Wilson, Tony and Teena Interview
It’s 7th December 2021, and I’m with Tony Wilson and Teena, his wife. Tony, I’m looking forward to this talk of yours; you’ve done so much – past city councillor, and well known in the upholstery field as well. So good afternoon.
And I’ll just let you go, and you tell me your life history.
Okay. I am Tony Wilson. I was born on 27th May 1941; and just as a side interest to that, it was the day that they sunk the German battleship ‘Bismark’.
Three years later I was with my older brother in my grandparents’ house, and we were playing in the driveway; a taxi pulled up and a soldier climbed out. It was my dad. And he had walking sticks; he’d obviously suffered an injury to one of his legs; [we] later found out, [he] was shot by an officer with a Luger. And he spent the next couple of nights in a farmhouse basement while the Allies were bombarded by the Germans. They were very lucky that they got out of that situation, and he returned home. So there was just me and my brother at that time – he was about twenty-one months older than me, and we grew up and went to Central School. I left after attending three months at high school, at the age of fifteen, and to seek employment for [with] J A Townsend & Company, Avenue Road, as an apprentice upholsterer; spent three years with Joe and worked hard for him.
But I should go back a wee bit and say that after the first twelve months working there I had a horrific accident in Pakowhai in Hastings, corner of Evenden Road. It was a very severe head on accident; subsequently I ended up surviving that, although my parents don’t know how because they were called up to the hospital to see me for my last rites. I suffered a major problem with the right leg being broken at the thigh, which … when you get a bit older you find that the leg has not grown like the other does and you end up with a shorter leg; also a broken jaw, broken collar bone, severe lacerations … yeah, trauma to the head and a very severely broken right arm which was absolutely shattered. It was put back together, and I was told by the surgeon that I would never start my upholstery again.
But anyway, I must’ve been a determined little bugger ‘cause I went back to work for Joe. One day his son – who he’d taken on as an apprentice – and I had a bit of an altercation. I thought he was a bit of a sissy person anyway. And well, the result was that Joe was coming up the stairs and he heard us having this confrontation, and he accosted me and said, “Don’t you want to work here any more, Wilson?” I said, “No – I’m going to leave.” I did say some rather rude expletives. But the result was that I went to work for Wattie Canneries on the seven nights a week night shift, twelve hours a night. Stayed there for some time actually, and got some very good reports back from the bosses, [who] thought I was very good, what I was doing for them; I made some amendments to some of the areas that I worked in where they were able to delete some staff in some cases from three down to one. But my parents nagged me about my apprenticeship, and I decided, ‘Okay, I’ll carry on – I’ll finish the other two years, but I’m not doing it in Hastings. I’m going to Wellington.’ Consequently I ended up in Wellington working for a firm called J G Marshall & Son in Adelaide Road, Newtown. They were a Jewish family; the old man was very, very … I don’t know what you’d call him … staid; very much an authoritarian sort of character. His son was the manager of the shop and unfortunately he was an alcoholic. But anyway, I completed my time there; after I had finished I felt that I hadn’t learnt anything there – in fact, I taught them, ‘cause three years at Joe Townsend’s was pretty full on and was a rewarding place to work in respect of the type of work they done, [did] which gave me good bearing as a qualified journeyman. So after two and a bit years in Wellington I returned home.
I’d met a couple of guys in Wellington when I was living there who were Australians from Melbourne. So I hopped on a plane and flew to Melbourne, and ended up stayin’ there for a year. I turned down any upholstery jobs I was offered because I went to work in the meat works, and I could do a five-hour day five days a week, and got paid £20 which was pretty good money in those days. Well, and that was an interesting time being a kid on the streets in Melbourne. I won’t go into too much there, but it was interesting, and consequently [subsequently] I eventually returned home, after about fifteen months probably.
