Like many young people of their generation Lois Riddell and Peter Self loved the big band sound of the 1940s - especially when it was played for one of the regular dances.

It was at Rotorua's Ritz Hall in Fenton St over seven decades ago that apprentice mechanic Peter and shop assistant Lois first met.

Yesterday the couple celebrated their platinum wedding anniversary with their family and were able to look back on their 70 years together.

Peter was born in Pukekohe, but apart from the first six months of his 90 plus years of life has lived in and around Te Awamutu.

Advertisement

His father came here to work as a fat stock buyer for W & R Fletcher.

Peter recalls the family lived in Mahoe St for many years and there were just paddocks down to the stream. One of his jobs was to milk the house cow.

When he left school he took up a five year apprenticeship as a mechanic with Rotorua Engineering Company, a firm that specialised in heavy transport, building and maintaining their own bus fleet (bought out by Road Services NZ), building heavy trailers and servicing trucks.

Luckily this brought about the meeting at the Ritz.

Lois was an only child and when she left school worked in a shop which specialised in baby clothing and needlework.

She was skilled in sewing and knitting and used to teach those skills to other women. Her knitting and teaching skills were also utilised to help rehabilitate World War II soldiers at Rotorua's Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

Lois says she knew a little about Te Awamutu when she and Peter became a couple. During the war her father, a builder, had his equipment and services commandeered to build the Royal New Zealand Air Force stores near Waipā Racecourse.

She also knew some of the local marching girls from the Rochdale club as she marched for Rotorua Royalettes and they often competed against each other.

Advertisement

Peter returned to Te Awamutu after finishing his apprenticeship and immediately went into the horse transport business with his brother.

Not long after he proposed to his sweetheart and on July 29, 1950 the couple were married at St Johns Presbyterian Church in Rotorua.

Peter and Lois Self wedding day, July 29, 1950.
Peter and Lois Self wedding day, July 29, 1950.

The Selfs lived in Te Rahu Rd near their business base and soon became involved in the community.

Peter joined the Waipā Masonic Lodge, and will be honoured soon as their longest standing member - also 70 years.

The couple had two children, Gary and Kate, and were soon involved with the establishment of a new school and on the first Pekerau School committee.

Peter recalls getting a 'telling off' from the Education Board after he organised a group of well-to-do parents to guarantee a bank loan and went about building the school pool.

Advertisement

He was told schools weren't allowed to borrow money, but by then the pool was in.

Peter said it was a great move and thousands of local school children learnt to swim and enjoyed cooling off in summer at Pekerau's pool.

Previously the couple had been involved in establishing a kindergarten as their young children grew up.

"It's just what you did back then," says Lois.

The couple also got involved in the Te Awamutu Rose Society thanks to a neighbour - noted rosarian and Te Awamutu parks supervisor Alf Smart.

The Selfs had been beautifying their commercial property and home by growing climbing roses - helped by fertiliser from mucking out the stables.

Advertisement

Alf was quick to correct Lois about proper climbing rose growing techniques when she tried intertwining them through the fence.

They became good friends and Peter and Lois were foundation members of the Te Awamutu Society when it formed in 1958 and highly involved in the creation of Te Awamutu Rose Gardens in 1969. Peter is a life member of the society and still a trustee of the Rose Society Trust.

The couple were also able to continue their love of music and dancing.

Lois says all the local couples would get together for parties then head off to the regular dances in the Te Awamutu Town Hall.

Peter and Bob Hinton also called a meeting to discuss forming a club for the town, and soon the Te Awamutu Club was formed and opened with Peter as first vice-president.

In 1963 the Selfs sold their business to Majestic Horse Floats. They are proud the company is still operating and under the Selfs' original colours.

Advertisement

The family shifted out of town to Pōkuru after Peter was able to use the cash from the business sale to freehold a 500 acre (200ha) block of land and also buy the neighbouring dairy farm.

Peter broke in the freehold land and established a large farm.

With the farm going well, Peter was asked to go into the liquor business with his friend Dick Robb.

He declined, but did invest in what became Te Awamutu Wine and Spirits to help his mate out.

As a shareholder he was able to buy the business outright after his friend died, and he sold the Pōkuru farm and moved back into town to progress his next venture.

The liquor store was on Roche St, but Peter had a vision for a better building and better location.

Advertisement

He purchased land on Sloane St and built what is still operating as Super Liquor Te Awamutu.

They were also trying to build a new home in Greenhill Drive at the time, but put that on hold and rented for a while to get the business established.

Eventually the family home was also completed - the home Peter and Lois still enjoy today.

Peter built Te Awamutu Wine and Spirits into a big business and also invested in a farm at Parawera, which is managed.

Socialising with friends remained a passion as their children grew up, left home, married and eventually had their own children.

The couple recall many great evenings of dancing, card games and parties at their home, or friends.

Advertisement

"We enjoyed our life and also got stuck in to local projects and tried to help make the town better," says Peter.

They also enjoyed lake and beach holidays, another passion being both trout and saltwater fishing.

Lois says they have been lucky in life - lucky to find each other and lucky they are still together in their own home after 70 years and lucky to have a wonderful family.

Peter and Lois have seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren - who might also feel lucky.

The Selfs have both a lake and beach holiday home the family use more than them and, for his recent birthday, Peter 'shouted' himself a new fishing boat he says his kids and grandkids will be able to easily handle and enjoy now that 'they are getting on a bit'.