Workplace star toasts 80th on the job
Most people don’t expect to celebrate their 80th birthday in a factory canteen surrounded by their workmates.
When Chris Davey took her morning smoko break last week at Manawatu Knitting Mills , there were savouries, speeches, and a large 80th birthday cake.
The 130-year-old company that made the All Blacks jerseys for Dave Gallagher’s legendary 1905 Originals, is highly automated.
However, the ‘‘young at heart’’ Davey has exemplary handsewing, invisible mending and finishing skills that, despite automation, are still in demand.
It’s why she was recruited 15 years ago at an age when most of her contemporaries were taking retirement.
Born in 1937, Davey grew up on a farm near Tikokino in Central Hawke’s Bay. She recalls walking to school barefoot in the frost, and wartime ration cards.
‘‘I’ve always enjoyed my sewing. I started doing it right back during the war years.’’
With limited career opportunities for women during the 50s, especially in rural areas, Davey started her working life in Wellington in 1956 as a ‘‘plain sewer’’.
She moved to Christchurch and then to a factory in Kaiapoi, where she busted a peeping tom manager who was keeping his eye on the ladies loo through a hole in the wall.
Keen on sport, she played rep softball and hockey in Christchurch, where she worked for Lane Walker Rudkin.
A member of the Takaro Sports Club, Davey played indoor bowls at least twice a week.
After marrying Earl in 1963, she took time out to raise four children. In 1978, Davey started commuting from Waipukurau to Norsewood by bus to work at Norsewear, where she remained for 21 years.
She still gets to work by bus.
‘‘I used to drive around the farm, but I never got my driver’s licence.’’
Davey was working at a Palmerston North motel while bringing up two grandchildren, when a colleague from her Norsewear days invited her to Manawatu Knitting Mills.
Valued for her hand finishing skills, which she has been passing on to her workmates, Davey doesn’t know how long she will continue working.
‘‘I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. The only trouble is, I can’t stop. They don’t want me to leave,’’ she said.
Chris Davey with Manawatu Knitting Mill’s youngest employee Callum Haydock, 17.