Anyway, I worked for some other upholsterers in Hastings for a while and at the age of twenty-two I was convinced by a local carpet layer, Mr Dean, that I should start up my own business. There was an old house next to Freeman Motor Supplies in those days, opposite the old Nik Nak, and I hired that for about £2 a week, which was quite good. And I worked there for a while, and actually started going with Teena at that stage. Anyway, I moved to a couple of places after that, and eventually Teena and I had been together a couple of years and we decided we’d get married.
At that stage I had a business at Stortford Lodge working out of the old garage which was actually in the old cool store building right on the very corner of Stortford Lodge. Had quite a successful time there and things were going reasonably well, but it was such a noisy place with trucks, cars and everything at that intersection; it could just about drive you insane. So I decided I’d have a break, and convinced Teena that we should move out of Hastings for a while and go and live in Auckland. By then we had had two boys – they would’ve been somewhere around the ages of four and five I suppose. And I went to work for a firm there called Morgan Brothers. Now Morgan Brothers were people that were known for lounge furniture, and they also were the makers of the La-Z-Boy chairs. They had this huge factory that employed two hundred and five people. I was employed as a prototype design foreman; that didn’t eventuate fortunately, and I looked after the upholstery line which also had a foreman, but I was theoretically on top of him anyway. Their problem was they couldn’t get workers – not tradesmen, upholsterers – so I instigated process workers into the firm. I also instigated quality control and made quite a few other amendments to the workforce and the way that they worked and their output. Fifteen months with the company was long enough; there was a big brick wall between the office and the factory staff. There were so many back-stabbers in those offices that I just had enough, so after eighteen months I decided I would leave, which I duly did. One of the directors said to me on the Friday before I finished, “Would you come and see me tomorrow morning? I’ve got another placement in the firm for you”, he said, “you’d pretty much like it.” I didn’t bother to go on the Saturday morning.
Anyway, [to] cut a long story short I went to work for another upholstery company, the opposite manufacturers to Morgans, who were in the same line of business. I worked there for six weeks so I could learn a few things I wanted to learn about some of the new furniture they were making; so after six weeks I left there.
We had a house in the North Shore in Glenfield which had a basement, and I decided I’d make a new suite for sale to the shops; ‘cause in those days under the Labour government, house prices were going up madly like they are currently now. Also, the stock was very hard to get for the shops because of the demand put on the manufacturers with new houses being built and everything else. And I thought, ‘If I made a lounge suite, perhaps I could sell that and that can create my employment for a while.’ So I made a very good lounge suite … very comfortable chairs. So Teena and I put one of the chairs in the boot of the Valiant car and took it up to the Glenfield Mall where we got an order for three suites, just based on that one chair. Then we went into Takapuna – got an order for another three. So there I started manufacturing – I could produce a lounge suite in twenty hours, so I’d make two lounge suites a week. The salary I received from Morgans was tripled. Suddenly we found we were in a position where we could pay for a babysitter and go out somewhere and have a good time.
But I might’ve jumped a wee bit ahead there; prior to going to Auckland I was a speedway rider at Meeanee; that was actually at the age of twenty-six I first started riding speedway, and I’d done pretty well for myself. But I decided when we went to Western Springs on a Saturday night, I needed to get back on the bike; so I managed to acquire one for the paltry sum of £300 before decimal came in, and got back on this speedway bike.
We had two years in Auckland, and as I say we were in a Labour government. I said to Teena, “I think we should sell up, go back to Hastings and start manufacturing lounge suites from there.” I did have some orders; I said to the people, “Once I get set up back in Hastings I will make up your lounge suites and send them to you from there”, which we did.
Anyway, I sold the speedway bike on to someone else before I left, and we were coming over the one way bridge [that] goes to Meeanee, and we seen [saw] all these guys motocrossing down there. [I] said to the wife, “We could turn round and have a look.” We had the boys with us, so … went down [to] the river; couple of the guys were speedway riders that I rode with and had gone on to motocrossing, which they called MX – it was before it used to be Scrambles. So I went to Dave Whittaker’s the next morning, and I said, “Dave, have you got any of these new Honda CR135 motocross bikes?” He says, [“Yeah, I have.” I said, “What are they worth?” [Of] course it had become dollars and cents by then – $800 for a brand new motorbike. I said “Dave, I’ll have one.” So I had a motorbike back in my life.
