Randle Cooke & Queenie Cooke Interview
[Introduction recorded at end of interview]
Today is the 16th of the third [March] 2017. I have just interviewed Randle and Queenie Cooke.
Queenie: Queenie Cooke, nee Waerea. My father was Hemi Waerea, my mother was Puti Edwards. They met about 1916 … oh, they met before that because my father fought in the First World War … went over from 1916 to 1919. My father was from Nuhaka; my mother was from Bridge Pa. I was born in the Wairoa Hospital. I was one of eight children. I had three brothers – Ike, Richard and Jack; and I had four other sisters, the eldest being Martha; Ripeka, Charlotte, I was the next one, Queenie, and our baby sister Rachel born in 1945.
In 1945 my family, as a result of living in Nuhaka and my father going blind; no work in Nuhaka; my mother’s eldest brother, Sonny Edwards, better known as the Chief, came to pick us up from Nuhaka to bring us back to Hastings to live – that was in about September of 1945. Arriving in Bridge Pa we lived with my uncle and his family, and we had one bedroom of a three-bedroom cottage. Eight of us were in one bedroom and a lean to outside the window of the bedroom that we slept in. My brothers slept outside; the rest of us slept in this one bedroom. The facilities that we had to bathe in was in the washhouse outside, not attached to the house; it was like a lean-to, and in there was a tin tub that we used to bathe in maybe once or twice a week depending on the conditions and the availability of water.
The children from Bridge Pa went to Pakipaki School; the Bridge Pa School wasn’t built or opened until 1967. As a result of that all the children from Bridge Pa prior to that date went to Pakipaki School by bus. Our community was about the same size as Pakipaki, and in the Pakipaki township most of the people there were related to the people in Bridge Pa anyway, the prominent families from Bridge Pa being the Edwards, the Kamos, the Parahis, the Hapes, the Crawfords, the Wainohus [?]; those were the prominent families, and the Puriris from Bridge Pa. Most of us there were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; that was our background, better known as the Mormon people, referred to as the City of God in New Zealand – very religious people; very active people in sports, in music, in arts and crafts, all our families were very much a part of what was happening around the inner parts of Hawke’s Bay. If ever there was something being held in Hawke’s Bay, you could guarantee that Bridge Pa people were very much a part of that organisation and what was going on around Hawke’s Bay. Always a community that was willing to share and to give, and a village known to be hard-working people – beautiful village to grow up in. My mother had ten brothers and sisters and they all lived in Raukawa Road.
Quite unique really, isn’t it?
Yes, it is.
Just while you’re there, are there two maraes in Bridge Pa?
Yes … yes.
Are they related to one another?
Yes. I’ll get on to the maraes shortly. The bridge in Bridge Pa was the meeting place; there our lives started. We had our first kiss, we learned to swim, we learned to give, we learned to run away, [chuckle] we learned to fight – everything was done at the bridge.
Randle: First drink of beer …
Queenie: And likewise, that’s what our bridge was to us. The creek there was called Karewarewa, and from that creek as children we had kōura, eels, whitebait, trout …
Randle: Watercress …
Queenie: Yes. That creek – it was really a place to meet. When the water was very low we all went down to the creek and carried our mother’s washing baskets down there. Washing was done down there, bathing was done down there, even baptisms were done in that creek; and going back up to Maraekakaho Road, up towards the school and past Glazebrooks, up past Washpool. All of those families from around Bridge Pa – the Campbells, the Lyons, the MacIntyres – were all part of our community and we grew up with them. They are still very much a part of the community now, and we’ve always had very close ties with those families, and our marae, and our people of Bridge Pa.
As a child growing up, the source of income for our people was shearing … had a lot of shearing contractors there; forestry work, freezing works, Wattie Canneries … later Birds Eye opened … Tomoana Freezing Works, and since then Pacific and Progressive have also opened up, and a lot of those places have since closed as well. But the income of our people was very manual work. My mother, because my father was going blind, was the breadwinner in our family. No such thing as the dole back then, or mothers getting finance because they were the breadwinners – you just got up and went to work and did what had to be done. Fortunately for us my brothers were wonderful workers and contributed towards our household.
Prior to coming from Wairoa to Hastings, my father owned the billiard saloon and the fish shop in East Clive, on the other side of the bridge.
Clyde – yes. So he owned a fish shop and a billiard salon [saloon] there, and when times were good we lived like kings, and when time was bad … ah, don’t even want to go there. As a result of that though, my father through gambling lost both the businesses, and that’s why we came to Hawke’s Bay because there was no other work around. So my mother became the breadwinner in our house and my father stayed home and looked after us while she was working. She started off as a shedhand and a cook, with her brother, Sonny Edwards, and then later with her brothers Jack and Peter. But during that time she became a top wool-classer, and so better times were on hand during that period of time.
My brothers worked at the freezing works. As I said before, shearing was their life really; they were shearing contractors until the late seventies, and by then they were ready to retire anyway.
My life as a teenager in Bridge Pa was … I loved it. It was healthy, it was wholesome, it was a sense of belonging, it was all about families, it was about our religion, it was about being together, being united and all having the same positive goals. It was the dream of our parents that we learned the pākehā way of life. So all our parents spoke Māori … fluent Māori speakers … and the elder ones of our families also spoke Māori. My mother in her wisdom – from my older sister, brother, myself and our baby sister – though we knew Māori since coming to Bridge Pa, pākehā was then spoken in our house; English was spoken.
