Russell (Edwin) Kiddle Interview
Today is the 21st of March 2018. I’m interviewing Edwin (Ed) and Vivien [Ed’s sister] on the life and times of the Kiddle family. Ed, would you like to tell us …
Yeah, well Vivien asked me before what was my earliest memory, and I must say I struggle to remember things from when I was really little because you don’t know … are you remembering, or was it prompted by a photograph?
But I might have told you, we moved here in the 1950s – I was four. I was born in ’52 so that’s ’56 we moved here, and there were three of us at the time, three kids. There’s my brother Ian as well, and yeah, it was just moving onto an orchard, which was a wonderful – I just remember my childhood as being a particularly wonderful environment for a kid really, and just space, and trees, and biking round, and when you’re older going down the river and … yeah. And then I guess I can remember things like getting on the school bus and walking down the crossroads. [Chuckle]
So you would have gone to Te Mata or Havelock?
Started off at Havelock. I didn’t go there for very long because Te Mata was being built at the time. You probably went there for longer, didn’t you?
Vivien: I went there when we shifted up, but it wasn’t very long either.
Ed: Yeah. And then – so we were foundation pupils at Te Mata. And then later on of course, there was no high school in Havelock when we went to high school … we went to Karamu. So yeah, we used to catch the school bus as kids from down at the crossroads near the orchard, and the bus company was Nimon’s. Don’t know if it’s still around, it used to be …
It is – outlasted most of the Havelock people, because it started at the beginning of the century – last century.
My only story associated with the bus is missing the bus, actually. I don’t know how old I was but I didn’t particularly like porridge, and it must have been winter because we wouldn’t have had to eat porridge in summer. But porridge was breakfast in the winter and I refused to eat it, and put my foot down at whatever age and missed the bus, and so Mum or Dad said “well, you have to walk to school then”. So I set off walking to school – but I figure I won, because I was just up to that hill past the vineyards now – first little hill there, and the car came along to pick me up. [Chuckle] And I must say I struggled to eat porridge. I’d probably contemplate it now, but really I’ve never eaten porridge since. [Chuckle]
Vivien: No, I didn’t either – I hated it.
Ed: Yeah, but … so as a kid … yeah, it was just a wonderful environment really. Particularly with access to the river.
Everything was at your doorstep, wasn’t it?
Vivien: We used to play … games that I remember that we used to play … with the mown grass from the orchard mower, making houses – d’you remember that?
Ed: Oh, yeah, yeah.
Vivien: Designing houses. And we used to build wigwams with orchard crops, and we must have played cowboys and Indians, probably on bikes.
Ed: I mean there was a whole bunch of kids in the neighbourhood – I can’t remember the girls from when I was little, but you know there was the Steven kids, and Neil [?] …
Vivien: Yes. Carol, Lesley and Billy Anderson.
Ed: Oh, the Andersons, yeah.
Vivien: And the Clarks. I probably knew them more ‘cause they were girls, yeah.
Ed: So there’s a whole kind of after school gang you had, to get going. And – not that I was really into this, but I sort of was recruited – remember Ian McLeod used to put on the Christmas play?
Vivien: Yes. Alf McLeod’s son. Margaret Mary? I can’t remember the wife’s name.
Ed: But anyway, so some Christmas play would be organised, and local kids would be …
Vivien: He took us carol singing, too.
Ed: … the characters in the play. [Chuckle] As for my acting career, it ended then. [Chuckle] Actually I noticed just yesterday when I went for a walk round the block, the McLeod tartan’s still visible on the gate … underneath, behind a few bushes.
It used to stand out quite proudly in the early days.
So yeah, I think as a kid – I mean of course as you got a bit older you could work on the orchard to earn money – we were just talking about making the wooden boxes for the …
Vivien: Contract rates. [Chuckle]
Ed: I can’t remember … they were a penny a box or something.
It wasn’t much, the pile didn’t seem to get very big.
Yeah. But that was really good of course, because you could earn some money by working on the orchard in summer.
So did you play any sports at high school?