But the other thing was we’d got our old workshop back that we had at the cool store. It was still vacant when we returned, so I got it back. So the day I opened the doors, all my old customers started coming back. I couldn’t believe it. Well, I did make those promises to those people in Auckland, and built their lounge suites; and then suddenly I was back in business, much brighter than when I left.
Then I got on board with J C Mackersey, the builders, joiners; and also Paris Magdalinos and some of the other architects, who wanted me for certain jobs within their industry in the new buildings they were designing and that type of thing; and then old Buck Buchanan from the Stortford Lodge Hotel where I drank two or three nights a week, said to me, “Tony, I want to build a new restaurant. How would you feel about doing all the seating and all the bars and fronts and all that stuff?” “Oh yeah”, I says, “no problem.” So that was a big undertaking; it was quite a lot of work because I had to build all the frames for the seating, I had to cover it, I had to install it. So we carried on and finished that.
Then John Thompson – him and his father owned the cool store – decided to buy Lynch’s property over the road; the old grocery. And they pulled the grocery shop down, and the house … shifted that, and they built that new restaurant, Tommo’s Restaurant. So I got the job of doing that through Paris Magdalinos, and John Thompson wanted me to do it. So I made them a mock-up of the seating I thought I could design for them. They came and had a look, sat in it … “It’s just what we wanted, Tony.” So that was another major job I carried on with.
There was a manager in the Stortford Lodge Hotel and he decided he’d resign from there, and him [he] and two of his mates bought a hotel in Palmerston North, so the whole scenario repeated itself. So that was quite a big job, and I’d done that with Botherway the builder – remember him? Dick Botherway? ‘Cause I’d moved my workshop too, and I was renting one of Dick’s buildings further along Ōmāhu Road.
And then I got a major job on another hotel in Whakatāne, and I was doing all other sorts of work and goodness knows what. And by this time I’d teamed up with John Razos, the engineer. John had rented the back of the building that I was in that belonged to Botherway … quite a big area out the back. It’s where the current Honda shop is in Ōmāhu Road. I said to John, “Hey look, John, I’ve found a property round in Canning Road.” I says, “It belongs to Quails’ Joinery, and he’s moving into Wilson Road in another factory.” And I says, “He’s interested in selling the building. He wants $36,000 for it.” Well it took me a month to talk John into coming in with me; and then we had the valuer for lending reasons value the property and it was valued at $44,000; $8,000 more than we paid for it, so consequently we got an easy life. Our deposit was $8,000. Amazing; and I had that spare $8,000 too, but I’d brought John in so I stayed with him, and we spent many years together in Canning Road.
Anyway, we continued working on Canning Road, and one day I got involved with a guy that was making leather wear in Wellington, and he’d gone broke. So I got convinced to bring him to Hastings and set him up here with some assistance from the local car dealer, Peter Kidd, who was going to finance it. So he came through and we got him into an old house that [which] Byron Buchanan owned, sort of alongside his hotel in the back street there. Anyway, it turned out this guy was a pain in the butt; he caused us so much trouble. He would put things in his back pocket and all this, and try and get away with it. And so in the end we dispensed with him … got rid of him.
But I’d always been a very good machinist, and when I was racing motocross or speedway I’d make my own leathers, and do that for other people, and I decided that I’d get into making leather jackets for motor cyclists. So I got an idea on one, and I got a few ideas off some off the English jackets that people brought into the country, because there was no one really in New Zealand that was to any great extent making leather wear for motorcyclists. Anything that arrived in the country, even like boots, [had] come out of England. People returned with something and sold it on. So I designed a jacket; anyway, I took that jacket and went out to town and showed it to a few motorbike shops, and surprisingly got very good orders. So I started to add to the collection, and suddenly we had two ladies as machinist outworkers. My wife became a cutter off the patterns we had, and another friend that [who] lives next door to us, his wife was also doing it. Anyway, in the end I said, “I’ll go up to Auckland – I’m going to buy a couple of new sewing machines, and we’ll have to get you girls to move into the factory because it’s getting to the point now where it’s not a home thing to do; we’ve got to have a proper place to do it.”
So I went to Auckland and I looked at these new Pfaff sewing machines, German of course. Excellent product, and they were actually amazing. They were air controlled – electric of course, but air controlled on the lifting of the foot, stop/start, triple stitch so you could backstitch and forward stitch. And they also had a knife inside and that would cut threads, after you’d finished a particular line of stitching it’d trim the threads for you. That was a big saving. Normally you’d lift the foot, pull the garment out, pick up a pair of scissors, go snip, go back onto the sewing machine. So anyway, I ordered two of these machines, and I got as far as Hamilton and I thought, ‘Why not three?’ It might stagger you a bit – they were $9,000 each. In the first year we sold $26,000 worth; second year we done [did] $48,000; third year $78,000; the fourth year … well, it was over $100,000. So yeah, of course we could well afford good machinery.
So we ran there for quite some time at Canning Road. I actually built on to … oh, I moved out of the building with John, though I retained the building at the time, my share of it, fifty-fifty; bought the old building up in front which used to be a garage, and I actually built onto the front a new building for [a] sewing room for the girls and the leather cutting etcetera, to a point. So things really got underway; and through a person I supplied in Auckland, which was a firm called Hunters & Collectors – he used to sell second hand stuff – but suddenly I was supplying him with stock of all of our products. Leather jackets were suddenly the big thing in the main street – everyone was wearing a motorcycle jacket in the main street.
Anyway, Teena carried on working from home. We had a pool table in the sports room that had a top that fitted over it, and she would use that as a cutting bench. Then I hired a lady cutter as well, that [who] worked in the front shop in the extension we built. But we had a guard dog, and it was a beautiful dog; it was called Satan, and one day it got killed out on the road. And he was our guardian angel when it came to having burglars burgle our shop. And we kept it pretty quiet, what we did, but it eventually slipped out; and of course the local mob – I won’t say who – finding our product very desirable, as were normal people within the clothing industry. So I seen [saw] the old funeral parlour in Nelson Street come up for sale, Tong & Peryer’s building; they’d relocated to Havelock North. So we went and had a look, and ended up buying the building.
What I should say before I go further than that, that we actually had opened our own retail shop in the Embassy Court in Hastings; we started the shop in there and then we moved out into the main street. Had that for a while, and eventually my son took it over as manager, and once we bought this building, the old funeral parlour, we turned the two frontal areas into retail. And the room in the back which was where they used to actually manufacture coffins, was a joinery shop, so we set up our manufacturing in there, and ran that from that building for something like fifteen years. And we done [did] very, very well out of the leather wear, very well.
But I’ll come back to this chap in Auckland. He had a shop in Symonds Street, it’s just up from K Road. [Karangahape Road] And he started getting interested in the Art Decor [Deco] sort of clothing, and come [came] up with a few ideas and a few patterns for me, and says, “Could you have a go at these and see how they come out?” So we started working on those, and suddenly he found himself retailing to every person in New Zealand, you know, with fashions; you know, leather was the big thing. And a lot of his retro designs were THE big thing, from the old traditional men’s leather jacket, and the ladies. So suddenly we were doing that much business with him – we sold him $60,000 worth in one month, wholesale. So suddenly we were you know, doing big things in the leather world.
And the guy in Carterton who’d been going for quite some time, [a] lot of people didn’t realise that he imported a lot of his stuff, and made stuff himself. But he eventually closed down his manufacturing. A lot of people when they designed a leather jacket or something they would put it through the processing line of three or four workers that [who] would do individual parts of that garment, complete it. But we would cut a jacket, put it in a plastic bag with a note on the front on those sticky labels, saying who the jacket was for, what style it is, what size etcetera. And I taught our sewers to sew a whole garment, so once they opened that bag that jacket never left that machine ‘til it went back in that bag and it was finished complete[ly]. Those workers never wasted a minute, whereas the other guys that had the process line wasted plenty, and it was not quicker; nor was it really efficient.