As I said, Bridge Pa was a wonderful place to grow up because of all the reasons I’ve given. We knew that if we did something wrong we weren’t only reprimanded by our parents, but we had to get through the aunties and uncles and the cousins along the way, on the way home. And of course nothing was a secret in Bridge Pa; whatever happened there, you know, the bush telegraph was faster than email at the moment. So you know, it was a place of unity and wholesome fun; and you got a clip over the ears and a kick up the backside, you know, and it was as simple as that. You respected people. It was something you grew up doing, was having a healthy respect of people and their property. The only thing we went out with when we went out at night was a comb in our pockets, unfortunately, unlike what’s happening in the world today. And I guess that was what makes us a wee bit unique, in that the old teachings I wish were still here; and the old standards and principles that we abided by back then, because I truly believe that all of it stems from respect for one another, and each other’s properties. And I believe that if you’ve got that then nothing can really go wrong. As I said, Bridge Pa was a wonderful place to grow up. You know, we were brought up on eels. Everybody ate eels except Queenie Cooke. I was petrified of the water … of eels … and it was my job as one of the young girls in our family to go out and get all the greens for dinner each evening. Most of us had gardens in our backyards but we still had to go out and look for puha and watercress and rape and [?], and of course watercress was more plentiful than all the other greens, you know, you could just about have watercress all year round. ‘Course, we didn’t own any gumboots; you had to get in the water, and I’d cry all the time that I was in the water. And I was the only girl in Bridge Pa up until this day – I don’t know any other girl that never went eeling … because I was petrified of it. But as a result of my not going eeling and contributing to our household food, I was the one that had to clean all these wretched ugly, slimy, horrible things. And I learnt how to [?] them, how to clean them, how to smoke them, how to rub salt on them and dry them out; that was my job. That was the penalty I paid for not liking eels and being afraid of them.
We used to catch eels, but even when I had gumboots on and an eel went past, it was almost enough to … so you were not unique. [Chuckle]
Okay, good, I’m pleased to hear that. But that was one of the penalties, so I guess I know more about eels and the preparation of eels than any other girl in Bridge Pa, as well. I didn’t find that a good occupation to have – I hated it. But nevertheless I have learnt about it and I have those skills, and maybe one day I’ll be able to put it to use, I don’t know, ‘cause none of my children … I’ve not taught my children how to eat eels.
You’d have to teach both maraes about the skill of preparing eels, wouldn’t you?
Yes. Yes, as the only girl … I don’t know any other girl that had those skills, it wasn’t something that the girls did; it was usually done by the boys. But because of my lack of contribution to the cupboards …
Randle: In your youth there was only Korongata [marae]; there was no [?] …
Queenie: Yes. Frank has been talking about the two maraes. As a child we only had the one marae, and that was Korongata. That’s the old one – if you come in to Bridge Pa it’s on the left hand side along Maraekakaho Road. That was the only marae that we had in Bridge Pa until 1984. It was built on private land and it still stands on private land, and as a result of that the difference between that marae and most maraes is that one’s known as the Papakāinga – for all people that’s owned by the people; and then the private one that’s in Bridge Pa that still stands on family land. And those families still, as a result, own the land.
I’ve slept at Kohupatiki, and I think I’ve been to Matahiwi, just as an exchange between our Rotary Club and the maraes.
Yes. It’s certainly a wonderful experience if you’ve had a marae experience. It’s like no other experience that I know of. The generosity and the cultural exchange that you can have on a marae is absolutely beautiful.
Well you can’t actually appreciate the significance of the carvings and all the finishing of the inside unless you’re there.
Yes. So as I say, in Bridge Pa those were some of the things that I grew up with. Catching the bus to Pakipaki School was another wonderful experience for us kids from Bridge Pa. Back then the Mangaroa Road – it’s now known as the Mangaroa Road – and that’s the road that goes past the new cemetery; turn right at the top of the road to Pakipaki. That’s the way we went to school. Back then it was all forestry, and swaggers were always seen walking that road. There were drovers that used to come through, and on the corner of Raukawa Road and Maraekakaho Road were the stockyards where they used to put their stock overnight as they travelled through Bridge Pa to Tikokino, Onga Onga, Maraekakaho, those places. It’s now privately owned, and I wished I owned it. [Chuckles] But friends of ours … we’ve now made friends with the people that bought it, and I think they’re very fortunate to have that piece of land.
Bridge Pa was the Mormon marae; Pakipaki was known as the Catholic – all the Catholic people came to Pakipaki; and Waipatu was the Church of England. Most of the Church of Englands [Anglicans] went to Waipatu, and they still have their diocese there; and their different places at those different maraes. So you know, that’s how we were known back when I was a child.
We used to have a house, now at the exit of the car park at Bridge Pa Chapel, there used to be a house there where the missionaries – our American missionaries or missionaries that came out to New Zealand – that’s where they lived. Pakipaki had theirs just past Houngarea, or opposite Houngarea marae, and that’s where they had Father Durning and the likes staying, and I daresay Waipatu had the same. So we were all known for our different areas of religious beliefs.
[A] lot of competition in sports when I was a child. They had the Pa wars back then – used to be the big hockey tournaments, and the hockey tournaments were a big thing in Hawke’s Bay, and around New Zealand at the time. Matariki was our home team; MAC was our rugby team and also our men’s hockey team. Both teams excelled at what they did and more often than not topped Hawke’s Bay, including all the pakeha clubs. We used to have all our hockey tournaments at Windsor Park, and Matariki was always in the top two – always. There was Huia, there was … oh, there were so many clubs.
What does Matariki mean?
Milky Way. And it was said that Matariki … they always travelled at night, and they said they always travelled by the light of the stars. That’s the story that goes with the name Matariki.
MAC Rugby Club is still going today. MAC College was running, and was devastated by earthquake in 1931; never been rebuilt again. Another church facility was built in Hamilton, known as the Church College of New Zealand, and that was open to students in March of 1958, and so from primary school you went to Church College. After two years they changed the ages of those going to Church College; they found that the younger people boarding were getting into lots and lots of trouble – it wasn’t the older ones, it was the younger ones. As a result of that, from 1961 until it closed you couldn’t go to Church College unless you were fifth form or higher. There were exceptional cases where families were having difficulty with children; and they also took non-member students at Church College. But that was the school that replaced the MAC, the Maori Agricultural College, was Church College of New Zealand. Those of us that didn’t go to Church College went – again by bus – to Hastings Boys’ High, Hastings Girls’ High, St Joseph’s; those were the three schools in town that if you weren’t going to Pakipaki, or if you were going on to higher education, those are the schools you went to from Bridge Pa.
