Time to quit, says 95-year-old

Trevor Page, 95, retiring and closing up Page Plating, Onekawa, Napier, the business he started 59 years ago. Photo / Duncan Brown
Trevor Page, 95, retiring and closing up Page Plating, Onekawa, Napier, the business he started 59 years ago. Photo / Duncan Brown

Any talk about the retirement age being upped to 68 or 70 would result in a sort of "so what?" response from Trevor Page of Napier.

At 95 Mr Page has decided the time has come for him to finally retire from the business he started 59 years ago.

Until yesterday he had always popped into work.

But the time to hang up the work gear was about right Mr Page, who set up Page Plating in 1955, said at a surprise farewell function on Thursday staged by family, friends and old work colleagues at the now-vacant Ford Rd business.

"No I didn't know anything about this," he said. "I was just about to take some stuff out to the dump - so I'll do that later."

He started his working life with the Post Office before branching out from wireless mechanic work to electroplating in 1948.

He worked in Hamilton and Wellington before starting his own plating business in Gisborne.

At the time there was no specialist plating business in Napier and he figured if he didn't start one there someone else would.

He literally built the first Page Plating shop at what was then (in 1955) a barren landscape at the northern edge of Onekawa.

Before making the shift he sought advice from locals about finding a place to set up.

"There was no room in the town," he said, but he'd heard about the open spaces that today house the Onekawa industrial area.

"One chap said, 'I wouldn't bother looking at that, son - it's out in the country and no one will go there'."

But Mr Page decided the spot off Dunlop Rd would do just nicely, and his business was just the third to set up in the area.

As his daughter, Jan, said with a smile, he built his plating factory piece by piece.

"He had lengths of four by two sticking out the windows of the old Austin Seven - he'd make the trip down there from Gisborne on Friday and come back Sunday."

Weekend after weekend Mr Page built the business, which he described as being "a bit like a lean-to really".

The cost of getting approval and building permission?

"Ten bob (a dollar)," he said, adding that no one really popped around to check the finished result out.

"Not like today."

There was a hiccup, a major one, in later years when fire destroyed the place, so he moved to Ford Rd.

At the height of the plating business he employed 13 staff.

But changing times and the emergence of cheaper import steel and plated items, mainly from China, saw the numbers decline to five, then three ... and then to one - Mr Page. "Changing times," he said quietly.

"But lots of good memories and lots of good times."

He smiled when recalling a well-reported legal stoush he had with a patent and copyrights company.

He designed a company emblem using two letter Ps and placed them together in the same way Rolls Royce had placed its two letter Rs together.

"They wrote me a letter and said I could be in breach of Rolls Royce and would I please stop using it.

"But I didn't - and they never got back to me."

Mr Page said work had been his main hobby.

However, he had also been an enthusiastic aviator, owning and flying eight small planes through the years.


Trevor Page, then aged 90, pictured at the Napier Airfields with his plane. Photo / Glenn Taylor

Now in retirement, and not able to fly, he was slightly at a loss as to what he would do.

"What will I do in retirement? You tell me," he said.

"That's my biggest worry now ... what will I do?"

But, as he looked over the empty spaces of the building, which is now going up for auction, he smiled and said the time was right.

"I'll be 96 next year and then 97 after that and 98 after that - so how long do you go for?

"No, the time's come."

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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