So consequently, we had some very, very good years, and Teena and I both done [did] very well for ourselves. But after fifteen years in the shop in Nelson Street, the leather market had changed. The traditional old established leather shops that sold leather wear were closing down. [A] big firm in Auckland that was into the … you know, leather garments, namely the men’s and women’s fashion sides … they hadn’t got into what I was doing because I was too competitive; they couldn’t compete with my prices anyway, so that was out of the question. And I had one of the local retailers in Wellington that used to be on the corner of Cuba and Manners Streets – can’t remember the name of his company now – but I started supplying him, and he was a manufacturer but he stopped his manufacturing and started gettin’ me to supply him with all the menswear and fashion wear and everything; remind me later, I’ll show you a book.
Anyway, suddenly found myself at the age of sixty-three – I’d worked hard; I’d worked too hard in the upholstery. I’d torn both shoulders two or three times, and rotator cuff tendon tears and repairs; and my knees were worn out and I had two new knee replacements; and at the age of sixty-three I deemed that I’d had enough of a working life, worrying about employing people, employing women. I won’t be awful, but some of them gave me a hard time, and you know, one thing and another. And one day I walked in there and I said, “Mike, I’m out of here”. He says, “What do you mean?” This is my son, the manager. “Mike, I’ve had enough – I want out. We’ll close the retail.” I says, “You know it’s had its day. We’ve not got the income we had”, and I says, “I think it’s only going to get worse before it ever improves; and I can’t see that happening in the short term.” I said, “I’ll retire; you can have the wholesale side of the business” – that’s the leather jackets for the motorbike shops. “We’ll set you up in the back of the building”, which is a stand-alone area; but I says, “I’ll lease the rest of the building out and walk away.” So, that’s what we done [did]. So I retired at the age of sixty-three.
I’d like to digress a wee bit and go back to when we were in Canning Road. As I say, we kept the upholstery side going with a guy. We had the Jet Leathers, which was growing phenomenally, and of course we opened the retail shop. Then I became a Hastings City councillor. I won a by-election; suddenly I’m a city councillor.
In 1988, under Jeremy Dwyer, the mayor. I’d given up racing in those days, and I’d actually bought a road bike for a bit of fun on the road; and joined a few guys that were meeting at a motorbike shop in Tomoana Road – the building on the corner of Tomoana Road and Queen Street, Alan Gold Suzuki, which became McCormick’s Motorcycles at a later date, and we’d go for rides on a Sunday, or we’d go to Waipuk [Waipukurau], and go round all the different parts of Hawke’s Bay and call into various places. Anyway, one night we were having a beer at home and one of the guys had this joining form for the Ulysses Motorcycle Club in New South Wales, Australia. I says “Hey, that sounds like a great idea.” I says, “I’ll give the secretary a ring, there’s phone numbers on this bit of paper”, and I said, “see if we could set up a branch in New Zealand.” So I phoned him; had a good talk to him for half an hour and he said “Tony, go for it – set up a branch.” So suddenly we’ve got all these guys from the Tacho Club it was called then, joining up with this Australian Ulysses Club. And I put in place a guy called Alan Golds, that [who] I called the roving ambassador, and hopefully he’d promote the club; another chap took over the production of a newsletter. And all of a sudden we had about a hundred and fifty New Zealand members had joined Australia’s club. We had the New Zealand club as a branch of Australia, and the Australian secretary and I decided, ‘Perhaps we’d best make it into a New Zealand club’ – it was getting a bit too top heavy for the Australians, sending out all the magazines to New Zealand and all that carry-on.