Hockey. I mean Mum and Dad used to both play hockey. I’ll tell you a rugby story, which is why I don’t play rugby – that‘s probably … I blame Mr Stent. [Chuckle] So this was at primary school, and Te Mata had white, which was a pretty crazy colour for your sports uniform, you know – white shorts, white t-shirt. The only option at primary school if you were a boy was rugby – there was [were] no other options as I’m sure you know, Frank, back then. And anyway, we were playing rugby one time and I thought I was a reasonably fast runner, and I thought I was doing quite well in the backs running, you know, with the ball and all that kind of stuff. And at half time he said to me “oh, you haven’t been doing much – you’re not even dirty”. And my internal thought at the time was, “yeah, that’s because no one’s caught me”. And I thought “that’s it – rugby’s over for me”. And … never played it since. So – shows the consequences of just a few words …
Vivien: Casual remarks.
Ed: … casual remarks.
‘Cause Cyril Hall would have been the principal those days?
Vivien: Mr Shepherd when I started. I don’t know his first name.
Ed: Doug? Can’t remember. Anyway, so at high school I played hockey in the winter.
Vivien: I think we all did, didn’t we?
And from high school you went off to ..?
Ed: I went off to Victoria University and did a science degree, but then thought, halfway through that, ‘well, where am I going?’ So I decided to do medicine and then went and did a medical degree down in Dunedin. Then as I mentioned before you started recording, I got into general practice and did that for about nine years in Nelson, and then changed to public health medicine, and did that ‘til I stopped work a year ago.
Obviously after university you got married to Liz?
Where was she from?
She was from Hastings.
Oh of course, she was Liz Frizzell.
Liz Frizzell. So that was a Hastings family. So her father was Dick, and Joan, so Sylvan Road.
She’s a sister of Dick?
Yeah, and there’s another brother as well, and several sisters.
Vivien: Stephanie, whose the Mayor of …
And what about you Vivien, did you play any sports?
Vivien: Oh, yeah – same. I played hockey, and I played tennis actually at high school.
So coming back to the family, it was quite unique to have a neighbour and a partner of your father in Don McKenzie …
Ed: Yeah, yeah.
… who was one of the, you know – foremost orchard developers [of] cultured apple trees, and be at the forefront of the industry and yet be such new entrants to it. It must’ve been quite rewarding for the whole family?
Yeah. I guess that when you’re that age you’re not really thinking about that. I mean Don McKenzie obviously was a close family friend, and as a kid I guess … be like a surrogate uncle, I mean I got presents from time to time. Yeah, so you know, that’s how I remember him, pretty much. And then of course, because Dad got involved in the Apple & Pear Board and then did all the travelling with that, I mean … I guess when I was a teenager I was much more aware of what he was doing in the industry through that.
Vivien: I remember he also brought us presents back and one year he came back he brought us clothes Carnaby Street. He brought the boys these paisley floral shirts and brought me a mini skirt, and I wore it to the school dance. And Mr Wild who was Principal at the time, he just … really evil-eyed me. [Chuckle] I should have gone up and said “this is a present from my father”.
Ed: And that’s the regret I have actually, because these shirts were … it was classic Carnaby Street in the 1960s – and a couple of ties too – very, very bright. And I was almost like … you were very good to wear it, I was pretty reluctant to wear it, you know, ‘cause you know how you’re kind of sensitive to all that stuff when you’re a teenager. But I really wish I’d kept it and still had it. [Chuckle]
Vivien: I can’t remember yours … wasn’t yours bright pink?
Ed: Oh, it was multi-coloured.
My two boys were sent home from Havelock and had to go and get changed. Mr Byron did not approve of the multi-coloured … and it was mufti day.
That’s a bit mean.
Vivien: And of course there was the long hair … boys’ long hair.
Ed: Yeah. And it was right at the stage where young people were growing their hair so that was policed fairly strictly at school, yeah High School.
So what hobbies have you had? Are you a golfer or a fisherman?
No … no, I’m not. I struggle to relate to golf. [Chuckle] I don’t know – I like tramping, which is what I do now, but I probably didn’t do much tramping as a kid. I think one of the things – oh, and you’d notice from being an orchardist yourself – your holidays tended to be in winter, family holidays …
That’s right, always.
… because you couldn’t go on holiday in summer. And so we’d have family holidays you know – it might be a South Island trip, or somewhere in the North Island, and stay in motels and stuff. Until Mum and Dad bought the section out at the beach and built the beach house, and then we tended to spend more time out there, which you could do on the weekends in summer of course.
