19 May 2013


It was possibly around September or October of 1987 that we were told that something called the "Auckland Business School" was to be created.

Some weeks passed before I understood (to the extent that I ever have) what this meant - how, I mean, this was different from "The Faculty of Commerce," one department of which (Accountancy) was where I worked.  I thought it was just a name change; perhaps it was nothing more than that.  I am not sure that I know to this day.

The change may have amounted to no more than a difference in name; the practical reality was to be of rather greater significance.

The Faculty of Commerce, in 1985, when I started, and in 1987, when the announcement was made, comprised two academic departments: Accountancy (where I worked) and Management Studies.  All told there were three computer support persons in the faculty: me (Accountancy), Michael Ford (Management Studies), and Paul Brown (who managed the computer lab - 20 terminals connecting to one Xenix Z8000 machine with 1MB of RAM and a full 200MB of hard disc).  The new School was to have six academic departments:

  1. Accounting and Finance
  2. Commercial Law
  3. Management and Employment Relations
  4. Marketing and International Business
  5. Management Studies and Information Systems
  6. Economics
Numbers 1. and 2. were the original Accountancy Department split into two; 3. through 5. were similarly Management Studies fissiparating into three.  Economics - which had been rather in a no-man's land theretofore (since it was sort of part of Commerce; sort of part of Science; and sort of part of Arts).

What was clear was that the five departments from the original Faculty of Commerce was not likely to expand from three computer support persons (Economics already had - and still has - its own) to five.  Paul, Michael, and I met.  What did we propose?

In the event, Michael wanted no part of the thing.  He resigned and went to work for an Auckland market research company.  Paul and I talked and decided:
  • there should be formed a Computer Services Unit to serve the computing needs of the new School
  • initially it should have three members - someone (Lorri O'Brien, from Geography, it turned out to be) would have to be hired to take Michael's place
  • a member of the new group must be its manager.  Each of us had been under managers who knew nothing of the work itself.  This, we were sure, was a very bad idea (it was because of that that I had, just a few months before, considered leaving for my friend's company)
And I put forward a fourth point:
  • Paul should be the manager
"Why?" Paul asked.  Didn't I want the job?  I was older than he and had been there longer.

Absolutely not.  I believed (and believe) that I would be a disastrous manager; Paul had actually managed his father's construction business for a couple of years.  Paul's degree was in Computer Science; mine in linguistics (at this time I was just finishing the second of six years towards a Diploma in Computer Science).  And I felt that any sort of beginning of our group with a manger who had competed with another member for the job would be an unpropitious beginning.

We put our proposal to the School.  It was accepted.  The School was launched (with the name "University of Auckland School of Business and Economics" - the Economics department wanted to make sure their name was in the title) on, I think, 1 February, 1988.

New school seemed to imply the need for new equipment.

13 May 2013

Cedar Mill Park

I was ten when we moved to Cedar Mill Park.  This was a newer housing development across the main road from Marlene Village.  I have learned that there was a large cedar mill in the area before a lot of the land was sold for new housing, new schools, shopping centres, etc...  Portland was growing and we were close to the Sunset Freeway - which led to the Oregon Coast.

We lived on Park Place, Cedar Mill Park.  My father's name was Edwin Parker Peery - and people used to joke about the word repetition.

This was the best house we lived in while in Oregon.  It was a "ranch style", had quite a lot of room and a fireplace in the livingroom that was built so one could sit on the side of it and roast hot dogs, do a small BBQ - or whatever.  It was rather deluxe at the time.

It is very easy for me to visulize the neighbourhood.  There were numerous houses and each was different than the others, not like Marlene Village where there was only a choice of three or four designs.  The houses had carports with large garages, usually in the front.  I think none of the houses were more then ten years old.

We couldn't roller skate are the road surfaces were not smooth but we could ride our bikes and we spent a lot of time doing that.

My mother was quite happy there.  She was involved in starting the Episcopal Church, did quite a few things at our school and knew all of the neighbours in our area.

Once a week the other mothers would get together for a coffee morning.  During the summer months, I ended up babysitting a lot of the kids while their mothers drank coffee.  I spent a lot of my time later babysitting for many of the families on Friday and Saturday nights.  I was paid 35 cents an hour and 50 cents after midnight.  Not many were after midnight - I was still only eleven or twelve years old.

I now realise how upsetting it was for us to move from this neighbourhood.  We left in March, 1959 and moved to Seattle.  It was a move from a small area - but close to Portland - to a big area where we didn't know anyone except my elderly great aunt and her husband.  I have tried to figure out why we made this move.  My parents were born and raised in Portland, almost all of our relatives were there and it was a place I felt I belonged to.  Seattle was beautiful city but I never felt that I really belonged there.


When I first started working at the University in computer support, in December, 1985, there were  no departmental computer support staff.  Although my work principally revolved around making the network function (we had a single server - an IBM PC AT with a 16-bit Intel 80286 running at a blazing 6MHz, 1 full MB of memory, and 20MB of hard disc; a 'server' because it was the only hard disc machine we had and shared its disc space and printer), about ten or twelve 5.25" floppy IBM PCs (4.77MHz Intel 8086) - and each machine with an IBM PC Network card (2Mb/sec).  Occasionally I wrote programmes in C for lecturers for various purposes.

But my title was Research Assistant.  My boss was the Head of Department (Accountancy).  I remember the incident that really made my begin to feel that the job wasn't really much to my liking.  Sometime in early 1987 he had me spend some hours in the library looking up information about the economic history of Fiji for some article he was writing.  It was not at all what I had liked to do.

There were, in fact, long periods of time when there was really nothing for me to do - I spent them writing astronomical programmes in C for my own interest, that sort of thing.  (There were other, briefer times - mostly connect with enrolment - when I was working frantically to get things done in time).

Ian Hardcastle and other friends from my IAL days had started a company of their own, writing business software for Unix computers (Linux didn't exist yet).  In June or July - just about the time the car crashed through our fence! - of 1987 they offered me a job.

I was tempted.  I was, as I have said, frustrated with my current job as Research Assistant.  My pay was barely keeping us going.  The new job would have been at a very large pay rise.

I was tempted, but after talking with Susan, I declined.  For one thing, I was in my second year of a six-year course leading to a Diploma in Computer Science (I had had no formal training in computing).  The University was paying for it.  It is true that the cost of the course was not high, but I was sure that keeping up the motivation would be more difficult if I was not working at the University.

More fundamental, though, was the fact of my working situation.  It was, in fact, a low-pressure job - still is, in fact.  I had no contractual requirement - nor any un-contracted understanding - to work extra hours.  I was able to go home at the normal time, start work at the normal time, was not expected to work on week-ends.  My family, I said to Sue, was my primary focus.  This other company, I was sure, was one in which one would, of necessity, find oneself having to pitch in to work late hours; be on call to support customers; travel around to customer sites; and generally change one's lifestyle.  I don't know if the accident that marked the point at which I returned to riding the 'bus had happened yet or not, but I would certainly not be able to work at the new company on the 'bus.

And at the University I had greater job security.  At the time, University layoffs were unthinkable.  Since then they have not been quite so out of the question.  There have been at least two rounds of significant redundancies in the last ten years, and the possibility of one that could affect my job looms sometime in the next year or so.  But in 1987, a university job was a sinecure.

So I turned the offer down.  By the end of October, I was congratulating myself for having done so.  Black Monday was 19 October, 1987.  First-on-first-off for small companies like my friends' was the rule.

Nevertheless, late 1987 saw me and my friend Paul Brown contemplating significant changes right at the University.  As a result, on 1 February, 1988, CSU was started.

05 May 2013

Marlene Village & Saint Bartholomew Episcopal Church

I was nine when we moved to Marlene Village which was in the same Sunset area outside of Beaverton.  I believe that the houses were built after WWII and there were only three or four types of designs. 

All the houses had three bedrooms, a fairly large backyard and there were many young families with school age children.  The streets were safe for bicycle riding but we couldn't rollerskate as there were no footpaths.

It was there at my mother met Donna Jean Lameroux and her family.  Donna Jean was close to my mother in age.  She was very creative person and she and my mother spent a lot of time together working on their houses, sewing, looking for "stuff" for their houses (now called thrift shopping, garage sale attending, etc...) - you name it.  She made my mother happy and she was a good friend.

Both my father and Donna Jean's husband travelled a lot for their jobs.  We were often at the Lameroux's house for dinner - or they at ours - during the week when the Dads were out of town.  It was fun.  I know that my sister Candace will remember this.  Kathy and Kent Lameroux were younger then we were - Kathy may have been Candace's age - but we all played together a lot.

When we moved out of the neighbourhood, later, my mother always kept in contact with Donna Jean.  They exchanged long handwritten letters for many years and I always knew that my mother would be in a good mood when she found a letter in the letterbox from Donna Jean.

It was during the five years that we lived in Sunset that my parents were involved with the beginnings of St. Bartholomew Episcopal Church in Beaverton.  There wasn't an Episcopal church in the area and they were part of a group of young families who were the beginnings of it.  I can remember many of the families - we spent a lot of time with them.  When the new church was finished in 1959, I was in the first group of young people who were confirmed by the Bishop of the area.  It was quite an event, as all of the families had worked hard together to be part of it. 

When I look at the website of St. Bart's, I can see that the building is still the same - it was very modern at the time - but it seems to have retained it's beauty.


I am preparing Susan's income tax - and, aside from New Zealand Superannuation, her sole income this last tax year was from delivering the Franklin County News.  In 2013, Sue is continuing something which began in, I think, about 1985 or -6.

During the 27 or 28 years since then, our family has delivered the New Zealand Herald (both Johnny and Eddie - for several years each), junk mail - for, I think, about ten years - and the County News.

The junk mail run was not only money for us; it had, I think, a good deal to do with bringing us together as a family.  It may be that my children will respond to this post with protests!  How they hated doing it may be a theme.

It may - yet it was also simply fun and enjoyable.  The junk mail (advertising circulars) must have been something we did on a Saturday, I think, because I was usually involved.  On a typical Saturday we might have been given half a dozen different circulars: ads for Woolworth's, ads for this or that store.  How many papers did we have?  I do not remember - perhaps five or six hundred of each.

The dining room table was prep time.  We were forbidden to nest papers inside one another; we did it that way, regardless.  I don't think there could have been any other practical method.  Naturally each advertiser wanted its material separate from the others.  Just as naturally, we needed to be able to thrust a single packet of material into each letter box.

So the first step was collation, around the dining room table.  "I need another Woolworth's" - "who has a Farmer's?"

Once collated, we walked the streets.  I can't even remember how we carried them - in bags, I suppose, parking the car in a street and each of us - everyone worked! - carrying a load around.

You may infer that I remember those days with pleasure.  Now, when I see a man and woman and two or three children doing the deliveries, I am struck with real nostalgia.

We stopped the junk mail run when the pressure increased.  They wanted Sunday deliveries.  We didn't want to do them.  They wanted special during-the-week deliveries.  We declined.  The pay was pretty poor - and the time required too much.

The other paper deliveries were individual.  The Herald, of course, was each of the boys' own run - and they started very early in the morning.  But I think each of our four children had a County News run.  The County News is a free (advertising-sponsored) local newspaper.  Thus, unlike the Herald, which was delivered to subscribers only, the County News was simply delivered along a set of streets, one to each letterbox (except those labelled "No Junk Mail!").  This was true for all the runs except one.

That one - and whose was it, initially?  I cannot remember - was the 'town run.'

Delivering in the main street (King Street) and its side feeders was, even then, a little more complicated.  This delivery was to the shops, most of which were the ones who advertised in the paper.  They were paying for it.  They wanted to get it reliably, and, in some cases, multiple copies.

When the children grew out of doing these deliveries, the residential runs were handed over to others.  The town run became Susan's.

At the time she inherited it, it was, I think, about 350 papers.  It was also the best-paid of the deliveries, because, again, it was somewhat more complex - and the level of responsibility was higher, since it was to the advertisers.  Sue continued the run for some years.  Then the County News was bought by PMP - which is a big company running a number of periodical services (and, I think, a part of the monster Fairfax group).  All changed.

When the County News was a small local company (started by a colleague of mine at the University of Auckland), it was very much a community affair.  The children (they were mostly children) who did the deliveries were paid in cash.  No PAYE (tax withholding) was taken out.  At Christmas the children were entertained at a party by the company.  The pay, for the sort of work it was, was not bad.

PMP took over.  When?  Not sure, perhaps about 2000.  They told Susan she would have to be a private contractor.  And they lowered her wage.

She and I talked about it.  It is a demanding job.  It seemed to us just not worthwhile any longer.  She told them it wasn't worth it for her at that wage.

OK, they said, not a problem, we'll get someone else to do it.

Two weeks or so later they called Susan in.  They begged her to come back.  The shop owners were complaining: "We want Susan back!"  Sue said it wasn't worth it to her at that rate.  How much did she want, they asked?  Oh, the same as before.  No, they said - we will pay you more!

Susan is in demand!

A few years - maybe five? - ago she was out doing the papers.  There, going along the street, was the boss of the company, delivering (to some places that were not on Sue's run)!  What was he doing?!

There was an additional town run, which also included quite a lot of rural territory as well.  The deliverer - an old man - who had been doing that other part had died.  Greg - the boss - had tried one or another person doing the run.  No good.  They were not responsible.  Would Susan - please!! - consider taking it over?

After some negotiation, she did.  Today she delivers 737 papers, twice a week (Tuesday and Thursday).  The run is quite complex, and constantly changing.  We tried, once or twice, to get others to do it for her when she wanted to go away.  We have given up on that.  Now, if Sue goes on retreat, or to visit one of the children, she has a well-trained substitute: me.  I take annual leave.  I manage.  Sue starts the run at 6AM, and, weather permitting, has finished by about 10:30AM.  I start at 5:30, and, with luck, finish at 11AM - such is the power of her experience and expertise at the job.