Ted Torkington

Interview with Ted Torkington by Trudy Astwood, transcribed by Nathan Torkington. Interview conducted August 28 1998.

TedAbout the first memories. It's very hard to know just where your memories start from, because you might be remembering things that you've heard or something like that. So, I wouldn't guarantee it.

TrudyOr photos.

TedYeah, things like that can make a difference. I've got a cousin, three months older than me. We were fairly close, and the families were fairly close. And there was a very big divergence of what we can remember and what things really happened, so just how reliable these memories are, I really don't know.

But anyway, I'm not too sure just about how happy I was when I was young. I suppose I was pretty average. Youngest of seven, so the glory of parenthood had probably gone from my parents long before I arrived.

I was very lucky that I had some excellent members of my family, my sisters and older brothers were really good to me. Being the youngest, perhaps they spoiled me a wee bit. Certainly they really looked after me. Mum worked hard, as my father worked hard, and Mum had a great garden and every spare moment she had, she used to work in the garden.

TrudyDid she enjoy it?

TedI think she really did enjoy gardening, and she was a good gardener. Her mother was a Clarke, and the Clarkes were pretty good gardeners.

When we got a bit older, Sid and I were very keen on cricket. Cricket was just about a religion, as far as we were concerned, and we were always getting a spade and making a rough cricket pitch. When we'd get home from school, we'd spend a lot of time playing cricket together.

Went to Ti Point school, which was at the end of the Ti Point Road. In those days, the road wasn't metalled, and hardly formed. Just clay with tracks in it. And the parts of the bottom end near the wharf weren't formed at all.

TrudyWhere was the house?

TedThe house was in what is now Laika Avenue, on the Ti Point road. It has since been burnt down, and another house built there.

TrudySo you walked all the way up the hill and down to the end of Ti Point Road by where it joins the Leigh Road?

TedYes, it was there. And actually when we walked up, we walked just the back of this house where we are now on Ti Point, and came out on the road just below what we call Breast Cutting on the top of the hill, and followed along there.

TrudyAnd how old were you when you went to school?

TedI was probably five. Yes, I think I'd be five. And we had a pretty tough and cruel teacher, and we absolutely hated school. He was cruel to us, really cruel.

TrudyWhat was his name?

TedOh well, it doesn't matter ...

TrudyIs he dead?

TedYeah, he'd be dead fifty years ago.

TrudyHe was nasty?

TedYeah, he was really a brute. But he was very much liked and respected by the households generally. He had a good singing voice, and took community singing, and was sort of looked up to.

Well, I fainted. I was so frightened of him, that when I went to school I fainted one time. Which was a good thing for me, because he faced up "oh poor boy, he's not getting enough to eat" and all this sort of stuff. And so he didn't knock me around then for at least six months.

TrudySo he used to hit?

TedOh yes, he knew what the ... you know the brass edge they have on rulers. He knew what that brass edge was for. He used to use it on your hands.

TrudyOn your backs or on your palms?

TedYes, anywhere. And there'd be two kids sitting at a desk. One would make a mistake, and he'd come up and he'd bash both the kids heads together, the innocent one as the other. When I look back now, and think how a lot of the people of the district admired him, it just about makes me sick.

However, that's just part of it. You know, we still had some fairly good times.

TrudySo would that be expected?

TedI think we had one of the worst, but it wasn't unusual.

TrudyHow many kids in the school?

TedIt ranged from about twenty to about twenty-eight, I think. It was a one-teacher school. And now, it is still part of the pre-school at Leigh. They shifted it over there about 1937, I suppose, after the Ti Point school had closed down.

In those days, oh I suppose it's the same these days, the ceilings in the schools were very high, and some of the big kids they got the old time pen nibs which they could break out and could sort of make a bit of a dart out of them. So they pelted these things up into the ceiling and a lot of those stayed there for years and years.

TrudyThe holes or the nibs?

TedThe nibs.

And we played cricket at school, you know, and hockey, although it was pretty terrible ground. A lot of the kids rode to the school, and they had a part of it was fenced off as a horse paddock.

And us big boys, we were paid half a crown a week, or just two or three of us, were paid half a crown a week to empty the toilets and take them up and dig a hole and bury it. A couple of the girls would have the job of ... sweep the school out every night.

TrudySo you had a bucket toilet?

TedYes. That's right.

TrudyWere you good at school? Fear of the teacher must have made it hard for you.

TedYes, it did. Well, I got maths was the best subject, I suppose. I hated English, absolutely. And English history, I hated. But when it came to proficiency, which was the standard six, and that's when the school stopped.

TrudyForm two.

TedForm two, is it? Yeah. They had what they called proficiency examination, and I know I got 98 points in maths for that. So that wasn't too bad.

TrudyWho were your friends? What ages were they?

TedWe played cricket a lot. I had Irvin Ruth on Ti Point, and Sid, and a few like that.

TrudySo even after school you played cricket?

TedOh, in the summer time. After we came home from school, yes.

