from a doctor in Herne Bay, and my arm would swell up. I remember the injections starting off being very full, to a little amount at the end. They used to stay [say] you had asthma in seven-year cycles.
My brother Brian was born in 1933 and was seven years older than me, so was never my playmate. He said I was spoilt, but I think my parents had little money to have me going to ballet and piano than when he was small. His bedroom was off the main front door lobby, so it was a two bedroomed home plus sun porch.
So you only had the one sibling?
The toilet was out of the kitchen door over a back porch into the laundry and past the copper and concrete tubs. Brian’s job on a Saturday morning was to light the copper for Mum to do the washing. And then I remember her having a washing machine with roller wringers like I had myself when I married in 1963. It was not until Mark was born I had an automatic washing machine.
Do you remember the time Kelvin brought out to Waipatiki when we owned the green bach, a wringer washing machine? And I told him to take it back to town. We then purchased an automatic – now that’s out of order. [Chuckle]
Up the road lived June Shaw, and as I have mentioned, Fay Lindsay’s parents owned the dairy. Across the road one way was a cinema, and on the other corner the Salvation Army where I went to a programme after school one day a week. I always enjoy and support the Sallies.
Pamela and I met Graeme Brown and Hector Martin at the local cinema one day when we were about in Standard 4 – really? In those days? [Chuckle] Years later I was having a reminence [reminiscent] walk along Milford Beach when Mum and Dad were about eighty plus, because when they were ninety they couldn’t walk along the beach.
Dad’s brother Charles John Hibbard – Uncle John – lived on Takapuna Beach in a lovely bungalow and built a really solid concrete home behind his house … Saltburn Road. It had a walking path to the beach. This person called out to me, and it was Graeme Brown and his wife, living on Milford Beach – life is amazing isn’t it? She was a St Cuthbert’s girl and caught the bus to town with me when I was at St Heliers. There must have not been a school bus even for the private schools back then in 1954 to ‘57.
So you lived at St Heliers?
I lived at St Heliers from when I was in the third form. We moved from Grey Lynn to St Heliers.
It’s a lovely little suburb.
Oh, there’s some beautiful homes in St Heliers, yes.
At Grey Lynn School, I was a School Patrol on duty on the Great North Road. Many buses went past as the airport was at Whenuapai. We kept a book to record the buses passing – it was a busy road. After Grey Lynn Primary School I went to Pasadena Intermediate at Point Chevalier, just past the Chamberlain Golf Course. I biked every day, either down the bullock track where someone would gesture you to start down the track so you could swing across the Great North Road without being bowled out by traffic; the Zoo hill was the other way, which I used to think was so steep, but probably was not. I often doubled Beverley Francis down on my bike … perhaps she did not have a bike. I was quite a fortunate child.
At Pasadena I was the girls’ House Captain of Grey House if I remember rightly. I was chosen for the role of Joan of Arc in the school production. I cannot remember the parents taking any part in school days. At Pasadena I was in 1A and 2A – there were about nine classes, so I was quite bright. That’s where I believe my children got their cleverness from, not their father. [Chuckle]
I remember Bob Bailey was in the bottom class, and later became the New Zealand rugby league coach. [Chuckle] And quite a few of the people that were in my class have done well in life.
When I went to Auckland Girls’ Grammar from Grey Lynn by tram in 1954 and walked down Karangahape Road by the dolls’ hospital, Howe Street was a road. And we wore our uniform proudly with panama hat in the summer and a felt hat in the winter. We had a summer uniform of navy blue pinafore with white short-sleeved blouse underneath. I think we wore gloves summer and winter, and had bus prefects to make sure you wore the uniform properly, or you were reported.
Was it the sister school to Boys’ Grammar?
Yes. And Epsom Grammar was …
Was it quite close to Boys’ Grammar?
No. This was off Karangahape Road, and more Grey Lynn end, or Newton end, and Boys’ Grammar is behind Newmarket. But we used to walk. We didn’t have a swimming pool ‘til the year I left … after I left … and we used to walk from Grammar to Newmarket to take part … for our athletic swimming sports, so I suppose it wasn’t that far. It would’ve still been a few kilometres we’d walk – these days they would never walk that far – definitely all had the parents lined up with the cars. [Chuckle]
By the second year I was travelling from St Heliers by bus, as my parents had sold Grey Lynn and purchased in St Heliers. I always thought my grandfather had died and Mum and Dad had come into some inheritance enabling them to shift upwards, but perhaps my father Sydney did it all, when I look at the date my grandfather died. I think Grey Lynn was sold for £12-1500, and purchased St Heliers for £5,000 – a big upgrade for my parents, and if they’d had another thousand they could’ve been on the waterfront. Maybe they paid the mortgage off when Pa died [chuckle] … I wish I’d asked more questions. That’s why I’m writing this down.
And that’s that. And I took a commercial course at Grammar.
So you were thirteen … fourteen – a teenager at that stage.
Yes. And my father let me do four years at Grammar, which was unusual for a commercial girl to be able to do that. I was School athletics champion, and I played basketball and netball, because netball you only played with the private schools – Dio and St Cuthbert’s, Epsom Girls’ and Takapuna Grammar. And we played netball during the week, and we played nine-a-side basketball at Windmill Road at the weekends.
And what was Girls’ Grammar like as a school – was it very disciplined?
Definitely disciplined, that’s … like I said about wearing the uniform, having bus prefects, and you had to walk and not run around the school on the paths, but you were allowed to run at playtimes. The bell would ring and we’d change classes at times – it was pretty strict.
So you played your sport as part of the Grammar, and then you started to work?
Mmm. Well I was Games Captain at Grammar, and a prefect. And during the holidays I used to work for the Crippled Children’s Society, and I used to have a job working at the Barclay Theatre in Mission Bay, for some extra cash. And I obtained my job from an Allan Cook, who ran the Crippled Children, but he was an accountant in town and he asked me to go and work for him. So I was Junior at the accounting firm when I left school, and I did shorthand-typing and book keeping. And I left there when I was Senior to be married, and moved to Napier.
So where did you meet Kelvin?
Well I met Kelvin at the Mount over a New Year period, and he was brought to the Mount by John Sibun from Auckland, and I was only allowed to go to the Mount because Pamela and Brian, my brother, were engaged, and so the rest were all boys from the Grammar Old Boys’ Rugby Club. So Kelvin was there, and asked if he could write to me when he went to South Africa in 1960. I think he was writing to several girls at that stage, because he was a great letter writer and I’ve still got a big box of his letters. So it was just … amazing how you meet people. And I was impressed at that time to go out with Kelvin, because he was an All Black. And he asked me to go to a ball with him, and then he went back to Canterbury and would still write to me, you see. You didn’t phone each other in those days.
Those days was he at Lincoln doing his ..?
Valuation and Farm Management, he did. He was a couple of years behind Wilson Whineray.
And from there he played for Southland, didn’t he?
Oh, that was where he was firstly, at Southland.
So when he graduated he came to Hawke’s Bay?
Oh, I think he went to Auckland for a little while, and then we were going to go to … when we were to be married, or engaged, he was going to go to Hamilton. We had a flat there to live in. And then he was told Westport, and Williams and Kettle bought him out of the Government, ‘cause …
Yes, they were bonded.
… you had to work … like Graeme worked for the Navy for his bond … well Kelvin worked for the State Advances for his.
So he came to Hawke’s Bay, and he lived in the hostel at Boys’ High and was a House Master, I suppose he was called. And he lived there and boarded, so that was fun.
And at that stage you were married?
I used to come down and stay at Tom and Judy Johnson’s or Margaret and Graeme Wall’s, and – only probably came down a couple of times. And I can remember, I was quite disgusted one time because the boys were playing cricket and they had these flagons [chuckle] behind the hedge. Well, a girl from Auckland – I’d never seen a flagon before.
