Potts, Douglas Ian Walter & Suzette Fay Interview
Today is the 28th August 2017. I’m interviewing Doug and Sue Potts of Havelock North. Doug is a retired signwriter and he’s going to tell us something about the life and times of his family. Doug, would you like to ..?
From the beginning; my grandfather on my father’s side came from Hawick in Scotland; arrived in Invercargill, or Gore actually, in Invercargill, down there; married my grandmother who came from Scotland, but I don’t know what place she came from. He was an undertaker in Invercargill, and died at a very young age. Well, there was [were] six kids and my dad was the oldest at thirteen, so an indication when he died. So the boys and Grandma went through the Depression in ‘30, ‘31, round that era – the Depression. And things were pretty tough, and I can remember asking Grandma later when they migrated up to … and that’s another bit of story though … they migrated up to Hawke’s Bay because of the Depression; there was no work down there.
My dad was a tradesman; served his time as a bricklayer, and saw that there was more work in the freezing works in Hastings, which was the Whakatu Freezing Works at the time, and he migrated up here. And I asked Grandma, “How did you get on with all those kids in the Depression, which was so tough?” And she said, “It was the best time of my life”. And I said, “How can you say that, when I hear that there was no food, and things were pretty tough for an ordinary family let alone one with no husband to look after things.”
How many children were there?
Six. And she said, “They used to come home at night from school, and three of them worked after school. Two of them were tradesmen – well, one was a butcher and one was a bricklayer, and the others were working after school in places, just doing menial bits and pieces for bobs [shillings] and food and stuff. And they would come home and sit round the table with a Tilly lamp, and all play cards, and she said “I used to sit there and chuckle my head off at these kids all joking and carrying on, and how happy we were.” And it was very interesting.
So then, as I said Dad found work in Hastings, and came up for the Freezing Works and was a solo butcher. And I – to this day don’t know how he did it. He didn’t like blood; he used to come home and mention about it when I was only a little fellow; married my mum – the other side of the family were from Wick. My grandad came over from Wick before the First World War. And those days they must have done the family thing because three of his brothers came with him. So there was [were] four on the boat; came over and they sort of dispersed. And they went to the Wairarapa because there was farm labouring work there, and he was on the wharf. He was a cooper – now that’s interesting because they make barrels for tallow. And he then came up to Hastings – I don’t know what time, but came up to Hastings; met Mum, who went to Mangateretere School …
What was her family name?
Her family name was Lowe – the Lowes. Met my grandmother, sorry – she was from Cornwall, and they met before they come [came] over, I think – no, they met here, sorry, they met here, because they were the Freetheys who were ano[ther] … yeah. We’re getting them all together now. And Grandma and Grandad had three children, Donald, Winston and Noelene, which [who] was my mother. And when he came up to Hastings here he got a job at the Freezing Works as a cooper and made the barrels for years, ‘til he retired, so all that time – at what age I don’t know, seventy-something. But in between com[ing] from Wairarapa to here the war broke out; 1914 was it ? And signed up with the Wellington Horse Brigade, I think it was called; got on the third boat that went to Gallipoli; and was in Gallipoli not very long, but enough to see … because they’d cleared out. By the time the third boat got there they’d ordered them back out. And then they went to Flanders and to Brazil. And he finished there, came home and went back to the Works, and always used to bike. I can remember him biking all the way out there; those days there was [were] no cars – well, not many; and he eventually bought a car and we used to borrow it. We lived right next door in Evenden Road in Hastings, and it was a long way out those days.
Well the road was only shingle those days.
Was shingle, and my brother said, “Doug, don’t you forget to mention that when they tar-sealed the road we used to play tennis on the road, and one car an hour would go past.” [Chuckles] Yeah.
And then we were born, and there’s seven in our family; my mum and dad produced seven of us – Heather, the oldest, me, Andy, Colin, Tom, who died about ten years back was it?
Sue: Mm, probably.
Doug: He had a brain aneurism; and Alistair, and Susan. And there’s eighteen years difference between me and the baby, which was Susan. So I used to push her around in the pram.
And then while he was at the Works he thought, ‘there’s more money in being in business’, so he bought a trucking business. And he went along to Baillie Farmers, and they must have saved up enough money for a truck to do … just a solo truck … and he used it. I can remember I used to help him on the weekends collecting pumpkins – he’d put pumpkins on the truck and take them to the railway station. Those days the trains carted everything, not the trucks.
And then another misfortune happened; outside the truck caught on fire, and he lost everything. And I don’t think he had it insured, and lost that. And some families have bad luck and some have good luck – things go good.
Then a job came up to lease some land at Waimarama, and I was probably seven at the time – six or seven at the time. We went out there to the leased land. And financially it wasn’t so good, so my older sister went down to my grandmother in Invercargill and stayed there for two years. And the family just all got together and looked after us in that way. And it was lovely out there for a child; I had a lot of fun with the kids. And Dad also had cows so we had the milk run out there as well. Every morning Dad and I’d get in a cart and take the milk round in those cans. And it was only a little community those days, so we’d deliver the milk and ladle it out into …
… big can into the … whatever reciprocal … they had. They’d put pots out and jugs and things …
All sorts of things.
… All sorts of things. The health inspector’d have a ball. And then all of a sudden it wasn’t making that much money; things were getting a bit tough. And Mum was looking after Terry Gillies who owned the property, and he was paraplegic. So that was part of the deal – Mum looked after him and Dad leased the farm. But it didn’t work out that well and we came back into town, and Dad went back to the Works as a bricklayer then. And a guy called Cyril Cushing was the Manager of the Works; and that’s Selwyn’s dad. And Cyril was a lovely guy, and said to Dad, “I’m importing a guy from England to build the boilers, and it’s a very intricate job, and I’m paying a lot of money for this guy to come out to build the boilers.” And Dad said, “Well I can do that.” And he said, “Oh, well I’m not too sure.” He said, “I’ve got a ticket to build boilers. I got all that down in Invercargill.” So Dad got that job, and – the other guy was already in transit, so was here about three months and had to go back home – and he never did anything else until his retirement. He retired, and then worked for Dave Chote for a wee while. He had a little fond thing going with Dave Chote; Dave Chote was a real lovely guy, and helped him out – just bits and pieces – ‘cause Dad could do fireplaces. And it was really at a time where Dave only wanted expertise, he didn’t want hands on, he wanted his knowledge – until Dad died.
What was his first name?
Walter. Walter Caldwell Potts.
And Mum always had a crook heart. I came back and went to Mahora School, and then from Mahora I went on to Hastings Intermediate, and then on to Hastings Boys’ High. Got involved at Hastings Boys’ High with rugby of course like all the boys; and when we left school I had a friend that was doing boxing – Matty [McCully?] that I had grown up with.
This is Mike’s father?
Sue: Well there’s young Mike …
Young Mike, and Matty is the fireplace … he’s Mike’s brother?
Doug: That’s right. Well he went to Mahora School with me, and we had a little friendship. And he said, “I’m in the boxing gym, Doug – you’d do quite well – why don’t you come along?” And I said, “Oh, well I’m more interested in my rugby.” And he said, “You can do the rugby in the day and box at night; we only do the boxing at night.” I said, “Oh, that’s okay”. So when I left school I joined the rugby club, which was a different one to … it was the Hastings Rugby Club then but there was [were] too many on the bench, and I was one of them. And so my friend and I who were both half-backs decided we’d go to Havelock because they needed players, and that’s where it sort of … there. Then I got an apprenticeship. At Boys’ High – and as a kid I always wanted to be a signwriter. It’s funny how – I’m diversing [digressing] a little bit – it’s funny how kids those days tried to map their life out early. And I was always the arty sort in the family, which came back from the Freetheys I [was] always told, because they were quite arty in Cornwall and one of them did some art for the Queen or the King. This is only what I was told. And so it must’ve shone through on me. It never shone through on any of the other kids, although they probably were but never …
And as a little kid my dad used to bring home these guys from the pub; there was six o’clock swill those days, and six o’clock the guys’d have a few beers, but they wanted to finish off. It was a little early, before tea, so Dad would bring these blokes home from the pub, who were mates, and they’d finish a couple of beers or a flagon or whatever over at the table while Mum was cooking. And one was a signwriter and he worked for Baldwin and Swanwick the big painter in Hastings. And just in passing while running past round the table, he said, “And what do you want to do when you grow up?” And I said, “Oh, I want to do art”, that’s right. And he said, “Well, you’re pretty close to what I’m doing”, and I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “Signwriting.” I said, “Signwriting – oh, that sounds interesting.” And he went out to the truck and brought me in his brushes, and he put them down on the table and I looked at them and I thought that was me. And right from the word [moment] of seeing the brushes it all connected.
Was he a Baldwin or a Swanwick?
No he wasn’t; he worked for them, and I don’t know his name. He was an older guy that … I don’t even know where he came from or where he went. And he was there; they were such a big firm that they did painting, and when they did a shop he would be the signwriter, so he was part of the contract. And so I knew then what I wanted to do.
So then when I got to high school I was in class, and everybody was going to the Freezing Works. And I said, “No, I want to be a signwriter.” “But there’s bigger money at the Freezing Works.” In those days some of those boys were earning £30 a week, and it was hard work, manual work, and I didn’t really want to do manual work; I wasn’t the size for it, so … but I was determined that’s what I was going to do. And Dad said “Well, you can do anything you want to; you just have to put your mind to it.” And I thought, ‘Gee, this is it!’ So I looked in the phone book and I marked out all the signwriters from Wairoa to Gisborne. In those days there was one in every town. And I packed up all my art work in a folder and I hopped on a bus, and first of all I went to Waipukurau. And there was a guy called Andy Keen there, and he did signwriting as well as funeral directing. Those days multi-tasking was pretty well on. He said, “There’s no job here, but you’re quite a talented lad – you’ll get a job somewhere, just keep knocking on doors.” And that’s what I did.
