Ted Clark is retiring after 45 seasons at Alliance’s Nelson freezing works. Photo: Simon Bloomberg.

At 78, Ted finally retires

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Eighteen years ago Ted Clark was counting down the days to his retirement.

Last month he finally did it, ending a long and varied career that included spending the last 45 seasons at the Alliance Nelson meatworks.

Ted, who at 78 years old, would have to be one of the oldest freezing workers in the country, started at the plant in 1969 after six years as a policeman and seven as a male nurse at Ngawhatu.

“I reckoned I would have retired at 60 if they hadn’t raised the age to 65,” Ted says.

“I was 59 and 11 months when they did that, so I kept working.

“Then I got to 64 and we shifted to the new plant, I changed jobs from a slaughterman to a labourer so I stayed on. After that I just took it year to year and now I’m 78 and my body is telling me it’s time to go.”

Ted says he started in the wool in the old plant and then worked on the slaughterboard after that.

“We wore black singlets and the plant didn’t have any of the technology when I started. We were one of the first sheds to trial some of the new pelting machines – the national union tried to stop it and we went on strike for a month, but the company put it in anyway.

“In those days we were permanent. We’d do maintenance or work in the manure plant in the off-season – they’d even make work for us to some degree.”

Although Ted spent most of his life as a freezing worker, he could easily have been an event manager after organising one of the most successful national freezing works sports events.

Ted did such a good job of getting sponsorship for the national tournament, held in Nelson in 1981, that it made a $20,000 profit – that money was put in a trust and the interest is used to pay for sports events today.

After 45 years, Ted says he is going to miss his workmates and comradeship, which “is the best part of the job”. However, Ted will be busy “getting back to play a bit of bowls” and spending time in “a pretty neglected garden”.