I can imagine.
[Chuckle] So that was a bit of a laugh.
Well, so your friendship with the Walls went a long way back, didn’t it?
Oh, yes. They were right there from when I first came from Auckland.
So then you were married?
Yes, married at St Philip’s Anglican Church in St Heliers. And the vicar wouldn’t read our banns because Kelvin was Presbyterian. And my mother said to him “but he’s not a Catholic, Reverend Mee”. And he said “but he’s not an Anglican, Mrs Hibbard”. I was allowed to get married, but Kelvin said he wouldn’t bother becoming an Anglican. [Chuckles]
Funny, old fashioned ideas they had.
Yes, and we had our children … three children … before we actually had them baptised, because Reverend Loton was the Anglican Minister at Taradale and he used to drink with the Catholic priest down at the Mission. And he only probably needed to visit me once and I would have had them christened, but he was a bit useless, I think. So we had them all christened at the Presbyterian Church, all together, when the third child was born.
And so you lived in Taradale?
We lived in Willow Drive. First of all we lived … for three and a half years we rented a house for £4/4/- [four pound four shillings] in Griffin Street in Napier, next to Bruce Hawkins – he’d organised it for us, and he was helping with the Napier Old Boys’ Rugby Club. And we both earned £16 a week. And I had £500, which my father had made me save through the Building Society, and I paid off Kelvin’s mortgage, so it was a good investment in life.
So we started off with nothing and we saved for our section in Willow Drive, and we bought half an acre for about fifteen hundred … must have been dollars I think.
Be pounds then.
No … we didn’t get married ‘til ‘63. ‘67 was – oh, well maybe pounds, maybe pounds. And it took us that time to pay it off. And people said to us “why are you going to live in Taradale – way out there?” And we said “well, if we’d lived in Auckland we could’ve only lived in Papakura”. And it was a great investment because we built on half and a few years down the track, sold half.
So that was good planning.
Was good planning. My boys were all born from that house in Willow Drive – it was a great family house, and they loved the park across the road, and had gumboots, and go up and down the creek. Simon loved the park, and he used to kick the ball, catch the ball, kick the ball, catch the ball. He had a [an] electric cord that went right across the park that he used as his goalpost, and it was a great place for all the children to meet, playing.
And so there you were married to a Hawke’s Bay and Napier Old Boys’ …
… and an All Black.
And there would’ve been training, there would’ve been all sorts of things happening in your lives. It must have been a very busy time, ‘cause he had to work as well, didn’t he?
Yes, he had to work. And in those days … the first year we were married, we were only married for like, eight months, or ten months, and he went to England for four and a half months. And I went home to Auckland and worked – lived with my mother and father. And I think he got ten shillings a day – that was what the Rugby Union gave as spending money, mmm. And we sub-leased our place that we were renting, so we came back to that and were there another couple of years because we didn’t have Christopher – we didn’t start a family until three and a half years after we were married.
And then we had two boys, and thought ‘will we have any more children? Can we afford any more children?’ Which a few more people should think about. And had a lovely life at Willow Drive with a father that left at five thirty in the morning to drive to Gisborne as a stock agent. And everyone that went with him – it was their fun day out. So it was a hard life really. And I feel I brought the boys up myself, really, although their father’s had much credit being Kelvin Tremain, the All Black. [Chuckle] Oh, dear. I mean really, it’s a bit of a laugh these days.
And we used to have those big flagons of beer to celebrate.
That’s right. Well we used to have – I think we used to have flagons of sherry. I’d never had anything to drink very much until I was married, and I think I wrote myself off a couple of times because I just didn’t know how to cope with it. Well, I just hadn’t the experience.