And then I went all the way up to Gisborne. I took the railcar up to Gisborne and went round; there was [were] three signwriters’ firms in Gisborne and no, none of them had a space, they all had apprentices. Came back and went to Napier … Hastings and Napier. Napier – there was a guy there called Trevor Hayter, who had just gone into business in eight months – he’d been in business eight months – and he said, “You know in about six months’ time to a year I’ll be looking for a signwriter.” I said, “Well, could you give me an indication of time?” And he said, “All right – after Christmas.” And I think it was round about June, July; he said “Next year I’ll put you on as a signwriter.” Now I didn’t know but those days you had to be in business so many months to prove you could qualify taking on an apprentice.” And I thought “gee this is great! I’ve got a job – all I have to do is wait eight months.” So I went back to school, told the teacher and he told me I was blowing wind out my nose, and … he didn’t believe what I was saying. And I said, “Yeah”. And he said, “No, Doug Potts – you wouldn’t get a job if it was the life of you”, sort of thing, and I said, “Yeah, I have – I’ve got this job.” So I waited.
I got the apprenticeship over there. I used to get in the bus every morning and travel over, and I did the trade, signwriting. I got £5/3/- [five pound three shillings] a week, and out of that I had to pay board, and of course we laired up in the weekends; we had a little bit of alcohol; and clothing – I had to look smart round town with all my mates.
So then I come [came] out of my time, and I’m sitting at – we had a little smoko desk – and Trevor turned round to me and said, “Well …” My four and a half years were up because I got Trade Cert [Certificate] – we did exams those days. And because I’d got Trade Cert I got four and a half years rather than five – I got six months knocked off. And he said, “What’re you going to do next week?” And I said,“Oh, that’ll be interesting because I’ll be getting bigger money; I’ll be a tradesman.” And he turned round and he says, “Oh no, no, no.” And I said, “Well – what d’you mean by that, Trevor?” He said, “You finish up next week.” And I said, “Finish up next week! I can’t … that’s not fair, I’m a tradesman. I thought …” He said, “Well, for your own good, Doug, you finish up next week. I can’t teach you any more.” And I thought, ‘Gee, this is a bit sad.’ So I went home and I sat on the bed; and Dad came home that night from the Works, and he said, “You’ve got a face as long as a yard – what’s up?” And I said, “Well Dad, I can’t believe it – I’ve been fired.” He said, “What are you going to do?” I said, “Well, there’s nothing to … I’ll get on the dole, and I’ve got holiday pay and I think I’ll take three or four weeks off. And I’ll just have a look at myself and see what’s going on.” And he said, “Not under this roof you don’t; so you either head for the door, or you go and get another job.” Those days – and we’re talking about the sixties, I think, yeah – jobs weren’t hard to get ‘specially if you were a tradesman.
So I walked around the corner to Gordon Spurdle, which was Spurdle and Moran later but it was Spurdle Signs then. And I said, “I’d like a job.” I took a bit of art work round, and some of the stuff that I used to do; photos of things that I’d done. And he said, “Oh – what sort of job?” I said, “Signwriting.” And I said, “I did signwriting, and I’ve served my time.” He said, “I know who you are.“ And I said, “How do you know?” He said, “Oh, I keep an eye on all the apprentices round this area.” [Chuckle] And so I said, “Well, look, have I got a job or not?” And he said, “Yes, you’ve got a job. You start on Monday.”
Just like that.
But everybody knew, so I fitted into … So then I started with Gordon Spurdle, and I was there – and Jim Moran was there too, and he was amazing signwriter, Jim Moran. And I was working there for a wee while, and then a friend of mine that [who] went to Mahora School with me called Colin Wattie had applied for work in Canada. And I had met him up town, and I said, “How are you, Colin? What are you doing?” And he said, “Well, you wouldn’t believe this – next week I’m shipping out to Canada. I’ve got a job in Canada, and that’s what I’m doing.” He said, “Come along to my going away party.” I said, “Oh, that’s all right – yeah, where’s that?” He said, “At the Mayfair Hotel.” So I went there; it was packed! And I was quite interested. I said, “How did you get this job, Colin?” He said, “Oh, Doug,” he said, “they’re just screaming out for people for labour in Canada. They want to fill it up with immigrants. And being a tradesman, I’m surprised you haven’t applied – it’s $50 a week.” And I added that up and I thought, ‘Gee that’s more than what the New Zealand pound’s worth.’ So I said, “Oh, I’ll make enquiries about that.” He said, “Doug, you don’t need to. You just ring them down in Wellington – the High Commissioner of Canada – you’ll be in just like that.” I thought, ‘Oh, that’s nice; that’s good.
So I came home, and I was all excited about this. And I had friends who came up every year from the South Island – and that’s a story how I met my wife, because Allard Mitchell from Greymouth would come up and stay at his grandmother’s place in Nicholson Street, and we were friends too. I collected all these friends, and him and another bloke, Ted Collier from Christchurch … they came up together … said, “Have you seen the South Island?” I said, “Oh, a long time ago when I was three or four years old I went down; my dad took me down on the ‘Wanganella’” – or the ‘Māori’ I think it was – one of the boats …
Yes, it was the ‘Māori’.
Māori? “Down to Lyttelton, and then we trained all the way down to Gore where I had an uncle who had a farm – Dad’s brother.” And so he said, “Well, you haven’t really seen much. You don’t leave New Zealand ‘til you’ve seen the South Island.” And I said, ”Oh, okay; oh well, I’ll do that first. It’ll only take me a couple of months.”
Well, we went down, me and Ted together – Ted worked at Morrison Industries those days; he was a spray painter; painted Raleigh push bikes and Morrison motor mowers. And it was a big factory out towards Flaxmere that did those – Morrison Industries. And so we both together – I rode a motorbike, a Velocette 350, all the way down there in August, and he drove a Morris 8 car with all our gear in the back of the car. And it was freezing cold on this big thing; this little guy on this great big … in those days the Velocette was a big bike … and I can remember it falling over at Dannevirke on me, and I couldn’t pick it up, I was that cold; and he got out of the car to help me get it up on the stand so we could buy a pie to carry on.
We got to Lyttelton. We caught the ferry across, got to Lyttelton, and went into the Railway Station in Christchurch, which those days was at Waltham. While we were sitting in the station we said, “Well – the night’s pretty stuffed; we’ll go to the pub before six o’clock”, I think – it’s a bit vague anyway, but I remember us asking where the closest pub was, and it was the Waltham Arms. So we went to the Waltham Arms; sitting in the pub having a drink, and I said, “We’d better sort out somewhere to stay.” We had money in our pocket, but we needed somewhere to … we called it ‘digs’. And these three girls walked in and sat down, and said, “Do you mind if we have a drink with you guys?” Well we thought all our Christmases [had] come at once, but it wasn’t really that way. But anyway, they said, “Where’re you from? We’ve never seen you blokes.” And we said, “Oh, we’re from up north.” “Where’re you staying?” We said, “Oh, we haven’t got anywhere to stay.” “Oh, we’ve got a house round the corner; its got five bedrooms. Come round and stay there for a couple of nights ‘til you get sorted out.” “Oh, that’s good.” So then I went to the bar, and those days we had big glass jugs; I went to the bar and I stood at the bar to get another jug each, with a smile a mile wide on my face; got somewhere to stay. And a guy at the bar turned round and leaned over, and said, “You’re not from here, are you?” And I said, “No.” He said, “Where are you from?” I said, “I’m from Hastings, actually.” He said, “What do you do?” And I said, “I’m a signwriter. I’ve just come down with a mate of mine to see the South Island.” He said, “A signwriter?” I said, “Yeah” – I’ll never forget his name – Pat Stenhouse, and he gave me his card from Sign Displays. He said, “You start on Monday; I’m desperate for signwriters.” [Chuckle] And I said, “Well I’ll be! You sure about that?” He said, “Yes” He said, “You start on Monday – I can’t get them, they’re like hen’s teeth.” So I went back to the table and I said, “Ted, you won’t believe this! There’s something in the air”, and he said, “What’s that?” I said, “I got a job. Now all we’ve got to do is find you one and we’re right. He said, “Well look, Doug, go back and tell him that if he takes you he takes me.” “Oh, that’s a pretty tall order,” I said, “but I’ll try that.” So I went back and I tapped him on the shoulder; I said, “Pat, I’ve got a mate that wants a job as well.” “What does he do?” I said, “He’s sitting over there.“ He said, “What does he do?” I said, “He[‘s] a spray painter.” And I told him the story about he paints bikes and motor mowers he did. “And he’s very good.” He said, “I need one of them too. You tell him … you bring him on Monday too.” And I said, “Well, you don’t really know … you know, how …” He said, “I’m desperate.”
So he had a big company of fourteen signwriters and three fitters and about fifteen engineers, and he used to do all the petrol stations that were those days, Atlantic and Mobil. And those days they used to fit a whole service station, and he had a continuous contract from Invercargill to Christchurch. When I first arrived there it was amazing, because I’d only ever worked in a company with two or three guys; fifteen or fourteen or fifteen signwriters was just amazing, and they were in groups of three or four in a gang, and they would go out and do jobs, and they’d come in and look – all the jobs were on the wall, and they’d have cards they’d take out, and away they’d go.