Vivien: I’d left home when they built that.
Ed: I’d left home too actually, ‘cause I remember coming back and working on it. I must have been at university.
Does the family still have that beach house?
Vivien: Yes, we do.
It was built, I guess with love, wasn’t it?
Ed: Yep. Yep. And it’s a very … well, it’s a one-off design ‘cause it was John Scott designed, and got a beautiful view.
Vivien: And Mum planted lots of pohutukawas, and she also fought to stop the Council mowing down the bottom to prevent erosion.
Ed: Actually it was the best swim I’ve ever had at Waimarama, I remember. I’m not as confident now as I used to be, swimming, ’cause in Nelson the surf’s about a foot high. [Chuckle] It was after digging the drain for the septic tank out there – it was a really hot day … it was really hot, I remember, digging it – it was sandy so it was actually quite easy digging. But just diving into the water at Waimarama, and after doing that it was such a wonderful swim … still sticks in my mind. Best swim at Waimarama I’ve ever had.
And I guess you’re like most people, you’ve travelled?
Yeah, travelled a bit. I mean we had kids relatively young, I mean we had our first child when I was at Med School – I don’t know, I would have been twenty-two or something. And you know, not like a lot of people our age at the time who would travel and then spend a few years overseas and come back. And we did travel later on with the kids … with three of them, which was a really good thing to do – spent nine months away.
You mentioned that you were doing some tramping now, where do you ..?
Oh, unlimited opportunities – mainly in the South Island.
Vivien: About to go to India.
Ed: Yeah – about to go to India, just a couple of weeks in June, up to … with a small group that’s going up … top of the Ganges.
There’s so much out there – all it takes is a bit of effort, doesn’t it?
Yeah. And Mum and Dad used to do tramping when they were young. They used to also bike – you know, like long distance bike things – just on a standard single gear bike. Bike to Auckland and …
Just hopped on the bike and off we went.
Vivien: Mum walked to Waimarama with me and Ian. I was probably about twelve, so you’d have been about eight or something.
Did you have the house built at that stage?
No, no, no – this is when we were kids.
That’s a fair walk.
Probably shingle road too.
Okay, well I think probably we’ve got a picture unless you can think of something, Ed, that you haven’t told me.
Ed: No. I mean I think the main thing was really just living in that rural environment which was pretty …
Ed: Idyllic, yeah.
Vivien: Except for never going on holidays in summer.
Ed: ‘Cause the river was … I mean there’s all the issues now with the water in the river, but the river was beautiful then, and so every day after school in the summer you’d just go swimming down the river.
The other think I think, it was just … being on an orchard was really nice just for the exposure to all the fruit, wasn’t it? I mean … ‘cause I’m still, even though I’ve had nothing to do with orcharding forever, you know – forty years – I’m still kind of interested, and I was just saying I ate a Golden Queen the other day. My son’s got a tree down in Nelson, and it just brought right back that whole … took you right back to when you were a kid biting into a Golden Queen.
Vivien: Mind you, we mainly ate the seconds. [Chuckle]
But you know, those are the special memories.
Vivien: Down the back of our house there was a gully which we called Muddy Gutter – we used to play down there quite a lot. Do you remember that amazing treehouse? You and Ann made …
Ed: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
Vivien: You could sleep in it.
Ed: Yeah, yeah … all that sort of stuff.
Did Sandy Lowe build the boat when you were there?
And the first one caught fire?
Vivien: That’s where we live now.
Okay, well look I think that’s probably …
Ed: Jackie and Leigh …
Vivien: Leigh was there.
Ed: ‘Cause they were…
Vivien: Well they had different experiences.
Ed: Different experiences, ‘cause they were into swimming and you know …
Vivien: Mum and Dad were a little bit richer then too. I can remember like … they were pretty poor when I was a kid. Even ice-cream was an incredible treat.
Everyone was the same.
Ed: Yeah. I mean, without a doubt the whole equality thing was more so, exactly, than it is now.
Okay, well I’ll leave it at that, and thank you, Ed.
And Vivien, for giving us the opportunity to complete the interview.
Original digital file
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
- Russell Edwin Kiddle
- Vivien Kiddle
Interviewer: Frank Cooper
Supporters and sponsors
We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.