When Phil Godderidge started work at Waverley Pharmacy in 1972 he got a 1888 book of medicine formulas, some of which are still in use.

The lockable book came with the pharmacy building in Waverley's Weraroa Rd. He started work there on January 6, 1972, bought the business in June that year and retired on April 1 this year - after 47 years dispensing medicine and advice to the people of Waverley.

Retiring was "sensible" he said. He will be 77 this year, wants to play more bridge and he and his wife Rosemary have 90 avocado trees, 300 olive trees and a big garden to look after.

Godderidge didn't always want to be a pharmacist. Brought up on a dairy farm in Urenui, he was head boy at Waitara High School and wanted to be a pilot. He got into the final four, but was not accepted because he couldn't hear high pitched noises.

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Instead he followed friends to the New Zealand School of Pharmacy in Petone. He spent two years there, followed by a two-year apprenticeship in Wellington. The equivalent training now is a four-year degree.

During two years as an apprentice in Titahi Bay he helped older pharmacists convert formulae to metric measurements, and earned 12 pounds a week.

When he became a registered pharmacist in 1966, his pay immediately jumped to 49 pounds a week. Soon after that he went to Geelong, near Melbourne, where New Zealand pharmacists were in demand and he could get 100 pounds a week and do overtime.

He saved up for an OE in England and Europe, bought himself an MG sports car and travelled. Skiing in Norway and a Greyhound bus trip across the United States were highlights.

Back in Melbourne he met Rosemary Lattey, a pharmacist who had registered in 1969, and they married in 1971. During their honeymoon they passed through Waverley, where she told her new husband she hoped never to have to live in such a place.

But when they looked to return to New Zealand the Waverley pharmacist, Ross Hillmer, had just died. Phil Godderidge took over as manager.

They had thought the move would be temporary, but when the business came up for sale in June they bought it. With it came a locked book of recipes for medicines, including the instructions for using henna to dye greying hair.

A lockable book of medicine recipes came with Waverley Pharmacy. Whanganui Chronicle photograph by Bevan Conley.
A lockable book of medicine recipes came with Waverley Pharmacy. Whanganui Chronicle photograph by Bevan Conley.

They blitzed the shop and rebuilt it in 1974, and in 1978 they built a house on a section in Swinbourne St, enlarging the section to half a hectare by buying the house next door.

The two had three children, and Rosemary Godderidge stopped pharmacy work for 12 years to grow commercial flowers and raise the children. She went back to work after that, has been chief pharmacist at Whanganui Hospital and still does locum work.

Meanwhile, in Waverley, Phil Godderidge made and dispensed prescriptions, sometimes getting six people a day calling in to ask for health advice.

"You're always on call. People ring you after hours. We have had to get up in the middle of the night," he said.

Medicines have changed a lot, and pharmacists have to be constantly learning to keep up their practising certificates.

"You have to have a knowledge of the drugs in use. You have to discuss that with the patient and the doctors. You need to be aware of interaction between drugs and you have to be able to improve people's health by making sure they're taking the right drug at the right dose at the right time."

One old recipe uses native shrub koromiko. Whanganui Chronicle photograph by Bevan Conley.
One old recipe uses native shrub koromiko. Whanganui Chronicle photograph by Bevan Conley.

As a beginning pharmacist Godderidge made ointments, creams, mixtures, suppositories, eye drops - about a third of the medicine needed. These days most of it is bought. A pharmacist is more likely to be supervising technicians, accounting or recording prescriptions on a computer.

Drugs have changed. A mixture of morphine, cocaine and gin used to be one of the best pain relief products, and in Godderidge's first week in pharmacy he twice made such mixtures.

"The first patient took two doses and died. The second patient took four doses and died. They were on their way out, but at least we were giving them pain relief," he said.

When he started there was only one medicine for treating high blood pressure. Now there are many - ace inhibitors and beta blockers.

"They are more specific, and they can be dose adjusted much easier, and without them there would be a lot of people not alive."

The Godderidges have an avocado and olive orchard, and an extensive home garden. Whanganui Chronicle photograph by Bevan Conley.
The Godderidges have an avocado and olive orchard, and an extensive home garden. Whanganui Chronicle photograph by Bevan Conley.

The Godderidges are both keen gardeners. As well as a home garden of 40 magnolias they bought nearly 3ha in Lupton St for their avocados, olives and bees.

"It was supposed to be a retirement project, but I didn't retire," Godderidge said.

Now that he has finally stopped work, there's a lot to do there.

He has let his practising certificate lapse, but wants the pharmacy to continue. Luckily highly qualified Welsh pharmacist Gerallt Jones is managing it, and could decide to buy it.

Phil Godderidge is glad Gerallt Jones is available to manage the Waverley Pharmacy he still owns. Whanganui Chronicle photograph by Bevan Conley.
Phil Godderidge is glad Gerallt Jones is available to manage the Waverley Pharmacy he still owns. Whanganui Chronicle photograph by Bevan Conley.

"Our main concern is to continue the pharmacy service for Waverley, because there are a number of people who don't have cars and don't have big incomes, and it's important that the pharmacy be here."