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Kevin Edwards Book 'Not A Bed Of Roses' Out

Kevin (Chuck) Edwards book, mainly on his childhood in Thames in the thirties was launched at a grand affair in the Civic Centre last week.

Kevin indicated that the book of reminiscences had been a 'long time coming' - never mind - it was worth it. Kevin's stories of life around Thames in the thirties as observed through the eyes of a child are a delight, and show a deft touch when it comes to the use of the English language in a plain and easily understood form, precisely what you would expect from a former Intermediate School principal.

Most of Kevin's observations are gleaned within walking distance of his old home - 'Riverview' at the end of Heale St overlooking the river - actually a Read home presided over at the time by his 'Puppa' - the widdowed Arthur Read, who had inherited the Read business 'Empire' from his father, John. Some bitterness over a broken promise regarding a land transfer to his mother and father by Arthur is put 'out on the table' - a bitterness that was clearly absorbed, and explained at length  by Kevin. Arthur's uncompromising demeanor may be explained to some extent by the lossof his wife during the post-war influenza epidemic.  

Aside form that, there are some wonderful stories about duck shooting in the Piako that will resonate with today's shooters, though the numbers of birds would appear to have diminished somewhat! The excitement of 'Opening Day' is conveyed evocatively - you can fair smell the inside of the 'whares' and the gunpowder as volley after volley was dispatched, along with a stinking old gun-dog 'Tom,' for whom this was the one day of the year he appeared to be allowed anything like human contact, and appreciated. 

The inside of of the Read hardware emporium as described by Kevin appears to have barely changed in all the time since, though the personnel are somewhat more sprightly, and numerous. I suspect that emulating Arthur's visits to the next door hostellery for 'afternoon tea' is no longer encouraged by Arthur's grandson Stewart. Certainly the chances of securing credit are probably somewhat less favourable.

But Kevin's constant reference to property secured by the Reads as the result of bad debt casts one mind back to simpler, and more direct non-bank credit arrangements, and suggests a residual disapproval of the methods by which his adopted family grew their wealth, at that time. He does point out that the family hardly excaped unscatherd from the consequences of the Depression - undoubtedly another cause of Arthur's hard-headedness.

There is something immensely attractive about the manner in which Kevin has set out his tales of yore, but what amazed me was his ability to recall the incidents of his childhood, and the names of the people with whom he must only have had passing acquaintance. (His mother (Arthur's daughter Gwen) was clearly a woman of remarkable qualities, and his father Les, demonstrated huge forbearance, and work ethic.

The story of the manner in which he expanded his meagre income form the Matatoki Quarry by harvesting wild (and not so wild!) plum trees on the plains at weekends for eventual disposal of the fruit through Turners & Growers in Hamilton is an absolute delight, along with his adventures as a market gardener. I doubt if anyone was aware of his inadvertant development of the Potentate tomata through an unintended crossing - a long-tine commercial and market favouraite. 

Kevin should be very proud of this book - something most of us aspire to, but mostly fail to achieve. It should set off a series of inspirational fires amongst all those who feel that they only have a limited time to record how it was when they grew up - grandsons and daughters deserve it if no-one else. I am as guilty of this as any, but Kevin has set a high bar!

Secure your $30 copy at Read's - you won't be disappointed.


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Reader Comments (1)

Read Bros Hardware have sold out all copies of "No Bed of Roses" as of 9/12/16.

December 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

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