Another great attribute that the people of Bridge Pa had was the ability to sing and to perform in public before big crowds. They had the most beautiful singers, and they used to be very much a part of the Hastings Operatic Society and the musical shows. We had a lot of great singers there and Mary Bell was honoured at our marae and we have a memorial stone there to her. And when she died she lay on Mangaroa marae, so there was a very close association with the people of Bridge Pa and the Operatic Society.
Were the Parahis from ..?
Yes, very much so.
Yes, I remember Gooch [Parahi] singing in some of those …
Some of their voices were untrained but beautiful …
A lot of the young men from Bridge Pa went as labour missionaries whilst building the Church College, and they were paid ten shillings [10/-] a week. All their board and their meals were paid for and they got 10/- a week, so if you wanted a pair of shoes, you know, you saved for two months to get a decent pair of shoes at two pounds [£2] or three pounds [£3], whatever the price might’ve been. It was a great sacrifice to the people from home but it was something they did willingly.
Yes, so we were fortunate to have been brought up in that environment. At the marae, once a year all the people from Bridge Pa – when you weren’t shearing you went out peach picking, apple picking, tomato – whatever there was to pick, the families were out picking it; you know, potatoes, pumpkin. And during the fruit season, for one week everyone went down to the Korongata marae, and it was a big canning project. Everyone took their fruit there and they canned, and by the truckloads these trucks used to leave to go to Hamilton to feed the missionary project workers there.
Oh, goodness me!
And those that weren’t picking fruit were picking vegetables, and the potatoes and the pumpkins used to go up, and the onions and whatever there was – apples … so you know, it was a hive of industry during the fruit season and vege season with these trucks, the shearing trucks, that now became the transport for fruit and veges to Hamilton. And it was something we all did as families. Every family had a turn at going down and doing this. So there were things that were instilled into us as children and we had to do; at the age of eight it was my job to measure out the caustic soda that went into the water for the peaches.
To take the skins off?
Yes, yes. So everyone had a job and it held us in great stead for our growing up years, you know, so Bridge Pa was a wonderful, wonderful place to grow up in. We had very high values, and lived by the values and the principles and standards that we were brought up with. We had a great heritage. And we were proud of the names that we bore because they’ve always been people that have worked in communities to help, and to be a part of a real fruitful and vibrant community.
I was one of two children from the eight that went to high school. It was myself and my youngest sister went to Girls’ High – right on the change … just after the change of the Girls’ High separating, going down to Pakowhai Road.
Yes, the new high school, yes.
Yes. Just after that I started high school, so I missed out on the combined Boys’ High, so it was only my sister and I that went to high school. I went there for a very limited time. At fourteen I was now working full time in the Dominion Restaurant in Hastings, owned by Molly and Jim Razos at that time. There were three of us; the three waitresses were from Bridge Pa. Susie Mairi, Camelia Hape and myself. They were wonderful, wonderful years. I’ve had a wonderful life; I’ve been one of the fortunate ones …
Randle: Spoiled rotten …
Queenie: … that have been blessed to have been around lovely people all my life. When I worked at Molly and Jim Razos, Jim was about to build the first two storey house down Pakowhai Road, opposite Pernel Orchard. He actually built that house, and it was there I babysat whilst working for them. And I stayed in that house with them for about six months, and I was also their babysitter, and I worked for them. Jim died soon after that, and after a few years Molly sold that house and went down St Aubyn Street. Working for Molly and Jim at that time also was Nina and Spiro Heliciopoulos, who later bought the shop from Molly and Jim … Molly by this time because Jim had passed away. And I boarded with Nina and Spiro for two years. I lived with them and worked with them, and that was my experience of going out into the big wide world; was actually living and boarding with Spiro and Nina.
Now some of the friends that you grew up with and went to school with at Pakipaki … there were lots of people I knew.
Well, at primary school the families that I went to school with were … the European families was [were] McMurtries. The McMurtries lived on the Mangaroa Road, right where the entrance of the prison is now. And I think they had something like seventeen children in their family; they had a huge family …
I know – lots of boys.
Not so many girls – Pamela, Jean, Dorothy, Ian, Ching, Andrew … well that’s where the McMurtries lived. If you look on the honours board at Pakipaki School you’ll find just about every year there was a McMurtrie; one of them won the dux. Just about every year. Further down along the straight to Pakipaki there were the McDonalds; there were the Hortons; there was Valerie and Trevor Ross – our mayor’s mother, and Trevor used to have the jewellers in town.
Well, I haven’t seen Trevor in years. There were the Colemans; there were the Baudinets … Philip and Dennis Baudinet; there were the Martins … [the] Martins used to be at the aerodrome in Bridge Pa. There was the Hawthornes, Norman and Raymond Hawthorne; Peter Kidd; the Flemings, Anne and Ian, Dennis Fleming. Those were some of the pakeha people that we went to school with. Of course there was the Mohis, the Peakmans, the Karekares, the Tomlins, the Kanis …
Randle: Who was that lady you met ..?
Queenie: … Morrisons …
Randle: … Janice, used to go to school with you? You haven’t seen her for a long time.
Queenie: Cracknells, the Morrisons; they lived right by the school. The Russells, the Tours, the Noors, the Timus, the Mukores … and of course Jack … he lived in our street, in Renata Street; Jack …
Queenie: … Brooking. The Brookings – they had a big family. Yes, and Jack only just recently died over the last ten or so years. He was close to a hundred.
When they had the seventy-fifth Pakipaki Jubilee I was fortunate to be on that committee, and then when we had the hundredth … the centennial celebrations … I was again fortunate to be chairperson of that year and what a wonderful, wonderful … what a wonderful nostalgic journey we went on.
So what age would you’ve been then, Queenie?
I’m seventy-six; I would’ve been seventy was it? When I got my Diploma? It was about five or six years ago.
Well we need to step back a bit, because there’s a point where you met Lord Fauntleroy, and you need to tell me where and how you met him.
Okay. Well, I’m now working in my working years, aren’t I?
Randle: You had your son, Sonny Boy.
