Home' Greymouth Star : May 5th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - 7
alda Webb’s father was feted
Greymouth World War
One veteran, Londoner
Bob Rudd, who was born in
1901. He added a few years
to his age to join the 9th
Lancers, a cavalry brigade.
“He had never ridden horses in his life,”
his daughter recalls.
Post-war Britain was tough and jobs hard
to come by, so Bob Rudd came to New
Zealand via Australia, settling on the West
Coast where he helped build the Otira
Tunnel and then worked on the wharf
in Greymouth. He married May and the
couple had Valda and her big brother Victor
(Vic), named after his father.
“Dad was called Victor, too, but everyone
called him Bob. You got a bob when you
joined up (to the army),” Valda laughs. “ I
think it went from there.”
Their first home was next door to Kennedy
Brothers’ Garage. Her brother used to visit
the men on his trike, and her mum always
said he learned to swear there.
When the family was still young her
parents built a new home in Preston Road.
“I remember when we shifted and mum
said ‘the cat ’s had kittens in your pram’. I
was quite indignant!” she laughs.
The path to the Blaketown School went
through a field full of lupins, where the
pensioner flats are now.
“ We had a lot of fun growing up, Vic
was always my hero. He was always doing
something interesting. Mum would say ‘Vic,
you have to take Valda’ and he would say ‘not
The bond between the two remained
strong right up until Vic’s death.
They finished off their schooling at Grey
Main School. Her dad kept the best bike,
to get to the wharf, so her brother painted
an old bike red and called it the Red Terror.
He would double her, Valda sitting on the
carrier as he “ went like the hammers”.
One day a policeman stopped them and
lectured them for riding on the footpath.
Vic was not worried but Valda was. They
never did tell their parents.
Vic had acquired from their grandmother’s
side an old carbide Chinese lantern. He
had a box of glass films, which he fed into
the lantern. They would hang a sheet from
the wall, and the images from the slides
would be projected and little scenes formed.
They would hold silent picture evenings for
“I wonder what happened to it?” she
muses, recalling something like steam
coming from its funnel.
There were cricket matches using an old
kerosene tin for a wicket, which made a
fabulous bang when hit.
In time, Bob Rudd opened a shoe business,
opposite where the Greymouth fountain is
now. Vic, who was already learning the trade
as a cobbler, joined him.
Valda recalls agents from Guthrie Bowron
coming over from Christchurch, and her
father’s habit of buying only the best leather.
There was lots of play time, too. The adults
would hire a bus for trips, and there were
wharfies’ picnics by steam train to Lake
Mahinapua: “If you put your head out the
window you could get a cinder in your eye”.
Valda did a commercial course at
Greymouth Technical High School and
learned to touch type, with a dark cover
stretched over the keyboard to stop them
seeing the keys. She also learned shorthand.
After she got her first job she saved up to
buy her own typewriter, then managed to
bike home with one hand on the handlebars,
the other on the carrier holding it.
“It was one of the most thrilling days of
my life. ”
Her first job was with the Union Bank of
Australia, on the corner of Werita Street and
Mawhera Quay. She loved the job, doing the
maths in her head, and working her way up
to ledger keeper.
They used to take in the gold from the
dredges, in big heavy lumps that had to be
broken up, then melted down. She would
then accompany her manager to post it Air
Mail to the Royal Mint in Melbourne.
“ We had a gun, though it never got used,
and I think he took it with him (to the Post
Office),” Valda says.
They would probably have “died of fright”
if they were robbed, she laughs.
But when she was 21 she had to give up
her beloved job to care for her mum, who
“I ’ve always regretted that. And that ’s
pretty mean of me. I only had one mother
and she was the best friend I ever had.”
Her mother did recover and Valda
returned to the workforce.
One day, her cousin persuaded her to
go dancing at the Blaketown Hall, where
an elderly couple took dancing lessons.
She loved it, and at a railway dance at the
Lyceum Hall in Greymouth she met her
husband Keith, who had ser ved with J
Force in Japan and previously worked at
old Waiuta town. She married at 26 at the
Greymouth Baptist Church, and went to
live in a sawmill house at Ikamatua.
Later on they bought a house at Cobden,
thanks to a loan from Vic. But her husband
had quartz dust in his lungs from working
in the deep Waiuta mine and he died at just
“That happened to a lot of men at Waiuta.”
Vic Rudd died of a stroke in his 60s, then
their father Bob at age 104, Valda’s last
She remained in Cobden until four and a
half years ago, then moved to Dixon House.
She likes it there, but mourns her family.
“ I miss my family terribly. We were great
family people. ”
In her twilight years, Blaketown, and
her happy childhood memories, still burn
“ Blaketown was always home,” she smiles.
PICTURE: Laura Mills
Valda Webb at home at Dixon House, Greymouth.
Valda Webb had an idyllic childhood growing up in Greymouth — Chinese lanterns and running through lupins. Her
first job involved walking to post the gold with her boss, who carried a gun. She reminisces with LAURA MILLS.
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