Actually, talking about this time that I fainted, I suppose I should have done a little more homework than I did, but we only had candles for lighting systems. And I was so tired that half the time after tea, I went to sleep on my arms sitting up at the table. And, I suppose, I was supposed to study this school journal, and I can still remember the two words. One was Uruguay, and one was Paraguay, in South America, and I looked at the first one because I hadn't studied them at all. And I didn't know that one at all, and so the teacher came along and gave me a good belting.

And of course I could see this other word at the same time, and I knew darn well I was going to get another belting. However, the teacher hopped off his seat to give me a belting, and I fell on the floor before he arrived. And that's what education was.

No wonder I haven't got a great love of books, I was really taught to hate books.

TrudyDid you have to do any chores before you went to school?

TedWhen I was bigger, of course, there were cows to milk by hand. And dishes, and everything like that. I think that being the youngest, I got out of it pretty easily.

And then there was hand-separating, of course. I seemed to land this hand-separating. My father was no farmer, really. Really had no idea of farming. There were good farmers in the district, but he seemed to think that to spend money on manure was a terrible waste.

And the Torkingtons, they came out from Industrial England, and were probably influenced a lot by the conditions in the Industrial thing. They were really quite, I wouldn't say revolutionary, but certainly not ...

TrudyLiberal Socialists?

TedThey were very Liberal and Socialist in their views, which weren't accepted at all in the district. They were sort of looked upon as being a bit queer.

And that was reflected on us when we went to school. You know what kids were like.

But at the same time, we had some very good friends.

TrudyWhat did you eat?

TedWhat we ate? Well, I suppose we were fairly lucky, especially compared with Grandma's life. We certainly didn't go short of food, but I can remember eating bread and dripping.

TrudyWhat's dripping?

TedDripping is the fat that's left over after you've roasted meat. And salt, there was a certain amount of salt in it. It wasn't all that bad.

TrudyAnd home-made bread?

TedOh yes, bread.

TrudyDid your mother make it every day?

TedOh, no. Didn't bake every day. Of course, we were a big family.

Just now, I'll give you a little bit of a thing about how we got our groceries. There weren't too many stores about, but most of the stuff came from Auckland, maybe the Farmer's Trading Company. An order was sent in there, maybe every three weeks or a month or something like this, and there'd be a 100 pound bag of flower, and there'd be 70 pound of sugar, and a box of groceries, and everything like that, mainstays and big things. And it would come home there, and Mum would bake from these things.

TrudyWhere did it come in to?

TedIt came into Ti Point from boat, from Auckland. Steamer from Kawau. It used to come once a week, sometimes twice a week.

TrudyIs that where the mail came in too?

TedYes, there was mail at ... I don't know who has got the place now ... oh, Woodcroft's have got it now. And Mrs Harry Ashton used to be the postmistress around here. The house is still round there at Whangateau.

TrudyThat's the Ashtons of Ashtons Road?

TedThe same Ashtons, the same family, yes. It's a house just this side of Lew's Bay, actually.

And there was a post office there, but I don't remember them handling mail at all. They used to handle ...

We used to get the mail from Leigh. It used to come by steamer to Leigh, and then was .... The post office in those days was just about below where the hotel is now. Opposite the garage, a wee bit further along. It was owned by Harpers, there was a store there and a post office.

I used to often get the mail from school, and sometimes I'd hop on the steamer and come back to Ti Point on the steamer. Sometimes walk back. By the time I got home in the winter time, it was starting to get dark and there'd be moreporks on the Ti Point road, and they'd fly from post to post on the road ahead of me, and I was terrified.

TrudyYou were by yourself?

TedOh yes, by myself. I'm afraid I wasn't a very brave little boy in those days.

TrudySo what was your relationship like with Aunty?

TedAunty was a lovely person, always was. And Aunty Eileen too.

TrudySo, was Aunty sort of like your mother?

TedYes, well my father came out from England in the early 1880s. He was nine years old then. His mother died, I think, when he was born. And he was really quite delicate and that's one of the reasons the family came to New Zealand. They had no mother, so life I guess was fairly hard, however he got on not too badly, and did a lot of gumdigging and worked as a surveyor's assistant and a few things like that.

The surveying was at Coromandel, but he dug gum all around this district and afterwards he did a bit of gum brokering, buying and selling gum. When we were kids, we used to a lot of scave... And we did a lot of gum digging too, when we were kids, up at Point Wells.

TrudyDid you find much?

TedOh yes, we used to find much. And we quite enjoyed that. We had our own little bucket, and it was just if we felt like doing anything, we dug it. And a spade. It was great, the soil was sandy and easy, there were rushes growing on top of it.

Gum digging was quite fascinating, like you always thought there was a great big lump just a few inches away from the end of the spade. And of course, then, he bought extra land around here, but he was no farmer at all. He didn't do too badly when you come to think of it. Things were against him a bit.