So there was a big Cold Kiwi weekend coming up, so the Australian secretary said he’d come over and he’d head down south first and then end up at my place before the Cold Kiwi. We had very bad weather, and on his way back to Hastings I had to go through to Palmerston North and pick him up with a trailer ‘cause the roads were so bad; the main road was even closed between here and Palmerston North. So consequently, on the Saturday night after we’d been going round the wineries, him and I and Teena, we turned up back at my place about four in the afternoon and here’s a big sign across my gate saying ‘Ulysses Club of New Zealand’. And we had a team of forty-five motorcyclists turn up, men and women, ‘cause the club was that way that [a] husband and wife could join and get in on the fun; and that night we formed the New Zealand club. So consequently with Ulysses and all the other things I was doing at that stage, the workload … yeah, it was a lot of work. The big thing that carried me through all that was my wife, Teena.
Teena: Yep. Because I did all the new registrations, and took all their fees and everything; I did all that as well. I enjoyed that sort of thing.
Tony: The only sorry point was she’d never hop on the [chuckle] back of the motorbike. [Chuckles] Can’t blame her for that, although we always rode pretty sensibly. But that club has now had over ten thousand members. I’m a life member, and was given membership of the Australian club for ten years for what I’d done opening the New Zealand club; and that was great times. Yeah, so I had a pretty big workload, you know, it was amazing actually, that I coped with it; but I couldn’t have done it without Teena of course, ‘cause she was my right hand lady, man – call it what you like.
But just to digress a wee bit further, at the end of my racing career with the motor bikes, I also took to three-quarter midget racing at Meeanee. Done [did] pretty well in that; done [did] it for four years, got some good placings, beat the best drivers in New Zealand when they came to our track … big meetings. And anyway, I ended up having to have neck surgery which was a pretty major operation, so I decided I’d pull out of the racing altogether. And of course the Ulysses thing came along, and that you know, was less stressful. But of course my boys got keen on speedway, and they had a great desire to ride so …
That’s Mike and ..?
Darren. Darren started first, and Michael said he wouldn’t ride until he was of age which is sixteen. Anyway, they got involved and they ended up becoming pretty good riders, and Darren was the first one to go to England – no, sorry, Michael was. We shouted him to England for his 21st birthday. Consequently he rode in England for I think four or five years?
Teena: Yeah, loved it.
Tony: Darren followed suit, so we had two sons riding in England. And Darren also, on the way to England, would stop off in California and ride there. So what happened eventually is that Mike retired and got into go-karting; Darren kept riding but he also carried on riding MX … motocross. He’s fifty-six years old now, and he’s still riding motocross, and he still rides a bit of speedway.
But his son when he was seventeen, was the top motocross rider of his day; and he ended up doing speedway out at Meeanee after his father had set up a track inside the existing big track which was not suitable for bikes any more due to the clay surface. So my grandson started riding at the age of twelve out at Meeanee, with a few other young guys that got into it as well; and consequently he ended up a very good rider, and went to England – done [did] very well in his first five years there. And he’s currently been employed as a rider for a club in Poland, a club in England, and he’s going back to England in February this coming year, but he is a top rated world rider.
Now tell me, all these clubs … did he ever do the ‘Around the Barrel’ at the Show?
Teena: Different racing altogether. [Chuckle]
Tony: We left that up to Ronnie Moore, and [chuckle] I used to go and watch him there as a kid. And I was tickled pink, we got to know him so well in his you know, later life. Yeah.
Teena: He’s a character …
Tony: And of course Ronnie came out of retirement, and Ivan Mauger convinced them to do a tour of Australia with him, and I might add that both Darren and Michael have toured Australia with Ivan Mauger’s team. Yes, they were that good.
Unfortunately Ronnie had a very serious accident – him [he] and Barry Briggs who were [was] also on the team at the time – they actually flew him by private plane to a hospital, otherwise he wouldn’t have made it. Yes, so we’ve currently got the grandson doing his thing, and yes, he would’ve been five times New Zealand Champion; the last meeting he had last year he blew his motor up on the last lap, when he was leading.
Teena: Yeah, it was.
Tony: So yeah, we’ve had a lot to do with speedway and motocross, three quarter midgets, go-karting …
Can you mention some local names?
Probably a bit hard. In my era there was me; there was Freddy Timmo who rode in England; Dave Whittaker who rode in England; there was Larry Freemantle; there was [were] two guys from Palmerston North that [who] used to ride here consistently; Harold Sergeant; there was … oh, I’d have to think about it and write all the names down. Freddy Timmo was actually the best rider in Hawke’s Bay over a number of years, and in my first couple of years I was riding we done [had] a meeting in Gisborne, and I raced against Fred. Believe it or not, I won five straight races against Fred that day – he couldn’t pass me. And then there was the big write-up in the paper the following Friday night. ‘Can Tony Wilson Beat Fred Timmo at Meeanee This Coming Week?’ The paper done [did] a big spiel on me, and got a big photo in the paper with me on the bike, which I’ve actually got on the wall – I can show you, in there. Anyway, Fred and I had four races with of course, other guys in the race as well. Fred got two wins and two seconds for his four rides; I got two wins and two seconds for my four, so we equalled. Interesting, isn’t it?
Yeah, it is.
Teena: Yeah, well you were damn near fearless when you rode that bike – you used to scare me.
Tony: I was twenty-six when I first started riding speedway and most of the other guys were seventeen or eighteen-year-olds, you know?
I’ve always wished that I had’ve learnt how to ride a motorbike. My father had an Indian.
Should’ve still had it now.
Mmm. Okay, now you were married at ..?
I was married at the age of twenty-four.
Oh – the Presbyterian Manse which is in Market Street. The Manse was over the road from the church.
Teena, your maiden name was Spender?
You were born … where?
Tony: Gosport, England
Okay. Teena, you were married at age what?
Teena: Seventeen. Was I? Sixteen? Yeah, I’d just turned seventeen.
Bit of a killer, eh?
Tony: Yeah, I know … terrible. [Chuckle]
And you had two children?
Mike and Darren …
Tony: She’s very forgiving; that’s why I’m still with her. [Chuckle]
Yeah, my wife’s ten years younger, too.
Teena: You can say I … you know, I came from England when I was four, on the ‘Captain Cook’.
Oh, did you? That’s interesting.
Tony: Ten-pound Poms.
Teena: Yeah, we were. Lived at Pokura [Pohokura] for a couple of years – Pokura – up the Taupo Road. When you were assisted you had to go where they put you for eighteen months. And my dad was a chap that [who] could do anything, you know. And we lived up there for a couple of years, and then we came down to Hastings.
Tony: You know what a barrel looks like, don’t you?
If you go for a beer …
… that is a barrel. I started manufacturing those in Hastings, and I sold them to the Farmers Trading Company sole rights throughout New Zealand; spent a whole year just making barrel [?]
Yeah – I had one of those from our cooper that we had at the brewery when I was flatting, and he sent it down to Wellington, I think.
That one’s still shaped in the back so it’s not to the shape of the barrel inside, [it’s] flat.
Yeah, mine wasn’t as good as that. Didn’t last that long actually. Okay, where are we going from here?
Ah, well – we’ve covered a fair bit of ground haven’t we? Yeah … anyway, I’m eighty years old, still alive.
You didn’t do any war service?
No, well that car crash back in 1957 wrote me off as far as military was concerned. You know, with an arm that still doesn’t straighten properly … short leg. Years later I actually went into hospital at the age of about thirty-eight and had the left leg … the good leg … shortened an inch because of the disparity. So I’ve still actually got a right leg that’s still an inch short.
Apart from that you’re in good health?
And Teena, you’re in good health?
And what do you do in your retirement?
Tony: Under covid, not much. [Chuckle]
Teena: In retirement? Well, Tony’ll [cough] go and play snooker once a week; and then he’d go to the Petrolheads club meetings; then he’d go one day to … what was the other one you go to at the golf course?
