Father’s Day

While Managing a Bank in a Holiday Resort Town, skilled staff were always a problem and difficult to locate. Often when a prospective worker presented themselves for a job, by the time an application was forwarded to our Head Office Staff Department (Yes in those days we hadn’t got around to naming it the ‘Human Resources Department’) and returned, the candidate had been snapped by someone else. One day an ex-employee of the Union Bank of Switzerland who had followed a Swiss Maid out to New Zealand, called looking for employment. He could speak German, Italian, and French, but not English. I sent off an application recommending we hire him, praising his linguistic proficiency, but I never mentioned his lack of English, knowing full well that Head Office would assume that he was also proficient in our language. I had managed to communicate with him in French, but working with him had some amusing consequences. One girl went home and told her parents that I had employed someone who never talked, but just pointed to where the mistake that everyone was looking for was located. Her mother inquired from my wife, what was going on at the Bank? Once everyone understood, they all pitched in giving English lessons. Some of the girls of course were keen to teach him English that was never used in polite society. As far as I knew Head Office never found out, and the man turned out to be a treasure. His only and constant complaint was, we didn’t pay the same salary as his former Swiss Employers. After a couple of months he was becoming fluent in English, I suspected that he had had some basic English lessons while at school back in Switzerland. He never really came to grips with our ‘Books Of Instructions’. These were the books that governed all our day to day conduct in the Bank. He would ask questions like, ’What do they mean when they say? ‘Penultimate Paragraph’. I said, ‘It’s just someone showing off’. ‘It’s the one before the last’. There are not many instances like this in the books. Just ask if you don’t understand.


One day a German Film Crew came into the Bank talking loudly in German, what we didn’t know was that they were referring to the Bank Staff as Dumkoffs, Bumpkins, and laughing at their own jokes uproariously, making fun of our small country bank. Martin, our Swiss employee attended to their exchange of Travellers Cheques transaction in English. Then as they reached for their money, he grabbed the money then switched to German and gave them a five minute dressing down that was just wonderful to see and hear. They were Ambassadors of their Country, and were expected to behave as such. They were a disgrace to the German Race. This behaviour while abroad was not what was expected from Germans. They just getting over from being the most unpopular people in the world and they were doing nothing to help to restore them in the popularity stakes. Weren’t they aware we all spoke German at this Branch, what’s more we were all shocked by their disgraceful oafish behaviour, and undecided what to do about it. Five very red faced Germans stumbled from the Bank muttering profuse apologies, wondering just what the hell had happened. Where did this outpost of German Culture spring from. How could they have been so stupid?


Most days with out fail, tourists would leave behind all kinds of valuables. When they returned to retrieve same they were grateful. But, I noticed there was a penalty with Cameras that wasn’t immediately apparent, I discovered with some surprise the staff taking a photo of themselves as a little reminder for the tourist when they returned and developed the film.


On Sunday Mark took me and Kohe San, an ex-Japanese Pilot down to Ashburton to visit the Air Force Museum. For a small town they had a surprising large collection of memorabilia. One exhibit was a Harrier Jet which actually was flown and distinguished itself in the Falkland War. Ashburton strangely was the Air Field where I was inducted into the Royal New Zealand Air Force. My rank was lowest rank they had, AC2. (Aircraftsman Second Class) I was a real ‘Dogs Body’, even the Cooks held a higher rank. Everyone without exception, who had any ambition of joining the Air force as Air Crew, first had to pass a Pre-Entry examination which would be the equivalent of the Matrix, but with a heavy emphasis on flying matters and navigation. My deal, over which I had no control anyway, was that I guarded the Air Field for some hours at night, while I attended classes during the day. One night at a dance I met a Hospital Nurse who I had known at school down South, and after a couple of ‘Dates’ we agreed to correspond when I left for Over Seas, which was my fervent hope. I was confident that I would pass their exams, and move on to Pilot training. However our relationship was never given a chance to blossom. I did get my overseas posting to train in Fighter Aircraft in Canada. But while away, I received a ‘Dear John’ letter, advising me nicely, to get lost, as I’m pregnant and I am marrying my child’s father. Life has many strange twists, as later I was to meet and become good friends with her son. I was astounded when I discovered his relationship to the former love of my life. The town where we both met held no connection for me apart from the Air Force.

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