But see, the life in England was just so much different. His father was a builder, and of course the streets there were streets, and the carts that they used had great big wheels on them, and he would put (in England in those days) if the road was fairly level, they'd put a ton of stuff on this cart, and the horse would drag it away. Well, when they came out here, they thought if they had a sledge and one thing and other, they could still stick this ton of stuff on this sledge and the horse would pull it. Of course, it just couldn't. But they never had the background to sort those problems out.

TrudyYou mean, they didn't realize that the horse couldn't pull it.

TedThat's right, they didn't realize. The idea was that if you hit the horse hard enough, it would go. And, of course, it just doesn't work out that way.

But there were plenty of people in the district who were good farmers and good horsemen and good teamsters.

TrudySo, getting back to what you ate. You remember eating a lot of bread and dripping?

TedOh no, we didn't do too badly, because we had plenty of veges, and hens and meat. We were fairly poor, but I mean I can remember not having any shoes. That wasn't too unusual in those days. The clothes that you wore were pretty secondhand.

TrudyHand made? Home spun?

TedOh no, there wasn't any home spun in those days, but they were certainly handed down until they weren't any use to anybody. They were certainly warm enough.

TrudyWhen you finished going to Leigh school, how old were you?

TedWell, of course, by the time I'd finished going to Leigh School, the Depression was well and truly on us. Sid was pretty lucky insofar as his sister and brother-in-law lived in Auckland, and Sid stayed with them and went to Tech for a year. I didn't because I had nowhere to board. There was a high school at Warkworth, but there was no way of getting there. So most of my generation didn't have a secondary education around here, but I guess it's surprising just how well they got on anyway.

TrudySo you finished school at the end of Form two?

TedI finished school. Actually, I did an extra year, because I got my proficiency when I was thirteen. So I did an extra year, but I spent most of the time teaching the younger kids, not that I learned too much, I was just an extra assistant.

When I was in Standard Six, the teacher I had was disposed of because he was drinking methylated spirits. He was fired. Well, he wasn't fired, unfortunately, he was transferred to knock other kids around.

TrudyWas this the same one who made you faint? He was an alcoholic?

TedOh yes, he was now. We had one or two temporary teachers, and then we got a teacher called Charlie Day. He was quite good. I can remember we were playing hockey, and one of these temporary teachers had given us a hockey ball to play with, and we had broken this hockey ball, it had flown apart. We were trembling--what was this teacher going to say? And he looked at it and said "puckerooed, eh?" and laughed.

Well, we couldn't understand a teacher taking that attitude. Same with Charlie Day, he was a good teacher and a friend to the kids, you know? It was just like heaven, as far as we were concerned.

TrudySchool was actually fun. If you'd had him at the beginning ...

TedWell, it mightn't have made all that much difference to my learning ability, but life would have been a lot happier anyway. Anyway, that might be enough moaning about that.

TrudyWhen you finished, what did you do?

TedThat was the end of school, and there was no work about of course. We just mucked around as much as anything else, sometimes we helped to dig gum and one thing and another. We did a bit of work on the farm, cut ti tree which grew just as much the next year.

TrudyYou'd be in your teens?

TedEarly teens, yes.

We had our bikes, and one thing and another. Actually, you could roam anywhere you like, and we had a pretty free life. We didn't do any damage or anything like that, but people didn't object to you. Just ride around on your bikes.

TrudyHow far did you go?

TedWe used to take the bikes up to the Sandspit and ride along the Sandspit, and actually take them to Anchor Beach sometimes. Used to go over the hills to Anchor Beach, Duck Creek Beach. We used to take a boat along the Sandspit quite often, and I suppose in the summertime of a Sunday we'd go to Sandspit as much as anything. Go for a walk along there, the whole family would go.

TrudyThere was no church?

TedNo. My mother was a bit religious, my father was agnostic I suppose you might call it today. He was an agnostic, I suppose, because he ...

My grandfather, his father--I don't know how many times he'd read the Bible from back to front, but he used to take great pleasure arguing with the local parsons that would come round. And his knowledge of the Bible was often far superior to theirs. But he was a non-believer. And a lot of the things he argued about have been proved to be right.

TrudyAbout evolution?

TedYes, evolution. Of course, this story that God created things and they remained the same ever since, that's just a lot of hooey. We're living in a changing world.

TrudySo you were roaming round, were Arthur and Jack ...

TedArthur was a lot older. I didn't have a lot to do with Arthur. I don't remember Arthur being home as a family. I can remember him coming home, for weekends and one thing and another.

TrudyHe was working?

TedYes, he was working in Warkworth when I first remember. Working for Civils, they had a motor garage and also had a shop there. He was there.

TrudyHe worked behind the counter?

TedI think he was delivering, mostly, and he worked at the garage for a while.

TrudyA mechanic?

TedHe wasn't a registered mechanic, but he was there.

TrudyWhat was Agnes doing then?

TedWell, she was a teacher. She would be a teacher when I first remember. She'd finished her training college.

TrudyWhere was she teaching?

TedWell, she taught at Warkworth for a while, and she taught at Raehia, which is down ... think she taught somewhere up where Alec is. Somewhere up Tokatoka way. She taught there and different places. She taught in Leigh, and Pakiri, and Warkworth.

