Father’s Day: three stars reflect on their Dad’s past
Prior to taking on the responsibility of parenthood, fathers already have lives and aspirations of their own, which often take a new direction when children arrive. In a tribute to Father’s Day, three wellknown Kiwis – actor Michael Galvin, Greens co-lead
This photo of Dad, Bernie Galvin, was taken by the Wellington Evening Post in 1949, when he was 16. They took it because he was dux (top scholar) of Saint Patrick’s College, Wellington, even though he wasn’t in his final year. He was dux the next year too.
He was lucky to still be in school. Times were very tough; his mum, my gran, wanted to take him out of school when he turned 15 – like both his older brothers – so he could start earning money to help support the family. When Dad told the school this they sent a delegation of priests around to plead with my gran to keep him in school; they foresaw great things for him, but only if he continued his education.
As tough as my gran was, she was also enough of a devout Catholic to be swayed by a roomful of priests, so, luckily for my dad, she relented. He repaid the priests’ faith by winning a scholarship to Harvard and when I was 16, the age he is in this photo, he was Secretary of the Treasury, so the great things they foresaw really happened.
He was extremely busy with work when I was growing up but I still remember him coming to many of the endless plays and musicals I was in. No matter how unremarkable I was (and sometimes I was remarkably unremarkable) he would go on for days afterwards about how good I was, and shake his head in amazement that his offspring should possess such talent. He was a very kind and gentle man.
When I look at this photo I wonder about how he saw his future. The uniform he’s wearing is second-hand and donated (the priests promised to provide him with uniforms in rebuttal to Gran’s complaint that she couldn’t afford to keep paying for them). Careerwise and academically, little was expected of him. His own children, by contrast, just took it for granted that we’d go to university and get degrees. If some omniscient being (perhaps a visionary priest) was able to tell Dad all the things he’d achieve, I wonder if Dad would have believed him. Probably not. He refused to study French at school because he found it insurmountably illogical that inanimate objects should be given genders. So they let him do extra maths.
He died six years ago, and for the last decade of his life he was in poor health. On the few occasions she saw him, my own daughter (now 10) saw a different man to the one I remember.
It’s a shame, because they would have been great mates. They are both sensitive souls with a great sense of humour. She would have loved having another family member who laughs at her crazy jokes and applauds her feats of skill; and Dad, like me, would think she is a jewel and a wonder. He would shake his head in amazement.
Gran wanted to take him out of school when he turned 15, to start earning.
Metiria Turei Co-leader of the Green Party. This is a really precious photo of my dad, Richard Ropata Eruera Turei. I guess any proud, loving daughter might say that, but in my family, photos are pretty scarce. My dad came from a rural, working-class background and cameras and developing film used to cost a lot of money. Dad didn’t own or have access to a camera for much of his life, so to have this photo of him when he was about 18 or 19 is pretty special.
Dad is pictured with a band he used to play with, the Pilgrims; he’s the beautiful Maori guy with the Colgate smile and the unbuttoned, slightly ill-fitting shirt – I love that. Maybe it was his old school shirt, maybe he borrowed it from a mate. Either way, he knows he looks sharp. Classic Dad.
At the time this photo was taken, Dad would’ve been a few years out of Hato Paora College, a Maori boys’ boarding school. He was living on a dairy farm in Rongotea, just outside of Palmerston North, and working as a labourer for Mr John O’Donald. The O’Donalds were a good Catholic family and my dad always spoke highly of them – they treated him like family.
When he wasn’t working on the farm, Dad was playing music. The Pilgrims, with Dad on bass guitar, played mainly at dance halls in and around Palmerston North. To a country boy like my dad, Palmerston North really was the Big Smoke, and I know that playing the local hot-spot, when everybody who was anybody was there, was a real thrill for him. I don’t know what became of the other Pilgrims, but I’d like to think that while they were together Dad loved playing music with them.
When I was growing up, we always had music in the house and my dad was never far from a guitar. I never knew Dad to be a rock ’n’ roller or a big partier. He was always a laugh and very sociable though, and music was a big part of that. I’m sure he dreamed about being a full-time musician, and if he’d won Lotto maybe that would’ve been possible, but he knew the value of hard work and enjoyed being a working man.
Dad continued playing guitar and singing in bands throughout my childhood. He had a beautiful, memorable voice. He won a talent quest, with Unchained Melody, at the Opera House in Palmerston North, beating
Bunny Walters, who was a very well-known entertainer at the time.
My sister and I are both musical – I play the bass guitar, just like Dad. I’d like to think I inherited a bit of his talent, but, truthfully, my guitar playing and singing aren’t a patch on Dad’s.
My father died in 1995 at the age of 48. He was very young, and it was far too soon. He played the guitar and sung for all of the 25 years I knew him. Now, every time I pick up the bass, it’s a nice reminder of Dad, and where I’ve come from.
Playing the local hot-spot was a real thrill for him. Above: Richard Turei, on the right.
Ryan Hoffman Captain of the Warriors In 1981 my dad, Jay Hoffman, was living and playing rugby league in Brisbane, but he had just signed on to play with the Canberra Raiders – a brand new club – in the New South Wales competition. This was a major juncture in his life; he left home, family and familiarity to pursue his career in a place that was unknown to him.
As I’ve grown older, the stories of my dad’s youth on the Gold Coast have flowed a little more freely and – I think – been censored a little less rigorously!
Evidently, Dad had some pretty atypical teenage-boy qualities. As Grandma tells it, he was always quite besotted with babies (which I believe now that I’ve had my own), he married his high school sweetheart – my mum – whom he dated without disruption from the tender age of 17, and he apparently took it very much in his stride when he was expecting a motorbike for his 21st birthday, but was instead presented with a desk.
On the other hand, Dad was also a predictably hedonistic teenager: he wagged school when the surf was good, volunteered to stay back a year at high school because all his mates did, and spent his weekends playing first-grade rugby league with grown men who didn’t hesitate to take the young buck under their wing.
Certainly not the world’s most notorious ratbag, but he definitely displayed the youthful tendency to live in the moment and prioritise the things that brought him the most joy, as young people do.
All this is in stark contrast to the hard-working, selfless father I knew growing up and I feel like these pictures really represent the pivotal time when he left that life behind and became a man in pursuit of real success; success that would support a family, which he started when he married mum in 1982. There’s still a boyish charm about his face and smile, but seriousness in his eyes, I think.
By the time I was born, Dad was still playing for Canberra and working as a bricklayer’s labourer. He would eventually go on to work for Exide Batteries and climb his way up from a truck-driver to an executive, but in the early days he worked days, nights and weekends, mostly making very little money.
Not that I ever realised times were tough. My childhood was sunny, positive and chock-full of good memories. Many of these are associated with the Raiders and rugby league in general, and I have no doubt that this is the major influence in my choice of career today. Dad never once pushed me into this career, but we had so much fun in those days – catching the team bus to his games and getting around various sporting stadia with the other Raiders’ kids – that I couldn’t help but become smitten with the footy life and everything it had to offer.
I look at these photos and I don’t think we look in the slightest bit alike, but it occurs to me that as an adult I have the privilege of sharing an identical ambition with my father. Consequently he’s my chief confidant, my biggest fan and my most honest assessor. He’s been here, he understands, and as a result he is an unfailingly calm influence on me. In many ways I represent history – his story – repeating, and for that I could not be more proud or more grateful.
Not the world’s most notorious ratbag, but he definitely displayed the youthful tendency to live in the moment. Above: Ryan and his dad Jay.
Above: Bernie Galvin at 16.