Yes. Simon, when he was born we bought a little car, because up until them I used to have the big pram and hook it onto the front of the bus if I wanted to visit Margaret Wall in Havelock, and change buses in Hastings. And I used to look which way the hills were so I knew which way I was going. And I was quite a stranger to the place, and then when Mark was born Kelvin would say to me “now, you know we can’t afford an automatic washing machine?” And I’d say “yes.” “You know we can’t afford an automatic washing machine” … and I was right, I could see it – when I came home and there it was covered in a sheet and a rosette on it. [Laugh] So he used to love giving surprises.
Yes. So he carried on as a stock agent doing the Napier-Wairoa area wasn’t it? Or it was the northern Hawke’s Bay area?
Yes, it was.
And every time he went it was a couple of hours’ drive to go to work, wasn’t it?
Oh, longer probably, some of it. Going to price someone’s cattle or sheep up for the yards. And the sale was once a week on a Wednesday, I think, the Stortford Lodge sale.
But he obviously loved that sort of work?
Oh, he would’ve loved to have been a farmer, but he could never afford a farm. And I’m sure if he’d lived, I think we would have owned a farm in Cambridge by now, as somewhere to go for the weekend sort of thing. [Chuckle]
So at some stage then you both must have had a change, to think ‘well, we’ll go into real estate?’
Well Kelvin was a valuer as well, and he was able to take his valuation with him. And he used to do that sometimes … rural valuation … for Williams & Kettle as well. And he met up with – I probably didn’t have a lot to do with it in those days, but he decided – he’d met this Ralph Greentree that [who] asked him would he go into business with him. And Ralph had the money, and we didn’t have that. So Kelvin decided he would go into business with Ralph, and opened up in Lower Emerson Street there, which grew from very small to quite a good-sized firm.
And then one day someone came in and said would he book them an airfare from New Zealand to Australia, and he said yes, he would. And he ran round to Air New Zealand and became a registered travel agent. So that was how [speaking together] he started off being a travel agent as well as a real estate agent.
Gosh. Was he still an All Black when he started real estate, or had he retired from playing then?
I think he would have retired.
Yes, because then he became part of … administrator, and on the New Zealand Rugby Union …
That was later.
So at some stage or other then you probably became involved in the real estate as well?
Mm, because only Christopher and Simon were born during that Shield. Simon was born during that Shield time and Christopher was born before, and Mark later.
Yes, I think I started work because all my friends worked. And I started with the travel agency, and that changed a lot and I really wasn’t full time and it was awkward to keep up with it, so then went into selling real estate. And even then I never used to sell my first house until about May, because I was always busy over summer at the beach. And I earned enough money – oh, I did quite well, really, and Kelvin – anything I needed for the house, or wanted to alter the house – well I was able to as long as I paid for it. [Chuckle]
So then at what stage did you move to Puketapu Road?
When Mark was at Intermediate school, and both the older boys were at Boys’ High … Napier Boys’ High.
So at that stage you had the Napier office, you had the Taradale …
The Taradale office.
And then you bought in …
Mosley’s had bought the Havelock office as well, and then later on you had one at Greenmeadows, didn’t you?
We just had … just the same as we had that one in the main street in Taradale after we had that one at Greenmeadows … they were just viewing offices. We didn’t … we might’ve had someone on duty, but that’s all.
So they were pretty exciting days weren’t they, building a big business?
And rugby, and of course there were children had sports – your three boys all played …
They all played sport and …
And they would have been at different times?
That’s right, and I played mid-week netball early in the piece. And then I became a Cub leader, because I had three sons someone had to help with Cubs, so I went from Baloo to Akela. Oh yes, I was in uniform. But it’s amazing – all sports and things are still like that – really they get the people that are very narrow thinking, and they can only … their sport is the only sport to do, yet my boys have always gone to different things, and I enjoyed them trying different things. We used to collect pine cones, and I took the Cubs on holiday one time up to a farm – little old cottage. [Chuckle] Great times.