But anyway, I was assigned to this guy, Merv Smith, who was an Australian guy, and a classy, clever signwriter. I’d never struck things like this before. But he was an alcoholic; and Merv and I were teamed up and we got on so well. And there was a drycleaning company in Christchurch called Checkers, and they had fifty-seven vans and we did one a week, and they were all different coloured squares on this, called Checkers. And after about five or six weeks, seven weeks, I got a bit sick of doing these vans – not that I worried, it was all interesting but I wanted to get my teeth into something else. Pat came to me one day after a couple of months working there, and he said, “Have you seen the South Island, Doug?” And I said, “No, no, but there’s a long weekend coming up; we’ve got a mate in Greymouth, and Ted and I are going to do the rounds. We’ve bought an old car; an old Hudson Terraplane, and we’re going to go and do the rounds [in] a couple of weeks’ time.” And he said, “Well”, he said, “here’s your chance.” He said “I’m putting you with this gang that are going and fitting all the Atlantic signs, and they have all the instructions – you just do your job. And they will tell you where they’re going.” And so we set out like a circus wagon – there was three trucks with all the gear on; and away we went. And I had all my brushes and paint and stuff in the back of one of these trucks. And away we went with all these … The train would drop off all the equipment – the signs that were pre-made to go on the roof; the big polystyrene signs, Mobil or Atlantic; and they were on a frame so we had engineers and painters and … well, signwriter; I was the only signwriter. And I can remember getting to Dunedin and one of the guys in the gang was a friend of someone at the university, and we went to a party. And it was amazing, this party – the university students those days were just as silly as they are today. There was a human skull with a candle in it on the mantelpiece; and they all went to the toilet in the bath – I can remember that – it was upstairs, and instead of coming down and going to the toilet they all went in the bath. And they were just … it was amazing to me; I’d never seen anything like this before, and funny as a fight until one guy dived in; they bet him £5 to dive in the bath, so he jumped in the bath and they threw him out in the morning in the sun, under the hydrangeas, and the sun got on him; he was terrible.
But we did the signs there and when we moved on, and I [will] never forget – I was getting a little bored because all I did were the little bits and pieces of the signwriting. And we got to Invercargill and it was snowing; and I said, “I want to help, because all I’m doing is sitting in the hotel reading the paper. And I know our meals and everything’s all supplied, but I’d like to help – do something.” I was an active kid. And they said, “You can’t; the union won’t let you do anything with the engineers and the painters – you’re not in our union so you’re not allowed to touch anything.” Strong unions those days.
And my job was putting the ‘Mens’ and ‘Ladies’ on the toilets, and the [trading] hours on the window and the door, coming in. That’s all I ever did – and the guy that owns it across the doorway … the Licensee across the doorway. It would take me probably three hours, the whole job all up, but we were there three days so it was a bit of a boring sort of a … but interesting, when I really wanted to help. And I did that for about a year, two years; and then my sister was getting married in Hastings, and said, “You’ve got to come back home for my wedding.” And I said, “Well, okay.” I can’t remember what time it was through the year; and I came back up after three years in Christchurch … came up to Hastings, back to Hastings, and met up with my old group, the rugby group and what-have-you. And they said, “Why do you want to go back there?” And I said, “Well, no reason really, I’ve got a good job there and everything’s good.” “Oh, stay here – we’re having a load of fun here.” And at that point I had met my wife, and so I stayed … I never went back. No, I didn’t meet you at that point, did I? While I was up here I needed another job, that’s right; and Spurdles were full – they had enough guys and I didn’t go back. But Peter Pan Ice Cream in Waipukurau needed a travelling signwriter, and so that was my first introduction to contract work, and I was contracted for … I’m trying to think how much it was, but it was exceptional money. It was something like $10 an hour, or £10 an hour – big money. But I had to do contract which is you know, you understand that you’re not paid by the hour, you’re paid by the time you do …
The quicker you do it the more money you make.
Yes. And so we used to paint and write – or I did – all the Peter Pan shops which he would go and get; he’d toss out Tip Top and say, “Take my product”, and I’d paint the whole thing white, and the blue and red signs on it … Peter Pan. And that went on for a while; I think I was there a year, and then National Service came up. And that’s another interesting part of my life. I got drafted into the Army for the National Service which I think’s three months … I’m trying to remember what it is …
It is three months.
… three months. Okay, so that’s another part of my life and I didn’t like that at all; it was a bit regimental and …
Where were you sent?
I went to Waiouru, and from Waiouru – I did my Basic at Waiouru and then my final at Burnham. I enjoyed Burnham. Ooh – yeah, I could tell you stories about that, too. And I can remember going on manoeuvres in Burnham with a guy that was from Gore. And I said, “What’s your name?” He said, “Tex.” We used to team up. They’d put you in a group and you had to do a … ‘live-off-the-land’ I called it … and they’d drop you off in covered trucks way up in ‘Little Malaya Bush’ they called it; and you’d have to have a compass and a ration pack and find your own way back in five days, six days. And he said, “Stick with me, Doug – we’ll be right.” And I said, “Oh, I don’t know … I don’t know about you … I think those guys over here know what they’re doing.” He says, “I’m telling you – stay with me.” And I said, “Why?” He said, – “I used to work here I know all this land here.” He said, “They’re all going the wrong way. Forget your compass; come with me.” So we walked over a couple of fences; we must’ve walked twelve k. [Kilometres] And he said, “Over this ridge we’ll be safe.” And I said, “I think we’re going the wrong way.” He said, “No. We’re doing it right.”
So we come [came] over the ridge and he looked down and here’s a building. He said, “See that building? That’s a pub.” I said, “How the hell did you know that?” He said, “I worked all round here.” We knocked on the door and it was one of his relations … was an uncle. [Chuckle] And we hadn’t even touched our ration pack; we’d gone in there, and he says, “Come in, boys.” Well we stayed there for three days, I think it was, at this pub … by the fire, drinking and eating the best of the food. And this bloke – his uncle it was, that owned it – had an old Jag, [Jaguar] a Mark V if I remember right – the one with the big boot that came up. I haven’t seen any around lately, but an old Mark V. He said, “You boys just tell me when you want to be taken back.” And I said, “Well, we shouldn’t go back too early and we don’t want to go back too late.” He says, “No, it’s all right – we’ll sort it out.” So he timed it where we went back about seven hours before we were meant to be back. That gave time for the others – the quick ones – to be back, and he dropped us off about five k, six k from Burnham Camp. And I can remember walking in there, and we said, “Well, we better scrub our boots up a bit and get sorted out here, and roll our sleeves up and look like we’ve been a few days in the bush.” And we wandered in there and there was never a question asked. And I always remember that – I never ever knew what happened to Tex, but he could sing, and he loved the guitar. Old Tex.
But there was [were] a few things in the Army that were interesting. Yeah – I had some hard times there … trying to think … oh, there was a time there where we did grenade practice. And I was only a short little fellow, and we used to have … one day we had priming grenades, and they were teaching us how to pull the pin and throw the grenade, and we’d seen movies of all this … war movies … and it was nothing like that at all. The grenade – you had to put a timer at the bottom of it; and the pin you couldn’t pull out with one finger and your teeth and … whatever, like the American Marines did. So we were taught all this, and you did it by numbers. So we all went down to the grenade firing range and there was a concrete bunker. And one at a time the Sergeant would take you along a ditch … a drain … and you’d look over the drain – you’d stand there and it was about head height – you’d stand there and see a forty-four gallon drum, and he’d say, “Right – what you’ve got to do is by the numbers; there’s a guy up top in the box on a pedestal, and he will call the numbers out. One, you put the grenade in your hand; two, you pull the pin; three, you pull the arm back; four, you fire it … throw it; and you get it if you can inside the drum, or close to. I thought, ‘Oh gee, this seems all right.’ Well I had to stand on my tip toes to even see the top. [Chuckle] So I got all panicky – and they do, ‘cause they hiss. Grenades don’t – they’re not quiet and silent – they hiss and [a] bit of stuff comes out of them. And I panicked; and I pulled my arm back at one, hit the bank behind me it fell out of my hand and rolled underneath me, this grenade. And I can remember freezing, and my eyes were like saucers; and the Sergeant grabbed me by the scruff of the neck and says, “Come on, son – I think we’d better get out of here. Let’s go.” And he picked me up off the ground, and my feet were still in a crouch position. And he took me back to the bunker, and the boys turned round and said, “What’s wrong, Pottsie? We didn’t hear yours go off.” I said, “You will [chuckle] soon.” Well, there was [were] bits of shrapnel went everywhere. And I always remember that. It scared … the Army really … yeah. But there was a lot of guys at that time – the Vietnam War was on – and a lot of the boys wanted to sign up and go there, and they went. One was Rodney Fox from Hastings – I’ll never forget Rodney Fox. And that’s another story – when he came back on leave we all went to the hotel; we were all under age, ‘cause you could go into the Army at seventeen, go to Vietnam. And he came back and he rounded all his mates up – and he was under age – and the police kicked us all out of the hotel … the Mayfair Hotel. He said, “Look, we’re only having a quiet beer with …” We explained it all, but [it] didn’t go down with those young policemen, so we all got ordered out of there. That was probably the last of that.
Then Allard Mitchell came down from Greymouth every year to his grandmother’s, as I said, to Nicholson Street. And we had a real tight friendship going there. There was about five of us at the time – we’d do everything together. We would go those days to what they called the Top Hat Dance Hall, on the weekends, at Napier. And he had a little cousin who used to stay there because her parents were both working at Nicholson Street too; and I can remember he borrowed his grandad’s car, a brand new V8, ‘cause his grandad had cancer and couldn’t drive it. And we would go out in this car and come back, and his little cousin would be sitting on the letter box waiting for the paper from the paper boy. And he turned round to me and he says, “Listen, Doug”, he says, “you had a second glance there; she’s only thirteen.” He says, “Don’t you ever, ever look at my cousin. That’s taboo. That’s finito, you know? Nothing.” And I said, “Oh, yeah, no – she’s a very attractive little girl”. And he turned round and he says, “Well, I’m just telling you, Doug – nothing happens with the cousins.” I said, “Right – that’s it.”
Well three years on, and Morrison Industries used to have the balls. And all us rugby players would go to the ball once a year, and they were all held at the Top Hat. And I had no partner to go, and one of the guys said, “Well you know Allard’s cousin – give her a ring. All you want is a partner, ‘cause you can’t go without a partner.” And I thought, ‘Oh okay, I’ll give her a ring; I know her to talk to.” So that was my wife, Suzette. So I rang her up, and I said, “Would you like to come to a ball?” And she said, “No, not really – not with you. I’ve heard about you.” And I thought ‘Well! This is …” “You’re Allard’s mate.” And I said, “Yeah, that’s true”, and we’re … you know, we’re talking; “Look, purely platonic, Sue, I just need a partner to get in.” She said, “Well, that’s a fine thing to say.” And I said, “Well, that’s the way” – you know? So anyway, she said, ”All right, I’ll come with you this once.” And I think her friend was going with one of our rugby mates, which was …
Sue: Paul Hermansen.
Doug: … Paul Hermansen, which [who] was our lock. Sue Tyack said to Sue, “I’m going with Paul, so you’ll be with me.” So that’s how … we all went there and that’s when I met Sue.
In fact that night – we played Celtic that afternoon and got into a fight down when we were having a meal; and the Celts and the Havelock boys sort of had a rivalry, and it was a real handy … fists and all. And the girls weren’t impressed at all, and so she said, “Get away from me – I don’t want you anywhere near me.” ‘Cause we were sitting, and I asked her for another dance, and – no. Then … we’d gone home, and I can’t remember – it was a while later. I wanted a partner for something else and I thought she would reject me, but I rang up, and she said “I have a ball gown …” Or was it the same ball?
Sue: No, it was a different one, I think.
Doug: Different ball – in those days we all had the balls.
Sue: The ball season was …
Doug: Yeah, the ball season was on. And they said, “Why don’t you give Sue a ring?” And I said, “Oooh, I think I’ve burnt my bridges there.” So anyway I rang up Sue … in the finish I plucked up enough courage, and she said “Well, I have a ball gown, and it’d be a waste to just leave it in the wardrobe.” So I said, “Right – I’ll pick you up at seven o’clock. There’ll be a group of us in the car.” And she said, “Fine.” It must’ve been nine o’clock I arrived … no, eight-thirty … something like that; it was very late. And her dad came to the door and said, ”What do you want?” I said, “I’ve come to pick up Sue.” And he said, “I’m sorry, but you’re best to get in the car and go. I don’t think she’s too happy with you.” And I said, “Oh! Oh, okay.” So I went to go, and she poked her head out and says,”No, no – I’ll go.” And her dad said “No, I don’t think you should go.” “Yep – I’ll go.” So that was the beginning of our …
Sue: It’s been like that ever since, hasn’t it?
Doug: Yeah, been like that ever since. [Chuckle]
Sue: When you don’t come home …
Doug: Yeah. Now I don’t know where we’re to go from there.
Well, Sue’s going to tell me about her family … where your family came from, and where you grew up and so forth.
Sue: Oh, my grandparents? My grandfather was a rabbiter at Waiau, and he had four daughters, one of them being my mother. On the other side my Pullen lot came from … they were just in Napier, and then they went to Whakatu because of the freezing works. There was [were] the grandparents at the freezing works; there was [were] three boys at the freezing works, so the Pullen family were all in Whakatu; they all lived in Whakatu. And my mother was a nurse, and when Dad went to war – the Second World War … all the Pullen boys went to war – the nurses got to pick a name out of a hat. And they wrote, and knitted things for soldiers, and baked, and sent a parcel over. Well it so happened that it was my dad that my mum got the name of, and when he came – she was still in the South Island; she was a nurse down in Christchurch.
Sue: Well, she was in Christchurch.
Waiau’s where they had the earthquake recently.
Oh, by the Kaikouras – okay.
Yeah, in there somewhere. Actually when I look back through my history my grandma and grandfather’s best friend was Bert Pettigrew, which is the Pettigrew … yeah. And I can remember as a little toddler going to Bert Pettigrew’s house in Bay View; Mrs Pettigrew would serve us scones and soup. Yeah. Just a little old wooden house they had, yeah. It was interest… I would’ve liked to actually … spoken to the guy Pettigrew before he died, and said that I could remember that, but …
Any rate, when Dad came back from War he wrote to this nurse that had sent him the parcels, and said it would be quite nice to catch up; he would like to meet her, and he was down in Wellington and … I think maybe he was in Christchurch … and he would be there, and could they meet up? And Mum sent her younger sister to check him out. [Chuckle] Aunty Fay went and had a look to see if he was all right. And anyway, they got together and Mum moved up to Whakatu; and it must have been a terrible shock for my mother, from Christchurch, to come up to Whakatu where it was mainly Māoris …
And a freezing works town …
… and in the South Island she’d never seen all that before. They’d lived the good life; my grandparents were one of the first in Waiau to own a car, so the rabbiters must’ve been well paid.
So what was the family name?
Crampton. And my Crampton grandfather married a Sunckell from Banks Peninsula, which was a French area. And apparently we had a farm there, and … And yeah, I was born in Whakatu. There was [were] three sisters; I was the eldest one; four years later there was Linda; four years after that there was Kay Marie. And we all went to Mangateretere School. We did nothing really exciting. I was not very clever at school. We didn’t like school, and was going nowhere at school, and told my parents I was going to leave high school. I went to Karamu High School; you had to bike to get to Karamu High School from Whakatu. I wanted to make money; I couldn’t see any sense in staying at school, and they said, “If you can get a full-time job you can leave.” So I looked in the paper and got a full-time strawberry picking job with Eddie [?].
Seven days a week strawberry picking for Eddie, and that was my first job. My parents couldn’t argue – I had a full-time job.
From there I got an apprenticeship at Villa d’Este Hairdressing, with the Linakers. That was going nowhere – you never got any money hairdressing. I went and worked for David Geor selling shoes, and in the weekends I was at the Motorist Orchard at Clive selling apples, polishing all the apples …
Little Cherry …
Yeah, Little Cherry now, but in those days the tourist buses used to pull in, and you’d sell cases of apples. And I worked there; and then when I met Doug I was working at Whakatu Store for the Bernsteins; used to pile up all the groceries for Tom and Cyril; and sell all the guys their petrol for the freezing workers; their orange lemonade and their box of match[es]. [Chuckle] And then when we got married I went full-time to Motorist Orchard at Clive.
Who used to own Motorist Orchard?
Boyd Raines. He then went real estate in Australia. Nice guy, Boyd – and his mum. Can’t think of Mrs Raines’ name – she was from Wellington, wasn’t she?
Doug: It was always just Mrs Raines …
Sue: Mrs Raines, you never actually expected …
So from there you went …
We got married. I decided the only way I was ever going to get out of Whakatu was marry the first guy that came along, and it was Doug. [Laughter]
Doug: No, that’s not true.
Sue: [Chuckle] So at seventeen he proposed to me, and at eighteen we got married, much to my parents’ horror because he was still a mate of Allard, and they would have liked me to marry a doctor, a lawyer or something that wasn’t …
Allard. Was that a nickname?
Both: No, that was his real name.
Doug: He changed his name to Bob when his dad died.
Was he named after the Allard car?
Sue: I don’t know how he got Allard. When you look back through our family history, it’s an Irish name. Yeah.
Doug: And it pops up through the …
Sue: Crampton history. Well, Allard’s Dad was Bob Mitchell, who was the communist candidate for Greymouth, so they’d had a rough upbringing because of that.
Now just one other name that you mentioned – the Freetheys. We had a Freethey here who had a milk run in Havelock.
Doug: Yes … yes.
Was he a relation of yours?
Yes, he’s a relation …
What was his first name?
He’s my mum’s first cousin. Was Wyn Freethey … Gordon.
Because he had a Commer truck.
That’s right. Small community …
Sue: Probably ‘cause we all lived here …
Doug: But you know, when we were kids the population of New Zealand was one million something, and now … what’s the population now, Frank?
Nearly five …
Nearly five million, so in that little spate [space] of time. So we’re all connected. And lived together – that was interesting.
So then you were married?
Sue: My parents said we could get married if we owned a house because we were under age. I did threaten to get pregnant, which probably wouldn’t’ve worked, but …
Sue: I was determined I was getting out of there. So we looked all through Hastings for a house that we could afford, and saved some money, and Doug’s father had had Le Bon Helleur as his lawyer once, so – Le Bon was the ten percent king – You could borrow from Le Bon.
That’s right, I remember.
So we found a little old house in Windsor Avenue, and we plucked up courage one day and away we went up top in Russell Street. Le Bon’s office was up top there. I know. And up we went to Le Bon Helleur, and … you know, biting your nails; and asked him for a loan to buy the house. So he drove past it and … “Come back in a week and I’ll sort things out.” He drove past, and he said, “You’ve got a good location; I’ve done all the paperwork. Pick the key up next week and you can have the house.”
Doug: Lovely family.
Sue: Yeah. Le Bon came across as a very gruff; when you were in his circle you were …
He was the only Helleur in their family that had Le Bon … he put Le Bon in his name.
He was quite a character. So from there we bought this little old house in Windsor Avenue, which Doug flatted in it with a few bods before we got married. And then when we got married we moved into there. And lo and behold, we found it quite hard at eighteen; if I didn’t get pregnant the next day it was never going to work, this marriage. So … that’s ‘cause that’s all I ever wanted was kids. And so from there we went to Social Welfare and put our names down to adopt a child, and we were told we could have a Māori baby tomorrow. We said we wanted a little girl. But you had to wait eighteen months for a little girl, and they said, “You could have a little boy in four months”, so we said, “Oh, we’ll change our mind[s], we’ll have a little boy.” And we had to go through real strict protocol to get … they didn’t like it that you changed your mind on what sex you wanted. They used to come and inspect your house to make sure you’d make good parents. They’d just come and go through the bedding; they wouldn’t let you know when they were coming, they’d just arrive … go through the bedding. Any rate they rang up one day and said there was a little boy in Waipuk [Waipukurau] we could go and have a look at, but you don’t have to take your first option; just go and check it out. So we went all the way to Waipuk, and here’s this little blonde baby; was only a few days old. And they’d had put gentian violet on his thumb for the quick, as they used to do, and he’d wiped it all across his face. And I said, “Oh that poor darling! No one else’ll want that one; we’ll have that one.” [Chuckle] So a week later we went and picked up our Geoffrey, and nine months later we had Hamish, so we had two within a year. So that shut me up for a while.
