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.

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