Another Brick in the Wall - Phil Irons
…so much of who we are and where we are positioned today is because of the God-led decisions made by the generations that went before.
This is a photo of my grandfather Jack’s store taken some time in the 1940’s. He was a grocer, in the style now made famous by the Mr. Four Square icon, with tie, white apron and pencil at the ready. Husband to my gracious grandmother Rose and father to three sons, he was a respected business person and active in the community and his local church over several decades.
But the story didn’t start there.
My great-grandfather, and Jack’s father-in-law, W.D. Bauckham, built this brick corner store in 1923 – soon after the wooden store he’d operated on this site since 1910 burned to the ground. The shops were located just three hundred metres from the Manawatu River wharf where he’d arrived by boat from England as a 7-year old boy many years prior.
He would build his new store later in his life and after overcoming some significant personal tragedy. He had by then been married, had four children, then sadly lost both a son to pneumonia and his wife to blood poisoning. In 1913 he would marry again to the woman who would be my great-grandmother and together have a child who would be my grandmother, Rose (or as known by her family and friends, Roha, from aroha in Maori).
W.D. was a pioneer, active in his local church and community and a speaker of te reo Maori. Foxton was a small but prospering town, riding on the back of a thriving flax-growing and milling industry, and positioned as the commercial centre of the Manawatu. Many in the town weren’t so prosperous, and from his business he would often give food away to needy families or extend a line of interest-free credit to others.
Some years later, my grandfather, Jack, entered the scene, drawn to a job in the shop but also soon drawn to the sweetness of W.D.’s daughter, Roha. Jack, a motorbike-riding local man, was not from a church background, but came to faith under the guidance of his boss and father-in-law in waiting. Jack would go on to purchase the shop soon after his father-in-law’s passing, and he carried it on through another generation. For a period after World War II, Jack & Roha, as well as Jack’s father and brother all worked in the store.
By the time I was born, my father Stuart was involved in the business, working with his father Jack, and by the mid-1970’s Dad had bought the business outright and was now himself a side-burns, walk shorts and long socks version of Mr. Four Square. As a child growing up with my brother and sister, the shop was a key part of my family and I guess my identity. To have your family name on a building in the town was something that I was quite proud of as a boy, and everyone knew who my parents and grandparents were. Dad had a gift for business and with his drive and vision, and alongside Mum, would go on to build a successful career and reputation in the supermarket industry with various businesses and governance roles. My parents too, were people of faith, and Dad was active in children’s ministry and was for many years a Sunday School teacher; collecting kids from the community for classes in our Morris Minor shop van remains a classic childhood memory. But Dad’s real call was to business and through his business success was - and still is - generously able to finance and support many church workers, ministry initiatives and wider local community efforts.
I’m proud of my family, our provincial Kiwiana history and grateful for my heritage of faith and business. I accept it’s not unique and many will have family that will have achieved far more, but this is my story.
In writing this I had a few moments of clarity: one was that, like faith, legacy is often the evidence of things unseen. The family’s shop and other structures and assets are there to be seen, but they are simply visible expressions of God’s faithfulness and favour - and a whole lot of hard work.
The second is that legacy can be likened to a conveyor belt in time, on which is carried for future generations the values, character, faith and aspirations of those who have gone before.
So, in January this year, when workers in hard hats and hi-vis vests demolished the old family store to make way for a new development, it was a significant, but not overly sad moment.
I’m thankful we managed to salvage a couple of 100-year-old red bricks from the site as mementoes. But I understand that legacy is not about bricks and mortar - or anything physical for that matter – rather, so much of who we are and where we are positioned today is because of the God-led decisions made by the generations that went before.