After she was married, she taught here.

TrudySo when did things start changing?

TedWell, work was pretty hard to find around here. And I suppose our father never shooed us along, and one thing and another, so we just hung around. I'd have been about eighteen or nineteen when he died, I suppose, so life from then was a bit of a shock.

We had the farm, and at that time there was a sort of living in the farm. It wasn't flash, but it was enough to keep you going. The family was always very careful, so it wasn't too bad.

And then there was the odd job.

TrudyWhat did he die of?

TedHe died of heart trouble and kidney failure.

TrudyYou were eighteen or nineteen?

TedWell, he died in 1936. Just after the Labour Government came in, so I'd be twenty.

TrudyDid your family vote Labour?

TedMy father was always a Labour supporter. Mum was too, although she came from a very Conservative family. But afterwards she always voted Labour.

TrudySo then your father died, did you have to lose the farm?

TedErnie and I ... the farm was in Mum's name, but we sort of kept on working there for a while. And then afterwards I went to Auckland, got a job in Auckland, and worked there for a while. Had different jobs, delivering coal, working in the firewood yard, and a few things like that. And afterwards I worked making coathangers, and did quite a bit of driving.

I lived with Aunty Alma for quite a while, and then I boarded at different places around town.

TrudyWestend Road?

TedYes, the place is still there.

TrudyDriving around, how much were you paid?

TedNot too sure, might have been 1 and 6 an hour. That would be, what, 30 cents would it be?

TrudyWas that considered a reasonable basic wage?

TedI can remember when half a crown (there were eight half crowns for the pound, the equivalent of two dollars, but the value of money has changed considerably since then).

TrudyDid you save? Did you spend it? Did you drink?

TedWell, there wasn't much to save, but I guess I did save a bit of it. At that time, Jack was in Auckland too, and we used to play a lot of tennis and one thing and another.

TrudyDid you go out at night?

TedWe went to the pictures. I never went to the pub much. Well, later on I did, but I've never been much of a drinker.

TrudyYou went to movies?

TedOh yes.

TrudyWho were the stars of the day?

TedThere'd be Bing Crosby, of course. Clark Gable, a lot of those. And then, of course, I went into camp when I was in Auckland, for twelve months.

TrudyI want to hear more about the camp. Was it military?

TedYes, military camp. I went into Waikaraka Park, and Waikaraka Park is still there. And afterwards, into Gloucester Park, which is right in the, almost in the heart of Onehunga. There was a tram, trams used to go out there every day, so I suppose it was quite a good place to be, in camp. Of course, I was always brought up with the horror of war.

I was really educated by my family as to what a futile thing war was, and how useless it was. And of course, they had quite a different idea of politics from a lot of the good Tories that were about in those days. I felt, and I'm sure I was, very much an outsider, because my view ...

You go down to a dance, and all the young people would be enthusiastic about how the war was going and one thing and another, and of course I saw a different side of it altogether. Which was not popular--I mean, if you weren't pro-British and pro-war, you were very much on the outer in those days.

I can remember when I was in camp, because I was in camp, working in Auckland. I found it quite lonely in lots of ways. You'd be standing there on the street, and nobody wanted to talk to you or anything. All of a sudden, when I put a uniform on, people would stop and talk to you, which really annoyed me, because I was still the same person but ... you know. Just the attitudes.

So I was always very anti-war, and still am. And I'm sure, looked down upon, still today, for some of those things that I believe in. Because they're not popular. A lot of people, they talk as though war is a terrible thing, but they want to glorify it at the same time. They've got a double standard. Mind you, they might think I've got a double standard.


TedI don't know. (laughs)

TrudyYou were in camp for a year. What was that like?

TedI was always anti-war and was sort of looking to dig holes in what they were doing. I look back at it now, and I had some mighty good friends in there, some really nice people, and I'm still friends with them now. Although there's not many of them left! (laughs)

And another thing, although I was anti-war, the propaganda that is given to you in twelve months, it does affect you. There's no doubt about it. If they left wars to common-sense and reason, there wouldn't be any wars.

TrudyThey hyped you up?

TedThey did, yeah. And there's all sorts of things about dying for your King and Country and all of that, and you've only got to look today around and see whose country it is, and what democracy is, and you'll see that democracy comes pretty well down on the line.

TrudyWhat were you training for? What did you do?

TedWell, I was in the Army Service Corps, which has a lot to do with trucks and supplies, and carting ammunition and petrol.

TrudyYou did a lot of driving?

TedYes a lot of driving. Actually, I was the number one driver of the section I was in.

TrudyWhere did you take stuff?

TedWell, we did a lot of mucking around and one thing and another. Of course, the war was on, and I guess they were concentrating on the overseas a bit much, and they were short of arms and trucks and things like that. So we didn't get out of camp all that often, I suppose.

But later on, when things overseas cooled down, I went up north and supplied some of the camps up there. At Opua.

