I remember my early childhood days as happy enough and I formed a number of lasting friendships. I still retain regular contact with these friends, Don Wells in particular.
MURRAY WILLIAM WHALEY
written by M.W. WHALEY
1 January, 1995
Father -- William Whaley - born 8 August, 1905, Auckland, N.Z. He died 19 October, 1982
Mother--Rose Christine Petersen - born 15 September, 1902, Mauriceville, N.Z. She died 22 November, 1969
Married -- 7 April, 1928, St. Paul's Methodist Church, Palmerston North, N.Z. They lived in Palmerston North and moved to Nelson in 1939 where they spent the rest of their lives.
The subject is of English and Danish extraction.
Paternal -- Great Grandparents emigrated from England in 1879.
Maternal -- Grandparents emigrated from Denmark, Grandmother in 1873 and Grandfather in 1875 and were original settlers in Mauriceville West.
1939 commenced Palmerston North
1939-40 Tasman Street Infants, Nelson
1941-42 Nelson Central School
1943-46 Tahunanui School
1947-49 Nelson College - three years
RESIDENCES (until 1953)
Palmerston North 28 Matipo Street
Nelson 26 Milton Street North
33 Alton Street
22 Bisley Avenue, Tahunanui
BOYHOOD DAYS (1933-1950)
I clearly recall living Matipo Street, Palmerston North, as a young boy. For some reason, imprinted on my mind is my first visit to a school dentist. He presented me with a clip or momento which had "Keep Smiling" inscribed on it. I guess that I have endeavored to follow that motto, (not only on subsequent dental visits) but all my life.
I was conscious from an early age of the hardship and sacrifice imposed on my parents in bringing up three children during the depression years (1930's) one of whom was severely intellectually handicapped. Undoubtedly, this had a bearing on my early shyness and humility, especially in relation to my school friends. I suspect that this fact has also contributed to my independent and "make it yourself" characteristic. However, this is in no way a reflection on my parent's loving care and support which sister Anne and I received.
Our families move to Bisley Ave., on the lower Tahuna hillside in 1943 with it's nearby beach, proved to be a real bonus whilst growing up. I spent many hours roaming the hillside long before it became substantially residentially developed and at the beach, swimming and mapping the sandhills and mudflats. I also mowed many lawns on Saturday mornings and after school for pocket money. The going rate was about 2/6 (25 cents) an hour.
I have fond memories of Tahunanui school where the lads in those days were generally a tough lot. They always gave the "Townies" a real "roasting" whenever they ventured into our territory. eg. the beach or camping grounds, or, when they played against our barefooted rugby teams.
Naturally World War II (1939-45) made an impact on our lives. Many families were split up with fathers going overseas or manpowered into essential industries. Food rationing was in place. I recall that our school class shaded on a map, Allied gains in Europe and Pacific Asia as the war ground on. New Zealanders were also conscious of the possibility of a Japanese landing in N.Z. or Australia. In Nelson, it was rumored that there was a spy house in Atawhai that monitored shipping movements in Tasman Bay and we were aware that a weapon bunker was in position overlooking the harbor.
Post war 1947-49 saw my College days. Cabinet making was my chosen career so I attendee the Woodworking/Engineering course. It is fair to say that my academic credits suffered as a consequence of my many sporting pursuits. However, in my last year, I did achieve the College's top woodworking prize. Overall I did enjoy my college days. However, the fact that Nelson College was a major boarding school and my being a lowly bus boy, did not lend itself easily to involvement in college sports and other internal activities.
Boy Scouts was another interest and a strong group emerged in Tahuna under the leadership of Bruce Redfern. I enjoyed the weekend camps and the regular tramps to the Maitai Valley, Pelorus River, and now Tasman National Park, ect. A companion, Galvin McMillan and I submitted a report to the National Scouts Headquarters in Wellington covering a three day hike which we undertook. For this we were highly commended. Ironically, some fifty years later, I joined the Nelson Fifty-plus Walking Group and have renewed my association with many of the Nelson's bush tracts and walks. I might add with a considerable lesser degree of fitness!
In 1946/47 I became a foundation member of the Star (Stoke, Tahuna and Richmond) Rugby Union Club. Allan Hunter was our coach. During the late 1940's and 1950's, Tuhuna produced a strong Cricket Club with whom I performed with some measure of success. Table tennis in the Tahuna Hall was another pleasurable activity. Alastair St. John was the long term president.
THE MAGICAL 1950'S
I regard this decade as the most notable and exciting period of my life.
