He says he’s standing on the front porch of his house, and they’re dragging things out of it. Who knows where the kids are, they’ve probably bolted. The dream is evaporating around him, one heirloom at a time, as blokes trudge back and forth carrying away everything the family has. Sneering, self-righteous bailiffs under orders from Them are demanding to know where my Grandmother’s engagement ring is, but she’s hidden it. The last vestige of what was once a wealthy household.

How he came to inherit the family business I’m uncertain, but it must have been in the immediate aftermath of the War. The story runs contrary to others about the intense dislike my Great-Grandfather is supposed to have felt for him, because of the stigma of my Grandmother’s Catholicism. My guess has always been that Poppa died, and Mervyn was, in effect, the last man standing in Te Aroha.

He explains the reasons for the catastrophe in an angry voice one day, but it’s after some brief investigation I see the real reasons. After the War the big companies came into small New Zealand. International operators in the most recent wave of globalisation to hit a sleepy little country. My Grandfather has the family tire business, we’d moved up from blacksmithing once the horses were moved back to the farms, and he now considers himself a local businesnessman and ex-soldier. The fact that veterans of J-Force are barred from the RSA and pensions is another sad tale in our national history.

As he tells it, a big tire company came through town offering deals to help small businesses get ahead. They offered a large volume of stock ‘on consignment’, with the bill to be paid as the stock sells. Volumes up, more sales, more money to go round, right? But on consignment actually means on credit, and the company rolls into town a few months later and demands every cent for the stock it has provided, immediately, under threat of court action. The details escaped me, filtered as they were through 40 years of anger, but the outcome was obvious. He couldn’t pay what they wanted, and he, like other small business owners he knew, were pushed out of the market and a franchise of the large company set up in his store.

And bankrupted, the stigma of which came down as a new burden to weight upon his shoulders. He’d lost everything. The lot gone. Family house. Family business, and them with three (maybe four?) kids to feed. And all because They wanted the profits from small-town, rural-service communities.

Welcome to the new world New Zealand.

F,FLP

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