William (Bill) Arthur Elms Interview

Today is the 24 November, 2014. I’m interviewing the life and times of Bill Elms and his family. Now Bill if you would like to now start off by giving us some details about your family, namely the statistics for a start.

Okay, thanks for that. My father came to New Zealand in the late 1900s. He met a nice Irish girl. He was working on the boat when she was travelling out. However, he had to go back to England to sign off his job on the boat, and came back to New Zealand and she was here. Some of her other family members were also in New Zealand so that’s how they were.

They carried on and they got married in Hastings. I don’t know the date but it would be somewhere in the late … nearly 1920 but it mightn’t be that late. However, they had three boys. My eldest brother was Les, the next one John and I was an afterthought apparently being Bill. I believe when Dad first came to New Zealand he worked on several places onshore, and he got a job working for the builders of the Hastings Municipal Theatre and they worked quite a long time on that job. He then worked for a grain and seed store. Times were getting a bit difficult and he was put out of a job. One of his wife’s sisters and her husband had a farm in Crownthorpe area and they suggested that he buy a truck and they would help by getting other farmers in the area to give them work carting their material.

About 1926 he made enquiries about purchasing a vehicle and a chap named Frank Fraser organised for him to get an International. He had to go to Palmerston North to get it and the truck was an S24. All it was, the engine and the chassis with no cab or no deck so a box was set up, he put on his wet weather clothing and drove it to Hastings. Some experience I was told. However a cab and a deck was fixed in Hastings.

He got some work as well as carting for the farmers, i.e. superphosphate from the railway wagons and other requirements. He also carted wool to Napier in bales he was kept reasonably busy. Then the earthquake struck in 1931 and he was then involved with the cleaning up of the mess in Hastings.

Life carried on and he was kept fairly busy – also he was carting fruit etc. One of the bakers at that time had him carting the flour from the railway to his shop. What a job. Very big bags.

He was living in Jervois Street at this time and he and his wife decided to buy a property in Orchard Road of some 5 acres. This was in November 1931. It was certainly a different life for us boys, Les, John and Bill. The carrying was going quite well but he thought he would like a bigger truck with a tipping deck. A Bedford truck was purchased so the work became more varied. The truck was a bigger capacity. Also us boys could help more.

Odlin’s Timber Merchants started up a mill just up the road from our place in Orchard Road and asked if he could be involved in carting timber etc. About this time also our Dad got the job of carting the coal from the railway yards to the Hastings Hospital. Sometimes we were able to help loading the truck. Not an easy job.

However, as time went on and he asked if one of us would carry on doing the work as my two elder brothers were doing their jobs and could not leave. So it was left to Billy Muggins here as I had finished my job in engineering serving my trade and working for another firm, so in 1949 I started driving full-time, and shovelling coal was not my best idea I can tell you.

There were a few others at that time doing this type of work. One of them said it would be great if we had a machine and he said I have a clam shell grab but have nothing to operate it. I said we could build something and he said you can have the grab if you get a machine to work it. After talking to some of my mates it was decided that I have a go at it so away I went with some help and built a machine to do the job.

I might tell you here I took it up to the railway yard and one the railway bosses came out and said what are you going to do with that. I said I’m going to load the coal. “Oh no, we don’t want you to do that, you’ll damage our wagons.” So I said to him “But I believe you charge us demurrage if the wagons aren’t emptied in 8 hours”. “That’s right” he said. “Well” I says “with six or seven wagons, I’m afraid we can’t shovel that much in a day.” So he says “alright”. So that’s how it was left. The machine was parked in the railway yard and we carried on. So I decided that I had got this machine and away I went. Built the machine and the job was finished.

The collier at the Hastings Gas Works came and asked if I would unload their coal. My brother John said perhaps we should buy Dad out at this time so we did and the firm then was called L E Elms & Sons Ltd, so we went on and our business increased with our brother Les working with us. More staff were employed and work increased. I was making a lot of things required, more vehicles required.