1950 - Employment
I secured my first job- that as Junior Storeman for the New Zealand Fruitgrowers Federation Ltd. in Nelson. This gave me financial independence and further opportunity to pursue not only sporting activities but also my other interests.
Motorcycling in those days was regarded as more hazardous and risky even that it is today. This was due to poor road conditions. In fact, almost all roads and main highways were heavily shingled and graded periodically by road machines. Also there was a considerable degree of discourtesy from motorcar drivers. Crash helmets were only used on the race tracks. I purchased a brand new 1950 350 cc (sprung heel) "Matchless" which was replaced a 1938 B.S.A. 350 cc model. I enjoyed the "Matchless" for some four years before selling it to travel overseas.
As well as touring the South Island with a pup tent and a few bare essentials, I completed several other trips. Maurice Hunter and Norman Evans were my particular companions as well as Bill McCarthy with his Army Indian. I recall my first trip to Christchurch with Maurice and Norm. The motorcycle was a 1924 7/9 hp Harley Davidson fitted with a "Coffinlike" wooden side box. This machine was well past its best and was a former meat delivery vehicle (Maurice's father was the local butcher) When the brakes became red hot after descending the Whangamoa and Rai Saddles, the most simple way to cool the brakes was to urinate on them which, in retrospect, was somewhat disgraceful but effective. We also had some thrilling slides in the thick gravel, especially when negotiating the steep and winding Greta Gully Diversions in North Canterbury. We often overshot the corners and finished up having to push the heavy machine up the grassy banks on to the road again.
It seemed that the best way to meet members of the fairer sex and generally have a good time was to follow the weekly dances. Most eligible Nelsonians attended Doug Hienz or the Embassy Dances at the Boathouse or Odd fellows Hall. Incidentally, Doug playing his violin and his three person dance band became an institution and held the floor for over fifty years. Our motorcycles also gave us the opportunity to travel further afield on a Saturday night and we often found ourselves at dances in Mapua, Motueka and Riwaka, even Blenheim.
A little "Dutch Courage" seemed necessary in those days and we often had a few drinks at the Royal or Dominion or other pubs open "after hours". It was 6 o'clock closing in the 1950's. The possibility of a Police raid added to the excitement of the night.
In looking back, we risked much for our "kicks". We were lucky. Some of our mates were not.
The Rock and Roll era was just beginning to emerge during that time as well as anyone with any "go" took Bill Haley's advice to "Rock around the Clock".
I must admit that I still retain a degree of sentiment and nostalgia for the "good old times". Undoubtedly, the endless proliferation of the popular ballads, lyrics and melodies from the 1940's (the war years and after) and the 1950's will not be equaled in my view. Although, I must add that my music preference is a little more sedate these days.
1952 - Compulsory Military Training (C.M.T.)
This scheme was introduced by the government in the 1950's to better equip young men should a future conscription need arise in N.Z. It involved all fit 18-20 year olds to attend a basic Army Training course for 9 weeks followed by a further three annual fortnightly camps.
I initially served at Burnham Military Camp (Christchurch) 9th intake, followed by annual camps at Waiouru, 1954, Lake Ferry (Wairarapa) 1957 and Lake Tekapo, 1958. To my mind, this proved to be a great experience as it encouraged discipline, fitness, teamwork, respect for authority and other people and cleanliness. These are some of the vital characteristics missing in many of today's youth. Greater adherence to these values would solve many of today's social problems, and greatly reduce anti social behavior. A number of politicians have endeavored to reintroduce this scheme over the years without success, which in my opinion, is a great pity. Too much emphasis is placed on more recent legislation eg. the Bill of Rights, ect., which are taken to the extreme.
Rugby and Cricket
These were my favorite sporting activities and ---(page missing)
INNOCENTS ABROAD in the FIFTIES
Following a desire to gain overseas work experience in the Fruit Industry and to see as well, something of the world, my friend and companion Maurice Hunter and I departed Auckland on the "Oronsay" Vancouver bound in July 1955.
I had employment prearranged on orchards in Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, so we traveled as accredited Immigrants with a view to spending two years or so in Canada and possibly the United States. Air travel was relatively uncommon and expensive in the 1950's. Anyway, who would want to miss the excitement and pleasure of a two week sea cruise given the luxury accommodation, first class food and leisurely onboard social activities eg. lounging on the sun deck by day, (Commonly known as the "sin deck" by night). We also found much of interest in the ports of call at Suva and Honolulu.