Queenie: Oh yes, yes. During this period of time I met my first husband who came from North Auckland. We had no children, though we did adopt my first cousin’s seventh child, and his name was Ruanui Sonny Birch. He now lives in Gisborne with his wife and … well, his four children have grown up and they have six grandchildren.
My husband and I divorced; well prior to our divorce I met Randle, when we were separated. My working years between that time and the time I met Randle, it would have been a span of … 1958 to 1966. In that time I was with my first husband, we adopted a son; we separated in 1962 … 1963, the year you came, yes. And during that period of time I worked several different jobs – shearing, going back to Dominion and working part time there, and then I started full time at Birds Eye. Birds Eye had been – up until 1957 I think it was – part of Wattie’s; used to be Butland’s; and it used to be part of Wattie’s. And I think it was in 1957, ‘58 that Birds Eye built the new building down on Williams Road [Street] and Tomoana Road, and I was one of the first staff on there. We only had the one bay, and … yes. So I started there, and in between – I didn’t work full time there but I kept going back.
Well you had a son to look after didn’t you?
Yes. Yes. Anyway as a result of my marriage breaking up I moved from Bridge Pa into Hastings to live with a lovely lady called Barbara Sergeant who lived in Nelson Street – the corner of Nelson Street and Purser Place. And she owned this beautiful house that she and her father had built, and decided that she would take in boarders, so Jillian Tichborne and I were two of her first boarders. So we moved in with her – she was working at Birds Eye. And as a result of that Randle came from Wairoa to Hastings to be with a friend of his, who was a friend of ours, who was living at the boarding house with us.
Randle: Yeah, I came into Queenie’s life in 1965 when I moved from Wairoa to Hastings. And I came to be in Wairoa because I was twenty-one, twenty-two; didn’t want to work for my dad in England on a farm, and so I wrote to my cousin that was farming in Wairoa and asked him if there was any chance of any work for them. So she wrote back to say yes, they would sponsor me out here so in 1963 I left England and went to work in Wairoa for them. I spent two years in Wairoa; it was on the main Nuhaka-Gisborne Road … Wairoa-Gisborne Road … just opposite the Whakaki Lake – worked there for two years. And at the end of my two years this chap that I knew … oh no, I knew his father … my dad and Chris’s dad were best friends, or were very friendly, but I didn’t know Chris. He rang me up one day and he said, “Come to Hastings when you’re finished – I know you’re due to finish soon; there’s plenty of work in Hastings and we’ll get to know each other”, so I moved down from Wairoa to Hastings.
And Chris was staying at Barbara’s, at the boarding house so I went and stayed there too. Also at Barbara’s were a lot of students from universities that used to go to Wattie’s, Birds Eye and any other organisations during the Christmas holidays, to earn their money to keep them going at university. So we were amongst a whole crowd of university students that used to play up bobsy-die! They really lived life. I always considered Queenie was very spoilt, because she lived in the house with Barbara and most of the students lived in the garage or the house across the road. But Barbara was very good to us. Part of the living at Barbara’s was that at the end of the day, or the last hour, because it was six o’clock closing in those days, so from five to six it was always a rush down to the Mayfair Hotel to down as much as we possibly could, and then race back for tea which she had put on before we left. Barbara used to walk through and announce that “I’m leaving in five minutes – if you’re not on the truck, you walk”, so we were always on the truck to get home.
Whilst at Barbara’s I worked at Birds Eye with Chris; we both worked there. It was through that that I met Queenie. Even though I knew she was at the boarding house I didn’t really mix with her very much because she and Barbara and Jill were a different world to the workers. Anyway, we got together and formed a relationship in early 1966. Queenie and I moved out of the boarding house, and we had a succession of flats in Hastings; Haumoana; and then we eventually moved back to Hastings to work for a chap called Tom Ryan who had a farm down Wilson Road and lots of other little blocks of land around Hastings. Tom’s sons were Rupert, Adrian and Hugo. Hugo managed the place down Evenden Road; Rupert was down Evenden Road, and Adrian was out at Te Awanga/Haumoana. Well I’ll nark on Rupert a little bit, because when he had his son – I forget when it was now but it was while I was working for Tom …
Randle: … Rupert decided that we were going to have a beer to wet his head – the baby was born – so we went to the Mayfair, and we were in the back bar of the Mayfair until we got thrown out. And then we turned up at the hospital at two o’clock in the morning to visit his wife who’d recently had the baby. And we were adamant that we were allowed in because it says there, visiting’s at two o’clock, and we were there … it was just before two o’clock, so we didn’t see why we shouldn’t be allowed, but we weren’t. We were shown the door very … [chuckle] but we were way beyond knowing what [speaking together] the mandate was, apart from that it was two o’clock.
From working for Tom Ryan, Queenie and I went up to Te Pohue and worked on the government block there, Glen Falls, and we worked there for a couple of years. And then Ray Smith, who had the farm at the end of Glen Falls Road just before the Mohaka Bridge, was talking to me one day and offered me a job to work for him. So I moved from the Glen Falls block … the government block … to this private block at the end of the road, and worked for him for twelve months. And then we had the opportunity to buy the store in Otane, which we did. We’d been in Otane for a couple of years when it burnt down one night while we were in it, and the whole thing was burnt to the ground.
So we moved from there to Waipawa; I got a job in the timber mill and stayed there for a few months. And it’s quite funny – whilst working in the timber mill in Waipawa the boss called me into the office one day and says, “We’ve got a new bloke starting tomorrow; you pretty well know what you’re doing in the mill – can you teach this new bloke?” And I said, “Yeah – I’ll teach him as much as I know. I’ve only been here five minutes.” He said, “No, he’s just a young chap, he’s coming out of prison.” I said, “Forget it – I’m not teaching nobody like that!” But it turned out that this chap came and I taught him, and we’ve been friends ever since. We see each other quite reg… oh, every couple of years we see each other, fall over each other. And he’s one of the nicest people you could wish to meet, a well known Hawke’s Bay identity … Navi Pekapo; he won’t mind me telling you who he is. He was a rugby league fanatic in Waipawa or Waipuk [Waipukurau], but he’s a very nice man.
From Waipawa I applied for a job in New Plymouth in a timber mill, and we went through for an interview and I got the job in New Plymouth. And I lived on the northern side of New Plymouth towards Hamilton … on that side, and I used to have the vehicle to drive through town every morning and pick up the workers to take them to the mill. And a couple of days this chap was missing off the truck, so when he came back I said, “Where have you been for the last couple of days? We’ve been short just because you weren’t here.” He said, “Oh, I went to the prison for a job.” And I said, “Who the hell wants to work in a prison?” He said, “Oh, it’s a good job.” So I got home that night and I was talking to Queenie about this chap who had been to the prison for a job, and she said to me, “That would be an ideal job for you.” I think she wanted me to get my head knocked off! But however, within a few days of that Queenie had rung the prison while I was at work and she had arranged for the boss of the prison to come to the house to see me and talk to me about the prison. And I still remember that his name was Ken Graham to this day; and Ken Graham was the Superintendent at New Plymouth Prison in 1973/74. However, he talked to me about the job and then he said to me as he was leaving, “Well on the way home tomorrow night just after five, call into the prison and I’ll show you through the exam and see how you go – just to see if you’ve got any idea.” So I sat the exam, and he was virtually marking it over my shoulders as I was going. And at the end he said, “Oh you’ve got no problem; you flew through that. Where would you like to go to?” And I said, “Well I haven’t given it much thought.” I said, “I was just really having a crack at the exam.” He said, “Well, you’ve passed – I can tell you now, you’ve passed it.” He said, “You won’t get a job in New Plymouth because it’s a closed shop; it’s just a small jail. You won’t get a job at Napier because it’s the same, it’s just a little tiny jail, and people – they just don’t leave there.” He said, “The vacancies are in the bigger jails – Waikeria, which is just out of Hamilton, Auckland, Wellington, or there’s some vacancies in Turangi.”
So I went home and we talked about it; Queenie and I spoke about it and we decided that we were going to go to Turangi – it would be a good place for us to work to get into the job, and it’s not that far from Hastings. So we went there in 1974 … 1st of April 1974 … and I think to this day it was an April Fool’s joke, that I should start on the 1st of April. However, I got my ‘a into g’ and sat my exams, and passed the relevant papers and the interview panels; because I was determined to get to Napier because Queenie was from Hawke’s Bay and she wanted to get back here, and I was quite impressed with Hawke’s Bay anyway. And it would be good for us that she was with her extended family and friends. So I got my exams and sat there and waited and waited and waited; and eventually a job came up at Napier jail. And I couldn’t be beaten because I’d been sitting there waiting for promotion, so I applied and got the job. That was in early 1979. So we came back to Hastings, although we loved our time in Turangi; it was a lovely town, lovely people, we got on very well there.
We moved back to Hawke’s Bay and I started work at Napier Prison. By this stage we had three children. Paul, our eldest, was born in 1967, January; Theresa, our second child and our eldest daughter, was born in August 1968; and Sandra Jane, our youngest, was born in 1971, so we had the three children when we moved back to Hawke’s Bay. So they virtually grew up in Hawke’s Bay although Paul can remember his school days in Turangi. When we moved back here we lived in Hastings, and I used to travel to Napier each day; sometimes on the bus and sometimes in a car that we had, depending what Queenie wanted the vehicle for.
Paul grew up basically here, but he was eleven when we first came back here. And one day we were at home after school, and he came in and he said, “What’s the Ross Shield?” So we explained to him what the Ross Shield was and he said, “Oh – because I’ve been told I’ve got to go to Havelock on Saturday for the trials.” So Queenie and I duly went along to the trials for Paul to try out for the Ross Shield. And we were walking down the touch line and we heard somebody say, “Who’s that kid playing centre? He’s a newbie around here.” And somebody said, “Oh he’s a brilliant little player!” And we were … our heads were getting big [chuckle] – we just kept our mouths shut luckily. But we carried on walking down, and somebody else says, “Yeah, but he does some bloody stupid things at times”. So that brought us down to earth. However, he made the Ross Shield team; we were very proud of him.
And he progressed in his rugby – from there he went to Te Aute College. The Headmaster at Te Aute College was recruiting young boys to get to Te Aute College, and he came and spoke to us about … oh no, he didn’t, but he sent a chap to talk to us about getting Paul to Te Aute. And I always swore blind that because I had gone to a boarding school that I wouldn’t send a son of mine to boarding school; but Paul needed to go to a boarding school, he needed the added discipline of a boarding school. He went to TA [Te Aute College], and the first six months he didn’t like it one little bit, but after he’d been there for a little while he thoroughly enjoyed it and it did him the world of good. His comment to us at the time was, “You’re only sending me there to get rid of me”, [chuckle] and I think that’s a comment that most young boys say at that age in life.
Queenie: He didn’t know how close to the truth he was. [Chuckle]
Randle: Well, he was a little bit mischief; he wasn’t anything … nothing naughty, naughty, naughty. But he was just a little bit anti-authority, but it did him the world of good.
Our second daughter went to – she never went to boarding school – she went to … [speaking together]
Queenie: She refused to.
Randle: … Karamu High School. She refused to go to boarding school. And our youngest daughter went to Napier Girls’, and then one day she came home and she said to me, “Dad, I’d like to go to Church College. Can you afford to send me?” And I said, “No, we can’t”, I said “but whatever – we really can’t afford to send you there. We’d like to.” So that was all that was said for about a month … just over a month. And she arrived one night and she put some papers in front of me and [chuckle] she said, “Dad, can you just sign these papers?” And I said, “What for?” “I’ve been accepted at Church College.” She had been and drawn the money out of her bank herself, without any prompting; and enrolled at the College, sent her fee … her initial fee, out of her bank. And I just … and she’d been to a Bishop in Napier and been interviewed, and I just had to sign the papers so she could go to Church College. Well – what do you do? There’s no way you’re ever going to get out of that. So, she went to Church College; and once again, she thoroughly enjoyed being at College.
Queenie: Graduated with honours.
Randle: We managed. Even though we said we couldn’t afford to send her there, you find ways and means of doing these things for your own children, for the betterment of themselves.