So at some stage during all this work and that, you became involved with …
Oh, yes, we’ve been going there since … Mark was just born, I think, when we had the bach, the first there. I’ve been going there for over fifty years now.
It’s become a nice habit hasn’t it?
Oh, a wonderful habit, because it shows you what a great family we have in the fact that they’re all there. And it’s grown as their place too, so that says how wonderful it’s been for us, or is for us.
You were … the families were all very much family orientated [oriented] and shared a lot of things.
We bought our first bach at Waipatiki for £2,000, and sold it just after Mark was born which was ‘71, so maybe it was dollars – $2,000, and we sold it for $4,000, because Kelvin was going into business and we needed the money to go into business with Ralph Greentree – that’s when we sold it. Years later we bought one for $50,000 and sold that for over $300,000. [Chuckle]
It’s amazing isn’t it? The way things change.
During this period, I always remember you suffered with a very bad back.
Yes, I did.
I still have … I’ve still got that problem.
Yes. You used to be prone on the floor with it.
Now, your grandchildren?
Right. My grandchildren – well, I have ten grandchildren. Christopher has three – Sam’s twenty-one, William’s nineteen and Lily is seventeen. Two at university in Wellington and doing well, and William’s just made the Under 20 New Zealand Rugby team to go to Australia very soon.
And the next are Simon and Hettie – I didn’t mention Ange [refers to Christopher’s wife] – but Simon and Hettie have four – Anouk, who’s fourteen; Edu … Eduart, who’s twelve; Mela who’s ten; and Kalle’s eight.
And then there’s Jan and Mark, and Mark’s eldest is Jack, and he’s thirteen, Greer is eleven, and Annika is nine. So not too bad. They all call me Oma, and I think that started because of Hettie being Dutch, or Afrikaans, from South Africa. And Angela has had German in her heritage, and I thought Oma would be fun.
When I talk to the boys we can talk about Hettie, Ange and Mark’s Jan – we can talk about where they came from at that time.
Mmm. Because she’s got a grandfather who was an All Black.
Yeah – Grenside.
Amazing. So you’ve had lots of highlights, lots of hard work, lots of time on your own waiting I guess, for things to happen, you know … husbands to come home. Because it used to take months when they travelled, didn’t it, once?
Well the second time he went away for three and a half months. And I had Christopher, and we went home again to Auckland. But I didn’t go to work, Christopher and I stayed with Mum and Dad, and … yes, and it seemed to be always … those times were over Christmas too, that they went away, when it was cold in England. So really, that was winter when they played I know, but [chuckle] you would have thought … Nowadays they just pop over for a week or so, don’t they? Well the wives are included a lot more these days. [Speaking together]
And we were lucky in Hawke’s Bay because when we had the Shield there was a committee room off the main room, and the women were put in the committee room and the men were all in this big room with a bar in it, but we weren’t allowed in there but the bi-folding doors were always open. So you knew your place and stayed in. But like – in Invercargill they had to sit outside in the cars, the women. And in Auckland, women were at one end of the main stand and men were at the other end of the main stand, so life has improved. And when we went to the Tests we certainly weren’t put up for the weekend. And our seats were sort of behind the goalposts really, on that line, whereas now they’re in the middle, [chuckle] and have a … well, we had a good life too – we considered our life was pretty good.
And of course the boys were very active with rugby as well?
Mmm. They were. They were really into their rugby. Well Christopher played soccer for the first year, I think. And it was always funny seeing Kelvin walking round the sideline with quite a few ‘Poms’ in those days. [Chuckle] And it was good for footwork, though.
Yes, well they went to Cubs, and Chris went on to Scouts. And they went to athletics at one stage, and swimming, and played cricket. So they tried … sailing – we had a little P Class yacht at one stage, because Kelvin was a sailor, but he sailed with a friend in Northcote – his parents wouldn’t have been able to afford a yacht. And he’s … I‘ve got a couple of his medals that he won yachting.