Tourism was in its relative infancy based on today's standards, but the Fijians turned out in large numbers to see our ship arrive and depart the Port. In Honolulu the Hula girls came on board on arrival and welcomed passengers with a hug and a flower lei. The situation has changed somewhat. Today they are more interested in the almighty dollar that the people themselves!
We traveled by train from Vancouver to Penticton (pop. about 4,000) via the Fraser Canyon. This part of the Okanagan Valley is dominated by the lake and surrounded by low tablelands covered in orchards. The climate is similar to Central Otago (N.Z.) with low rainfall year around, high temperatures in the summer and snow to the low levels in the winter.
When we arrived, the harvest was still two weeks off so we moved further south to Keremeous, near the U.S. border at Osoyoss, to pick early stone fruit. Here it was hatter still and we worked in temperatures around 100 degrees F. Orchards were not generally profitable here, and as a consequence, the properties were unkempt and the fruit trees were surrounded by long grass and weeds. We were aware that Bull snakes roamed the orchards as we had observed their tracks winding across the dusty roads by the nearby Similkamean River. Apparently snakes enjoy basking in the sun on the hot river rocks. We preferred picking from ladders! Our accommodation consisted of rough army type huts. Here again, we noted Rattle snakes emerging from beneath our huts by day. We exercised our mind as to where they were at night should nature call us outside!
Some of our fellow workers were rugged individuals. Drifters and the like who traveled inter-state in empty freight train wagons, alcoholics who were unpredictable and would slit their grandmother's throat, or ours, for a dime. It was all a fast learning curve for innocent New Zealanders.
We returned to Penticton in due course and settled down with two apple growers who pooled their labor. A Dutch man named Van Dusen and a family owned property, Boultbee Orchards. Their son, Eric was about our age and was a typical friendly but reckless Canadian/American youth of the 1950's. He owned a large fast Plymouth and wished to emulate James Dean, who was a young movie idol of that era. We were invited along by Eric to enjoy his pleasures. This included hair raising trios along narrow windy lakeside highways to nearby towns such as Kelowna. Stops en route at roadside bar/cafes were frequent. In house Nickelodeons (Juke Boxes) were fed copious coins to blurt out the latest sounds from the emerging Rock and Roll era of the 1950's. It was a lot of fun, particularly for those who lived for the day without care for tomorrow. But, we survived!
During my time in Pecticton I completed a project on the large central packhouses which were the concept used in North America, compared to the small individual packing sheds operating in New Zealand. I also visited the Summerland Research Station (near Penticton) and learned about work being carried out on new apple rootstocks, ect. In particular, I met Dr. Jim Marshall who was developing Low Water Volume techniques for spray chemical application in orchards. This was a trend which subsequently was introduced to N.Z. by Geof. Taylor of the Fruitgrowers Chemical Co. Ltd., Port Mapua and in which I had an interest. N.Z.F.F. became the distributing agents.
During the long weekend break Maurice and I took the opportunity for a round trip through the Canadian Rockies via Calgary on a Greyhound coach and the scenic Dome Train. It was a great experience to see the majestic treeclad mountains, lakes and glaciers.
As winter approached we noticed the irrigation sprinkler system was not required for our cooling purposes. Our outside shower (a bucket suspended from a tree) became too chilly also.
I then sought assurances that our winter employment with Crown Zellerbach Paper Mills, Ocean Falls, on the B.C. coast was still secure. Unfortunately, the arrangement I had made in N.Z. before leaving, had fallen through at the last minute. Also, as luck would have it, 1955 coincided with an extra early winter. In fact, it snowed three days before the completion of the apple harvest. The ladders became very slippery and the apples cold to handle.
We were aware that Canada is a great outdoor country but as we found, it is not the place to be unemployed in the winter as much of it becomes snowbound with the work force flocking to the cities. Unemployment levels are very high for upwards of six months of the year. One option was to visit my mother's cousin, Harvey Halverson in Salt Lake City, Utah, but we were unable to obtain a U.S. work permit. We decided to return to Vancouver where we joined the job queues. This was a new and uncomfortable experience for young New Zealanders. However Maurice eventually secured a position as Elevator Operator (lift man) at the "posh" Hotel Vancouver. My knowledge of pruning trees and references gained me employment with Cederdale Tree experts, corner of Gladville and 41st street. I assisted with clearing power lines inner city, removing trees surrounding swimming pools in the expensive North Shore District and light lumberjack work, ect. climbing and topping virtually frozen trees. Vancouver in winter is wet and cold and I was ill equipped to cope with the outdoor conditions for a long period, so after a month, we decided to reconsider our options. These were: (a) to see the winter out in Canada, if there was no alternative, (b) return to New Zealand with our tails between our legs, (c) travel on to England for more overseas work experience. We were conscious that jobs were not a problem once there, but our funds were barely sufficient to finance the trip. In fact, I recall walking 5 miles to work to save 15 cents a trip. We further cut our food budget to pay our fares, took the risk and headed for U.K.
The journey Vancouver to New York was a four day and night non stop trip by Greyhound Bus. The route was to Seattle and through the Northern States of Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin to Chicago (Illinois), Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Quite a ride through winter road conditions. However, we saved on accommodation costs.
In New York, we found cheap board in the Salvation Army Home for four nights and saw much of the city on foot and public transport. We were rather shocked to see the districts like the Bowery where life's social outcasts sprawled over the footpaths, in the gutters and sheltered in the shop doorways to avoid the wintry conditions. Some so called poverty stricken New Zealanders should see the hopelessness and impoverishment in other parts of the world, even America. We went to a night court which had been established to hasten vagabonds convictions should they commit crimes to secure a bed for the night and so clutter up police cells.
Maurice and I boarded the R.M.S. "Queen Elizabeth" for our Atlantic crossing to Southampton, via Cherborg on 9 December, 1955. This vessel was the world's largest passenger ship ever. It is unfortunate that following the era of the sailing ship, these great liners were outmoded by the demand for air travel from around the early 1970's. However, there has been a limited resurgence back to the more relaxing sea cruising in recent years. The "Queen Elizabeth" was a virtual island on its own, accommodating 1,296 officers and crew plus carrying 2,348 passengers. It even published its own daily newspaper! It was relatively fast and because of this was converted to a Troop carrier during World War II. Although we basically traveled stowage for economy reasons, the passage was a great experience. As well, it provided us with five days of much needed regular high class meals. I managed to win the Voyage Table Tennis Championship and a trophy. No doubt this was due to the fact that I adapted best to the unstable conditions caused by the stormy crossing.
On arrival at Southampton, we proceeded directly to London arriving about 2.00 PM on a bleak, sleety, miserable winter's day.
It didn't take long to tally up our funds. Maurice and I had 48 shillings and sixpence (about $5.00) between us. We found the Labour Exchange and joined the queues. We were immediately directed to the Post Office (near Big Ben) and by 5.00 PM were sorting London's Christmas Mail. (The year of the missorted mail controversy???!!) We found rooms in Earl's Court for a couple of nights.
My next occupation was at Whitbread's Brewery for a month in the casket washing division in Chiswell Street, near St. Paul's Cathedral. I was surprised that there was still significant evidence of the bombing which had taken place a decade ago during World War II. In due course, we moved our lodging to Camden Town. NW1- a relatively rough environment but not too far out from London Central and within long walking distance of many sites of interest eg. Lord's Cricket Ground, Regents Park and Zoo, Madam Tussards, ect.
Eventually I secured a position with Ridley and Houlding & Co. in the Old Covent Garden Fruit and Produce Market through Mr. Bill Peterson the London Manager of Wm. Coward & Co. Ltd. Bill was the N.Z. Fruitgrowers Federation agent for U.K. and Europe. R. & H. distributed fruit received from many world wide producers and suppliers including the N.Z. Apple and Pear Marketing Board. I spent six months there learning the trade before departing on a 3-4 week hitch hiking tour on the Continent.
Maurice had secured a job in the British Rail workshops in Kentish Town (near Camden Town) for the duration of our time in London.
Living and working in the great city was a tremendous experience. We learned many of the facets of a large city life and that of London in particular. We enjoyed the atmosphere and the friendliness of the English corner pubs, the music hall type of entertainment, eg. Bud Flanagan and Max Bygraves whom we saw on stage; Benny Hill and company and the theater eg. "The Boyfriend, Agatha Chrisie's "The Mousetrap" (then in its 30th consecutive year on stage). We visited the historical museums and sports venues. We witnessed an England vs. Australia cricket test at Lords and several other first class County matches at Lords and the Oval in South London. We had little money to travel U.K. as wages were low. However, our main objective was to see a little of the Continent and save our fare home.
HITCH HIKING in EUROPE
In late June, 1956, Maurice and I ferried across from Dover to Ostend traveling very lightly with a minimum pack. I recall that the first day on the road was singularly unsuccessful. No lifts eventuated so we walked the full 25 miles to Calais. However, it was a fine day and we thoroughly enjoyed our jaunt through the Belgium countryside and small villages into France. We did wonder though at this rate, how much we would ultimately see of the Continent during the 3-4 weeks.
Our luck varied greatly from day to day. On one occasion, we signaled an empty tourist coach which was returning from a French Cannel Port. This gave us a free five hour ride right into Paris. One other major success was a 400 mile lift from Southern France into Switzerland. We were also accorded an overnight stay in the driver's private chalet. Other times we footed it for miles. No doubt the best way to really see the county and its people. We signaled thousands of vehicles on a daily basis but one way or another kept moving onward...
Vehicular traffic was extremely light in Spain with long distances of barren, isolated countryside. However, fortunately train fares were cheap. At one small station en route, we experienced a sudden severe jolting and derailment. No major injuries resulted luckily and after a considerable delay, we arrived in Lisbon, Portugal. We were weary but overall happy with our progress. Some Spanish experiences of note included a close-up view of Spain's Dictator, Generalissimo Franco, who passed by in a military cavalcade in Madrid. In Barcelona with the help of a little cheap vino, I plucked up courage to invite one of Spain's leading Flamenco entertainers for a dance. She spoke some halting English and I gather had heard of "Nouvelle Zealand". The contact was a new experience for both of us! In the border resort of Port Bou on the Spanish Riviera, we spent a couple of days resting up and swimming. At one stage we climbed a cliff from the beach and found ourselves in France - on the wrong side of the border. We had great difficulty in explaining our credentials to the armed guards. As our passports did not officially record us as leaving Spain. I suppose our good looks and honest faces helped us out of that fix?
Overall, we traveled the cheapest form possible through Belgium, the length and breadth of France, saw much of Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and the Rhine area of Germany. We crossed the small country of Saar. We utilized the bare minimum of overnight accommodation. Where available, we found Youth Hostels inexpensive. Other wise, we located unused barns and out buildings which we sometimes shared with Gypsies and other down and out itinerant travelers.
In Paris, we spent a few nights in new large unoccupied apartment blocks on the outskirts of the city. We even stayed one night in a police cell in Paris. Mind you, not for wrong doing but purely for the experience! (that's my story and I'm sticking to it.) The cell was very basic and smelly. The cell key resembled that used in the Bastille. Breakfast was not served by the 40 or so gendarmes who serviced the Saint Dennis district from the station. However, we did not complain - just moved on quietly at 5.00 am out of sight into a tented market which had sprung up across the road overnight. We explored other city sights of Paris including the "Red Light" area. For fun, in Rue Pigalle we asked street girls their service charges. I conveyed to them in all honesty that we had insufficient funds for such a fee. I wasn't understood and the response was "but I make good love." I'm sure they would!
We lived cheaply off the land where possible from vegetables in the field and fruit. Vino proved an economic thirst quencher and was possibly a lesser health risk than some local water supplies. Perhaps it also assisted in restoring our well-being and confidence when we were a little low at times.
We duly arrived back in London after about four weeks, bronzed, tougher and more worldly wise. We felt much at home in London's familiar environment after experiencing such a different life style, differing cultures and languages in Europe. Unfortunately, our return passage to New Zealand had been delayed five days and our ship was redirected to Australia via Capetown due to the 1956 Suez crises.
DESTINATION NEW ZEALAND
We survived the extra five days in London before embarking on the immigrant ship "Largs Bay" (14,000 tons), the ship which was to take us on to Australia. It was a far cry from the R.M.S. "Queen Elizabeth" and the S.S. "Oronsay". Comparatively, it was a "floating bucket" and was crowded with English immigrants who were seeking a new life in Australia or New Zealand. However, we enjoyed the 4-5 week journey with plenty of onboard entertainment and companionship with people who had the same aspirations as ourselves, almost one and one half years ago. Not the least pleasure were the regular meals again and a
roof over our heads.
Our first port of call was Las Palmas, a Spanish settlement in the Canary Islands.
The next stop was at Capetown from where we took the Skylift up Table Mountain. We also traveled to Durban for a day on the beach.
We arrived in Australia at Freemantle and walked the 12 miles or so to Perth - a lovely city and it was more reminiscent of New Zealand compared to the "old world" of England and Europe, which we had left behind. Although the Largs Bay destination was Sydney, we wanted to see a little more of Australia and have a "final fling", so we disembarked at Melbourne and hitch hiked our way to Sidney. We were invited to stay the four days there near Boni Beach at the home of one of our shipmates, before boarding the S.S. "Monowai" for Wellington.
My projected trip of a lifetime proved to be just that. I would strongly recommend any young person to travel the world and savor what it has to offer.