Pair clock up 101 years at firm

By Don Farmer,

When Ernie Theedom and Stan Smith started work with Waggs car dealership in Masterton both earned the equivalent of less than $10 a week and the only tools a mechanic needed were "a crescent spanner, a hammer and a hacksaw blade".

That was in 1963, when the duo were little more than kids. They have now collectively clocked up 101 years with the same firm.

Sleek new Holdens and Suzukis have replaced the heavy-bodied Vauxhalls and Bedford trucks that were once the bread-and-butter lines for Waggs, the business has progressed through the age of the microfiche to the computer screen, and a mechanic's bag of tricks is far more sophisticated.

Stan, 68, clocked up 50 years with Waggs in June, having started out serving petrol and cleaning cars, but his niche has been in the parts department.

Ernie, 66, started his working life as an apprentice mechanic, qualified as an A Grade mechanic, and has been working on fixing cars, trucks and vans ever since.

Both have seen big changes in vehicles and their availability.

Not that many years ago, virtually the only hope of getting a brand new car was to have overseas funds. Prospective buyers went on a waiting list that could extend from months into years before the cherished new addition was available.

Today, buying a new car is simply a matter of letting the salesman know what you want and when.

Both men are confident cars are much safer today than they used to be.

The drivers of yesteryear were not obligated to wear seatbelts, there were no airbags, and cars were not designed to take the impact of crashes to the extent they do today.

"They are much safer and more reliable," Ernie said. "In the old days, cars had to be serviced every 10,000km. Now they go 15,000km before they need it."

The two have seen a lot of personnel changes in the decades with the firm and have "shared a lot of laughs".

But their underlying philosophy has always been to "move with the times and just get on with the job".

Stan, a keen gardener, has thoughts of retirement creeping in. "I don't want to be carried out of here in a box."

Ernie says he has no thoughts yet of retiring.

A great wrench for him would be leaving behind a string of loyal customers.

"I am very customer-orientated."


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