We started working with Propac Carting. Propac was a place that was harvesting peas at that time. We had to pick them out of the paddocks and the vines and all and cart them to their factory in Coventry Road so this meant building truck sides to go on the trucks and having high sides and high repair rear gate all things having to be made.

Around about this time the United Empire Box Company also started and we were carting material to them from the rail. So you can see we were busy. The United Empire Box Company was making cardboard containers and asked us to work for them. The board came by rail in flat sheets, big bundles, so we carted those to their factory in Omahu Road where they cut out the sheets to make the carton. It was a large quantity of scraps cardboard so it was decided to get a hay baler and adapt it to bale up these scraps. So we made this up and supplied our Ferguson tractor to drive the baler. When there were sufficient bales we carted them to the railway yard and they went off to the waste paper place up Tauranga way. Later they got their own machine to make the cardboard so we then delivered bundles to various places. So instead of carting sheets of board from the railway it was large rolls of thick paper from the rail to the factory. So we had to carry on that way. So more trucks were required, also more drivers working shift work. We were carting quite a lot of metal also at this time so you see we were kept fairly busy.

It was decided that we should get another crane so we bought a 10RB that could be truck mounted. So quite a lot of time was required to get it done making gibs etc. and a driver was required for this machine. We were working quite a lot for Percy & Henderson at that time and they were steel fabricators, so gear was required to cart these long loads so we decided to make a jinker and after a while it was decided that we would make a mobile jinker. That was because the Traffic Department didn’t like us having the jinker tied to the load and that’s all. So the mobile jinker was made and we used a 5 ton S Bedford truck for that. It had to be shortened down to an 8ft wheel base, make all the different material over the top and the load was over the tops on steel frame above where the driver was sitting.

So then we went on to cart pre-cast concrete bridge beams. All over the East Coast there were a lot of bridge replacements and we were carting them to all sorts of places up the East Coast.

We were asked to try and make a trailer to cart houses. We did build one with a lot of hard work. It worked for a while but we decided it wasn’t really our cup o’ tea so we gave that away.

Then Romanes & Son started in Hastings. We were involved with a lot of their work with our loaders and diggers and then started on the pre-cast concrete. They asked if we could build trucks and trailers for carting these items more and more. The trailers had to carry concrete slabs on their side. What a job building these units. We also needed more mobile jinkers for long loads so we built two more larger capacity units.

Over the years we have had a few 4-wheel drive [?] steer loaders which created a lot of work and are used continuously doing all sorts of jobs. We also bought a 10RB track machine. It was used quite a lot for drainage, dam building and also metal digging and the truck mounted RB did a lot of work – crane jobs – keeping the driver going working for a lot of jobs in the district. So you see it was fairly busy.

And then in the later years, about 1980, Quinphos, a firm that made fertiliser, asked if we would work for them at a place in Orchard Road. There was quite a big shed which originally was part of the cardboard factory place and that is where the products were to be stored. They wanted us to build a mixing plant and a lot of elevators etc. There was a lot of time spent in setting up this place and energy was also required. The front-end loader was fitted with a unit so that it could weigh the different ingredients to be mixed which was a full time job for one of our staff.

Over the years there has been quite a turnover of vehicles and the workshop has made lots of alterations to vehicle bodies, making decks and sides, so our workshop had quite a variety of tools to handle this type of work. Most of our trailers have been modified in our workshop so there was never a dull moment.

Just going back. When you were talking about clam shell which you converted for coal, what was that mounted on.

I had to make a chassis. I might have a picture of that.

That’s okay. The driver who used to drive the drag line, he came out and did some drag lining for us. It was Doug Perry. He lived in that machine didn’t he?

No, he didn’t do a lot on this one. It was another chap worked for us, Ray Perry. Ray Perry used to work for Napier-Wellington Transport. In those days they carted to Wellington over night, they had to come back, because only special vehicles could do that job because the law said that the ordinary trucks couldn’t travel more than 35 miles parallel to the railway. But they had a permit to carry on. Now he got tired of driving on that so he came and said he wouldn’t mind unloading the coal at the railway. So he learnt to drive it and away he went so he spent most of his time driving that machine. He did a lot of work in those days.

Websters Limeworks used quite a bit of coal at that time and they bought themselves a Guy truck, put a big deck on it and he could put the whole wagon, 10 ton of coal, on his truck. And then the other firms, Barry Bros. were coal merchants, Donovan’s were coal merchants and as I said we were doing the Gas Works so this machine was kept busy quite a bit. The chassis was altered a couple of times. Eventually it went on to a Guy chassis six-wheeler and then we were using it to shift a few of these mobile homes that we were transporting.

Was that a sort of an ex-army truck?

It was a truck, a six wheeler mover thing, and there was the Bedford truck.

Just seeing the Bedford trucks when I came the other day I mentioned the first time I met you and John was carting pea vines for Jim Reid. Back in the dark ages. That was in the ’50s.

That’s about when this other firm started I talked about, Fropac. Jim Reid – he had property down Southland Road.

And as I said Lindsay Wilson who used to work with you – his little truck – well it was the same size as your trucks wasn’t it? So everything starts with a small… when you talk about Fropacs and the elevators to put the peas up on the trucks and did you cart the waste away, the silage too?

Yes we did purchase a bigger truck. It was an S Bedford. Actually I think we bought it with deck and sides already on it. It came from Turangi and my elder brother Les was driving that and he used to as the stuff was processed in Coventry Road where the factory was, there was another fellow had a truck also but not as big as that, so as soon as Les got his load, away he went. He tells us one time he was carting some of this waste material which was mainly like silo and he was out the back of Taradale and the fellow was with him driving across the farm and there was a little bridge across one of these farm drains and as he went over he could hear going bang, bang, bang and he said “What’s that noise?” Les said “That’s the planks of the deck of the bridge breaking as I run over them”, so they had to find another way to get the truck out. In those days of course there wasn’t the loading restrictions like there is today. That was good.

You mentioned carting fruit.

Oh we did a lot of that.

That was before they had forklifts.

Yes that’s right. Fruit used to go to the Apple & Pear Board which was in King Street down near Wattie’s Canneries. We used to cart it in there and used to back in there and unload it by hand. There were no forklifts in the orchards in those days.

That’s right. Just one carton at a time.

They were wooden boxes.

One thing that always stuck out – I always noticed, and that was how long your staff stayed with you. The same drivers.

We did employ one or two during the pea season. A couple of blokes that were school teachers. Had nothing else to do so they would come in, we were working long hours, nearly 20 hours a day so we had to have shift and that’s how they were able to work in that way and give us all a bit of a spell at times. These pre-cut builders were making these farm buildings.

So often when one of your trucks comes towards me today I look up – is that Jock driving it or ..?

Jock’s still there but then it’s my son and his son who are the two drivers. Allan doesn’t do any heavy driving. He does a lot of maintenance now. I do go and do a bit. The other day I had to go round and he wanted some welding done so I did all that.

The other thing I used to notice because we used to employ you people with your Ellis loaders for moving stuff off drain sides and levelling. Those drivers could make it. It was as if the bucket was their hand.

Yes, this is right. Actually we did have a couple of blokes, well John Pollock is still with us, but there was another chap, I forget his name …

The Waitanui man, the long-haired man.

It would be in the late fifties because he worked at the orchard next door to us and then when the Government took the land away, our land and all that to build Government houses, and the place where he was working he didn’t have a job and I said we’ll find you some work so he was driving the loader. He lived in Maraekakaho Road. I went to school with him actually.

So you backed on to the old Lowe property did you?

Sunnybank. Nearly – no not quite where we were. We actually bought the land where, 5 acres, and then there was another lot, 8 acres, beside it we bought that. We had that for a while because my elder brother Les was living there for a while. And then the Government sent a note to say that they were going to buy all our land at such and such a figure and that’s it. Anyhow, we managed to talk them into letting us have an acre to carry on our carrying business because we had the shed on the property. That’s how it was. The intermediate school is still there. The loader driver that came to us was Grenville Walker.

He was well known by his flowing locks.

Funny, he had one eye. He was very good. We often used to make a bit of a laugh about it. It turns out he lost his eye when he was a little boy and he was looking through a wooden fence where there was a hole and some bloke on the other side stuck a stick through and it went into his eye. And that’s how he lost his eye. But he was a good worker.

Coming back … how many children have you got?

A boy and a girl. Robbie who’s running it now. My daughter actually works for Farmlands. She’s still there but, who knows, now Farmlands has been taken over by co-op. She’s gone down to Christchurch today to have a talk with them about some work but she’s not going to shift out of here.

So your brother John who died …

John died about 4 years ago and my other brother Les died before that, so I’m the last one of that generation.

Now the other driver is your son’s son?

Yes, my grandson. Robbie is my son and Richard is his son and he’s got another son Mark who’s in the office. And the daughter goes round looking after little children.

It’s just interesting looking back on your life Bill. You did your engineering at Tomoana and to come and start building trucks and decks and these jinkers. Did you do all of those because it’s not easy ..?

I did see a picture of a couple or I had seen one a bit closer. It was only about two in the North Island. One was in Dannevirke and there was one made in Auckland. The one they made in Auckland, what they had done is turned everything round and it sort of went backwards all the time. The cab was behind the driving axle and I said what a useless vehicle that would be because it wouldn’t be able to go fast because when you steer a rear wheel steering thing it wobbles. So I said no not going to do that so that’s how we built all our front axle steering.

And so you would probably be the oldest family carrying company still in operation in Hawke’s Bay. There’s nobody else now. They’ve all gone. [Shows some photos] So Jim Elms – was that your son?

Robbie. They got that wrong. That’s me, it should have been Bill. I’m not sure who was in the front at that stage but that was one of the trucks we’d modified and made it a six-wheeler. And we took a Lord of the Rings place in Wellington. It was made at Red Steel I think in Napier. It was actually at that stage John’s brother-in-law was working in the Hutt and he was involved with the Police Department. Wasn’t a policeman but anyhow I rang him prior to us going and I said “What are you doing this afternoon?” He said “Why?” “I said well we’re coming over the Rimutakas with a big long load going to the Hutt with these beams and wouldn’t mind somebody to show us how to get there.” He said “I’ll be there” so we came over the Rimutakas towards Wellington and there was a lady out on the road doing the can-can and that was his wife.

Did you have to have a special licence?

No just a Heavy Traffic licence.

And did it take you long to get used to driving?

Well you learnt – you soon learned things.

So how did you co-ordinate between the truck ..?

Oh, we had inside mobile phones.

So you changed gear at the same time…

Not necessarily. The one in the front would say we’re going here, or going up a hill, I’m following somebody and you just knew. No you didn’t have to tell them to change gear. They did that automatically.

One of the little things that happened years ago, we were carting bridge beams up to the East Coast, away up north, and we came over the hills just north of Wairoa and you get a view of the sea. One of the blokes said “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside”. A couple of minutes later a lady’s voice comes over the walkie-talkie. “Oh, got some visitors up this way. Call in and have a cup of tea.” It turned out to be the Tokomaru Bay taxi. So anyway we called in. There were two lots of us. A couple of times later we came back and before we even got anywhere near it would be road silence from here on. And we passed this taxi driver’s place and she said “Have a good trip boys”.

In spite of being a very busy man you also had some leisure activities that you obviously took part in to give you some balance in life.

I joined the Orphans’ Club.

Would you like to tell me something about that. When you joined?

Well years ago we used to go to different places, quite often on a Friday all the boys would come from the yard and we’d stop at Stortford Lodge to have a drink, and then on a Saturday this Bob Hildred fellow that I was talking about said, you want to go out to the T & V winery. Didn’t think too good about that but anyhow we went out once and found out that there were swings and slides for the children and that was Robert and my daughter.

So we went out there. We were having a drink of wine and that and a fellow that I knew at that time had worked when I was at Tomoana. He came and said to me “I’ve got to go now.” And my late wife said “Where are you going?” He said “We’re doing some entertaining.” She said “What are you talking about?” and he said he was in the Orphans’ Club and they were going to entertain. Percy Lee was his name.

Yes I knew Percy. Percy the sawmiller.

Pointing to me she said “Could he join?” “Yes,” he said, “be at the Trades Hall at half past seven next Tuesday” so that would be about 1959. So I joined the following year and I’ve been in it ever since. It was a great life, the Orphans’ Club.

Well Percy Lee, when I was working at Tomoana Percy Lee was a carpenter’s labourer and he used to, in his spare time, cut firewood and of course we were carting the wood. Even on the weekends when I was there I’d still got the truck and then he said that the bloke out on the Tukituki wanted to know he had quite a lot of pine trees that he’d given him for firewood and this Percy looked at him and said I think they’re too good for firewood. These would be better made into logs and made timber. So out at the Tukituki he set up a mill and we were carting the timber from that mill to town and I think he sold a lot to Tomoana Freezing Works.

Were you a musical person?  Were you a singer?

No, not really. I was just in those days I used to do what they called sketches and I was in those a good bit. There were a few others. There was a fellow called Roy Peacock who used to organise and a few others and there used to be a few of us all got together and we’d do little jokes and things like that. I forget when it was.

A fellow formed a ukulele band in our club and they were playing at one of those functions they used to have at the Showgrounds and we were listening to it and after it I said “You’d be better if you had somebody playing a base to give it the beat” and he said to me “Yeah right, you’ve got a job”, and in those times the Orphans’ Club, they’ve still got a T chest with one string on it, so I got into that. That’s how I learnt to play those sort of things.

They’re very effective aren’t they?

We did that, actually I built one for myself too. And then this same chap who started the ukulele band decided to have a club orchestra as well. So we started the orchestra and I was there with this base player and he said to me “You’d be better to get a base guitar.” I said “What!” So I went to King’s [Kingdom] Music and bought a base guitar and between him and myself learnt to play it, get the notes right and away we went and I had that for years. A couple of years ago … I’ll give it away. I gave them everything the amplifier and the guitar, that’s all at the Club.

So you’ve obviously had a lot of pleasure …

Oh, out of the Club, yes. I was talked into doing lots of things going all over New Zealand. About 1960 something we had done a few Clubs and Wellington Orphans’ Club were organising to raid the Sydney Club and they had said “Anybody would like to go” so in the end there were about six of us from Hastings went with them; and in those days when you were travelling on the aeroplane all your duty free grog or anything, you picked it up before you went so here we were – there were about 30 or 40 going and we were all walking out of the aeroplane carrying bags. We went to Sydney and that was really a great trip. We were up where all the naughty girls are in Sydney. Karangahape Road. [Kings Cross?]

The Manhattan was the name of the accommodation place we had. One of the ladies who used to be a waitress there – I noticed she smoked a bit. My late wife was there and I said to her “We brought a carton of cigarettes” and she said “Yes” and I said “Well bring them round and give them to her” I said “We don’t want them”. So we gave them to her and from then on we didn’t have to worry. As soon as you walked in the meal was put in front of you.

The Orphans’ Club. They’re not orphans are they?

No. Actually it originated with the Savage Club. Apparently in England around 1857 I think it was there was a crowd of learned gentlemen who used to have offices in London and at lunch time they would go down into town and go to one of these places like a Club, have their lunch and have a few grogs obviously and then it grew to such an extent that they wanted to know what they should call themselves. Apparently all sorts of funny names came up and there was one chap whose name was Savage. Somebody else got up and said “You’re acting like a pack of savages why don’t we call ourselves the Savage Club?” so they did. And then they closed their membership, as they had enough, so all these other blokes that were shut out decided that they would carry on and seeing they were shut out we’ll call ourselves the Orphans. And that’s how it was and that would be a way back.

And since you’ve ceased to be on stage do you still go?

Oh yes. The first club in New Zealand started in Invercargill and that was called an Orphans’ Club although the Savage Club name was more often.

We went to Sydney and had organised quite a lot of trips, Blue Mountains, Cable Car rides and it was very good and one of our members who went with us Doug Hayward, the plumber, he had a brother in Melbourne so there were six of us decided he wanted to go to Melbourne to see him so four of us all put together and we all went down to Melbourne to see Doug’s brother, Stewart I think was his name and then we flew in about a week later from Melbourne back to Wellington.

When I joined, lots of Clubs started all over New Zealand from up north of Auckland to Invercargill. A lot of Savage Clubs and not very many Orphans and a lot of Savage Clubs and Hastings had an Orphans’ Club and I got talked into joining that as I said and then in those days they were leasing places and they had lots of different halls, St John’s Ambulance Hall and different ones around town. You could only get them when they were available, and once or twice we’d use the Assembly Hall but that wasn’t very handy when you had to carry a grand piano up the steps. So one or two of them got together and said why don’t we build our own hall.

1960 I joined the Orphans in Hastings and in 1964 they decided they were looking at different properties. Eventually they had bought a property at Stortford Lodge and it had an old house on it, on Heretaunga Street and they decided that perhaps we could build a hall there. So muggins had got himself on to the committee, and it was his job to find out and I went to the Council and asked if we could build a hall on this property in Heretaunga Street. Yes, if you build it 2-storey and put the hall upstairs and have offices underneath. We said no that’s not on. So we decided to look around and that is now where the bank is just round the corner. We bought this property on the corner of Albert Street and Miller Street. It was an old little tin shed cottage, bit like a barber’s shop, so we bought that and cleared the site. Of course Elms had all the gear with his front-end loaders and trucks to cart dirt away. We sold the dirt, put shingle back in its place which we donated to the Orphans’ Club. We had a couple of jokers do some plans for a hall and one of them was Davies. He was in our Club but he was that type of architect/engineer. Davies Philips & Chapman. He came up with a plan that none of them liked so I mentioned this to old Harry Romanes who said I’ll draw you a plan if you use our gear. So he drew the plan, all precast concrete walls you see. All made in his factory out Coventry Road. So we carted all those in the 10RV and put them all up.

Harry was a great guy. There’s been a lot of very generous people in Hastings.

That’s right. Tell you what, we wanted to add a bit on to the hall because when we built it, it nearly covered the whole section. We had nowhere to store a lot of our gear. We had room to put a piece on the back so I went to the Council and asked them about it. Oh no, not really very fussed on that. He said there was a house on the property. We had a bit of a think. I said what’s the trouble. We think you should have some off street parking. And I said it’s only going to be for storage but he said doesn’t matter, we think you should have parking.

Then we found that the section on the other side was available which put us in the muck a bit as far as finance was concerned so we bought that and were able to go ahead and put the piece on the back of the hall. We still have the house at the back of the hall at the end in Miller Street which is bringing us in a good rent. Got a small section but we still have to maintain that.

But the one on the side on Albert Street is just metal yard but they had told us they wanted it to tarseal it. Rowan McNab was the engineer bloke. He came and said you haven’t sealed that yard. I said No, when you get the neighbours fence regulation height, which is 2 metres instead of about 4. That was the mongrel mob. So I’ve heard nothing since.

Was it old Doug Hayward or young Doug Hayward?

Old Doug. His wife’s name was Joyce. 

I always remember old Doug. He used to come to our farm. My father used to drink with him in the Carlton Club. All sorts of places. Anyway whenever we went to Taupo he always wanted some eels and we’d catch some eels and he’d bring trout back but the trout had holes in them which looked like they had been speared.

His nickname in our Club was Plumbob. He talked with a plum in his mouth.

Yes, and he got worse when he’d had a few drinks. That’s fascinating. So you’ve been a member since the ’60s.

They got me on to the committee about 2 years later and I went from there all through the Chair the club, Chief woofer.

I’m on the Dominion Organisation and that’s what they call kindred clubs. I was on that for a few years. I was Dominion President then and you had to visit every Club in New Zealand in the two years you were President and that took a lot of travelling from Invercargill to Orewa in the north. I think there were 55 Clubs so my wife and I were able to do that over the two years. Actually what I did I went and bought a… I did have a big Chrysler and I went and bought a little Chevette and it was a lot more economical to run. So we used that.

After I’d finished doing that I came back to Hastings, it was about 1975/6. Our own Club was having problems to get a secretary so I was there and nobody would stand and I said I’ll tell you what I’ll do it until you get someone else. Well I was secretary for 20 years. But there was a remit that came that ladies could join. Funny, we weren’t very fussed on that either. When I was President we went to Christchurch with a fellow from Orewa and his wife. Apparently Christchurch at that time had a ladies’ club so they said the ladies can go to that and the men go to the men’s. When we came home my wife said why don’t we do that in Hastings so that was organised and we formed a ladies’ club and we called it them the Pani Club that was the wives of orphans.

And does that still exist?

Yes, but it’s just about… However, there was a remit came up in the kindred clubs about the ladies joining. There were three clubs in New Zealand who said no. We were one club, Blenheim and Hokitika, those three clubs are still men only and all the others have let ladies in but all the clubs in New Zealand joined together in 1926 and called themselves kindred clubs so they’re still run by the one body of men there but now that there’s ladies in it. Funny when they were talking about it there was a lady from the Taradale club came to me and she said don’t let the ladies join, they’ll bugger it. That was her words. Well now, as I said, there used to be 52 clubs but now there’s about 22 in New Zealand and men were drifting away.

So you’ve never played bowls or golf or anything like that?

A wee bit of bowls, not much. When my daughter was working at Morrison’s Motor Mowers when they were out at Fernhill [Omahu?] Road and there were 2 or 3 of them there who were very keen on ten-pin bowling. They got quite a big lot of money from Morrison’s – redundancy money – so they put it together and put in that bowling place, it’s still there. They got some other shareholders too. And I went and played there for a while, even bought my own ball, ‘cos ten pin bowling – it’s a big ball, you put your thumb in it. But at that time I was in the Orphans and didn’t have time.

Well, it’s interesting Bill. Over the years I got to know John, I got to know all the drivers but I only ever saw you the odd time and now I know why, because you were in the workshop and of course we never came into the workshop, it was always on the phone. I noticed you had an S Bedford on the front of that. Did that just have a 300 motor in or did you re-power that?

No, it was just a Bedford motor. But that tandem is the back end of the Ford Thornton. We wanted the extra action to carry the load.

I used to have a 1951 Bedford S. Actually it used to be Wattie’s truck. It was one they used to have up on the Gisborne to Hastings run. It had a big steel deck, tip hoist on it but it only had mechanical brakes and I used to cart tiles for draining our swamps and that from Wairoa, and coming back down the Wairoa Road with this old lady with these brakes. It was fine as long as you treated them right.

See, there’s actually the Waipawa Railway Bridge. [Showing a photo]. Those beams were made up in Hamilton. They came by rail to Waipukurau unloaded them and there’s our crane putting one in, Fraser’s at the other end. He carted those beams. He had two of these Guy trucks that he bought and he had one going forward and one going backwards. Of course he was only going from Waipukurau to Waipawa and down on the river bed.

Then we had the old S Bedford with the tandem back.

As I said my son did his time at Tomoana as an engineer. You had to leave there when you finished your apprenticeship. But he said he’s worked all over the world and he said he had the most wonderful training there.

See I was there during the war. Luckily there were a couple of blokes man powered to Tomoana and one was motor bike shop in town, Merton, and there was another fellow from Wellington, Fred Miles and he worked for the Austin people in Wellington. This is the Ten RB building over the road from the Tribune.

Oh yes that’s right. Was that a standard mast for…

No I built all that. There’s 40 feet of gib there. Well there were no other cranes in Hastings in those days.

No that’s right.

Basil Jordan. His father used to have an engineering works. Bullivant’s used to have a glass place on the corner of St Aubyn Street. He was next door.

One of my friends did his time for Basil.

Basil’s still there. You take the book and take what you want.

I’ll just make a note of what I’ve got.

Original digital file

ElmsW869_Final_Jul16.ogg

Format of the original

Audio recording

Additional information

Interviewer : Frank Cooper

Accession number

869/37470

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