Well, that’s interesting because we adopted Melissa, our daughter, from Waipuk Hospital.
Oh, yeah; and that’s where the farm people used to go. I don’t know how you could turn one down.
So anyway, it all worked out well?
Yeah, Geoffrey’s been a brilliant kid, hasn’t he? Yep.
Doug: Geoffrey’s been a model …
Sue: He sailed through life, and everyone used to say, “My gosh, he looks like your side of the family.”
Well, it’s the mannerisms, isn’t it? So where is Geoffrey now?
Doug: He’s in Auckland, and he is a physiotherapist. He served his time with me as a signwriter.
Oh, did he really?
He used to work after school with me, and in the school holidays; and I’d say you know, “Instead of going out with your mates” – ‘cause those days the kids would race cars and … yeah, and I didn’t want him to do that, so I said, ”Idle hands” … yeah.
We’d better come back then, to … you were married, and at some stage you left where you were working and started your own business. When did you do that?
I came back from Peter Pan and worked at Gordon Spurdle again. He wanted me back, and at that point we were married; we’d just got married. It was all … the years are vague ‘cause everything happened so quick when we were young.
[Speaking together] I know, so much was happening.
Today it takes years. And [of] course while I was working there there was opposition in town called Dennis Clark, who kept saying “Come and work for me.” “No, I don’t like doing that. I owe Gordon … you know, my work because he’s given it to me when I’ve wanted it; my job.” So then one night he came and said, “I’m going to give you an offer you can’t refuse”, which he did. In those days money talked, and I said, “Look, I’ll think about it.” And it was a Friday night – I’ll never forget – and Sue …
Sue: [Speaking together] Had two kids; we had a mortgage …
Doug: … and I were in this blimmin’ house; we had two kids; we had a mortgage, and we thought ‘Look, you know, for our own benefit we’ll take the big money.’ And those days it was bigger money. And so I went and worked for Dennis Clark.
Dennis Clark was a bit of a playboy, and he had a broken marriage and left me in the lurch after a year, I think it was …
Sue: Bit longer than that.
Doug: Bit longer? Eighteen months …
Sue: [Speaking together] Yeah, I think it was three years.
Doug: … something like that? Oh, was it?
Sue: Of working for Dennis; his marriage broke up.
Doug: And I decided at that point, I said to Sue, “Look, we’ve got nothing to lose …
Sue: [Speaking together] I think at the time Spurdle’s asked you to go back and manage.
Doug: … I’m managing Dennis’ shop floor anyway. Everyone knows me; I’ll just start up on my own and if I only get ten per cent of what I was doing for Dennis, we’ll have enough money if we scrimp and save and do things right.” So I did, and I started a little shop – it’s all pulled down now where …
Sue: Dress for Less was there.
Doug: Dress for Less went there, but now it’s …
Sue: The plumber.
Doug: Ron Bone … Peter Bone, Bone’s …
Sue: [Speaking together] Ron Bone’s Plumbing was there.
Doug: It was a little shop; it’s all gone now, but I had a little shop in there and I rented it for $13 a week. [Chuckle]
Sue: Opposite New World.
Doug: $13 a week, I rented that. And I’m sitting there putting the little … I had built the little shelves and painted things and got everything like someone does when they retail; and I put all my little paint[s] up – I bought little tins because I didn’t know how much work I was going to get. And in walked … my very first client was Murray Keanes [Keane] from Curlytop [Curly Top Cordials]. And Murray Keanes – Murray and Ray – he had a partner – the two of them walked in; and I used to do all Curlytop’s work when I was at Dennis’. And they said, “You’ve gone out on your own, Doug?” And I said, “Yes, I have – I’ve just started yesterday, and I’m just getting things together”. He said, “Well, here’s a list of all the jobs …” [interrupted by Sue] … yeah, Ray Pearson. “Here’s a list of all the things I want you to do – all the jobs.” And I went home to Sue and said, “Sue, if I don’t get another job for a month I’ve got enough work.” [Chuckle] “It’s wonderful.” And it went from there, and just … different people came in, and … yeah.
Sue: Yes – he lives round the corner.; he’s remarried
Doug: [Speaking together] He’s retired.
So you had all this work for a month?
Had all this work for a month, and I felt really content. And it just kept coming and I kept doing it, and I was working long hours. In fact I was working so long that Sue would say, “Why don’t you take your bed to work? You’re always there.”
Sue: I – sometimes though, a lot of that was you’d call into the Happy Tav on your way home.
Doug: I’d talk [chuckle] … I would talk to people; I was a talker. Yeah.
Sue: And there was [were] people there that [who] would come in and talk to you even if you weren’t working.
Frank & Doug: Yes. Yeah.
Doug: And guys like the Jewish guy – what was his name?
Sue: Yeah, what was his name? That had the wool business …
Doug: Had the wool business.
I know the chap …
And I’ll never forget him coming into the workshop, and he sat down and I said, “Can I help you, sir?” And he said “No, no, but I think I can help you.”
Sue: What was his name?
Doug: Oh, gee – I had it on the tip of my tongue, too. Lovely bloke. Anyway, I said, “Look I’m making a cuppa [cup of tea]; do you want one?” He said, “Yeah, I’ll have a cuppa.” He said, “I came in to tell you, Doug Potts, I know you.” And I said, “How do you know me?” And he said “I’ve watched you grow up. I’ve seen you from a paper boy grow right through everything to where you are now doing this, and I admire you for that.” And I said, “Oh! Is that right?” I said, “Well, you’re the wool buyer.” And he said, “Yeah.” And I said, “You’re the one they call the Jew.” And he said, “Yeah, that’s true, I am.” And he said, “I’ve got to give you a little bit of advice.” I’m trying to think of his name.
Did he live in Murdoch Road?
He built the motel. Oh, crikey! Lovely guy. Little guy. And he sat there and he says, “I’m going to give you a little bit of advice. Millions and millions of people and not much land. If you’ve got any money, you think about it.”
Sue: I think that was just as we were buying that building Terry Coxon sorted it out for us.
Doug: Yeah. And I said, “I know where you’re coming from; if I’ve got any money I’ll put it into property or land.” He said, “You’ve got it. They won’t make any more land but they will make more people.” And with that he had a cuppa and he walked away, and I don’t think I ever saw him again. And it was interesting because he said that he liked me, and he said I would do well. I did average, but …
Isn’t that amazing that he should come and say those nice things, having watched you grow up?
He did; he said, “I watched you grow up as a little boy”, yeah. Kept an eye on me; and maybe I had attributes that he probably had, and wanted, I don’t know but kids those days always did milk runs, paper runs, and …
Sue: But we should mention that as we got on our feet with our two little boys, we then had a little girl, Amanda.
Doug: Oh, that’s right … yeah.
Sue: We were very lucky after Geoffrey and Hamish to have Amanda. We were really excited because we had our little girl that we always wanted … I always wanted a little girl. And we lived in Windsor Ave, [Avenue] and it got a bit small, so we went and bought a house …
Doug: It was a cold house.
Sue: Yeah, Windsor Ave was – it was old.
Doug: Very cold; old.
Sue: So we bought one in Middle Road; next to the store in Middle Road, and put some additions on it, didn’t we? Built a pole house at the back.
Doug: Well we’ve got a deaf boy.
Sue: Hamish. Hamish got meningitis at eighteen months. Went to hospital; we thought we’d lose him, but he lived.
And that was meningitis that caused his deafness?
Sue: And we had … our doctor was Alister Whyte, and he … I took him to Alister Whyte and I said, “He’s not very well”, and he said, “Oh, I think he’s teething. Here’s some medicines to make him right”, as they used to. And … yeah, I think everyone went to Alister Whyte in his day. Alister Whyte used to have them waiting out down the road, round the corner …
Well there weren’t that many doctors.
No. Alister was a good doctor, but he just had too many patients. And any rate, he said, “I’m going away for the weekend; here’s a phone number if I’m away, to ring”. And I think it … what was the name of that doctor? Barden … Doctor Barden. He shot himself not long after that. I think it must’ve been me using him. [Chuckles] Anyway, at Windsor Ave we didn’t have a phone. You had to go to the phone box; the phone box was broken. I can remember one time it had a condom dragged over it. You know, you just didn’t have the luxuries of picking up a phone and screaming at you … your doctor was like your lawyer. You were actually more scared of them than … your lawyer, your accountant and your doctor, you treated like …
Doug: You dressed up to go and see.
Well, what age was Hamish when he got ..?
Sue: Eighteen months old. It just put him right back. And Doctor Barry was the paediatrician, and he was a wonderful old man; lovely doctor. He said, “I don’t think you’ll have this child in the morning, but if you do you’ll be very lucky. And he’ll probably be mental; definitely blind.” But any rate, I heard him scream as they threw the lumbar puncture in his back, and thought, ‘Well, be better if he wasn’t there in the morning, if that was life’. Doug and I went home, and went back up the next day, and he said, “Well I think he’s going to make it.” He was in intensive care for two weeks. They sent him home; he’d lost all his weight, he [it] was taking home a limp fish. When he finally sat up he’d sit in the corner and just scream, you know, and it must’ve been the vibration he wanted to feel, because he had heard and then had gone deaf. And when we went back to the doctor a few weeks later, he said, “Well, I don’t think he’s blind; I think you’re lucky – he’s come out with nothing.” But this child still used to sit and scream. And when Doug came home from work a couple of times, and Doug’d shut the door and I’d say, “Oh, hi – how are you?” And Geoffrey’d run, and Hamish’d just sit there; and I said, “I think he needs a hearing test.”
Doug: Well, he would still be playing in the corner, and I’d come home and … “G’day mate, how are you?” And he wouldn’t answer; wouldn’t turn round. Sue: Yeah. There was no reaction …
Doug: No reaction. And I says, “Try him out”, so I’d put him in here and I’d go over here and I’d go [claps], and he … no – didn’t take any notice.
Sue: So we went to our doctor and said we thought he might have a hearing problem; “Oh well, he shouldn’t have that, but never mind.” They sent you to a Doctor Lo – [spells] it was – a Chinaman up at the T&G Building in Napier. All the specialists were up there. I went up there and they did clicking noises and banging noises [demonstrates] and said, “Yeah, he’s deaf. Nothing we can do for that one. Take him away.” And you were like … ‘Holy crap! Now what happens?’ [Chuckles] But they were pretty blunt …
Doug: Those days.
And so then they tried to fit him with these great big hearing aids that went in bibs, and … the kids used to pull them out in the supermarket … pull them out and wonder if they could hear on them too, and it just went from hell to hell, didn’t it?
Sue: There was no kindergarten for him; no-one’d have him. We took him to Havelock Kindergarten where other mothers would just about run – they would grab … I can remember, I could mention two – Mrs McAra and Mrs Hutchinson – who grabbed their children so their children wouldn’t catch whatever my horrible child had [chuckle] with his wires hanging off him, and his bag of wet pants, because he had no bladder control after being sick, it had to come back. So there was always a plastic bag full of … another pair of trousers or something, and they’d dive for another gate so they wouldn’t have to walk past me. Any rate, there was one day when I got on the whiskey, and I rang Doug and I said, “I can’t face the kindergarten; you’ll have to pick him up.” I couldn’t do it, eh?
Sue: So yeah. From there he … there is a law where they can start school at four and a half, so from there there was a woman here called Jan Robinson whose husband was deaf; Owen Snapfinger … yeah. And Jan was a sweetheart; she was a real good teacher. And she would drop Anna, her daughter, off – Anna was a little blondie with knotted up hair, and [chuckles] unloved-looking child; she would drop Anna off with Geoffrey and I would take those two to kindy and then on to school, whichever it was that they were going to; and she would take Hamish to Onekawa with her where they had a kindergarten, and she taught Hamish and she would take him. And she was brilliant with Hamish.
Doug: She had patience.
Sue: I often wonder what happened to Jan, and Jim. Jim, his name was, wasn’t it?
Yep. Eventually they broke up because she was …
Well, she was with David Bone, wasn’t she? No, with John Scott.
John Scott …
Doug: Oh, that’s right.
You know, it’s a tragedy sometimes, life, when you see these people …
Sue: They lived in a whole different world to what we did. They had money up there, and they were skiing; and then she was …
And Jim coped very well with his deafness, and ran that business.
They owned quite a bit of land up there; ‘cause they offered us a section but we couldn’t afford to build at the time.
So, that’s fascinating
And from there he went to Onekawa School, which really pushed my other two children to the limit because I had to get him to school – there was no school bus that went to Onekawa. So at nine o’clock in the morning I had to drop one off at kindergarten, one off at school, and take Hamish all the way; drop him off; and then at half past two I would have to go back, pick him up from Onekawa; used to take Amanda out of kindergarten, and it was always, “I haven’t had storytime yet!” I’d have to take her out of kindergarten and go and get Hamish and then come back. Somebody would’ve walked Geoffrey home, or Geoffrey – Grandma was the nurse at Wattie’s and she did shift work, so she could often pick up Geoffrey. And that went on for a wee while until it got that hard that you couldn’t cope with that, and Hamish wasn’t coping. And then they sent him to van Asch College in Christchurch.
Doug: Well we requested; he was getting – when you go through adolescence, it was getting very hard for us to teach him all those things of …oh, sexually, and hygiene – all those things. And that school was designed for that, but we weren’t allowed to go to it, you know, like …
Sue: They said the family came first, and he must stay …
Doug: [Speaking together] with the family …
Sue: … in a family environment.
Doug: … as long as possible.
Sue: Which wasn’t working. None of us could understand what he was going on about; he couldn’t understand what we were going on about; we weren’t trained. We were trained to sit on our hand[s], ‘cause he had to be in an environment where people spoke. There was no sign language.
Doug: Canada was the leader in teaching the deaf, and they were saying, “These kids have got to go out into the world with normal people, so don’t try teaching them sign language because it’s only them that can use it. No one else knows about this except the deaf.”
Sue: And little did we know – and its only lately that I’ve found this out – that the deaf kids were actually going [doing] sign language with no one …
Sue: Yeah, and doing their own type of language; when they were at school they were flat tack doing …
Doug: Like monkeys.
Sue: Yeah, yeah.
Doug: And so when we took him down to Christchurch it was a whole new door opened. And I can remember we stayed on campus; they had a school with … Sue: van Asch was amazing.
Doug: van Asch was an amazing place, and I think it was started by the Steiners originally, but the government … I think in the finish, finances …
Sue: Well, it [was] started by the van Asch family who came out … are they German, Dutch or something? And they came here, too, with Aerial Mapping. That was another brother that was in Christchurch. The school was fabulous; they had their own kitchen where they would do all the meals; they had their areas where you could sleep and go and stay there on the school, and visit your children; it was great, wasn’t it?
Doug: And I can remember – we were there a day and that night he came to our room; we hadn’t seen him all day, the kids went to their classes and what-have-you. He came back that night and said, “You go home; I’m staying here. These are my friends.” And at that point we knew the change was there – the change inside him.
Sue: He wanted to be with that lot.
Doug: He wanted to be with them – they were his … and the deaf are like another whole different body of people.
None of us unless we were deaf …
No. Wouldn’t’ve understood.
Sue: They have their own – we were just talking about it the other day to one of the advisers; they have their own way of texting; they have their own way of thinking; they have their own … it’s really strange to get inside their circle.
Of necessity, they’ve had to develop communication skills that we would not even …
Sue: Think about.
So how long did he stay?
He was at van Asch College for probably five or six years. And then at van Asch there was five committed suicide within three or four months. They just couldn’t see that they had a big picture to get away. You know, they …
… they went through school, and then they were told, “Right, now you can go into the job force.” They weren’t trained to get a job. Yeah. And Hamish came home one holidays and said, “No, I’m not going back; I’m scared. They’re all dead, and maybe one day I’ll be dead.” And so we kept him home.
He was old enough then to get a job. [The] Warehouse was just starting And there was a guy called … what was his first boss at The Warehouse? I went to WINZ [Work & Income New Zealand] and there was a guy at WINZ that said, “Oh, look this guy’s just wanting trainees for The Warehouse. He’s just opening the Warehouse, and we want a whole lot of people to stack shelves.”
So Hamish’s first job was at the Warehouse down at Stortford Lodge, and then it moved half-way and then built that new building. And Ian McLean who’s here in Havelock, was his big boss. And it was like family; there was [were] probably twenty of them and they knew each one. They were like a big family, weren’t they?
Doug: Yeah. They looked after …
Sue: Ian and Ray were wonderful people – they still are wonderful people. And they would have Christmas parties out at Waimarama, ‘cause one of them … what was his name that had the house out at Waimarama? Oh, I’ve forgotten now. Any rate, he used to have family barbecues out there and they all got on, and Hamish was good there. And then Ian gave up being the manager of Hastings; had shares in The Warehouse instead of being the manager.
Doug: It got too big for them and they were ready to …
Sue: And the new guy came in and said, “Right – the pricing is now done in Auckland, it’s not done in Hastings so everything will come priced. There really isn’t a job for Hamish as he knew it; he can now be the cleaner. “You can go out and get the trolleys, and you can clean the toilets; you can …” And there was the women’s toilets; the dusting. And to Hamish that was – “It’s wrong! I’m” …
Doug: [Speaking together] … “a man – I’m a man.”
Sue: … “a shelf stacker, not a cleaner.” And he went to the boss and told him, “Cleaning is [a] woman’s job – not mine.” [Chuckle]
So at the time I had a sister that died in Melbourne, and in her will she’d left me two little boys. And so to Hamish it was like, “Woah! More children are coming – I’m off!” So he went to Palmerston to live, and he got into quite a bit of trouble in Palmerston.
Sue: He didn’t cope very well without …
Doug: On his own, he couldn’t cope. He wanted to, “’Cause I’m a man, I can cope”. [Speaking together]
Sue: … without that parental background he didn’t cope, and he got into a bit of marijuana, and he … he kept jobs. He worked for … there was a big supermarket there, it’s not here. It’s like Pak’n’Save in the mall there; he worked there. And then he got a job for Georgie Pie, and he was working for the guy from here that owned Georgie Pie.
Doug: Oh, he used to have a fish and chip shop up here in Havelock. What was his name?
Sue: Where Pipi’s are … yeah.
Doug: That was a fish and chip shop. It wasn’t Duncan; it was before Duncan.
Sue: He had Georgie Pie in Palmerston. And then it closed.
Doug: But he hired Hamish.
Sue: He hired Hamish and got to know Hamish, and he was good. Yeah. And Hamish enjoyed that. But then Hamish got into a bit of drugs and a bit of trouble, and we had to bring him back home. He’s grown through that now.
But – so when his day does collapse … he can go along for weeks quite happily and then his day will collapse, and we have to … I would go to the police or we have to sort something out and get him running smooth again. So we need him closer …
[Speaking together] … You can manage the problem …
… where we can do that. He used to go to Palmy every time something went wrong – it was too hard, so yeah. We bought him a flat through Murray Keanes and he was lucky enough to get a job. He applied for a job in the paper for an assistant cleaner with Mr Mackersey, and there he worked until recently … Health and Safety has actually killed that job. So he’s now unemployed, and he’ll be lost again for a little while ‘til …
Until something comes up.
Doug: Yeah – Sue’s trying to keep him occupied, but it’s … you know … he’s accepting it slowly, ‘cause gradually … without cutting it off straight away.
