Bob Jones* Recently, I wrote about “the good old days”, specifically the early 1960s and the character lawyers so prevalent then. Here’s another tale of those times to lighten your day.
In my previous contribution I referred to Mike Bungay, John Tannahill (“Tan”), Des Deacon and Colin Beyer who about 1961 collectively set up offices (to call them Chambers would certainly be pushing it) in a ramshackle and long-gone old Lambton Quay building.
All were in their early 20s and Colin Beyer excepted, desperate for clients. Colin was fortunate as he had Ron Brierley and me for as with accountants, no established practice would act for us.
Ron’s intended share-market activity was seen as scandalous and I as obviously a wide-boy if self-employed at 21, then unheard of. Nevertheless, Ron and I were soon busting out all over and Colin was able to shift to more salubrious premises with a permanent secretary.
In early January came news of Tan’s death, he being the last survivor of the four and it brought to mind reminiscent of those fun days.
Their offices were on the first floor reached by a rickety stair-case. At the top to the right, Tannahill and Deacon shared a small room containing a single desk and chair they took turns using.
Opposite, Colin had a larger room. “Don’t tread there” he’d shout if you entered the room other than by a zigzag route as he had an old carpet stretched over large holes in the floor.
Bungay’s room lay at the end of these two rooms.
Frequently at day’s end we’d all convene over drinks (back then beer, wine-drinking being still a decade away) and a common topic was the pursuit of potential clients.
Tan’ and Deacon were in the habit of night-time prowling back of town joints in an endeavour to find clients. Finally, this produced a result as to their immense excitement, they persuaded a well-known elderly Greek residential property investor to consider their services and he was to come in a couple of evenings later.
The great day duly dawned. They’d ‘borrowed’ a pretty teenage uni’ student, the daughter of an older friend, to pose as a secretary. They’d also borrowed some padded bucket seats and brought in flowers.
The Greek duly arrived and was ensconced in one of the fancy chairs sipping coffee the bogus secretary had made; the interview was proceeding encouragingly when all turned to dust.
The Bungay ‘Dance’
For the door burst open and in danced Bungay, stark naked and carrying his wastepaper bin stuffed with paper. Whooping loudly, he danced round the traumatised trio then culminated this performance by ramming his bin and its contents down over the Greek’s head, resulting, needless to say, in his permanent departure. Much bitterness ensued which inevitably turned to thoughts of revenge.
Bungay was a shocking bragger and at the time constantly boasted of having it off on his desk at day’s end with a secretary who came in one afternoon each week, this a meaningful luxury in those pre-pill days.
And so, shortly after the Greek debacle there he was late one afternoon, at it on his desk, when the door burst open and whooping loudly, in danced Tan’ and Deacon, both naked and bearing paper-stuffed bins they rammed over Bungay and the girl’s head.
A peace treaty was then negotiated as the protagonists, respectively now Greek and girl-less, woke to the age-old reality that there are never actual winners in warfare.
These sorts of incidents were fairly common-place back in the 1960s and 70s but sadly no longer.
In the late 1990s Michael Cullen and I were the joint guest speakers at a Wellington young professionals’ group of about 100 strong. Following a fairly lengthy pre-meeting cocktail session we were duly ensconced on a stage where I had taken the precaution of nabbing 2 bottles of red to bring up with us.
It was a wise call as the bloody President then launched into a tedious lengthy speech, the minutes of the previous meeting were read and so on. Michael and I consoled ourselves during this palaver by polishing off the two bottles of red.
Finally, it was our turn. Neither of us were in suitable condition for meaningful speeches so we agreed to instead suggest to the audience we simply deal with questions.
A fat dullard of about 23 sitting in the front row opened the batting. It transpired he was worried sick about his superannuation. I saw red and launched into him ferociously, suggesting that instead of worrying about bloody superannuation at his age he should be in the likes of the Dominican Republic piling into the girls. This brought Cullen to his feet shouting his advocacy for Argentina plus some Asian destinations, girl-wise.
These words of wisdom were received with shocked silence and plainly in disgrace, Michael and I made our escape and went off to dinner.
“What’s gone wrong?” Michael wailed over dinner, ruing the intense earnestness of the contemporary world and adding that as a student he would read with envy of the antics we were all up to, mainly political, in Wellington back in the 1970s.
The answer was simple. Back in those grim pre-market economy days, life was easy and we had the time, too much in fact, with the inevitable idle hands outcome.
The world’s a far better place now, but sadly at a rather spirit-less price.
*Sir Robert Jones is a well known reader, author and part-time property investor who is also an intermittent LawFuel contributor. His blog can be seen here.
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