Queenie: Well that wasn’t the reason we couldn’t send her; we didn’t want her to go, she was our last one.
Randle: She was our baby.
Queenie: We wanted her home with us.
Randle: However, she went there and did well. And after she left school – she had met a young boy at school that was very friendly with her – and they were seventeen coming on eighteen – they were boyfriend and girlfriend. And Queenie and I had … one way of helping her at school was to put a little bit in her bank account at school every fortnight out of my wages, and that was just a little bit to help her with bits and pieces that she needed without having to write home each week to get us to send money. So we used to keep topping this little account up; regular money going in every fortnight … every month.
And then when she left school she went to Australia to work with her older sister. And she came to me one day and she said, “Dad, you know that money you’re putting into my account?” [Chuckle] “Can you just leave it in there so that it can keep building up while …?” I said, “No way! You’re going to work for your life in Australia – you don’t get a free ride.” So she went to Australia for twelve months, because her boyfriend at the time was serving a mission with the Church. And he was in a different part of Australia; they weren’t allowed to have …
Randle: … physical contact or even – they weren’t supposed to write or phone each other. But he was in South Australia and she was in Victoria, and that made her happy to think she was in the same country. So she stayed with our daughter for twelve months. And another funny little thing was that while she was staying with our daughter in Melbourne, our daughter used to encourage her to save her money. And so she used to bank her money every week … every fortnight, whenever she got paid, and then she would say to her sister, “Oh, can you lend me $20 to get my bus ticket for the next two weeks?” [Chuckles] She managed very very well in Australia. However, she came back from there when her boyfriend finished his mission and within twelve months they were married. They married here in Hawke’s Bay and they stayed here; she went to …
Queenie: Continued to work.
Randle: … she continued to work while he was … no, he continued to work while she was at university; she was studying.
Queenie: No, she wasn’t.
So during this time you were …
I was still at Napier Prison. When Mangaroa Prison … oh, it was called Mangaroa in those days; there was a bit of hoo-ha about that because it was Hawke’s Bay Prison, and Mangaroa, the marae … Bridge Pa … got quite upset that they were calling the prison Mangaroa Prison when it wasn’t really, it was the Hawke’s Bay Prison. So they had a few meetings with the prison to say that they didn’t want it to be called Mangaroa Prison. And unfortunately that tag still hangs around it.
I remember our Rotary Club went through it before the inmates moved in.
Queenie: You probably took them through.
Randle: Yes … could well have done.
So when Hawke’s Bay Prison opened I went to work there, but they kept Napier Prison open. And then they came and asked me if I would go back to Napier and look after Napier while they got Hawke’s Bay up and running. So between the two I worked at both prisons, but more often than not I was at Napier until it finally closed. It was a good place to work, Napier was; because it was so small you got on well with the inmates and you got on well with the other staff.
And you’d never get anything closer to a built up area …
… you were in town.
We used to walk into the town at lunchtime to have some lunch.
I know where it is, but you can’t see any of the prison, can you?
‘Less you go up the hill. So … and then I retired from there in 2000, and I was only sixty at the time but I had always had this working link, and we were able to retire at sixty from the Justice.
So that was thirty years in the prison service.
You omitted to say that you did train as a policeman …
But you didn’t accept your posting.
Randle: When I first got together with Queenie I had applied for a job in the Police force. This was in 1966, and I was accepted on the proviso that at the end of the training I was to make up my mind whether I was staying with the Police or leaving, because in those days you weren’t allowed to be in a de facto relationship. Queenie and I were in a de facto relationship, because she hadn’t been able to get a divorce from her husband – he was a little bit anti, and he was always hoping that Queenie was going to go back to him. And it wasn’t until we’d had two of our children that he agreed to a divorce. And so at that stage she was very pregnant with our third child, so he finally agreed to the divorce.
But I did my whole Police training in Trentham in 1966 … towards the end of 1966. After completing the course … the last week, within the last couple of days before we were graduating … I was supposed to go to Rotorua; I’d been given that position. The boss called me in and says, “Well what’s your decision?” And I said, “I’m going back to Hastings to be with my wife.” I still recognised Queenie as my wife even though we weren’t legally married. So I threw the Police force away.
‘Cause that would have been a help to you … even your application to the prison service, ‘cause a lot of the questions would’ve been the same …
Very similar type things, yes.
It’s fascinating, isn’t it … how life swings and turns, and you take directions that …
Yep. And a chap, I remember quite clearly, when I was going to go to Trentham to start the Police training, a traffic cop from Hastings was speaking to me in the Police Station one day and he said, “Look, I’ve got a course to start in Wellington on Monday – the same day as you’re going down to the College – can I take you down?” And I said yes. Jim Connolly. On the way down – we were just talking and he says, “God! They’ll accept anybody in the Police force?” And I said, “What do you mean?” He says, “You and your drunken mates”, he said “I’ve stopped you time after time after time.” I knew very well he did. But I just thought, ‘brush that over the top.’ But he said, “How on earth you’ve got this far, and now you’re going into the Police force and you still haven’t been locked up!” He said, “You were destined to be locked up ages ago; drunken brutes.” He said, “One night I remember pulling you up, and the driver – he claimed he wasn’t the driver – but he got out of the car and he immediately fell over in the gutter”. He said, “He was that drunk he couldn’t stand up.” [Chuckle] But they didn’t worry about it in those days; they used to tell you to behave, and get the hell home, and don’t drive around ‘til tomorrow – no breath testing.
That was a different world.
Queenie: It was a different world.
So now we’ll go back to Queenie; that’s mainly your ..?
Randle: Except just finally I’d like to say that when I retired from the prison I didn’t really know what to do and it was far too young to retire. So I said to Queenie one day, “I’m going to go to Wattie’s for the season, and at the end of the season – this was before Christmas, or round about Christmas time – and then at the end of the season when we get laid off we’ll go to Australia and have a good long holiday with our daughter. So that was all very well until the day we were supposed to finish. One of the chaps came up to me and he said, “Are you finishing today?” And I said, “Yes”. He said, “Come to work tomorrow – I’ve got a job for you.” So I was there for eight years, [chuckle] and it was only supposed to be for two months. But I worked in the recipe department – it was very interesting, and a very enjoyable job; it was all care and no responsibility. You did what you had to do; you did it to your [the] best of your ability, but you didn’t have to cart work home and worry about work at night time. But no, it was a thoroughly enjoyable job.