TrudyWere you living a lot of that time at Opua?

TedWe were living in a little bay just nor'west of Opua. A sort of a pool or something we were up there. We used to break down the food and that, and then cart it out to camps at Waimati and quite a few places like that.

I got a hernia up there, but they didn't confirm it as a hernia, and the doctor said I had some hydro-something complaint or other, and they sent me back to camp in Auckland. And then I started carting what they used to call "pea-pickers", which were picking vegetables at a farm at Ihumata, out Mangere way. So I used to go out every day and take these pea-pickers, which were just general people, who came there. And load the truck up with these pea-pickers, take them up there, and cart produce and then go out in the afternoons and pick them up.

And that was where I met Grandma. She was working in the office. So that's that part of it. It'll hook onto that side of the story later on.

And then, when I had this hernia of course, it came on when I was in camp but when I was not doing any work, it didn't get any worse. So I had it for months, and it was only when I was discharged from the army and came home to Ti Point here, and started handling manure, that it really flared up.

Well, being a young 'un and innocent of course, what I should have done was held the army responsible for it. But looking back now, I couldn't say boo to a goose in those days, and it's only in the last few years actually that I've been able to say boo to a goose.

TrudyYou mean that you were sort of shy?

TedI've always been very shy, and afraid of talking too loud in case somebody heard me.

No, I look back, and the years I spent growing up playing cricket and hockey and that, I had quite a good time. And, of course, after Grandma and I got married, we came back here for a while and sort of milked cows for a while, and then Grandma's father talked us into going down and taking on some of this land that he had down there.

And I thought it was freehold land, but it was only leased land. And I wasn't only old enough to sort of look at these things, but I look back now and I was taken for a ride.

TrudyBy him?

TedI wouldn't say deliberately, because I don't think he understood too much about how things were going anyway. I look back now, and I never had a show of making a do out of it. I put all my confidence in him.

Anyway, we stayed down there nearly a year, I think. Mum was going to be born there, so we stayed on for a bit longer. And after we decided we wouldn't have anything to do with the farm, we trapped possums for a while, which was a very exciting thing for us and I very much enjoyed it.

TrudySo Bryce had been born and died?

TedYes, he had been born and died. He was born in Warkworth.

TrudyJust after he died, you moved down there?


TrudyOk, so then you trapped possums.

TedYeah, we trapped possums. I suppose at that stage, we had ideas of taking on some of this farm down there, which was way down the Manganui Te Au valley there, way in the wopwops. And anyway, in those days during the war years, it was pretty hard to get tyres and you patched tubes up and one thing and another, and I fixed this tube up and pumped it up and used it for a couple of days and it went flat again, and pumped it up again (repaired it I mean and pumped it up). We were in there, having a cup of tea, and heard this hissing noise with the air going out. And I said to Grandma "what's say we get the heck out of this place", and we did.

We kept on then until after Mum was born, and then we came back up here. I'd bought this Model A truck it was, paid 35 pounds for it. We drove it up to Warkworth. I think we sold it for 50 pounds, after I'd put a tyre on it.

And then I was driving trucks in Auckland then for a while, living in Auckland. But realize that we were only working to pay the rent.

TrudyWhere were you living, then?

TedWell, we stayed at Arthur's for a while. And then, of course, Grandma was home here. And Ernie was milking cows here. And I came up here and then sort of started thinking of the crayfish, because there were quite a lot of crayfish.

Actually, it was Jack Beatty who used to live down at Goat Island, who talked me into doing a bit of crayfishing. So I started doing just a dinghy and a few pots, and of course there were lots of crayfish around Ti Point in those days. So I started catching these crayfish at sixpence a pound, actually we cooked them for sixpence a pound and sent them to Auckland, and started doing alright.

Ernie was no farmer either. I was actually the only one in the family who had any idea, I was always keen on farming. I said to Ernie, he had a yacht which had been used to take mail to Little Barrier. I said to him, well are you interested in going in with me. And then we started this Torkington Brothers fishing at Ti Point.

TrudyWhat boat was that?

TedWell, "The Wanderer" was the name of that boat. Afterwards, we used to maybe take it out to Takatu, and anchor it, and do the pots from the dinghy.

And then afterwards, we had a 16 foot open boat, we put a Villiers motor in that, which was 2 and a half horsepower, and we used that. We caught a lot of crayfish in that. We used to fish this side of Leigh, and out to Takatu. We used to put eight bags of crayfish.

TrudyThis is still you and Ernie?

TedOh yes. We fished that for a while, and then we built the Dolphin, which was 24 foot, with an 8 horsepower Lister diesel engine in it. We used that for a few ...

I might tell you a wee bit about the Dolphin. We went to Pakiri and bought some logs, standing there. Cut them down and had them brought to the mill at Leigh. Had them sawn and dressed at Leigh.

Gee, I really don't know how much it was, but I know that it was a few shillings for a hundred feet that we had to pay to get them cut up and dressed.


