Agnes Richards, life member
by Miriam Lewin
Agnes's first involvement with Bridge was being roped in to play the dummy hand when one of the aunts had to go and make a pot of tea when her extended family played cards while all holidaying together. Then about eleven years old, she found it a bore; an impression which didn't improve much as she got a little older and was pushed into playing to make up a four, and would be told off by the aunts for getting things wrong while learning the rudiments of the game.
These maiden aunts however doted on her all her early childhood, along with her affectionate maternal grandparents who had the care of the newborn Agnes after her mother died in childbirth. Her stricken father remained in Gore where he was stationed after returning from fighting in WW1 alongside his six brothers. At the age of six she rejoined her newly remarried father in Trentham and spent the rest of her youth travelling between her grandparents in the South and her father's various postings around New Zealand.
In her 20’s Agnes was nursing in Timaru when Laurie returned from overseas and proposed to her. She thought she would prefer to be married rather be a nurse so accepted! They had a son and a daughter and Agnes later returned to work in retail. At first she was with Vance Vivian and later became one of the formidable and respected ‘Kirks ladies’. She enjoyed this coveted role immensely, Kirkaldie and Stains being a large department store in the old model, with a proper restaurant in those days along with the tearooms and the famed ladies’ powder rooms.
Agnes played bridge socially but competitively in homes and golf clubs over these years. She considered the bridge clubs of Wellington were places for ‘old people’ where they dressed in evening skirts and fur stoles and where you daren't talk and wouldn't dream of leaving the table without the Director’s permission. She was in her 40’s when she moved to Kapiti and began playing at Paraparaumu Bridge Club, then in various locations around Waikanae, before being instrumental in the setting up of the current clubrooms in Elizabeth St.
Agnes has travelled extensively in Continental Europe and the British Isles, visiting both her parents’ birthplaces in Northern Ireland and Scotland. She especially loved Italy and the Greek Islands and has made countless trips across to Australia to visit her son and his family there. In her mid 80’s she made a tour of Vietnam and Cambodia with her brother-in-law Doug and appreciated the gentleness and hospitality of the people there. Hospitality was her lasting memory of Rarotonga too, which she also visited with Doug, going to church there to hear the famous singing of the locals and being treated to the proverbial free lunch.
Back in Waikanae Agnes enjoys reading anything except Sci-Fi and has an extensive network of family and friends whom she visits and is visited by fairly regularly. They share meals, discuss books, indulge in the odd Bombay Sapphire gin and laugh at the absurdities of life. One such was the eager young thing who recently quizzed Agnes in a medical questionnaire: after establishing her date of birth, gender and age (past 90), the nurse asked her if there was any possibility that she could be pregnant! This doesn't exclude laughing at herself either. Agnes delights in telling the story of how she took her car to the garage and told them she had a problem with her crutch slipping.
Blair Campbell, life member
by Miriam Lewin
Blair was born in the Wairarapa in 1935 where his mother was a nursing matron and his father a GP. His parents were keen for him to also pursue a career in medicine, but after his schooling in Carterton and Nelson where he boarded, Blair started working for an agent of Lloyds Insurance brokers in Wanganui in 1951. He soon moved to the head office in Wellington and continued in a sales career for various electronics and communications firms in the North Island and both Victoria and Tasmania ‘across the ditch’. This success in the highly competitive field of sales, spanning 50 years, is testament to Blair’s friendly, social nature.
A keen 500 player throughout his life, it was a desire to take his cardplay a step further, which led Blair to attend bridge lessons he saw advertised in Melbourne. A self-described slow learner, he continued attending lessons in Kapi Mana, Hamilton and here in Waikanae. Now he is a valued ‘Man Friday’ to Judith who currently runs our lessons, making new members feel welcome and sparking in them the same enthusiasm for playing bridge that they both share. Blair is also a quiet contributer behind the scenes at the club, organising the purchase of cards and equipment, locking up after the social evenings, manning the bar at tournaments and such like.
A loving and beloved father and grandfather, Blair has three children and five grandchildren, and not to be missed: a little great granddaughter, born last year. He enjoys social occasions with his immediate and extended family who are scattered over New Zealand and Australia and spends his leisure time at bridge (naturally), going to the theatre, listening to classical music and opera; he also volunteered for some years with Kapiti Coast Greypower, running their Odd Job Scheme amongst other tasks.
A highlight of Blair’s travels in the UK, Europe, USA and Canada was a trip he took with his wife to the Scandinavian countries, where he met a Russian couple who invited them to stay with them in Russia, where travel restrictions were just beginning to be lifted. On the visit he obtained tickets to the Kirov ballet where he and his wife sat in the Tsar’s plush red velvet seats while most of the seats below were covered in dust sheets! They spent time in Moscow and St Petersburg visiting galleries and seeing works by Van Gogh and Monet with their charming hosts, a Professor and his wife. They bought pastries and matryoshka dolls from peasant women who frequented the railway stations along the journey to St Petersburg. He was impressed with the friendliness and hospitality of his hosts and recommends homestays for getting an experience of how people really live in foreign countries.
Ken Mills - life member
by Miriam Lewin
Someone is miffed to be left out of the conversation between Ken Mills and myself at his warm, sunny home in Parklands, Waikanae. A persistent scratching at the closed hallway door prompts Ken to open it, revealing Polly the Burmese. She confidently weaves through the chair legs with the sinewy grace of a dancer, leaps up onto my lap then chest and peers intelligently into my face. She listens, and reminds Ken to mention her sister Anna, who has predeceased her.
The laconic Ken tells of his birth in Khandallah in 1931, to where his parents had moved from central Wellington, presumably for the extra space in which to bring up a family. Both his parents were born in New Zealand and he traces his family back to at least 1842, making them some of the first pioneering settlers.
After attending primary school there and the mandatory two years of secondary at Wellington Tech, Ken left and started work at a factory running commercial knitting machines in Courtenay Place. This was the beginning of a long career in the general field of sewing machine manufacturing, sales and maintenance, a good majority of it spent working for Bernina in one capacity or another. He moved with them from the original site in Vivian St to Waiwhetu in Lower Hutt, where a parts and servicing department still operates today.
Ken married Glenys in Khandallah in 1956 and they eventually moved to the burgeoning suburb of Newlands. Here they cleared and levelled their section mostly by hand. They built the house that they brought up their four children in and in which they lived until 1984. Newlands at the time was a little isolated with no weekend buses and a half hour walk to the nearest train station, but it was a close community of similar young families. Ken and his family became pioneers of a sort here too.
Ken joined the committee of the Newlands Progressive Association and more importantly to him, along with a good friend set up a branch of the Volunteer Fire Police after a fire nearby claimed the lives of three young boys. At first their water supply for firefighting was from a stream with a portable pump, and from the houses which all had their own water tanks for domestic use. The council slowly introduced reticulated water, street by street, but the wily residents put off connecting up to this, siphoning from one outlet on a nearby street to fill their tanks in dry spells, thereby successfully avoiding paying full water rates for some years!
A keen sportsman, Ken continued playing hockey which he had begun at college, coaching, umpiring and playing for more than thirty years. His commitment on the hockey field earned him one of the five life memberships he has been awarded: The Northern United Hockey Club, The Newlands Volunteer Fire Brigade, the Mahara Indoor Bowls Club, the Waikanae Bowling Club and of course Waikanae Bridge Club, quite an impressive array.
Ken is quietly and justifiably proud of his wife and family’s achievements. It was Glenys’s passion for Scottish Country Dancing, becoming a respected teacher and examiner in both New Zealand and Australia, which drew Ken and their children into this fun, family oriented environment. The NZ Scottish Country Dancing Society ran an annual Summer school and Ken was often roped in to make up numbers in a reel, to film dancing demonstrations on his 8mm camera or to help out in myriad other ways. He recalls with a mock shudder one occasion when an instructor on a large field got grand ideas and decided there were enough dancers, including Ken, for a ‘thirty-twosome’ reel’. Two of his children are still involved in dancing, one choregraphing a dance which gained international recognition.
Dancing and work combined in a memorable trip Ken and Glenys took overseas. Firstly they spent a week at the Bernina factory in Steckborn, on Lake Constance in Switzerland. Here Ken attended the factory every morning for work , marvelling at the Swiss efficiency which produced the machines from scratch in a room not much bigger than our own bridge club. The Swiss were just as generous as they were efficient. Ken and Glenys were hosted and entertained with no expense spared for the whole of their time there. They then went to America, Amsterdam and toured the UK, fetching up naturally enough in Edinburgh. Ken was amazed by the patch of ground the Tattoo is performed on and impressed of course by the castle itself. Also unsurprisingly they went to observe a dancing class there and Glenys was delighted to meet a friend from Australia when she walked into the room.
It was difficult to get Ken around to the subject of bridge. He and Glenys seemed to have become very busy in their retirement and there were a lot of other things to discuss. Evidence of Glenys’s talent for oil painting adorns the lounge walls and is a poignant reminder for Ken, who can scarce believe it is three years since she passed away. Among all the aforementioned activities Ken eventually managed to attend bridge lessons in 1984. He was taught here in Waikanae by the aptly named Norma Bridges. These days he plays bridge regularly, along with bowls and catching up one way or another with his children, grandchildren and great-granchildren scattered throughout the world. At home he is kept on his toes by the fifteen year old Polly, an affectionate cat who commands attention.