Oh, that’s wonderful.
So that’s my working life … involvement with Queenie.
We’ll come back to Queenie; now one thing you didn’t mention – and this was the hub of Bridge Pa for a while – and that was the store.
Queenie: Oh! Yes, yes – of course. The Bridge Pa store – oh, gosh, I grew up with that store. It was owned by the Crawfords; Crawfords owned the Bridge Pa store and they owned it until … I think 1949 they opened the Bridge Pa store, it was just after we moved into our house with running water for the first time. And they owned it until 1980.
Randle: ‘83 we bought that.
Queenie: Yes. Yes, the Crawfords owned the Bridge Pa store which was the hub of Bridge Pa. It was a post office, it was a store; and then attached to that were living quarters where the shearing gang used to be, and they had baches along the side there. Well the Crawfords owned that from 1949 until 1981 …
Randle: Three. 
Queenie: No, I think 1981 or 2 … thereabouts anyway. You know, but it was … oh, what can I say about the Bridge Pa store? Like you said, it was like all these little shops in the villages all over New Zealand, where everyone met and …
Good little store.
It was a good store.
And the people were friendly.
Yes, and of course we bought it. Randle and I bought it [chuckle] – yes.
Queenie: And yes, it was something that I always coveted … I always wanted, you know. The Crawfords were the people that – we always wanted to get inside their house because we thought it looked different to everyone else’s house. And he was almost what you call man of the manor, you know, the manor house. And you know, the realisation was – hey, he had bedrooms just like the rest of us. But yeah – it was always somewhere that – like you say, it was the hub of the town. If you wanted to know anything the first place you went to was the store in the morning and last thing at night, and you got up to minute news that was going on all around the place. Yes, so we were fortunate to be the first people that bought it after they left, and then of course Randle was offered this position in Napier which meant we had to move to Napier to be close to his work ‘cause he was on call. So yes …
Randle: We had it for a couple of years.
Queenie: Yes, we had it for two … three years I think it was; and then we moved back and sold it to the Greenings. The Greenings managed it, then my brother and his wife leased it, then the Greenings put it on the market. Their daughter went into it and then it was closed.
You did a few other things with your life; you went back to study, didn’t you?
Oh, yes. Yes, yes, yes. When we moved from Turangi back to Hastings we took over a welfare home, and I got involved with social work and Social Welfare; and did some catering; did a few odd jobs where I could be home when my children came home from school, blah, blah, blah. And then they started to build the marae in Bridge Pa – you know, that was really close to being completed when we went back to Bridge Pa. And the marae in Bridge Pa was opened in 1984, and that’s the new marae that you referred to earlier, which is there now and it’s a wonderful asset to the community. They have both maraes going … very active; all virtually intertwined in families; same families running the same things.
Then in 1991 I decided I wanted to go back to EIT. [Eastern Institute of Technology] So I went back to EIT with the intention of learning Māori … Te Reo wānanga … to speak in Maori, and ended up … instead of doing a Reo class I ended up by doing an early childhood development course. And I’ve got my degree in that; I thought, ‘this is pretty good.’ So as a result of getting that degree I did different jobs around that area, and then when I was sixty-seven there was a three-year course offered to get my degree in Mātauranga Māori … [??] wānanga of Whakatane, [??]. So I did a three year course and graduated with honours and got my diploma in Mātauranga Māori at the age of seventy. To me the beauty of that is that – to try and encourage our younger people that you’re never too old to learn, you know. And if you didn’t get the opportunity to go to high school or if you flunked out, it didn’t matter what age, you could go back and achieve, you know – as long as you wanted to do it, you could do it.
Have you ever learnt ..?
Randle: No. French a little bit at school but that was … that’s graduation day.
Those cloaks were your own cloaks?
Queenie: That one there, my one that I’m wearing – Randle made that.
So you have other talents that you haven’t told us about?
Those feathers …
Randle: No, they …
Queenie: No, it’s fox fur.
Randle: It’s fake … fake fur. Just a [?] is what I did around the top and the bottom.
Queenie: But Keriana has got real fur, real feathers.
That’s Keriana Poulain, isn’t it?
Yes, we graduated together. And d’you know Donna Cotter?
Well the three of us graduated.
Randle: All three, similar age.
And leaving school at fourteen with no qualifications, and nothing except being self-educated between fourteen and seventy.
But the will to do it, and the experience is worth a lot.
Queenie: For sure.
Okay, so what else has happened? Your daughters are married, aren’t they?
Our eldest son … my eldest son … he lives in Gisborne; he has four children. Those four children have got six children and those six children have got eight children.
Our eldest son Paul, he has four children. Karen is the eldest daughter; is manager of Dotti’s in Napier. She has two young boys, Tyler John and Riley Randle. Her second eldest daughter is the mother of the triplets – you’ve seen the photos of our triplets?
Yes, I’ve seen …
She’s got five children. Their youngest daughter has got one child, and his youngest boy is nineteen. Our eldest daughter has one son; he’s twenty-one … born and brought up in Melbourne. She’s lived there twenty-nine years. He’s an Australian …
Randle: Kiwi registered, but he’s an Australian in all other …
Queenie: And our youngest daughter, Sandra Jane, lives in Hamilton. She has three children; her eldest son lives in Wellington … married, no children. They have a daughter just turned twenty-one; lives at home with mum and dad, and they have a son of eighteen who’s waiting to go on his mission for two years.
Now, you did mention you did play some sports – did you do any of that during your married life?
Yes … yes. When I was at primary school I held the record of junior athletic champ in Hawke’s Bay; my brother was senior athletic champ at the same time. All our family with the exception of our baby sister … well, I played hockey; I played football – rugby; hockey, rugby, softball, basketball and netball. I loved sports; Randle loved sports. When we met he played quite a bit of soccer, and he played rugby, dabbled in a whole lot of different things.