TedIt was Kauri. Just what they called "kauri rickers". They were probably fairly old, but they weren't very big round. Not bad timber just the same. We put a lot of creosote on when we were building it. It took us three months to build that.

TrudyAnd where did you build it?

TedWe built it in the workshop down at the old house, down at Laika Avenue. We were living down there, then. So that sort of opened up a new ... we could go a lot further. We fished around Kawau, and did quite well, and around Goat Island.

The crayfish ... when we started fishing, nobody had fished since the Depression, so we had years and years ... maybe fifteen years without nobody catching it. So whereas today a lot of the crayfish that they catch are small, well the ones that were too small to catch and sell last year are the ones they're selling this year. We were catching great big crayfish.

TrudyWhy had nobody fished?

TedWell, one reason that I think it was pretty hard to sell the crayfish. And there were other jobs coming up, because at this time the economic position had improved quite a lot and there was work around.

TrudyWhen you were all living with your Mum, Minnie, in the old house. How did that work out?

TedWell, ok.

TrudyWho was living there? You, Grandma, Mum, ...

TedPearl and Ernie. A whole house of kids. And Ernie had built an extra bit out there. They lived there, and had a room in the house as well.

TrudyThey had their kids and the start of their family too.


TrudyLes was born by that stage?

TedOh yes, Barry was even born by that stage. Barry was a baby when we shifted up to the house at the top of the hill.

When I look back it ... I've never been very capable of anything, really ... but when I look back and see some of the things that I've done, I think that I haven't done too badly.

TrudyWhy do you think you weren't very capable?

TedI still think I'm not very capable. There's lots of people are miles better at doing things, are miles faster at doing things, than I ever was. But I have an idea that what I did, I did properly. So that if I put a building up, it stayed up, and one thing and another.

And I was at a bit of a disadvantage that I had Ernie as an older brother, who was very capable of building, of doing mechanics, and everything like that. So I left a lot of these things for him to do while I did the donkey work, you know?

And it was the same when we built the boats. Ernie was really very good at putting things together, and had good imagination. Most of boat-building is just work--you drill holes, and shape your boards, and one thing and another.

It wasn't until we went up to Okaihau and I started doing things on my own, that I got into a lot of this other work.

TrudyTell me about this shift to Okaihau.

TedThat came later on. It didn't come until 1966.

TrudyTell me about the move from Laika Avenue to the top of the hill, and what year that would have been.

TedThat would be around 1950, I think.

TrudyMum would have been 5.

TedA bit less than five, I think.

TrudyShe was born in 1945. So Alan was born then?

TedBarry was a toddler, I think.

TrudyHow was that built, and who built it?

TedWell, Uncle Sid started to build it, and Uncle Sandy finished it. And we did a lot of the work on it ourselves.

TrudyIt was being built for you?

TedYes, it was built for us. After my father died, my mother and Uncle Harold were trustees to the estate. Uncle Harold says "we'll divide these sections up, cut sections around the road" and there are eighteen half-acre sections he cut up. He said it would be good for the kids to have two each, and there were four left over. He said, "you never know, they might be worth 100 pound each some day" and we thought he was quite mad.

So we had two of these each.

TrudyAnd where did this run from?

TedFrom Laika Avenue right up to a couple of houses above us. So all those down there.

TrudyTo the top of the hill?

TedI'm just coming to the house at the top of the hill. My Aunty in South Africa--my uncle had died in South Africa. Actually, that bit of land right from Arthur's Bay right down to Back Beach, he owned that. He had become quite wealthy and wasn't very interested in it, and he left it to her. So Uncle Harold had the Back Beach side, and Mum had this side.

TrudyHe left it to the estate?

TedNo, he didn't leave it to the estate, he left it to Grandma and to Uncle Harold individually. So I bought this bit up here off Grandma for 200 pounds, if I remember rightly. And we had been crayfishing for quite a while, and I suppose we worked fairly hard, and we were getting on top of things quite a bit.

So, instead of building on sections, like the others did, we built up there. So after a while, there was 28 acres up there. I cleared it up, it was only ti tree and rubbish in those days. Built the cow shed. And Grandma was absolutely marvelous, when I look back on it. She talked about her mother. Of course, she had a much better life than her mother, but she worked hard too.

We used to milk the cows. If I was home, I'd milk, but half the time I was out fishing. We started off with four cows, and Uncle Sandy gave us a little separator, just a little wee one. We used to separate the cream, and take it along.

At that stage there was a chap on Uncle Harold's place, and he was milking a few cows, and the cream truck used to come up to there.

TrudyCome up to where?

TedCome up to Uncle Harold's place.

TrudyWhere was that?

TedHudson and Halls, around there.

It wasn't very much, but it helped things along. Later on, I built the cowshed. There was no power here, we lived up on top of the hill for quite a while without power. We built the cowshed, and just had a stationary engine and a milking machine, and one thing and another.

And then we gradually got a few more cows and I rented grazing from the other side, over by Bill England and Fishers. We had fifty sheep, acquired them over a few years, and a couple of sows, built up the herd slowly. Didn't realize how things were going, but finished up milking 28 cows.