Now just one thing – you mentioned there was anti-sign language; do either of you ..?
Sue: I can do it.
Doug: We do the basics.
Sue: I can do it enough that it’ll save me, but when you get amongst the deaf – if I go to the Napier Deaf Club and they’re all going, “Ohh” …
Doug: They’re too fast.
Sue: They’re too fast for me. I can work out a few of them. Some of them are easier to talk to than the others, and you might go to one that’s easy to talk to and then you say something so they’ll ask a harder one. They often have an interpreter there because now there is funding for interpreters. It’s still quite hard to get funding.
You could still communicate through writing?
Oh – easy writing, really basic writing …
Doug: ‘Cause he’s a bit dyslexic too, so everything’s back to front.
You can understand that, because they haven’t had the practice.
Sue: When David Mackersey put him off, he got that company from Grow to come in and explain that, “You are to be dismissed because of this, this and this”. And it was a real big letter with big words that … even I struggled with some of them. And then you take that letter away – that hurt, you know ‘cause he’s now got no job; you take that letter away and you’re allowed a week to think about it, and then you come back and you’re told it all through again, you know. And to me – I said, “That’s cruel. You’re just killing him – or stabbing him – twice.”
Doug: Well they’re black and white; deaf kids are black and white.
Sue: [Speaking together] You know – you’ve been fired; ‘Okay, I’m out. Why do I have to go back through it again?’ And we were lucky enough to get an interpreter that came, but even then, weeks later – because he had a hernia the day after he got dismissed, so he went to hospital and he was told he had to have a month off when he had the hernia done, the month had finished because he was off full time anyway. But after the month, he said, “Oh, Monday I go back to work?” You know, and I had to explain again, “No, Monday – your job’s finished, Hamish. Remember the lady said it was finished?” “Oh – yeah, finished, that’s right.” So it’s taken him a little while to realise.
It’s hard to imagine what it would be like …
Doug: There’s a lot of people out there …
Sue: [Speaking together] Nobody’ll want me …
Doug: And I remember as a kid – when we first had Hamish in Windsor Ave, Murray Keanes came round and said …
Sue: No, that was here – that was in Middle Road because Murray lived down the road from us. Yeah.
Doug: That’s right. Murray said …
Sue: And Murray’s little one had biked into the pool?
Doug: … “I am a little thankful for what happened; I lost a child too, but mine was like that, in the swimming pool, and yours you’ve got for life.” And it was interesting … that’s the way he said it, saying that “my sympathy goes with you.” And that’s really what happens.
And the Ray’s were the same – they lived next door to us, and they had [?] who was IHC; and he used to take her by the hand every day down to IHC to work, and back again, and it had to be that routine; and said, “Do you realise, you two, you’ve got this child until you go, or he goes. It’s not going to be an easy road.” And really, it hasn’t, but …
Sue: Oh, God, no. Each year you think its going to get easier, and you’ll go safe for six months and you think, ‘Oh this is great – this is brilliant.” And then, boom! There’s a brick wall comes flying.
Doug: Yeah. But – hey …
Sue: Now the thing is, we’ve got to think of what happens when we go? You know, like the Rays – it was probably easier, because they could put her in the IHC; Hamish is not IHC and would be absolutely gutted if you treated him like that. But you can guarantee the minute any of those hanger-oners [hangers-on] that think we’ve gone, they’ll be in with Hamish; they’ll take every penny he’s got, and he won’t see it coming.
Now where did you say your grandfather came from in Scotland?
From Hawick. H-a-w-k. [Incorrect spelling? Probably H-a-w-i-c-k]
Sue: Dougie’s lucky – he’s been back and seen those places.
Doug: And my other grandad Lowe, which [who] is Mum’s dad, is from Wick, way up north. Hawick is down in the Borders, yeah.
And then you had another interceptor in your lives in the form of drones and a pipe …
Oh, the bagpipes? That all came about … all Mum’s side of the family played the pipes or the drums, and at one time in the City of Hastings Pipe Band, which was called the ‘Caledonians’ those days, the whole front row – four of them – were all Lowes. And Eric Lowe was a cousin of mine, which [who] was the son of one of Grandad’s brothers, Bill. And Eric was a piper in the band, the last piper, and on ANZAC Day – I’m trying to think what year it was – he had a heart attack on parade at [on] ANZAC Day – died playing the pipes, so he was doing what he loved doing. And when my mum died it was round that time, and I’m trying to think of the date, but …
Sue: [Speaking together] Oh, it was years ago – twenty-four years ago.
Doug: … I had a few bob left to me from my mother, and I said, “I’m going to buy a set of bagpipes and learn the bagpipes. There’s no one in my generation going to take up the cudgel.” And so I saw an ad in the paper …’If you want to learn the bagpipes come round to this number’, and it was Bill Menzies, who was our pipe major; it ended up he was, yeah – pipe major. And we sat round the table and he asked us all … there was eight of us at that time round the table, had read this little piece in the paper … and asked us all why we wanted to be there, or why we were doing it. And the kids, obviously, “’Cause my mum wants me to”; “My dad”; and “My uncle was a piper”, and all these sorts of things. And [he] said, “Why are you, Doug?” And I said, “Oh, because I’m the last in the generation to play.” And he said, “Can you read music?” And I said, “No, I can’t”. He said, “Well, you might as well go away, because you’ve got to learn to …” I said, “Look – all I want to do is one tune on the bagpipes; that’s all I want to do. You show me the holes; I’m a fast learner, I’ll blow like hell.” And he said, “It’s not like that, Doug.”
And once I got involved it was hard. And twenty-five years later; and I spent ten good years in the band doing competitive work, and I used to go over to the Highland Games and compete, and I got better and better. And then we’d do Nationals, and I saw our band go from fourth grade to third grade. We’re still only in third grade – they’d love to get into second grade, but didn’t. And … yeah, so no, I enjoy that; so now I play at funerals, and the odd wedding, and birthdays and things like that. And I go round the old people’s … what do they call those, the retirement villages? Every New Year and play to them; only the ones in Havelock. Yeah, so I enjoy that, yeah. So that’s the bagpipe thing.
And you still have a love for rugby?
A love for rugby … I was club Captain; I coached, managed and was club Captain there for three years.
Sue: He got an award this year.
Doug: Oh, yeah I got an award for …
Sue: Piping the boys on and back.
Doug: I go every Saturday, home games only, and pipe the senior team on.
Any other community ..?
I did Jaycees; I was in Jaycees ‘til I got a shot [?cock?] and that was when you got …
Yeah, forty, yeah.
Sue: [Speaking together] Pitched out.
Doug: … you were out. And I enjoyed that; we did a lot of fund raising – the Christmas trees, we …
That was Hastings?
Sue: [Speaking together] Coin trail, yeah.
Doug: … Hastings Jaycees.
Yes; I’ve got boxes of things about the Jaycees; they got from a chap that [who] used to live in Nottingley Road. He moved to Christchurch recently.
Oh – Warren Duff?
Yes. He was supposed to come back to me and talk to me about the Jaycees because all these things, they mean nothing to us.
Sue: We could probably go through, or Terry Coxon or someone like that could go through some of the things. ‘Cause the coin trails and that – you were there when Warren …
So, there were other things I know, on the fringe – social clubs you belonged to ..?
Both: Oh, the Saveloy Club.
Just tell us something about the Saveloy Club.
The Saveloy Club started … I was involved with the rugby club, and I used to sit at home and watch the rugby on my own – a Test – they used to have the Tests – and Terry Longley would sit at his house a hundred yards away. And I’d go round and I’d say, “Oh, Terry, I’ve come round”, and I’d take a couple of bottles of beer round. And he’d say, “Oh look, Doug, it’s not a – you remember the old days, we had oranges and saveloys?”
And I said, “Yeah – oranges and saveloys!” So he went and cooked up some little …cheerios, that’s right. And he brought out a plate of those at half-time and I said, “Gee, this is like when we were kids.” And Terry’s a lot older than me, but we hit it off there. And then we started joking and getting a few beers in, and before you knew it others would say, “Oh, we’ll come and watch the game with you on the TV” …
Sue: They were meant to be good saveloy eaters.
Doug: Well, yeah, and it grew from there, until we got cocky. And we had this thing going about, “Every week we going to have different saveloys from a different shop.” Then there was people … like the Ralphs were getting them from overseas, and …
Sue: [Chuckle] We had blind tastings …
Doug: [Speaking together] Blind tastings and …
Sue: … where you had to guess where they’d come from; and we had – I think we actually drank more alcohol than we ate saveloys.
Doug: And it got quite notorious. We didn’t know at the time, but they … yeah. Everybody’s going on about, “Oh, this Saveloy Club!” And we would do outings then; we’d hire a van and we’d go to Porangahau.
Sue: And even had saveloys at Te Awa! [Winery & Restaurant] We went to Te Awa for a meal and part of the meal was they brought out a saucepan of saveloys. Was it Craggy Range [Winery & Restaurant] as well?
Doug: Yeah. And everywhere we went …
Sue: [Speaking together] We got saveloys. [Chuckle]
Doug: … someone would ring the chef and say, “You realise we’re the Saveloy Club – could you have a plate of saveloys there?” [Chuckle] So that was the Saveloy Club.
Sue: And you couldn’t get in the Saveloy Club until one of them died.
And also you belonged to another group – a Breakfast Club?
Doug: The Breakfast Club, yeah. There was an opening there and we were taken along – I can’t remember …
Sue: I think it might’ve been with Terry, was it?
Doug: Terry? And yeah, and we enjoy that. And once a month we all go somewhere; there’s quite a group of us.
Sue: I will admit, since Terry Coxon’s left the alcohol portion’s gone down – we only …
It’s not as loud? No.
Doug: Not as loud.
Sue: … not as noisy either. [Chuckle]
Doug: But yeah – and that’s …
Sue: Something to look forward to.
