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Temporary’ Griffins Job Lasts 50 Years

1st November 2004

Media Release

Hutt Man Leaves ‘Temporary’ Griffins Job After 50 Years Service

Just over 50 years after taking on his ‘temporary’ job at Griffins Foods’ Lower Hutt factory, John Shannon has finally decided to retire and will hang up his overalls for the last time on Monday November 1st.

John’s involvement with the factory started very early in life – his mother brought him as a one-year-old to the factory’s opening in 1939. Fifteen years later, on October 30 1954, John began work at Griffins.

“I had a couple of mates working there who got me the job,” he recalls. “It was only temporary to start with and I never thought I’d stay this long!”

Back in 1954, the business of biscuit making was fairly labour-intensive. John started work as a monitor, stacking base trays and tins. Over the years his work involved processing, baking and even hand-feeding biscuit dough with specially designed shovels.

“Automation made a big change,” says John. “Those things are all done today with the push of a button.”

In fifty years, John has seen the arrival of automated wrapping machines, microwave technology, and computers.

He’s also tasted enough Griffins’ products to have a firm favourite, the milk chocolate caramel wafer he made for 2 years. Gingernuts and wine biscuits have always been high on John’s biscuit list.

John and his workmates experienced one of New Zealand’s worst disasters first-hand: the ferocious tropical cyclone that sank the Wahine on 10th April 1968.

“That was one of the worst days,” recalls John. “We had a fatality – a guy was blown off a container. Trees were uprooted and we would’ve lost our factory roof if it wasn’t for one brave chap who got up there and saved it.”

In more peaceful times John got to meet some famous New Zealand personalities, working alongside All Black Don McIntosh and New Zealand softballer Ross Smith, and shaking hands with former Prime Minister Norman Kirk on a factory visit.

What has kept John at Griffins all these years? “I think it was the friendships, the variety of work, the sports teams and social club, and the great spirit of camaraderie that’s always existed,” says John.

Now John looks forward to getting more time on the golf course and doing up the house he and his wife own, which he says has been a work in progress for thirty years.

“I’ll miss the people – it’s tough to say goodbye,” he says, “but I won’t be sorry to leave behind early morning starts. I’ve been getting up at 4 or 5 in the morning for fifty years!”

John’s farewell party is on November 1st, and there must be something in the cookie dough because he’s not the only Griffins veteran. Fred Harvey celebrates fifty years of service in March 2005.


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