Randle: We both played hockey in Waipawa … Wai..
Queenie: We both played badminton together after we were married. We played hockey in Waipukurau, for Waipukurau Old Boys and Old Girls, when we lived in Otane. I still played and coached basketball ‘til our son was seven. And then it came … we had to make a decision which was one of us was going to sports, because his sports was on as well. So we decided we would both give up; but we didn’t [chuckle] because we were able to manage – I was able to play basketball in the evenings and softball on the weekends, and hockey, you know. So we both played hockey; we played a lot of sports during our married life … yes, we played a lot of sports.
Our daughter was enrolled in ballet, but our son was just coming on to the scene as a young college rugby player and was being recognised in the different age groups, and because her brother was being recognised, she was young enough to know better but old enough to know the boys were where her brother was. [Chuckles]
Randle: Hanging round with the boys.
Queenie: So our family became an avid supporter of our son with his rugby. It’s been very kind to him.
And what was his top achievement playing rugby?
Māori All Blacks. Yes, he went through all the age groups through college.
Who would’ve been playing at the same time as him?
Matthew and Greg – he went through school the same years as them; Paul went through the same time as Matt and … they were at St John’s and he was at TA. [Te Aute College] Yes, so he went through …
Randle: Paul played for Hawke’s Bay when he first left school and went to Clive; and from Clive he was picked to play for Hawke’s Bay at eighteen. And in the next couple of years he equalled – one season he equalled Bert Greenside’s record [speaking together] for the most tries in the season.
Queenie: Bert Greenside’s record, do you remember?
Well that was Paul.
Randle: So him [he] and Paul own that record equally.
Both: Paul’s just turned fifty.
Randle: One season he went to Canada in the off season with Stewie Forster; and they came back from Canada and Stewie had already indicated to Paul that he was going to go to Otago. And one evening we get a phone call from Laurie Mains to Paul to say “Your ticket’s at the airport; it’s only a one way ticket – if you want to come down and see what the situation is like in Otago, that’s fine by us. If you don’t like what you see, we’ll put you back on a plane and send you home.” So ten years later Paul was still in Dunedin, although he used to come home in the off season.
Queenie: Played with Greg and Matthew.
Randle: He played in Jamie Joseph’s era.
So is there anything else that you two can think about that you might have forgotten?
A couple of little bits of humour – I’ve got one in particular – is that when Paul went to Te Aute College one of the other students was Pita Sharples’ son and we all know Pita Sharples …
… and Paul and Pita Sharples’ son were at school together. And one day I was talking to Pita Sharples, and he said to me, “Look”, he said, “this is Bridge Pa” – ‘cause he knew that Queenie and I were from Bridge Pa, or we told him. And he’s got quite an indent in his forehead, or quite a bad cut … an injury. He said, “this is Bridge Pa”, he said, “they play for bloody real in Bridge Pa!” I said, “What d’you mean?” He said, “When you play in Bridge Pa … when you play war games with kids, they use shanghais with real stones! No paper and no peas – this was a shanghai straight in the forehead”, he said “it knocked me out cold!” he said. “But Bridge Pa I still consider to be part of my upbringing.” So that’s one thing about Bridge Pa.
Another interesting – very interesting theory, and this is before Queenie’s family moved to Bridge Pa – her older brother was told by his father one day to go to Rotorua. This was in the thirties – go to Rotorua and pick this …
Queenie: My grandfather; my father, not my brother.
Randle: Oh yes, that’s right – sorry, your father – was told to go to Rotorua and pick this boy up. So he went to Rotorua, and in those days it must have been one hell of a distance on horseback – no saddle probably.
Queenie: From Nuhaka.
Randle: There would have been no public transport, or if it [there] was it would have cost far too much – they wouldn’t have been able … But anyway, he was sent from Nuhaka to Rotorua to pick this boy up. And we don’t know the ins and outs of the story, but when he did eventually get back his father said to him, “This is your brother.” And he didn’t know who this boy was; he didn’t have a clue who he was. But we’ve often talked about it amongst the family, and thought what a huge undertaking it would’ve been in those days to go from Nuhaka to Rotorua on a horse, and pick up a boy you didn’t know and bring him back. They both would’ve probably shared the same horse.
And they probably would’ve gone through the Waikaremoana Road to Murupara …
But they would have had to find somewhere to stay and sleep and eat; would’ve been a lot more than one day trip, it would’ve been probably [a] two week trip, and staying with people. But it wasn’t until he got back that he was told that that was his brother – they were actually half brothers, but it was the same father, different mothers.
Just talking about Te Aute College – Paul, when he first went to Te Aute College – the senior boys, at night time they used to look after the junior boys doing prep, which was your homework. And Paul used to tell Queenie and I some of these stories that used to go on, like … if you were caught talking during prep, the senior boys used to make you lick the blackboard, or put your head under the desk and bang it on your head. However, one of the boys was coaching my grandson in Hamilton – an ex-Te Aute boy who didn’t know who I was – and so one day I sidled up alongside him and he said, “Oh, good afternoon, sir”. And I said, “Hello, how are you?” And we got talking, and I said, “Oh – did you go to Te Aute College?” And he said, “Yep.” I said, “Oh, I’m writing a bit of a book about Te Aute College”, I said, “and that’s one of the reasons I’ve come here. Your name’s Paul Harmer?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Didn’t you used to make the boys lick the blackboard if they were talking at night time?” “No way!” He said, “I wouldn’t do that to any person.” He said, “It’s not human to do that to kids.” I said, “Well I’ve had a strong source of information that told me that you were the man that used to make these kids lick the blackboard because they were into mischief and doing naughty things.” And he flatly denied it; and then I started laughing, and I said, “Oh … I’m Randle Cooke – Paul’s father.” “You bloody …” and he gave me a mouthful and a real serve. [Chuckles] I knew.
So I think that’s probably a good note to finish on …
Queenie: Thank you.
Thank you, Queenie and thank you, Randle – thank you very much.
Randle: Thank you, Frank.
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper