Some of my Personal Background

Looking back over the years I have enjoyed many changes of occupation, as well as places where we lived. Some occupations were thrust onto me, others I applied for and was and given a chance.


I was born at Port Chalmers 29th June 1923 and enjoyed a very happy childhood with a younger brother and sister. Port Chalmers then was a small, but busy shipping Port. With a couple of large engineering works, a ferrous and non ferrous moulding shop, pattern makers. All employing a couple of hundred or so. A large fishing industry was active both in and off shore. This was the situation until the depression arrived. And it did so with a vengeance, this in reality spelt doom for the Port. It ended the town’s helicon years. All support services one after another were lost or slowly closed down. The Union Company who also had one of their NZ Bases and repair workshops in the Port, also wound down their chandlery and shipping activities. I can remember a huge fleet of Union Company vessels, all laid up, rafted together in the harbour off Carey’s Bay. A couple of docks, and all their infrastructure that went with them, were leveled and filled in, to make available new wharf marshalling areas that a sea port of the future required. The three railway stations, Post Office, Banks, over time were all closed as well.


At my father’s suggestion learn a trade. ‘You will always have that to fall back on’, So I took up an apprenticeship with the NZ Railways as a fitter. I also returned to night school, and liked the engineering theory that it required. This stood me in good stead later when studying Navigation, as Trigonometry was the one subject that they were both based on. I didn’t last very long in my chosen trade. As soon as I turned eighteen, I was conscripted into the Army, the ‘Second Scottish Regiment’ as a private. We at the time were all that stood between the Japanese Military expansive ambitions, and our current way of life. A very thin line indeed. Our regular army of a couple of Divisions were busy fighting the Germans and Italians in the Western Desert. With Ralph Maxwell who I met on my first day in the Army, taught all of the Head Quarters Company how to drive heavy trucks, as we both held ‘Heavy Traffic Licences’ we both ended up driving Light Tanks, or Bren Carriers. I had been driving a milk truck around the Port village delivering milk, (Unpaid) for about three years just to get some driving practice and skill while the owner, Bondie Thompson chatted up the cook in a local Hotel. When I turned fifteen, the legal age in New Zealand to drive, I immediately applied for a licence. Jim McElwee testing officer, said when I applied. ‘Just give me five shillings, and you can have your licence’ I have watched you driving around here for years.’


After a year, the Japanese expansion had been halted by the Americans at Midway. I could now change military services if I desired, or ask for a discharge from the Army. I managed to get my parents permission to join the Air Force and was accepted as an Air Crew candidate. I passed my entrance exams and did my preliminary flying at Taieri Airport on Tiger Moths. After 50 hours of flight training I was selected to move onto Service Flying in Canada on Harvards. There I graduated in Air Combat, Dive Bombing, strafing, and finally gained my wings. Now, I was a menace to the enemy, and for that matter anyone near me as well. I was posted to England and got as far as Halifax, when my travel plans were suddenly switched back to the pacific. Took this in my stride, as half of the group I had initially belonged with had remained in New Zealand and had already completed two tours in the pacific in Corsair fighters, while we were still waiting to commence our training. The one thing that annoyed me was that we got no recognition for our Army service, yet the Government was prepared to sacrifice us in a futile effort to halt the Japanese. A simple ‘Thanks’ would have done.


The Japanese Air Force through constant fighting and attrition, had been reduced to Kamakazi status, this was the only way their Pilots could be effectively employed, which took tremendous amount of courage, and a death wish to carry out. They were no longer the superb fighting force that they had started out with. At this time New Zealand now had a well trained Air Force capability, possibly actually greater than England’s at the start of the Battle of Britain.


After the War and demobbed, I didn’t wish to return to Engineering. It was too dirty, and not well paid, so with my brother we bought a milk round connected with a carrying business. We made good money, but it was very hard work. At the same time I worked as a projectionist at the Family movie theatre. After a few years we sold up our milk business, my brother had enough money to pursue his dreams, and bought an orchard at Earnscleugh. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but applied for and got a job with the National Bank as a ‘Pressure Cooker’ Bank Officer. One day I looked up to see a guy in a pin stripped suit standing over me. Turned out to be the General Manager. He inquired how was it that I had as much in Merit Rises as in salary. Would I take promotion, if it was offered to me? I said Yes, but didn’t wish to lose the merit chunk of my salary which I would if I became an executive. Being told I would soon make it up, I suddenly had my foot on the first rung on the promotion ladder. Department Head, Second officer, Accountant and finally a Manager.


I stayed with the Bank until I retired for the first time, as really enjoyed country banking. Once retired I commenced the second stage of my career. Then, I only did what I deemed ‘Interesting things’ which shall relate to later.





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