Valerie (Val) Hazel Corby Interview
Today is the 9th March 2016. I’m interviewing Val Corby of Alexandra Street [Hastings] on the life and times of her family. Val would you like to tell us about your family history starting as far back and we’ll just build on it as we go.
We lived in Upper Hutt and I remember my mother saying that we had to leave the home we were in and she was going to leave my father and go away and work on a station in the country as a housekeeper/cook. So I can remember arriving at that Woodbank Station at Herbertville and meeting Miss Speedy who was the owner of the Woodbank Station, and learning to play around the big house and a huge big garden and have animals of my own to pet and things like that. I was there until I was 5 and my mother had gone to Women’s Division down there and got to know several ladies and she knew a Mrs Beamsley that lived next door to the school in Herbertville. And they arranged that I stay at Mrs Beamsley’s and go to school next door because I had turned 5. I had good friends with the Beamsley family and stayed there until I was about 7 and then she decided that she was going to come into town to live.
Just before you come into town, Herbertville would have been a very quiet little village in those days. Were there any shops?
There was a Herbertville store that Mr Prebble had and there was a hotel but I didn’t take a lot of notice of those things at that age.
Yes, it’s an area that we never heard much about in Hastings. In fact I interviewed a man by the name of Morley, the Morley family, and the Hales of Herbertville and Flemington. I had no idea that these little settlements were there. So then your mother decided to come into Hastings.
Yes, she came into Hastings and she got a position at Harold Russell’s, Flaxmere which was named Flaxmere, the big house and she worked for the two Miss Russells I think … not too sure about that. And then I went to Twyford School for a short time and then she gave up that position and got a position at the Windsor Hotel as a cook and had facilities out the back to live in.
And in fact I saw a photo of that yesterday – because it’s been well and truly gone. The Windsor Private Hotel.
Yes, Alva, Mrs Lean, had that. And so then I went to Central School and stayed there until I was old enough to go to the High School which was all … both girls and boys then. Then I left High School at 15, and by that time my mother had decided to get married again and she married Arthur Oldfield who had an orchard and also a small farmlet across the road from the orchard and it had a house on it so we went to live there.
Did you play any sports when you were at school?
No not really. Nothing outstanding. My first job was at Mr Lynch’s, that had the grocer’s shop at Stortford Lodge. His son used to help him but had gone to the war, so I started there, weighing up all the produce. I was there for … I don’t know how long – about 18 months I think and then my mother said I had to give up work and come home because the small farmlet that they had she had to milk cows, and my stepfather contacted [contracted] cancer. He was home very sick and they had … I also by then had a step sister, so I had to stay home and help her with the baby and everything else. And he didn’t live for very long.
Then I had to look for another job so I went to Royston Hospital and lived in there and started off as a nurse, and carried on there. And then Dr Costello – was a radiologist at the next part of Royston Hospital, so he gave me a job there and I worked there until I got married.
Did you finish your training as a nurse?
No I didn’t. No, no, I only … not a practise nurse. And of course I married one of the Corby boys who had already been working for my stepfather in the orchard before he went away to the war, and then he came back and started working for my mother. And my stepfather had just died about a week before he arrived back in New Zealand after the war. And I left Dr Costello’s when I got married and went to work in the orchard with my husband to help my mother.
Then eventually when the orchard was sold, we had built a house in town in Woodstock Avenue, and we were there for a good many years. My mother had sold the orchard – well, they got trustees that sold the orchard. And she lived in Konini Street. Then eventually as the years went by we sold the house in Woodstock Avenue and bought this unit here in 1978.
Which end of Woodstock Avenue were you in?
The Kenilworth Road end.
Oh yes, so you were very close to Cyril Woodham?
Cyril Woodham yes. We bought a section there and Cyril Woodham and Jim Woodham and lots of people bought the sections and we all built at the same time and all had our families.
Yes – ’cause Fred and Dawn Welsh were there.
Dawn Welsh is still there and she would be about the only one who is still in that street. The rest have either died or moved out.
The Welsh’s – I knew Fred and Dawn very well. She was a bit grumpy at times – Dawn – but Fred was nice, he was a gentleman.
He was a lovely fellow. No, she’s still battling on there.
When you moved from there to here – really you’d retired at that stage?
No. While I was there … after my daughter left school and was working – she works in the Bank of New Zealand – I started work again, and I worked for Mrs Thayle in the bookshop. And after that I went to work in the dairy over here in Beattie and Sussex Street, in that area anyway – probably – the corner, I think it is. Anyway I went to work there for a while and finished work there and I think I went to work in McKenzie’s.
That’s an old name now – McKenzies.
And I wasn’t very long in McKenzie’s when they opened the supermarket and then I worked on the checkouts for a while and then I got a job up in the office. So I was in the office for quite a few years and then I decided that I would like something different and they were advertising for a records clerk at the Police Station so I applied for that and got it. And worked my next 13 years at the Police Station in records.
Was Bob Adams there when you were there?
Bob Adams employed me.
He’s my cousin.
And my son’s a policeman in Western Australia.
I’m still very friendly with David. I worked there until I was 60 and then I had to leave because they didn’t employ …
Yes, that’s right.
… in those days. So that was the end of my stint at the Police Station, but they were lovely … lovely time. ‘Cause they were just taking on civilians. The only civilians they had before that were shorthand typists and they were taking on civilians to do other jobs and using the Police for other more important things. So Dudley Motley had to move out of his office and I got his job.
Yes, I always remember Bob Adams. He gave the appearance of a very stern man but he was a very warm giving person.
He was wonderful.
Isn’t it a small world though?
Is your daughter still ..?
My daughter’s still Bank of New Zealand, and she’s just getting to the stage in another couple of months and she’ll be retiring.
What’s her married name?
Her name is Sellwood – Sandra Sellwood. The Sellwoods were racehorse trainers.
Now that’s interesting … I met a chap Sellwood yesterday at … Brian McFlynn. He was a jockey in Hastings – he’s been living in Matamata for 15 years. He’s just come home. Would he be related do you think?
Don’t think he’d be related but he’d be a great friend, because all those …
He was a Sellwood though.
Oh, what was his name?
Don’t know. He was a jockey. He’d been a jockey and then he’s just come back from Matamata after 15 years up there with his wife.
There’s a Tom, and his wife used to have a little habby shop in Hastings before they went up there. And they are building near the racecourse.
Yes that’s him. It’s funny. I just happened to hear the name Sellwood and because my father used to follow the horses I got used to some of the jockey’s names and the trainers and all those sorts of things. And then of course going to Brian McFlynn, his father was a farrier opposite the racecourse.
Talking about McFlynn’s. There was a McFlynn that was a barber in town.
That’s him. He’s still cutting hair. He’s got clients. I’ve been having my hair cut for over 50 years with him. He’s got clients that have been there for 60 odd years and he’s still going strong. Yes, that’s Brian.
There were quite a few boys in the Sellwood family and they were all interested in horses.
Is your daughter interested in horses too?
Not a great deal, no – Kevin, her husband, was the youngest one and he didn’t do anything with horses when he left school. He went to work at Farm Products and was there until they sold out to Kiwi and the staff had to find jobs and then he went to Te Mata Vineyards which wasn’t far – they lived out in Havelock – wasn’t far from where they lived. He’s worked there until … he’s just retired. They had two children, a boy and a girl – I only had the one daughter. And the girl went to Varsity eventually and she is a doctor and specialises in sports medicine. She’s in Canberra married to a lawyer. The other one was a boy of course, and he went to Melbourne and trained in computer … IT is it? That’s for short …
The IT industry.
That was you know, all the go after he’d done his OE, and came back and trained in that and he’s been there ever since and he’s with … the big German chemical factory that supplies medicine to all the chemists’ shops.
Did you go to school at Twyford?
Yes, for a little while.
Yes, so what was it like at … the school like at Twyford in those days … it must have been a pretty small country school.
It was a small country school. I wasn’t there long enough to really … and I was too young to make friends with people. But it was so different and we had to walk through the paddocks to get there.
And of course in those days it wasn’t built up. There were paddocks all around you, and open spaces, and you really were living in the country and yet you were on the edge of the city, but you were still in the country.
Just going back to the orchard days, when you came home to help on the orchard it was not easy work was it? It was dusty, it was a long day because you picked during the day and then packed the fruit at night. And I know looking at orchard sprayers those days, the man was out the back with a hose and a gun, and either walking behind or standing up, spraying the trees – and everything had a lot of effort, didn’t it?
And lugging ladders up and down the orchard and up and down the ladders.
Some of the ladders were very big because we didn’t prune the trees low, they were just let to go.
Huge, yes. And oh … hot sun and always wondering what the time was.
Yes, I know. Well, every moment I had on my weekends my friends … we were dairy farmers in Havelock … and all my friends were orchardists’ son, and so if we wanted to do something I used to have to go and help in the orchard so they could get some time off. I was paid of course but I used to go up and down these ladders for a few plums and it was always dusty, it was hot, it was …
Horrible – yes.
And then at night you’d go down to the packing shed and I had the job of lifting the fruit up into the hopper and then standing along grading it and wrapping it with paper and putting it into boxes.
Yes – had to get it ready for the carriers to come and pick it up in the morning and take it to market.
So is there anything else you can think about just how you felt about growing up in that time?
Well it was an education working at Mr Lynch’s and getting to know the drovers and all the people that lived at Stortford Lodge. You know, the drovers used to come down and hitch the horses to the rails … big troughs just along from Richmond’s cool stores across the road and the Bob Crofts hotel on the other corner and all the old-timers that used to come and sit on the seats outside and talk about the old days and meet up with each other every now and again.
Now, you mention Bob Croft. Did he own the …
He owned the Stortford Lodge, yes.
Did he? Well, that’s amazing.
Before he went to Fernhill.
That’s right – yes, I knew him when he moved to Taupo …
Oh, I see.
… and he took us out fishing a few times. He was rather a nice gentleman too.
Yes – and Mrs Croft was wonderful. A very glamorous person.
Yes. Because Stortford Lodge was like an island those days wasn’t it? Because you only had those shops round where the Lynch’s were.
Yes, yes … that’s right, yes. The Rounds had the Service Station and then Mrs Johnson, I think, had the little store and then Littles had the butchers shop and Johnny Martin had the cycle shop in between. Sawyers had the big building across the road with the furniture and that was just about it.
Yes it was. The roundabout wasn’t there then. It was just a through road. A bit like Havelock except you only had 4 roads.
Yes, and so many people rode bikes, you know and several had horses. But there were a lot of people on bikes – a lot of old fellows used to come in and go over and get their flagons and hang it on the handle bars and bike home.
Of course, 6 o’clock closing – they had to take it home.
Yes, that’s right. A lot of the people who lived at Twyford used to come in and get their groceries, you know, and I met a lot of people who lived in the area.
Because that was the nearest shop to Twyford.
It was, yes. And I couldn’t believe as the years have gone by how there were dwellings only up to … just about a block past the hospital and shingle all the way to Fernhill. There wouldn’t be a spare space now.
No, there isn’t, no. Some of the orchards have been pulled out and that’s the only bare land but the rest of it’s all grapes or buildings or …
Yes – it’s amazing.
It was probably a hard time … probably, but a good time.
Lots of things happened in that, you know … short time to me.
Did you ever play bowls?
Only when I retired I played bowls. I played at Kia Toa.
You don’t play any other sports? You don’t play these card games?
I do yes. I belong to the Women’s section of the RSA and I go and play several games there each week, and I belong to the Garden Club. I belong to 60s Up and we do lots of things there.
Now, the RSA account came out yesterday and what a surprise! Goodness, I didn’t know I had to buy the new place but it’ll probably be …
I think it’ll be the last time it’ll be ever … as high as that.
But it was quite a shock even for them to move it from 30 to 50 and then the building piece on it.
Yes. It’s only hearsay – the problem is that Countdown won’t be paying their money up until they move right out and they’re so far ahead with the Club now that …
They’ve had to find some extra money for it, I know. So who do we go to – the members … but it’s going to be a very busy place …
Oh, it’s going to be wonderful.
… when the three Clubs merge. And I’m a member of the RSA – I’ve got a proper number – I never went to war but … there’s nothing else you can think of?
No I don’t think so.
Well, thank you Val. That gives us another picture of what life was like.
Just another soul.
Well, no it’s not actually, because all of us souls make up a community. We are it, there’s nothing else. So thank you very much.
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper