Wood, Timothy (Tim) Interview

1st July 2021. I’m with Mr Tim Wood, old-time resident in Hawke’s Bay, successful salesman, manager; good commonsense, and today I’m asking him to give me his life history. Good afternoon, Tim.

Good afternoon, Jim. My family … Mum came from England; she came out after the war and met Dad during the war. And Dad was originally a Hawke’s Bay man and he was born in Napier; his parents … Grandad was from Whanganui, and Grandma was born in Napier. Grandad worked at what was [Winstone] Cranby round at the port; and Dad lived, when he was just a youngster, in Hardinge Road, along the houses now that are probably worth a million dollars.

Mum was from a family of three girls in England; her father was a police inspector. Mum did well at school, and she went on to become a nurse; and that’s how she met Dad during the Air Force days, when Dad was on base and Mum was a nurse in the hospital part there.

Going back a bit to Dad, he was brought up in Napier and at the age of about eleven he went to Napier Tech [Technical] School. During the earthquake he [had] actually left school and was working in a sweet factory, which was above the old Marsden’s Book Shop in Emerson Street in Napier; and Dad’s parents – the day of the earthquake they went round to the Napier Tech School to see if Dad’s name was on the list of survivors, and it wasn’t. And so they thought their little boy had been crushed in the earthquake, so they went home very disappointed and very upset. And then Dad turned up for dinner that night. And they were very pleased to see him, but they also suddenly asked questions about where he’d been. And he said, “Oh, I’ve left school – I’m now working.” He spent a few years after school doing different jobs – he worked at Cranby’s as well … he was a rep; [representative] and then he went off to the Second World War and joined the Air Force. So Dad did about sixty missions in the Air Force in Lancaster bombers; he was a squadron leader and a wireless operator.

After the war he and Mum both came back to New Zealand and they settled in the Esk Valley. Dad had bought a block of land off [from] the Wilson family which had a house on it, and initially he started off doing bee keeping; then he slowly transgressed [progressed] into market gardening which he did until he retired from there in [the] early 1990s.

I had an older brother, Richard, who was born in England and came out with Mum on the ship, then after me there was my sister, Jane. We all grew up in the Esk Valley, went to Eskdale School which in those days … it was interesting, I was just looking at some figures today … the Eskdale School has got a roll this year of three hundred and thirty, and in our days it was just round about a hundred, so the old valley’s certainly grown since we were there. It was a great place to grow up; the whole valley was our playground, and we used to spend hours running round the hills, picking blackberries and doing all sorts of things that boys do. We played rugby at the Eskdale School and we used to have inter-school sports with Tangoio – there was a primary school at Tangoio; there was also a primary school in those days at Pakuratahi Valley – and we used to also play against Te Pohue School. We played inter-school sports with rugby and netball.

From the Eskdale School we went straight on to high school. Richard was a foundation pupil at Colenso High School, and I was three years later; and then Jane followed on another two years later, so the whole three of us went to Colenso High School where we were involved in sport; Richard was involved in rugby and I think he played softball; I did athletics and rugby, and Jane did netball and athletics, and in later years became a very good squash player and represented New Zealand.

That’s your sister?

Jane, yes. She was Jane Wood. She’s now Jane Weir …

Oh, Jane Wood, yeah …

Yeah. And she was very good friends of the Barrons who played squash out that way.

So on leaving school Richard went on to Massey University and did a degree in horticulture. All I wanted to do was leave high school and go out and work on a farm, which I did … worked for Brian Yule in Esk Valley when I left high school. And Jane went on to become a kindergarten teacher. From there we all sort of spread our wings and we moved away from home. After about four years, in 1969 I went to Australia and got involved in the liquor industry, which I ended up working in for about thirty-nine years.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Newbigin in the earlier days when we were all part of the Wine & Spirit Merchants Federation, and we used to go to regular meetings and discuss the business of the clubs and pubs [chuckle] and all that sort of thing; and who was naughty and who wasn’t paying. In those days I started off working back here in Hawke’s Bay, at the Hawke’s Bay Farmers Wines & Spirits which was originally in Wellesley Road; then we went on to the corner of Dalton Street and Dickens Street, which was the old Hawke’s Bay Farmers garage building which they had done up for that. From there I left Hawke’s Bay Farmers and then went to work at Wrightson Wines & Spirits under the tutelage of Mr Leslie. After three or four years there I went to Whanganui where I went to manage an outlet for what was then Tasman Liquor, and I was there ‘til … oh, in probably 1990 or ’91 we got taken over by Lion, and we became Liquor Kings which was [is] the name that is still going today.

In 1999 I moved back to the Bay, and carried on working in the liquor trade until 2009. From there I went and had two years at the apple packhouse doing quality control, and then from there until present time I’m at Te Mata Mushrooms, doing sales to supermarkets.

I don’t really belong to any organisations or clubs nowadays; in my younger days I was involved in rugby. I have travelled quite a lot luckily, overseas – I’ve been [on] two trips to Europe … or England and Europe. That was in the liquor days when we used to get nice trips with Grants Whisky, and Baileys Irish Cream. Many of the conferences we had when we were Liquor King were held overseas; we had probably two or three in Fiji; several in Australia; one in the States … oh, Hawaii; yeah, we travelled overseas every year for our conferences.

Nowadays … I’ve been through a marriage separation, and I live on my own which I got over and I’m quite happy about nowadays. I’ve got a nice little flat in Hastings …

Tim, did your father do any war service?

Yeah, he did. He was a wireless operator in Lancaster bombers, and then he went on to HQ, [Headquarters] yeah – Bomber Command; he joined Bomber Command after he’d done his tours.

And is he still alive?

No, Dad died when I came back from Whanganui in 1999. Yeah. Mum … she lived to be virtually a hundred and one; she lived in Havelock at that stage, so she did very well. She was very active in doing crosswords, and she kept reading and she kept her mind very active which I think kept her going. But just the old bones got tired, and yes.

You’ve seen big changes in the liquor industry?

Oh yes – gosh yes. And I’m very pleased I’m not in it now, when you look at the problems they have. I mean, when I left in 2009 it was starting to get … I didn’t feel comfortable being there. There was too many … yeah …

Rules and regulations.

… rules and regulations, and also the supermarkets had moved into the liquor game then. But there was [were] just too many bad eggs around too. Yeah.

Well come on, now, we’ve got to have a bit more … this is the shortest interview I’ve ever done.

[Chuckle] Well, I guess going back to probably the school days in Eskdale – that was a really interesting time. We had some great families that lived in the Esk Valley. The children that came to Eskdale School came from the Whirinaki area, Bay View, over the Seafield Road, Beattie Road, Ellis Wallace Road, and on the Napier-Taupo main road. And in those days there was [were] the boys that came from France House, that [who] were really nice young guys that [who] we all got on really well with; and they always fitted into our life at school. They were not bad; they were just [the] unfortunate ones – their parents had been separated, or they’d lost a father during the war, and they ended up at France House. But [in] the early days they used to have to run to school, and from school home. And where France House was, which was up by the Eskdale Railway Station – they weren’t allowed to go on the bus, they had to run. And the boys would run, and in the winter time – unfortunately they never had shoes – they would run through the Eskdale Park down through Swain’s dairy farm, and they couldn’t help themselves … to [but] stop and put their feet in the warm [chuckle] cowpats to [chuckle] warm their feet up for the frosty run to the Eskdale School.

Yeah, we had probably a lot of fun at the school, there was [were] all sorts of people that [who] came there. There was Charlie Ransfield – his father worked on the County [Council] and they lived in the County house in Yule Road. There was Winky Rakuraku who came from Bay View, and his father worked on the railways. And he was a real trick.

And then there was a lot of the local families that had gone through the school; There was [were] the McKays, there was [were] the Thompsons, there was [were] the Taits, that all became quite prominent in their own right in what they went on to do in life.

We used to have probably naughty boys at school; there was always the smoking and that was when we were at primary school, and every kid turned up at school – well, all the boys turned up with a packet of cigarettes [chuckle] and at morning tea times we … over the bank and have a cigarette; [chuckle] wait for the headmaster to come storming down the paddock … chase us away. Yeah – no, we had a lot of fun out there, it was good.

And we used to have the school balls at the Eskdale Hall; and we used to have Napier Frivs [Napier Frivolity Minstrels] used to come out every winter and do a show at the Hall, and they’d always pick on the locals … Mr Viggers, Vic Viggers. We used to have school sports; yeah, we had a lot of fun at the school, it was a very good school to go to. I think it’s still a good school.

We’re lucky that – you are lucky – that you missed the Depression, you missed the Second World War; you had pretty good years, really ..?

Oh yes, yeah. I mean I would think … though the first few years when we were growing up in the Esk Valley was [were] pretty tough going. It was hard for a lot of people that came back from the war to get going. And you know, Dad struggled quite a lot of the time; growing vegetables was never an easy thing, and we used to always help. Every Sunday we had to help get the produce ready to bring it into Slater’s in Hastings and Napier; and [we] also used to supply Turners & Growers in Wellington, the Bennetts in Palmerston North and the Websters in New Plymouth and Hawera. So there was stuff to get ready by lunchtime to go on Mahoney’s Transport to go into the rail, and then in the afternoon it would be get ready for the next lot to go into Slater’s. It was a busy time for Dad.

He was quite innovative in what he grew; he started off growing things like marrows and cucumbers and whatever, but then he slowly evolved the marrows into growing courgettes, which went very well. And [in] later years he grew quite a lot of eggplants which were always popular with the apple boats, because a lot of the crew that came in on the apple boats to Napier were from the Middle East and they weren’t great meat eaters; so they used the eggplants as supplement. He was a bit of a dag with the other growers in the area; I always remember he was always telling stories at the Bay View pub; and one of the locals down there, Boy McHardy, was also a grower. And I remember when Dad first grew scallopinis that were like a little squash pumpkin, they were down at the Bay View pub and Boy McHardy asked Dad, “Where did you get these from?” He said, “Oh, I go out in a boat”, and he said, “I go out to Pania Reef and I get them off there.” [Chuckles] And he said, “Really?” [Chuckles] Yeah, so he was a bit of a wag in a lot of ways. But he worked hard on the market garden, yes. And we did a lot of work as well – we used to plant the tomatoes, and yeah, do lots of things like that.

Did you have a car in your young day?

Yes, I had my first car … when I went to Colenso, before I was old enough to get my licence I used to push bike in from Eskdale to Colenso in Napier, which was about ten miles, so I could do sport after school; and then I’d finish the sport about five and bike home and get back to Eskdale about quarter past six at night. And I used to do the same when I was playing rugby; then I got a motorbike, so that was a lot easier.

What brand was that?

My first motorbike was a BSA, and then I had a JAWA. Yeah. Then as I got a little bit older I got my first car, which was a Morris Minor which I bought from Stewart Greer Motors in Napier, and then I upgraded that into a Morris 1000 and I had that until I went away to Australia. Yes.

Back in the days of the liquor trade when I was at Napier … because it was an old Murray Roberts company, and then it became Wrightson’s … we had a lot of the old books from Murray Roberts; and Jim would remember a lot of this, that during the war we had the diary that they kept there, how they used to allocate out the whisky which was [chuckle] always very interesting, and it was always done in pencil. And they’d have the likes of you know, the Hawke’s Bay Club would be getting six bottles, and Heretaunga Club would be getting so many, and Hastings Club would be getting so many; and somebody’d be crossed out, and somebody’d be getting seven. [Chuckle] You know, it was a lot of favouritism. And I don’t know what the real outcome, or what the brands were they used to get in in those days; I mean …

You still see some of the brands these days – Bells, and Dewars, and …

Yes. Well, as Jim will know, Murray Roberts … I think they had Liqueur Cream was one of theirs?

Saccone & Speed.

Yes, Saccone & Speed; and Mr Roberts was called ‘Saccone Tony’. [Chuckle]

And the other interesting thing was that Wrightson’s got the import licence for Baileys into New Zealand. Ian Jackson was the one that [who] managed to swing that; and that was a huge success in those early days. And it was a great selling tool because you could walk into a pub to try and sell them stuff, and you know, you’d ask them what they’d like and the first thing they’d say was, you know, “Case of Baileys”; and you’d say, “Well, what else would you like with it?” “Oh nothing.” “Oh well”, [chuckle] “you’re not getting the Baileys.” You had to buy something else to get it – it wasn’t quite that easy in those days – it was interesting times. And we used to travel to pubs in Wairoa, Dannevirke, out to the coast, Weber, Wimbledon … yeah, all out through there …

Porangahau …

Porangahau, yeah. Yeah, they were the good old days.

They certainly were.


They were the best years I think, that I can remember.


Okay, Tim, well thank you very much. You brought up some good names; you mentioned some of them … Pat Walsh?

Yes, Pat Walsh …

Hawke’s Bay Farmers’ …

Yes. Alan Deacon, Ray Mabey, Dalgety’s, Mr McKenzie …

Bill McKenzie?

… Bill McKenzie was Ellison & Duncan; John King and Russell Williamson at Williams & Kettle; and old Basil Fawlty at the Victoria Hotel. There were some characters around in those days.

Yes. I interviewed Basil Diack; yeah, very, very good.

Oh yes, he had a lot of stories.

Oh, great stories.


[Interrupted by phone call]

Okay, I’ll just finish this interview, and we’ll wait for the next one.

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Interviewer:  Jim Newbigin

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