And then there was the Rotary Club?
The long association with Taradale.
Yes. And Kelvin used to organise the fair in the main street – and the auction – in the main street of Taradale every year. And I used to run the jewellery stall, and so we did have a long association with Taradale Rotary. And after Kelvin died – it was some years – Ian Kepka and Bill Beaton asked me to join Rotary.
Did they establish a Kel Tremain Trust?
Yes. Yes, they did. And they put into that from their annual fair. And they select someone to give the money to each year to help them through uni.
And during this period of time you were living in Puketapu Road, up on the hill, looking over the rest of Hawke’s Bay – had a grand view, didn’t it?
Mmm. Did have a grand view. Well he would’ve been in Rotary from when we were at Willow Drive, I think. And he was a Mason of course.
I had the privilege I guess, of working with Kel, and you, and the boys, and just seeing what a tremendous amount of effort they gave the community, whether it was netball, whether it was lending the band to the netball teams, supporting rugby … they were very, very supportive … the Rotary Club – they were givers, not takers.
Oh, they’ve given a lot to the community – hugely.
Now you were talking about your mother.
Oh. Well I haven’t written that down. My mother was born in Opunake I think, but most of the history I had was from when she lived in Papakura. And my grandfather was a real estate agent, and Mum was the eldest of five siblings, and she had a brother, Bill … William Knap Francis, same as his father … and a brother, Cliff Francis, and Ron Francis and Joy Francis. And we used to have a lot to do with our aunts and uncles on both sides as kids. And as I said, Uncle Ron bought the big house up in Augustus Terrace, and he also … my grandfather had a lot of sections at Taupo, which I’m not sure if he lost during the Depression, but he moved to Taupo because he was an asthmatic man and it was better for his health in Taupo. And I used to go to Taupo and visit he and his second wife, and catch little freshwater crayfish just down in the river – just down – he lived right in Taupo, first of all in Tamamutu Street, one of the main streets, in a little old bungalow. Then he must have built a house which was later burnt down, and it was where the supermarket is now as you come into Taupo – right in town. So – he was always an interesting person, and I think he did very well in life.
Also they lived – when Mum was young she used to go by horse to school, and they lived just out of Papakura somewhere.
And did she life a long … great age?
My mother died in her ninety-ninth year. And I’ve got a lovely cutting you’d like to see of them announcing – she lived in Papakura – of the announcement of Mildred’s twenty-first birthday. It’s a little cutting – it’s lovely.
So you were named after her? Second name?
Second name, yes.
Oh, it’s interesting the way the jigsaw comes together. And did you play any other sports – played bowls, and you mentioned mah jong?
Oh yes, I’ve played mah jong, and I’ve played bridge with four girls – Wenda Ebbett, Val Wills and Diane Alexander. They were the four of us played bridge for the last thirty-five years. And mah jong’s been a newer … Margaret Bannister played bridge [mah jong?] with us, and Judy Johnson now plays with us, and Sue Read … Christine Campbell.
And Wenda is moving to Havelock I believe?
Yes. Yes, but they’ve always been …
Well Wenda has been a Havelock person.
… associated that way.
Now you’re living in this lovely …
Apartment – I’ve been here for fourteen years. Yes, so it’s amazing, isn’t it? I built myself that home down in Taradale, in Neeve Place looking out onto Avon Terrace, and that was a lovely home to live in, but it was so quiet there. Everybody went home at six o’clock, and there was no life about. But I’d lived by myself for six years up in the big house – Puketapu Road – and it just got a bit much to live up there by myself really, so I lived for two years in this … we were going round one day looking, viewing homes, and we came across this little old place in Neeve Place, and I said “I could live here, and build on that big section”. So I lived in the old house for a couple of years while we moved the garage and built on the back house.