TrudySo were you getting most of your money from fishing?

TedOh yes, most of the money was from fishing. It wasn't actually until after we sold it, that I realized just how much we were getting off the farm. Things just sort of grew up slowly, you increased the cows slowly, and of course then we were able to get top-dressing, which meant that the battle of ti tree was just about over. You could grow enough grass so that the cattle would eat the grass and the ti tree didn't have a chance of predominating.

The farm at the top of the hill was quite easy to run.

So then, Mum would sort of step in if I wasn't home in the evenings and even the mornings. And Les was able at a very early age to do some of this. It was a great life.

TrudyYou didn't see the kids much?

TedOh yeah, a fair amount. We worked hard in those days, and after tea I had a sort of a split sacking, and we had tilly lights, and I'd put this on the floor and make crayfish pots on this until about 9 o'clock. We worked really hard.

I used to meet Ernie down the bay around six or half-past six, which meant you were getting up about five o'clock.

TrudyAnd Grandma got up around then, too?

TedYeah. So we worked pretty hard and life wasn't easy, but it was rewarding in lots of ways. And it was good to know that we were acquiring assets as we were going along. A lot more than we realized, actually.

TrudyA typical day, you'd get up at 5, get down there at 6, and go out fishing.

TedWell, we started with crayfishing, and the crayfishing was really good, but after a while the gloss came off it because it'd get so we'd taken the cream off the crayfish. They weren't as easy to catch. Instead of catching eight bags, it got down to about four. We didn't realize, really, that the price was going to compensate for this. We should never ever have gotten out of crayfishing, really. But I suppose everybody makes a lot of mistakes.

And there was a lot of other work, because we'd made our crayfish pots and all that ourselves, and caught our own bait. It was nothing for us to get up at two o'clock in the morning and go netting up the lagoon for bait, and do the pots. But we'd often be home by half-past ten, but there were crayfish pots to make. There wasn't too much rest.

TrudyYou mean, half-past ten in the morning?

TedYes. Half-past ten ... would be later than that, usually. Would be midday usually, I suppose.

If there was any spare time, I'd be cutting ti tree or fencing, or improving the 28 acres up there.

Then afterwards, of course, we started longlining. That was hard work.

TrudyWhich boat was this, the Dolphin?

TedBy this stage, we had The Foam. We used The Dolphin for a few years, and then we wanted to fish over at Little Barrier, and The Dolphin was a bit small, so we built The Foam which was 34 foot. We fished over there for quite a while. At that stage, we used to fish at Goat Island and Kawau Island.

TrudyWas that built down there?

TedThat was built at Uncle Ernie's house. By this time we were living in the house at the top of the hill, and Uncle Ernie was living at his house down there.

TrudyI sort of remember where that used to be.

TedYou know where Aunty used to live? It's just a wee bit up past Aunty's.

TrudyI can only just remember going there.

TedAlan would have been about three when we were building The Foam, and he used to often go down there. He took a great interest in The Foam, and he was only three. Maybe it's just one of the things you don't remember.

TedThen Leigh Fisheries got going. See, before, when we started fishing there were plenty of fish around but the trouble was to get the fish up to the market in Auckland. We used to buy ice, get it down by the bag, but it was pretty cumbersome, and a lot of work involved. And I had a little freezer at the top of the hill, that would hold five bags, but five bags of snappers weren't much in those days.

So when Leigh Fisheries .... But we had been fishing fairly well and were probably pretty good fisherman, compared to some of the others that started. They wanted us to join and we were a bit reluctant, because we had our markets and one thing and another, but eventually we did. I was a Director of the fisheries at Leigh for a while. They had a lot of their ???. They used to smoke their fish and sell it, a lot of smoked fish.

TrudyWas it where it is now?

TedOh yes.

TrudyWhat year was that?

TedPossibly around 1960, maybe before that.

TrudySo the country was slowing growing in prosperity?

TedWell, we never had any unemployed in those days. There was an unemployment benefit, but there were only half a dozen people on it. Same with the doctors, you see.

I guess people worked, but there was always work for people to do.

TrudyAnd Labour was out by this stage, and National was back in?

TedI think Labour stayed in from when it was first elected in 1935, it stayed in until the 1940s. Sometime in the 1940s. But then there had been National--they didn't always call it National, it went under a lot of other names. If it stunk too much, they'd change the name. But even the National party, looking back to what we've got now, the National party was a pretty liberal party. Or the Reform party. It went by a lot of other names.

They still had a lot of the reforms that the Labour party brought in. They kept them. And, of course, one of the things that the Labour Government did to boost things along was the state houses. When they started building the State Houses, it created a lot of work and was homes for people to live in.

TrudyWhen was that?

TedThat would probably be about 1937.

TrudyWhen they first started.

TedThe National party continued it. That's what I say--the National party did a lot of good things. It wasn't the destructive party that it is today. Of course, it was actually the Labour government of Roger Douglas, who was really the traitors.

