Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 6, Issue 3, 2000
Memories Of Griffins
My earliest recollection, as a new arrival into Nelson city in 1960 cycling to work from Washington Valley, is of first passing Kirkpatrick's factory and being greeted with the raspberry jam, vegies, fruit and tomato sauce smells. Then round into Trafalgar Square, where Harley's brewery was filling the early morning air with the strong smell of boiling hops, yeast and malt. Finally down Nile Street where, as I came closer to Griffins, the cool southeaster brought a heavy-laden aroma that was a combination of hot milk chocolate and peppermint flavoured Oddfellows.
Eight o'clock start at Griffins was the beginning of a new day not only for us, but also for several other local businesses which depended on our steam whistle to announce 'time to start.' The Nelson Paint Company, Harley's cordial factory and Russell's furniture manufacturing in Bridge Street, together with Harry Coltmans and Webley's timber yard in Alma Lane, all confessed to starting and stopping in unison with our steam whistle time signals. On many a cold winter's morning the nine-o'clock starters were encouraged to stay snuggled up in bed until the last minute, after hearing the whistle's first blast.
Griffins was a good firm to work for, with good staff-worker relations, and what a great collection of people to work with. Management asked for, and got, an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. Loyalty and cooperation were given and received. Attendance was good and punctuality, recorded by the time-clock, was commendable.
It was inevitable, where a large group of people worked, that sport became predominant. Challenges were issued, and who better to challenge than our old friends at Sealords. Friendly games between the workers at Griffins and Sealords were a wonderful experience, kilograms of muscle and grams of skill. Wonderful times, and to many of us Neale Park will never be the same again. Snooker, pool or darts, whenever an evening was wanted, who accepted the challenge? Yes, Sealords of course and, when the steam whistle blew for the final time, the whole city regretted the decision, but I'll bet no one more so than who? Yes, Sealords.
At work it was management who had the say, but at play our social club made the arrangements about where to go and what to do. Nelson's New Year celebrations, the Mardi Gras, the boat races down the Maitai River, who was always there? Yes Griffins, flour-bombs and all, and who else? Sealords of course.
There were wine trails, trips down the Marlborough Sounds, long weekends in Greymouth, with our social club getting us there, and back. How many will remember the two parties that traversed the Heaphy Track? Eight each way and swapping bus keys at the half-way hut. Trips like that kept us together, made us realise the value of each other, taught us about life.
Now, several years later, Griffins has gone but something still lives on, in meetings in the street, at the races or in the supermarket, with a friendly wave, stop for a chat, reminiscences about bygone days and sentimental journeys never to come again.
We thank you, John and Charlotte Griffin and your seven children, the Isle of Wight's loss and Nelson's gain.