But living up Puketapu Road was wonderful. And it sort of gave Kelvin his bit of a farm which he’d always wanted. And I never wanted to live on a farm really. I probably held him back in that regard, because there was one time he wanted to go out Bay View way – that road that runs from Bay View to … right through into … back road there, and I said “no, I wouldn’t …” We did buy a property out there and were going to build there, then we decided it was too far for the boys to go to school and things. But where we were in Puketapu Road, I could see the city … the town.
You weren’t isolated.
Well coming back to Kel, and you know – what a shock it was that he slipped away on us …
… so young. So quick.
Couldn’t believe it.
Well looking back, he probably had been ill for a while, but he didn’t let on really.
To think the doctor actually told him he needed a back massage. You know, that … I always really was a bit horrified. And I was always horrified too that I had to take him … get Bill Small and Glen Baker it was … take him back up to the hospital to tell him he was going to die – I thought ‘really!’ I think things have improved since then, and they come and visit you. It was really a dreadful thing to do. Mmm. The boys had to come home, and Simon was … he came home, and I think he would never have probably come back to Hawke’s Bay really. And look how it’s changed all their lives. Well Christopher came home.
Yes – for you. ‘Cause it all pivoted around you, then.
One son became a Member of Parliament for …
… three terms for Napier City.
Well Christopher had written to his father asking if he could come back and work for Tremain’s, which was great that he’d done that. But then he had to come home in the April – before he was coming home in the December. And he asked Simon to come home and help him.
But to think that I’ve got three beautiful sons, and three beautiful daughter-in-laws [daughters-in-law] – I’m a lucky lady. Kelvin’s been gone over twenty-five now – twenty-six this year.
And to think Christopher said “right, Mum. Put on your red jacket – we’re off to work”. And this was about two or three days after the funeral. And we went into work, and we had some older chaps working for us – Bill, and Ian Scott – and they were in their fifties probably?
That’s right, yes.
And Christopher was twenty-six. And they thought ‘well, here we’ve got this young fellow telling us what to do’. And for a while there it was probably touch and go.
Well it was really a breath of fresh air, because a lot of those older people – and I didn’t count myself as one of them – were so set. They didn’t like change. I worked with Ian for twenty-odd years – never got to know him.
No. Well they actually did ask him to leave at one stage because it was either … he was always saying he was leaving, so they said “well, you might have to go”. [Chuckle] And he actually ended up staying, and was better for it.
So, Pam it’s really quite a fascinating story, and there’s probably lots of other things – they will probably come out when we have the boys sitting down. Can you think of anything you haven’t told me about?
Probably many things I haven’t told you about.
Your friendship with the Walls over the years, in Havelock, and Margaret – she was such a lovely person.
And then Shirley and Murray Wall – well of course Murray Wall, he’s Graham’s brother, and he died in 1980 – probably only about forty-two or something. And we had quite a few – Roy Evans was married to Penny – he’s now in Havelock, and he died, and we had another – Tony Nattrass. And we had a few deaths when they were only in their … maybe twenty-eight or thirty.
But – here we are.
Here we are, plodding along. So if I think of anything …
We can always add it in.
When I was having children, because of spina bifida in Kelvin’s family it was always a concern. And I took a couple of days to have Christopher, and I always wonder if [chuckle] that was why – because I was frightened to produce him. But in those days – I mean you didn’t have scans, or you didn’t – weren’t told to take folic acid to prevent those sort of things. So it was a concern. But we had three … and fortunate to have three healthy boys. And when Mark was born I remember saying “oh, you’re welcome!” [Chuckle] Because he was supposed to be my daughter … “you’re welcome”, so … and he’s been a lovely son – I’m very fortunate.
And they’re all different personalities …
… but they all have a touch of each of you.
Yes, I think so. They do.
Okay, Pam, well look – I think that’s been a good introduction. When we talk to the boys we will then bring the girls in so we end up with this lovely tree of thoughts of the past. So thank you, Pam.
Good – thank you, Frank.
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper