Home' Greymouth Star : November 23rd 2013 Contents Greymouth Star
6 - Saturday, November 23, 2013
For Chris Webster, wafting fumes,
hissing hoses and the drum beat of
the paint shop compressor was part of
growing up next door to his father s
"My father was always busy working
in the paint shop, running taxis and chatting with
people he knew out on the street. Dad got a lot of
his work from all the motor and panel shops in town,
painting vehicles and touching up for Motor Bodies,
Brown and Walters and Schaefs, especially," Chris
As he recalls, the end of Buccleugh Street always
accumulated an array of car, trucks and buses each
day and as his father finished one job another would
be ready and waiting.
" ere would be vehicles outside our house and the
paint shop all the time, and when it came to painting
buses he would paint them outside. Too big to take
into the paint shop, he would extend the air hoses
and away he would go. My uncle Alex was working
with my father when I was growing up. While dad
did a lot of the pinstripe work, my uncle was very
good at signwriting.
" e compressor used to make a hell of a racket
and the paint spray would blow out the back into
where my uncle and Carol lived. eir garden and
flowers would be covered in paint, which was a
plasticine colour --- it used to make a real mess of
their backyard. In later years, eventually the paint
shop had to put in an extractor with filters.
" ere were two booths, the closest one to our
house was where the vehicles were painted, the paint
bay was skinned out in metal. e other booth, which
had a long door separating from the other, was where
the preparation was carried out. In the very early
days the building was used for my grandfather s taxi
business," Chris says.
"My brothers Ray and Kelly and I would help
out in the paint shop at times and our job would
be to clean down all the wheels to get them ready
for painting. We felt entitled to steal paint and
sandpaper without asking, but if we got caught we
would head to the hills. My father used to get every
little grain of sand off the sandpaper or carbon paper
(wet and dry) in those days," he smiled.
While George Webster s main operation revolved
around painting motor vehicles, he actually covered a
variety of tasks with paint.
"He painted a variety of things including bikes,
and I remember he painted the horse which is in
the Christchurch Museum, the one pulling the
handsome cab. e museum brought it over in two
pieces and dad used a special paint for it. He had
a great eye and could match any colour absolutely
"He wore overalls, which mum would cut the
sleeves off at the elbows, and he always wore a beret.
e face mask he had, had two filters and when he d
sit down to have tea there would be paint in each
corner of his mouth.
"Dad would help the Marist Brothers out, at no
cost I might add. He painted Brother Hubert s bike a
metallic bronze with pinstripe, wrote Champ along
the bar and he also painted Brother Eric s bike in
black and white. It was probably paint dad didn t
have any use for," Chris chuckled.
"All those years spraying toxic paint took its toll on
my father s complexion. In cold weather his forehead
looked like the underground map of Paris --- paint
damage. Yet, on a fine day he looked a lot younger
than he really was."
e Anisy home was next door to the Websters
and Paul Anisy says the spray painting operation
was considered a traditional part of life in Bucceugh
"It was a pretty close community along there. My
mum, Phyllis, was George s sister and we lived right
next door to the Websters. Con and Rennie Warren
lived on the other side of the paint shop, on the
corner of High Street. McGeadys lived next door to
them on High Street."
A day never passed by when Paul Anisy did not
stop and check on the activity going on in the paint
shop, as he reflects.
"I was fascinated with all the work and preparation
George would do and how he did the pinstriping
of the cars and buses. I would sit for ages and
watch him do the pinstriping, which was a real art.
It was quite amazing, he used a stick with a pad
arrangement which a fine brush would rest on as he
guided the line of paint along the side of the car. He
would also paint whitewalls on the tyres of old cars
"Big doors out the front would push across and
one section of the shop was where the cars would
be prepared and masked up, while on the other side
he would do the painting. Pressure hoses would be
running off the compressor air tank. e compressor
would stop and then take off again. I recall he had
a big bench down the back with a wardrobe type
duchess with all his paint and materials in or on it.
"George wore a paint mask, but mainly he d wrap
an old towel or cloth around his head and face, but
still be wearing his beret. ere would be fumes and
dust from here to Africa.
"George was a real personality. I called in every
time I walked past, that was through the 1960s," Paul
George Webster s sister Lena Malone remembers
when he took up his car painting business in the
"George had the taxis for a start and then he took
up painting. I was away on my honeymoon in 1952
and when I got back to Greymouth he was painting
cars. He had set up his painting business right next
door to where he lived. Alex, my other brother, was
helping him for a while in the paint shop. ey had a
canvas cover between the garage where he painted.
"George was regarded as a very good spray painter
and painted up in Buccleugh Street for many years.
He had his regular customers in his time, and loved
to have a talk with them out the front. He was a
good talker and enjoyed catching up with everyone.
After he finished up his spray painting business up
town, he went and worked for Schaefs to run their
spray painting operation."
Coral Webster recalls that her late husband Alex
worked in the Gladstone sawmill before teaming up
with his brother to work in the paint shop.
"When Alex left school he went to work at
Harley s in town before going out to Gladstone.
Alex and I got married in 1952 and we lived in old
Mr Webster s home, on the corner of Buccleugh
and High streets. e house was later rented to the
" e paint shop was an old shop but quite big. It
had the name Webster Taxis along the front of the
building, and in the earlier times George continued
driving taxis as well as painting. ere wasn t much
money in taxis back then but it was quite a busy
paint shop. It provided a living for George and his
family and for Alex, me and our two children.
"Alex was always clean and tidy when he came
home from work. Alex was the quiet one of the two
--- George was the rowdy one," Coral says.
Lenin Kaye was George Webster s apprentice and
says he taught him well in the car painting trade.
"George was in his 70s when I was his apprentice,
but he was a very good spray painter. If you didn t do
things right he would call you pudding head , but
his craft was his pinstriping --- he was a master at it,
just marvellous. He could run the little pencil brush
along the car, flick the design and patterns, steady as
a rock. George had a reputation of being the man
when it came to pinstriping."
Buccleugh Street in central Greymouth is a quiet residential street these days, in contrast to the time when George
Webster operated his car painting business, directly opposite the Recreation Hotel. Cars and trucks sporting primer and
spray putty in various stages of preparation were a regular sight parked along the street, while newly painted vehicles bathed
in the afternoon sun. e paint shop was situated in a residential zone, and the Webster family home was next door, but
residents living close by were conditioned to the intermittent throb of a large air compressor. PAUL McBRIDE looks back.
George Webster in his workshop on Buccleugh Street, opposite the Recreation Hotel.
e Webster homestead beside the paint workshop in the now-closed section of Buccleugh Street.
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