TO BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING: Hair, there and everywhere

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TO BEGIN AT THE BEGINNING: Hair, there and everywhere

Looking back, it seems the starting and finishing points in my separate careers have been a bit fraught.

My first proper day at the Herald was inauspicious, my first day and final week at teachers' college equally problematic.

And my first day as a proper teacher in a full-time position was . . . .

Well, interesting.

In the gap between the end of teachers' college and my first posting – probably about six weeks – I needed to get a job. It was summer and somehow I heard of a job delivering telephone directories which, back then in the early Seventies, were bloody big books of names, addresses and phone numbers.

There were actually three thick volumes of them: two of people's surnames, A-M and N-Z; and one volume of the Yellow Pages of businesses.

Taken together they were pretty heavy.

With a couple of other guys my job was to jog behind a van carrying piles of these things tied together in threes.

A guy on the back would do a rugby pass of one of the packs to each of us running behind and we would sprint off to letterbox, drop them there (or sometimes a front door) and jog back to the van for the next one.

It was a lot of running but once we got into a rhythm things went smoothly as we went up and down suburban streets all over Auckland. I got to see parts of the city I'd never heard of before, rich and poor, flat and ridiculously hilly for someone running along carrying a heavy load.

We mostly did it stripped to the waist and wearing shorts and sandshoes (no expensive trainers then) and so we got fit and tanned.

We'd take turns being the one on the back of the van and the Post Office driver knew just what speed to go so the whole operation ran like a machine.

But it was also tiring and every night I would come home worn out.

phone2But then our driver cracked on a plan: instead of picking up a handful of street pages and addresses for our deliveries he would get in early and snatch up some big orders for various factories, businesses and so on.

For example, Middlemore Hospital would probably take about 200 of the three-pack and I recall the Coca Cola company was also good for quite a few hundred.

Given we were working to fill a quota every week, a few scores like that meant we could meet the quota in four days and then on the fifth just clock in and go to the beach or the pub or back home. Our driver would clock out for us.

Four days work and five days pay.

One day however we were working on the North Shore and I – tanned, lean, stripped to the waist and my hair pulled back in a ponytail – jogged up to the office at Birkdale Intermediate School and dropped off their little pile.

Then I introduced myself by name and said to the lady in the office, “Could I get the key to Room 12 please, I'm teaching here in a couple of weeks”.

She was suitably horrified by this sweaty apparition and called the deputy principal. He sized me up and down, asked a few questions and when he was satisfied – very dissatisfied actually – instructed the office lady to hand me a key.

With a cheery wave I took off and back in the van we all laughed like crazy about what they would have made of their new teacher.

Not much, was the consensus.

A few weeks later I turned up at the school on the day before the term started for a staff meeting.

I was well presented and clean, my hair neatly brushed.

The second item on the agenda was how long should they let boys grow their hair.

All eyes turned to me and there was a strange silence. Which I had no intention of filling.

The matter was dropped and we moved on to the next item.


These entries are of little consequence to anyone other than me Graham Reid, the author of this site, and maybe my family, researchers and those with too much time on their hands.

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