Oral interview regarding the life and experiences of Alan Crews as a boy in the family's grocery on Featherston Street, Palmerston North in the 1950's.
Recorded: 11 July 2017.
Interviewer: Simon Johnson
Abstract: Simon Johnson.
Interview with Alan Crews
Subject: Life and work experience as a boy in the family's grocery on FEATHERSTON STREET, 1950s.
0' 28" `Establishing time frame - late 1940s - early 1950's. CREWS GROCERY open 5 days only, like many groceries in pre supermarket times.
1' 50" Father ARTHUR CREWS background before he bought grocery.
2' 28" Business grew with the suburb (viz. post war in fill between Featherston St West and Tremaine Ave) Shop was part of a group (like 4 Square) Can't remember name of group.
3' 07" Mother MABEL "WILLA" CREWS nee BEALE not involved in business at all "My father was it." Just like the grocer played by Ronnie Barker in the comedy series Open all Hours. "My brother [GRAHAM CREWS] and I were Granville." (i.e. the delivery boy in the series).
3' 44" Range of products limited. Not "Fifteen different types of everything" as in today's supermarkets. Stock arrived as bulk, then bagged up. No plastic, only brown paper bags.
5' 23" Personalised service - father knew all customers.
5' 55" Type of stock - more about bulk items, much of which arrived in tea chests. One of Alan's after school jobs was making up bags of such items for sale.
9' 38" Bread delivered to shop by baker. Father went to fruit & vegetable auction at 4.00 each morning in his van . Would bid against other shopkeepers for stock. No real change in public demand/tastes in 1950s. Changes came later on with advent of supermarkets.
11' 33" Most customers were women because they were at home "doing their chores." Many shopped daily because they didn't have a fridge. Took what they could carry home. Home delivery if too much to carry, which was where Alan, his brother and the shop bicycle came in. Common for people to have a vegetable garden and keep hens.
12' 38" Customers paid cash. No credit cards, but Alan's father would offer credit to customers he knew if her husband was sick or temporarily out of work.
13' 35" All bottles were glass and could be recycled. Taken to the BOTTLE O on the corner of SEDDON STREET &EATHERSTON STREET for cleaning.
15' 23" Location of family home - detached, behind the shop. Large villa, late 19th century, on half an acre. Alan believes it may have originally been a farm house. Hayloft behind house. House was the oldest in the immediate area. In early 1950s the land bounded by BOTANICAL ROAD, FEATHERSTON STREET, and TREMAINE AVENUE was still farmland.
17' 02" Family garden. Father grew daffodils, an interest he got from his father. Also hens and large vegetable garden
18' 35" Father would make bread and milk pudding for tea on Sundays to use up the week's unsold bread.
20' 05" People living in Crew's part of street a "mixed bag" no obvious pattern. As a boy, he didn't notice such things.
20' 40" Land bounded by BOTANICAL ROAD, FEATHERSTON STREET, and TREMAINE AVENUE becomes a new subdivision in mid 1950s. Now forms south western TAKARO. New source of customers for shop. Much of the land had been HOLLOWS NURSERIES and ORCHARDS. Grew apples, stone fruit, etc. Alan remembers the new houses being built. "Happened very rapidly." Many of new residents were young families. Can't remember racial mix.
23' 40" EMPLOYMENT As a child "we always had jobs." Alan worked in bottle cleaning depot after school.
25' 15" More about ARTHUR CREWS' style of service to customers. Knew details of their family life so conversation more personal than at supermarket today. He was a salesman and might suggest products or specials. Had learned calligraphy and did his own signwriting.
27' 40" Making up orders for customers. Lists sometimes dropped off by customers. If too big for customer order would be delivered - free. Was part of service.
29' 40" EMPLOYMENT Alan's after school and holiday jobs - succeeded brother GRAHAM CREWS as the shop's delivery boy (on BICYCLE) when brother went to high school and Alan was "Intermediate school age." Paid one pound per week. Many kids worked after school - paper runs, etc. Later, Alan worked at a chemist's shop after school when at high school. In holidays cycled out to LONGBURN to hoe mangolds, cycled out to a DAIRY FARM near BUNNYTHORPE to work, also picked lupin pods, carted them home on bicycle trailers, dried them out and sold the seeds to MANAWATU CATCHMENT BOARD. Lupins used to stabalise soil on river banks and at beaches. When Alan was young and there were still farms West of WOOD STREET would collect sheep's wool from barbed wire fences, bag it up and sell it. "We were work conscious." Money brought independence. Alan bought his own BICYCLE and accessories. Also saved money through POST OFFICE SAVINGS ACCOUNT. At seventeen had saved enough for a car.
35' 24" Details of shop delivery bicycle.
36' 58" TAKARO New suburb growing up while Alan was delivery boy. Meant that there were more customers and had to ride further. Older customers were closer - BRYANT STREET, PASCAL STREET, etc. Would deliver six to eight orders each day after school.
40' 10" Other jobs Alan undertook around the store - opening up chests of bulk products. Often weevils in the dates and sultanas. Important to ensure none of these got into the bagged up products. Bottling up kerosene which came in 44 gallon drums. Father ensured that Alan didn't bag up products he'd be tempted to eat - biscuits, sweets.
42' 30" Any spare time for hobbies, friends? Not during week. Played RUGBY in weekend, also CUBS, then BOY SCOUTS. Was involved with local scout groups in building the TAKARO SCOUT HALL - built with voluntary labour in weekends. Fished in MANGAONE STREAM using boats made from wood and corrugated iron. Caught EELS, CARP, and PERCH. Would travel upstream as far as MILSON. Stole fruit from HOLLOWS NURSERY en route. In school holidays he and his friends might "disappear in the morning and not get home till it got dark. No one seemed to notice we'd gone." Might cycle to FOXTON BEACH for a swim.
45' 30" Shop sold early 1960s, moved to WOOD STREET. Father then worked for BARRAUD AND ABRAHAMS selling home appliances. Father also owned another grocery on corner of CHURCH STREET and FITZROY STREET. Had a manager to run it. Shop later converted into a house as groceries gave way to changing patterns of shopping.
48' 05" Went to BOYS HIGH SCHOOL. EMPLOYMENT after family shop sold - worked for CENTRAL PHARMACY opposite CENTRAL NORMAL SCHOOL on FEATHERSTON STREET. Owned by RON DE ROO. Job was ferrying scripts [prescriptions] on his bike between doctors' surgeries and Central Pharmacy. Also recycled medicine bottles - washed and labels removed.
50' 10" Applied for TEACHERS COLLEGE when he left school. Backed out because "I didn't have a lot of self confidence back then." Worked for CALTEX, did well, became Plant Superintendent in early twenties and worked in a number places around the country. INSURANCE broking at thirty as an agent then went out on his own in his forties. Retired at sixty.
52' 05" Working as a child and following his father's example taught him the self-discipline to succeed as an adult. Most of his childhood friends had similar background - had paper runs, milk delivery.