Wednesday 7 September 2005
In the days when St Andrews Church in Carroll St was a strong Presbyterian stronghold, they owned a bible class building and two tennis courts that they leased to a chap called Rodney Farry. He was a natural born entrepreneur and set up New Zealand's first car auction. He was married to a tall, good looking blonde from Alexandra, called Lillian Valestra, who looked after his advertising. They even provided free taxis for clients gioing to their Friday night auctions. Rodney was himself, a registered auctioneer and his Friday night events were more like a vaudiville act. When somebody yelled out 'What's the mileage, Rodney' he answered 'What milage do you want?' One night he had a 1939 Buick, straight 8, black with white - side mount tyres - today a collector's item and still a great car. Bishop Whyte had one. Rodney wanted at least a thousand ‘uncles’ for it, the price of a house at that time. He instructed his two uncles, Hallam and Abe Isaac to be in the crowd and place the odd bid. The two nutters starting bidding against each other until Rodney knocked it down to Abe for fifteen hundred pounds. What a family!
He finally sold the business and bought an Ex - naval Fairmile launch and used it for charted cruises on the Otago Harbour till it ran aground on a sand bank. Around 1950, he put together a scratch crew and sailed it up to Auckland. It must have been a real scratch crew because Joe Reid was the cook. On the way, they struck a raging storm off the Castlecliff coast (by Wanganui's coastline) and were nearly wrecked. Instead of going further out to sea they foolishly hugged the dangerous coast and nearly lost their lives.
He prospered in Auckland where he opened many car sales yards and employed his four brothers. Another venture Rodney Farry entered into (I wish I had kept the programmes) was a variety concert that travelled thought New Zealand, starting in Invercargill. His nickname was Otto and he called the live troop Otto's Karshipashoes. He had two sisters, Rosanna and Zeta who sang accompanied by Micky Farry on the banjo. Rodney was the compeer. With his Caesar Romero looks, he was right forf the role. Sadly, he didn't live far into his middle years.
Among his crew, as I memtioned, was Micky Farry, Tommy's brother. His mother, Josephine, received a hoax call informing her that Micky had got their daughter pregnant. Josephine had replied, 'Don't be silly. Micky is so young he still a school boy.’ However, just to be on the safe side, she grounded poor Micky for ten months!
One section of Carroll St that all the old timers spoke about was Shinbone Alley. It was owned by Anthony Coory (who lived to be a hundred years of age!) and consisted of a row of cottages all rented by elderly bachelors down on their luck. There were some remarkable people among them. I remember talking to some of them and even running the odd message. Some of the names that come to mind are as follows: - Effie White, a struck off lawyer, Syd Marriott, who had been awarded the Military Cross in the first World War and Louie Frame, the uncle of the late author, Janet Frame. Each had their story to tell but all lived lonely, sad lives.
I remember when there were five grocery shops in Carroll St. Roberts shop (later Gordon Georges), Lowrys and Victor Farrys next to each other, Crofts, where the Radiator people are now and McCrackens at the foot of Carroll St. That street should be the subject of a book some day. Even the Bell Tea Company has a few stories associated with it. When Bell's daughter inherited the business she was living in America. She returned to Dunedin for a while, during which time they refurbished the inside and discovered some early moving pictures of Clydesdale horses delivering tea chests from the wharf. They incorporated the footage in one of their advertisements and when I saw it for the first time, it jolted my memory. I remembered the horses from my school days. Across the road was Otago Motors, where Dad sold his Model T ford for twenty-five pounds during the Depression. We needed the money for Caviar, you understand. The Rugby Hotel played a large part in the affairs of the street - our very own Rovers Return. When Greta John's future husband, Don Sortehaug, jumped ship to be with her, the then owner, Horrie Wilson, took him under his wing booking him in under an assumed name. Later, he was the best man at their wedding. Their eldest son, Oscar, was very kind and helpful to me in later years. I had won a huge railway set in a raffle and I wanted to send it to my late grandson, Seba, resident. in Sydney. Oscar couldn't have been more helpful and I have never forgotten it.
'Take the wheat and chaff together in your hands. Keep what is worth keeping and with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.'