Doug: Yeah. We look forward to it every month, yeah.
Now also, you’re great walkers. At times I wonder whether you’ve got a car or bikes, or …
Doug: [Chuckle] Well …
Sue: We’ve had that argument, about selling one car …
Doug: Yeah. We have a son that’s [who’s] a physiotherapist, and we keep saying, “Healthwise, what should we be doing, Geoffrey?” And Geoffrey said, “Listen – all I can say is – you are what you eat; and use it or lose it.” And so we’re doing that, and so we walk into the village – we try to every day – and it might be in the morning, it might be in the afternoon. We’ll walk in, have a cuppa, talk to as many people as we can, and I …
Sue: We’re people people, aren’t we? We like to be …
Doug: Yeah. Like to be with people … and come back again. So that’s that, yeah, with the walking. I’m trying to think of all the other things – I’ve had five apprentices in my time; I’m quite proud of that.
Oh, that’s wonderful.
Yeah – in my time of being in business I’ve taught five guys.
Sue: You also dabbled in politics
Doug: Oh, yeah, well I don’t think we’ll mention that …
Sue: It was part of your life, and you dabbled in politics and helped almost get Jeremy into …
Doug: I … we got into Social Credit. And then when Jeremy [Dwyer] left Social Credit because of …
Sue: You helped him get to Mayor.
Doug: We helped him become Mayor. We got quite close to Jeremy …
Sue: Which was lovely.
Doug: And a wonderful guy; honest as the day was long, and always did what he said he was going to do. And I’ll never forget when he got elected Mayor and we were working hard for him; I did all the hoarding signs for him, and he said, “You know, Doug, if I get elected, we’re going to have fish and chips on the floor of the Mayoral Chambers.” And I said, “Jeremy, that’s …
Sue: It was the Mayoral table.
Doug: … Mayoral table.
Sue: And we did.
Doug: … “Oh, that’s bringing things down a bit.” I said, “Well, I would like to get into the medicine cabinet and see what’s in there so we can have a drink while we’re doing it.” Well, he did – he became Mayor that election. I think he only stood once and became mayor, and he was there for twelve years until …
Sue: We did have fish and chips on the Mayoral table, and we did break into Jim O’Connor’s liquor cabinet. [Chuckle]
I see Isla died, yes …
Yeah – Dougie’s been asked to pipe at her funeral.
Oh. She was a great lady.
I thought she would’ve been older than ninety, yeah.
Doug: Well I went overseas with them in ‘91 to the World Cup, and we always met at different places and had a drink. And she always remembered … in her will she wrote – and the daughter rang me yesterday – said, “Mum, here in her notes, has got ‘Doug Potts has got to pipe me out and pipe me at the graveside.’” And I thought, ‘I’ve got an honour, in doing that for Isla.’
Sue: [Speaking together] So there you go, mmm.
Wonderful. Now, you have a son in Auckland who’s the physio, and he’s married?
Doug: Yes. Now he’s married with three children, and …
What are their names?
Ava, Sofia, and Grace.
Sue: He’s got three lovely little girls.
Doug: And my daughter has two, called Cerys and Theon.
Where do they live?
Just around the corner.
In the village – oh, okay.
And Geoffrey lives in Auckland with his three.
Sue: Amanda married a Welshman; went overseas and did her OE, [overseas experience] came back, and didn’t enjoy Hawke’s Bay when she came back and said, “That’s it – I have to live somewhere bigger.” So she went to Sydney, and in Sydney she was a qualified nanny, so she did some nannying. And then she rang us one day and said, “You’ll be amazed, Mum and Dad, but I’ve met this guy and he had an aura over his head” – I think they were both in the pub, drunk, at the time – “and I’m going to marry him next weekend.” And we were like, “What about an engagement? What about some ..?” “No, no, we’re meant for each other, and you’ll love him. He’s into rugby, and we just – yeah, we click.” So they eloped on the beach. And at the time we were having a hassle moving Hamish back here; his parents were from Wales so they couldn’t possibly get to Sydney on time, so they just had their little wedding on the beach. And then later on they came back here and lived on the top of our workshop, and from there they bought a house, and then another house, and had two little girls, two lovely girls; the girls have grown up and are at high school now. And her marriage broke up. She and Steve just didn’t seem to get on – they grew apart – and he’s now engaged to another lady in Havelock. And Mandy’s now remarried to Graham McDonald. McDonald was the Civil Defence guy; that was his grandfather.
And Graham had already been in the area; I mean I went to school with the Ridgway girls, and Graham’s mother is a Ridgway. So we were sort of connected before Mandy reconnected with him and … yeah, married him.
Okay, now you’ve been retired now for … how long?
Doug: Nine years, getting on ten.
And sitting in this lovely cul de sac …
Sue: It’s very quiet.
Doug: Yeah. And lovely neighbours. Haven’t thought of moving; we’re not the moving around type[s].
Sue: Doug and I actually part-reared my sister’s children when we got them, so we had Ben and Robert.
Doug: Got Robert at four and Ben at seven.
Sue: They went through a dramatic time in Melbourne where their dad committed suicide, and within six weeks of that their mother died. And in the will they were left to Doug and I, which … we knew that that was going to happen, but we didn’t ever expect it to happen.
And so what age are they?
Ben is now a qualified electrician and works for Rowan Brown Electrical.
Doug: In Havelock.
Sue: He’s bought a house in Middle Road, and he’s plodding along happily. And Robert is engaged to a girl in Napier, and they have two children; and he’s a chef. So for those children it was really dramatic.
And my parents really struggled – they used to have them at the weekends and we would have them during the week, and because Mum lost her daughter she sort of went through quite a hell of a time.
So she used to live in Middle Road?
They lived in Whakatu, and then they sold up in Whakatu and moved to Middle Road.
How long were they in Middle Road?
They were there before we moved.
Is there anything else?
Mum was the nurse at Wattie’s, and did the night shift and did the shift work. When she first went into business she had a coffee bar – the Embassy Coffee Bar – and she used to get up in the morning – her [she] and Mrs Schofield – and do all the baking … Any rate, they ran the coffee bar, and they’d have morning tea, then they’d do lunch, and then at night it was the Embassy Picture Theatre where we would roll ice creams and sell lollies, and … My mother taught me never to give change .. always gave the children a jet plane or a … something with the change. [Chuckle] And we used to work there ‘til half past nine, ten o’clock, when Dad would take … maybe us kids home earlier and Mum would stay and clean up. And the next morning they were up again and away they went again. And they had that for quite some time.
Doug: Just a couple of things I jotted down. I was a judge in 2003 for the New Zealand Sign Association, which was quite a thing; and I’m a life member of the Hawke’s Bay Sign Association.
It must have been quite a change within the industry when you moved from the brush to the computer driven – it must have changed things dramatically?
Sue: It really ruined it for the artist around here.
Doug: I was the first in Hastings to have a sign computer. That’s interesting, and I can remember I used to get … Sue’s got a cousin in America who used to send these magazines to us, and in it were these sign computers, and I said, “It’ll never happen; never happen!”
Sue: Never come here.
Doug: But it got so prevalent round the world that I thought, computers are going to be the thing. And I can remember going to the bank manager and saying – Scott Henderson from the National Bank – “I would like to buy a computer; I’d like to borrow some money and I’m going to get one from America.” And the problems were there that the American power source was different to ours so everything had to be altered inside it; and I got put off that until America made them for the New Zealand market. And there were two in Auckland, and Christchurch had a couple. And it was the company that made the Exorcist missile which were … Gerber, and I ordered one. Scott Henderson said, “Leave it with me – I’ll look at it. It’s a lot of money.” It was $20,000 for the first one, which those days was a lot of money. And in the finish he said, “If you’re so confident, Doug …” and I said, “Well, this is … this is the future.” And so that’s where it all started to go from there. But I must say the fun and the joy went out of sign writing for me. At that point I was about fifty, I think, and the excitement of doing hand work and standing back and looking at it and going, “That’s all my own”, had sort of vanished. The art side of it had gone.
Did you have to learn computer?
Yes. I learnt it on the trot, ‘cause it’s totally different to – like the symbols and everything was totally different to … and in the finish I’ll have to say that it bored me, one; and b [two], I wasn’t that efficient, that [but] I had a staff member that was so good at it that I thought, ‘I’ll get the client; he can work the machine’, so it went from there.
Sue: So Doug would go out and about and get the work and then …
Doug: And sell it. I sold it, and I have to say that it worked that way.
And the people you sold to?
Oh yes – sold the business to? Yes, they’ve still got it. Nice couple – he worked for me. But I had five apprentices as I said.
But I must say that when I was selling the computer I would go round and say, “We can do it within an hour”, whereas it used to take seven hours, eight hours …
Sue: Eight to dry and that …
Doug: And they’d say, “How can you do that?” And I said, “We just peel off, stick on.” And I had probably eighty per cent of my clients at that point would never have stick-on letters, and they would say, “No, no – someone’ll take them off … peel them off. No – hand write it, Doug.” And I was the last I guess, in Hawke’s Bay that could do gold leaf; do Honours Boards, yeah.
People talk about the sticky … the worst thing in the world was ever getting a crease in one and then trying to get the thing off!
Sue: The easiest thing was to get a little bit of moisture behind it, and then slide it on, and … yeah.
Doug: But I know – we went through all those teething problems, ‘til you figured out you know, the most efficient way …
Sue: ‘Cause you used to do the Fire Brigade, the Ambulances, the Police cars.
Doug loved to travel. You never mentioned how you love to travel. He’s been to Hong Kong, he’s been all around the world. You loved it. He married this boring woman that [who] doesn’t really like travel, so he often has to go on his own.
Doug: Or take Hamish; or I go with a group, yeah.
Sue: Or find some people that want him.
Well this, I think, probably completes the story of your life, so Doug and Sue, thank you very much for letting us see something about the life and times of your family.
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper