CAPTION: PJ080421NAGmasters: Graham and Myra Masters on their last day in business in Kaitaia.
HEADLINE: A clean-up and it's all over
The process of officially becoming an OAP was all but complete for Graham Masters late last week.
He was "hanging on by a thread," he said, having completed "a few little jobs" since last month's Snapper Bonanza (where his and wife Myra's efforts were rewarded with a number of snapper but none big enough to win anything, although they had been fishing in precisely the spot where Dickson Hohaia landed the eventual winner until shortly before it took the bait), and all that remained to be done was to clean out his workshop in Allen Bell Drive.
Graham embarked upon his career as a panelbeater in 1971 as a 17-year-old, fresh from Kaitaia College. It had taken only one phone call, he said, to arrange his apprenticeship with Johnny Johnstone ("the godfather of the panelbeating fraternity in Kaitaia"), where Vince Mason, who also did his apprenticeship there, now has his workshop in Matthews' Ave.
He stayed there when Johnstone sold the business to Ray and Bev Parker 18 months later, but when they sold it to Mason another 18 months later he moved to Northland Motors, in Commerce St (where Farmers now is), completing his apprenticeship under the tutelage of his uncle, Wayne Masters.
Twenty years later, in 1994, he and Myra "went it alone," opening a business of their own.
Panelbeating had changed "big time," over the years, he said last week, something that Johnny Johnstone had seen coming, even if he hadn't.
"In my first year there he told me that computers were going to put thousands of people out of work. I had no idea what he was talking about," he said.
These days specialist shops tended to replace vehicle panels rather than repairing them, at the behest of insurance companies and manufacturers, but there were still enough older vehicles, somewhat past their prime, in the Far North at least, to provide opportunities to practise the art of panelbeating in its traditional sense.
Meanwhile Graham had no regrets about closing the curtain on his working life.
"You have to make the decision sooner or later," he said, "and this is the right time."
He was looking forward to spending more time with Myra, their three children (in Brisbane, Nelson - but working overseas - and Hawera) and five grandchildren, confident in the knowledge that he had serviced his customers to the best of his ability.
"Providing an honest, reliable service takes you a long way," he said.
"When a customer drives away happy, I'm happy."
With his last customer having driven away happy, it was now his turn to do so.