Memories from Tiny Spencer and Jean Lang, his daughters
Father talked very little but when he did we all listened. It was an occasion.
He was beloved by his linesmen. Tiny used to drive with him when he went to work, when they passed the linesman driving out, they all used to wave and say Hello Mr Spencer, Good morning Mr Spencer.
When Jean used to have nightmares that was the King was coming to kill her. He took me out and told her very solemnly that he would look after her, and he would kill the king first, so that the king would be dead and wouldn’t be able to kill Jean.
When he used to go to the annual Auckland Power Board ball, he would immediately go and with with the linesman who worked for him – they all held him in high esteem, probably because he was the kind of person who would go out in all weathers and help them when a line needed fixing. He had a lot do with Maori when he was growing up so we think he felt quite at ease with the linesmen who were mostly Maori. Margot wore a lovely long green seersucker dress with shoe string straps. She was very glad she could still wear it after having Richard at the age of 40. She swept the floor with it.
In 1959, he was sent around the world to tour other Power Boards around the world, to see how they managed themselves. As he was a senior engineer. He had been half promised chief engineer when he came to NZ, but he didn’t get it, probably because he didn’t talk much. THey made him deputy instead, but on the salary of the chief. He became quite depressed after that. The chief engineer was a great cocktail party engineer, father was a very good engineer. He was responsible for laying the cable from auckland to Waiheke, in 1954.
Growing up, they used to go tramping Ruapehu. They (the boys, the father, and sometimes Heath) took a train near to Ruapehu, and (probably) hired horses down there. They would ride as far as they could and then tramp from there.
During WWII, during the Blitz, before he went up north to help develop radar he was on call during the night to go out and put out fires and make any loose wires safe. His wife never knew whether he would come home the next morning. Maybe he got asbestos poisoning during that time, as he eventually died of fibrosis.
Tiny found that it was very difficult to talk to Arthur, but the one way she could spend time with him was to go out fishing with him at Coopers Beach – he loved to fish from a little row boa tvery early in the morning. The trouble was that she used to get seasick. So first he would give her a barley sugar, and then if that didn’t work (which it never did) he would say that he was going to go back to shore. But invariably, he would row about 50-100 metres and put the anchor down again, in the hope that she would not be as seasick this time. And of course she always was. ALso a Coopers only activity was that they were allowed to jump on his stomach (only Tiny).
He was a very fast runner, and got a running cup at school. Tiny also won the race at the annual Power board family picnic, but wasn’t allowed to keep the prize money because that might make her professional (at the age of 10!).
He was very kind to Tiny when she first fell in love with someone (around 17) – Rick Burchall. He was very friendly but then dumped Tiny as soon as his friends arrived. Arthur was very kind to Tiny when she collapsed into tears at the rejection.
We used to go for Sunday drives, but only so he could look at the latest substation (or at least that was the excuse). He was very good at tennis.
When he first retired in 1965, he wanted to work in the local hardware shop in Greenwoods Corner. He was worried that would be a comedown. But he was too sick after a few weeks, as he already had a lung disease – instertitial fibrosis – possibly from the clean up during the Blitz.