I had to work quite a bit because we elected to have a family straight away. Colleen stayed home and I had to get extra work to bring in extra money. I used to work at the panel shop during the day, and then go to work at General Motors at night. I was pretty tired by the time I got home! After all that had settled down, I ran into an old friend of mine. I had run with him back in the late thirties. He wanted to know what I was doing, and I told him I was only messing about. He suggested that I come back to the harriers. I didn’t think I would be able to run much, but he said I should come back anyway as they were having the Dorne Cup the next week. Just come down, everybody that will be there you will know. So I went down and sure enough, everybody there was saying hello to me and the following week I lined up and rejoined the harriers. The club was Trentham United and I have been there ever since. That is about 37 years that I have been with them and I have been made a Life Member.
We had some great times and we ran in all weathers. We certainly didn’t worry about rain and wind. Lynette, our youngest daughter, also came and ran with the club for a while. She did alright too, won two or three cups. I was a bit sorry at one stage because I said for every cup she won I would buy her a miniature for it - it could have cost me a fortune! I was out running on Sunday – we used to go out for a two or three hour run Sunday mornings – and we were away up in the hills in the back of Akatarawa and the old pipeline track had washed out, so we had to be very careful as now and then you had to walk across the pipe and there was quite a drop to the river. I slipped off and by the time I got back on again and back up to the track; my mates were ahead of me, so I took off after them and as I came around a corner there was another washout. I slipped off the pipe, grabbed hold of a tree branch and was dangling there above the river. I yelled out for help and asked the guys to give me a hand. They all came back and looked at me, joking about whether they should help me up or let me drown. That’s the sort of mates they were! But of course, they got me back up and we continued on our way.
I was at the club after a run one day and somebody said there are half a dozen of us running the Fletcher Marathon. My mate Roger Whiteman and I both said we didn’t want to do one of them; it was no fun at all. The next thing we knew we had entry forms slapped in front of us and were told to put our money where our mouths were. I wondered what I had done – 42K – what am I doing here? But I did it. I had no sooner finished that marathon when I was training for the next one. I ended up doing four – three hours 57 minutes was my best time.
After Neilson’s, I worked at Naenae Panelbeaters for a few years, then I left there and went to State Insurance in Lower Hutt as a Motor Vehicle Assessor. I used to run home from work twice a week – that was 21.1K each time, plus the other running that I was doing. I worked there for about 15 years, until I retired at the age of 60 (it was compulsory to retire at 60 back then), assessing vehicles and also large earthmoving machinery for Gough Gough & Hamer in Naenae. I remember having to go up to remote areas of the Akatarawas and Paekakariki Hill to assess vehicles that had been dumped down banks. It could be pretty difficult work sometimes, as they were hard to get to. One time I ended up assessing a fire engine that my cousin John Piper, who was a firefighter at Lower Hutt Fire Station, crashed. I gave him rubbish about that!
I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1999, and went through a bit of a rough time having radiation treatment every day for 6 weeks. Colleen and I had to drive into Wellington Hospital every day, which was a bit of a bind. I had a heart attack in 1982 in the Varsity Relay at Paekakariki while I was running. They got me to hospital and told me that if I hadn’t been as fit as I was I probably would not have survived, I would have been dead before I hit the road. I was 52 at the time. I did get back to running after that, and ran about 200 half marathons. I was doing about 120K a week. I was fairly fit then. You don’t really know what fitness is until you have been there, it is a totally different feeling altogether to normal fitness. You are sort of walking around on Cloud Nine.
When the girls were younger I took them to the Athletic Club and I finished up President. That was the Maidstone Upper Hutt Athletic Club. I was President for seven years and quite heavily involved with the club. I coached the long jump and high jump. I coached one boy to the New Zealand Championships in the Long Jump. Judith and Lynette both went to the Club. Lynette used to like the old 880 but Judith just used to muck about, but she was a good runner. She used to annoy me, she could have done really well but she thought it was fun. I had to eventually finish running, because in 2002 I had to have a triple heart bypass so I went to walking, much to my disgust, but anyway I did, and now I can hardly walk.
Our daughters all grew up, as they do, and Judith decided she would go to Australia for a working holiday. Her friends had a party to see her off, and the party lasted for two days. Away she went and six months later Jocelyn decided she would like to go to Australia too. That would be twenty or more years they have been there now. They met their partners, married, settled down and had their families.
Jocelyn married Huseyin Huseyin (known as Huss), and had a boy, Ismet, who is now 20, and a girl, Amber, who is now 17. Judith married Andrew Winters and had two boys, Sam, who is now 20 and Mitchell (known as Mitch), who is now 17. Lynette married Brad Nicholas and had a girl, Alicea, who is now 11 years old. The only regret that we have is that they are all in Australia. We talk to them often on the phone, and we have a pretty good relationship with all our grandchildren. Karen stayed in New Zealand and is still single. Karen took on nursing at Lower Hutt and it was a very proud day when she graduated. She stayed nursing for around 10 years and then decided to change and go into computers. She then went to work in various jobs in Wellington for a long time, but came back out to Upper Hutt to work at the City Council for about 5 years. She is now working for Foodstuffs in Silverstream.
With the children and grandchildren being in Australia, that was the start of us going there for holidays. We have had many a good holiday there with them all. Judith lives in Clovelly in Sydney, Lynette lives at Woy Woy near Gosford on the Central Coast, and Jocelyn lives at Mittagong in the Southern Highlands. They are a small distance apart but not too far. They see each other and keep in contact quite easily. Mangaroa Hill Road was a great street as far as people go, and we all looked after each other’s kids. Every Sunday we used to have “elevenses”. Some times they would last a couple of hours, and at other times they could last four or five hours. I remember coming home one day and the hill was on fire. I got to the gate and somebody called out to me “Hey Piper!” I looked and there was Murray from next door, he had a table all set out with all the sorts of drinks imaginable. “Come on in” he said. Colleen was there so I thought I might as well go.
So we sat and watched them fight the fire on the hill, and every time the helicopter went over we would raise our glasses to the pilot and wave to him. But it turned out that he had the last laugh, the rotten sod. He must have kept a bit of water back in the bucket, because he flew around again and came over the top of us and dumped the water on us. So we copped the lot. We could see his head out the side of the helicopter, laughing his head off, and there we sat – all soaking wet.
All the neighbours were pretty good. Murray and Nettie Yorston, the couple next door, had no children and our kids just loved them. They were brilliant with them, they were just like a second family to them. They had a really big influence on their lives. I used to have “Sunday Morning Communion” with Murray. I would be working out in the garage and I would hear “Hey Piper!” from behind the garage wall, where there was a creek running through his property. I would go out round the back of the garage and there he would be, standing in the creek in his gumboots holding a half G of beer. We thought it was great fun, hiding there and having a beer.