It wasn't really the National party because I think the National party. I don't think the people would have stood it if the National party .... But the Labour party doing it, of course, people sort of say "oh it's the Labour party, it must be right" sort of style. They turned out to be proper traitors.

TrudyGetting back to Leigh. When you were a director at the Leigh Fisheries, what did that involve?

TedIt was only in a very small way, then. I know I used to take the smoked fish sometimes to Kaipara Flats to catch the railway. A terrible lot of people did a lot of work for very little, to keep it on its way. A chap called George Hayden was the managing director of it. He was very capable. He died eventually of a heart attack.

It's grown up into a very good company, since then.

TrudySo it started off as a co-op?

TedWell, a lot of them wanted to make a co-op. The fisherman never had any money, so it had to start as a company. I'm all for co-ops, it would have been great, but you've got to have a bit of capital.

Actually, when it really did leap was when they started exporting snapper to Japan. See, the price of snapper went up from I suppose, 20c a pound to about $30 a kilo. See, when we were fishing before, we had to head and gut all our snapper, well when they started going to Japan, it wouldn't hold. So that was a big ...

I was out of fishing before the Japan market opened up. Barry was one of the ones that boosted this along.

Not only that you see, you can imagine you head and gut your snapper, well there's fish guts all everywhere. And you got home again, you had a big job cleaning up the boat. Well, when you could sell them whole, it did away with a lot of that work.

And instead of making a few dollars, they were making thousands of dollars for a trip.

TrudySo you went to Okaihau in '66. There was only 5 years or so before you moved. Were you fishing all that time?

TedWell, I sold my half of the farm to Ernie. I got a bit sick of fishing. I shouldn't have done, but I did. And I worked around here locally for a year or a few years. And then I started fishing again on my own, and fished for maybe a couple of years.

TrudyWhat were you doing when you were working around?

TedWell, fencing, and jobs like that. And then I was fishing, and by this time we were having a wee bit of .... I was dead keen to go farming, always was, but I never ever had any money. At this stage, the farm at the top of the hill was getting to be worth a little bit, and one thing and another.

So we bought the farm at Okaihau, and sold this up here. That was milking fifty cows when we bought it. We went up there in August, and it rained for about a fortnight, non-stop. What a mess. The chap we bought it off never did a thing to it. All the fences were falling down, and the races were full of mud. I had to cut the wire away from the races so the cattle could come down. It was a shambles.

TrudyDid you like it?

TedI quite enjoyed it. It was a challenge. Even though I say so to myself, I think we made a good job of it, and people sort of congratulated us on it. Mind you, it was farm that was pretty obvious what wanted doing. We renewed the races, and we put a herringbone cowshed in. And Brad Topp was very good to us. He helped us a lot. We used to go over and help him, and he'd come over and help us.

TrudyHow big was this farm?

Ted110 acres, I think, something like that. It was too small. We milked 80 cows at the finish.

TrudyDid you have a mortgage?

TedYes, we had a mortgage, but it wasn't too bad.

TrudyBecause you'd sold here. Did you get a reasonable price for this farm?

TedYes, yes, tried hard to sell it. I think we got about 5,000 pounds, and I think we paid around about 8 for the farm up north. We bought that as a going concern. It might have been three walk-through sheds. And then the concrete floor was flat, and the cow muck wouldn't go away. It was spring time and there seemed to be cow muck everywhere.

Grandma wouldn't go in the shed after a while, it was really disgusting. And the cups would fall off the cows and land in this cow muck.

TrudyWhy was it such a disaster? Was it the shed?

TedThe shed, that was the thing. The concrete floor was absolutely flat. There was nowhere for this muck to drain away. Anyway, we only put up with that for a year, and then we got a herringbone shed. That was heaven. Eighty cows, we'd milk them in about an hour. Grandma had no problem at all, and we had a high pressure hose to hose the concrete down.

So, at that stage we had it going very well.

TrudySo, Mum had left home by that stage. Who was still at home?

TedJeff was the only---well, Les had finished ... had had a year at University. Maybe he was still going to University. He must have still been going to University when we went up there, I think. Alan had started his apprenticeship at MacKinnons. Barry was still going to school. And Jeff was a lot younger, of course.

TrudySo when you went up there, it was just Jeff who went with you?

TedWell, your mum went up too. She worked up there for a while. And Les worked around the district, after he'd been to university he worked there. He worked at the bakery at Okaihau, and one or two farm jobs around.

TrudySo what was the house like?

TedThe house had been an old jam factory, or had been built to be a jam factory. I don't think they ever made any jam in it. The land up there was fairly flat, and volcanic, and they had great ideas of having great orchards in there. But the climate was pretty hard. It wasn't wet, but it was dry volcanic. Great texture. It wasn't very rich, but it was great texture. The climate was pretty hard.

Anyway, this idea of orchards had fallen through. And, of course, this was the home of the chap that we bought it off. He had had the kitchen done up, and bathroom, but apart from that it was fibrolite and wasn't very nice.