Tony: Oh, the golf course was the Petrolheads on a Wednesday morning.
It’s a pity that they’ve split.
No, no – they’ve come back together, yes.
Teena: No … yeah, the others left …
Tony: Yes, they did not like the one in Meeanee, so they’re all back here again.
There was no parking?
Teena: I didn’t really do anything – you mean since Tony retired? Well I didn’t work ‘cause I didn’t need to, and I’d worked hard right up to then, hadn’t I?
Tony: We like going on sea cruises.
Teena: Yeah, we’ve had seventeen cruises; we hope to have another three before we disappear, but it’s not looking likely
Cruise to where?
Ah, anywhere but the Continent. [Europe] We’ve been right round Australia, circumnavigated the whole of it which was about … what? Thirty-five days; been round New Zealand twice … is it twice? Three times …
Tony: Probably four.
Teena: Been to the Islands … wouldn’t bother again. I don’t really care where I go, I just don’t like getting off.
Tony: Been to Tahiti twice, and sailed back from Tahiti to New Zealand.
Teena: Yeah. No, we’ve had some great, great cruises …
Tony: The ‘Oriana’ was the ship.
Teena: Yeah, we’ve been on that a few times, haven’t we? We like the … what was [were] the other ones you said? You know, the little ones we go on? They take about four, five, six hundred people?
Tony: Yeah, Oceania.
Teena: We like them best, because they …
Tony: Maximum of six [hundred and] eighty passengers.
Teena: … they don’t take children under the age of about sixteen or seventeen, ‘cause they’re a nuisance … run up and down the stairs, bang on your door.
Well, interesting; you’ve had a great life, you know – a lot of people haven’t done what you have; very successful businessman, councillor … I heard too from some councillors that I know … always positive about everything and sensible.
Tony: I was also a boat builder. I built a twenty-eight foot launch.
Mmm. In my workshop.
And did you launch it?
No. I actually had that neck problem, and it forced me to turn it over to a friend of mine who was actually a qualified joiner, and he completed it. But after that I bought a thirty-four-footer which was built during the Second World War and not launched ‘til the war had finished ‘cause they didn’t want it requisitioned. I bought that in a bit of a sorry state, and brought the boat home on a big trailer that Bill Russell lent me. You know the engineer Bill Russell? And my doctor, Gale Curtis, lent me his tractor from his orchard and we hauled that home to Canning Road and rebuilt it … refurbished the whole boat, virtually.
And launched it?
And lived on it?
No, not big enough.
You sailed on it, though?
Oh, only out in the bay, fishing and that sort of thing.
Yeah … didn’t leak anywhere? [Chuckle]
No. When I retired, for the sake of something to do … I’d been mucking around with a lot of tin I got from Price & McLaren, I think it was – sheets of tin about three-foot square. And I started soldering up model boats; I got quite good at doing that. But then I decided, ‘Well, I’d have to turn around and start making them in wood’; so I did …
Teena: They look better in wood.
Tony: … and I’ve got fourteen models in this house. Do you want to have a look?
Well, I’ll tell you what – we’ve got a woman who takes very good photographs. I’d like to bring her around, and to take some photos to go with this.
Yep. Well I’ll just show you the photos on the wall in the office, racing photos and those sort[s] of things.
[Microphone interference] Tony and Teena, thank you very much indeed … a very interesting talk. It will be on the internet in time – these things usually take quite a long time. But anyway, thank you.
Well done as promised, even if it took three years. [Chuckle]
Teena: And we probably missed out huge bits.
Okay – it’s good; thank you.
Original digital file
This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).
Commercial UsePlease contact us for information about using this material commercially.
Can you help?
The Hawke's Bay Knowledge Bank relies on donations to make this material available. Please consider making a donation towards preserving our local history.
Visit our donations page for more information.
Format of the originalAudio recording
Interviewer: Jim Newbigin
- Teena Wilson
- Tony Wilson