Town could rely on the Can Man
Samuel Turrall, aka Sam the Can Man, will be remembered by the Tokoroa community as the guy who for decades scoured the town for aluminium cans, however, those that were close to Sam will remember a loving man who would take the shirt off his back to help those in need.
Mr Turrall, known to most as Sam, moved to Tokoroa in 1963 from Auckland. ‘‘He loved Tokoroa immensely, it was home,’’ Mr Turrall’s niece Julie Herbert said.
Mrs Herbert’s home in Thames was a regular holiday retreat for Mr Turrall.
‘‘He loved Christmas so much because he never had it growing up, he was like a child on Christmas morning it was beautiful. My children absolutely adored Uncle Sam.’’
Mr Turrall, who was born John Roberts Turrall in 1945 and later changed his name to Samuel Henry Turrall in 1963 (after his biological father) suffered a tumultuous upbringing.
At 18 months old Mr Turrall was made a ward of the state following reports of horrendous abuse at the hands of his mother Jean Squire.
Throughout his childhood and adolescent years he was shipped off to different foster care and Social Welfare homes throughout the Waikato and Bay of Plenty.
During those years Mr Turrall was subjected to shock treatments after home caregivers thought he was suffering from some sort of mental illness. It was later found that Mr Turrall’s only disability was partial hearing loss.
Once he was old enough to leave, he did and was employed by the Auckland City Council on roading projects.
In 1963 Mr Turrall found his biological father living in Putaruru. He made the move south to Tokoroa where he took employment at the Kinleith Mill.
Made redundant from the mill in 1986, Mr Turrall started up the Sam the Can Man run, which he began on his pushbike scouring the town for cans and on Saturday mornings was a regular sight at the Tokoroa Memorial Sports Ground.
Former Tokoroa Borough Council employee and Mr Turrall’s half brother, Graeme Nelson recalls fixing a broken watermain at 3am one morning and seeing the ‘‘can man’’ at work.
‘‘I’d be out fixing a broken water main and I’d see him out in the freezing cold on his bike with cans loaded up front and back, all you could see was Sam’s head peering over the cans. That was in the 80s before he got a car.’’
Mrs Herbert laughs when she recalls a gripe her uncle had with another local.
‘‘Uncle Sam began his business a few years before Annie the can lady began her bid. He told me once he had a gripe with her for stealing his cans.’’
Mr Turrall was a constant sight at the sportsgrounds and took on duties for the Southern United Rugby Football Club including opening and closing the sports sheds before and after.
Mr Turrall also helped the South Waikato Sports and Leisure Board with ground control making sure cones were out for visiting sports team’s vehicles.
Former South Waikato District councillor, Southern United Rugby Football Club Chairman and Tokoroa business owner David Foote, describes Mr Turrall as a man who was very much a part of the success of rugby and netball in the town.
‘‘He was an amazing guy who put up with a lot of abuse from people who would turn their nose up at him because he did that type of work.
‘‘He did a sterling job at keeping our grounds clean. I can’t say enough about old Sam, he helped a lot of people and was a vital cog to the cleanliness of our sports grounds and parks.’’
Mr Foote said due to his tireless work for the rugby club he was made an unofficial member.
‘‘When we would put on a feed for visiting teams we always put a plate aside for Sam.
‘‘He would open up the sheds for the boys, and play security guard chasing ratbags away that were hanging around. He was a valuable asset that will be missed.’’
Mr Turrall would also light the fire at St Francis Church every Sunday morning to keep the Sunday school children warm.
St Francis Church member Malcolm Mills remembers the morning they found Mr Turrall.
‘‘We got to church that Sunday and noticed the fire was not lit, we knew something was wrong. We went to the sportsgrounds and we saw his van and the kindling for the fire was still there.’’ Mr Mills said he found Mr Turrall in the toilets which he opened up every morning.
A memorial service for Mr Turrall was held at St Francis Church where close to 1000 people attended.
South Waikato Sport and Leisure Board are planning a memorial in Mr Turrall’s honour to be erected at the sportsgrounds.
If you have an idea on what you think would be a great way to remember ‘‘ Sam the Can Man’’ send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.