William (Bill) Henry Robinson was born on the third of April 1906 at Brunnerton, near Greymouth. He was the third son and eighth child of John and Gertrude Robinson.
Bill’s childhood days were spent playing and working round the family’s grocery shop in Greymouth. After school he would be found helping in the shop, opening cases, and stacking shelves. He took an active interest in the business and he would serve in the shop, learning how to weigh up pounds of butter, which had to be cut from a fifty-six pound block. Bill became quite skilled, getting each reasonably true to weight. Everything was manual with balance scales and brass weights. There were no calculators or electronics in those days. He also had to bag up things like flour, sugar and currants.
At the end of 1918, because of a lack of job opportunities on the West Coast, the family moved to Locksley Avenue in Christchurch. The house was on a five acre block and there were two acres of lawns and gardens. Bill’s father, John Robinson decided to set up a commercial egg production farm, one of the earliest in Christchurch. It was on this family farm that Bill started full time work having left school at the age of twelve after completing standard six. The family built up a successful egg producing business and Bill spent the first ten years of his working life helping to set up and manage the farm. At the age of eighteen years Bill took over the management of the farm when his father became ill and it proved to be valuable training for his future business ventures. John Robinson died in the early 1930s and the family continued to run the farm.
Bill having recently married decided it was time to branch out into his own business with the help of his wife Vera Sutherland. Bill and Vera bought the grocery shop on the New Brighton Road/Fleete Street corner and Bill’s previous experiences in the grocery trade proved invaluable. A small house was attached and there was a garage as well. After a while Bill decided he preferred working outdoors, so he left the running of the shop to Vera and started a grain and produce business from the garage.
By 1938 Bill and Vera’s family had expanded with the arrival of three daughters, and more room was needed. The family moved to a house in Banks Avenue and rented out the grocery shop and house. Bill continued with the successful grain and produce business in new premises at 3 Marshland Road. Two years after moving into these premises extra storage was needed and extensions had to be made to the building. The business operated here for 28 years and was a landmark at the Marshland/Shirley Road intersection.
Bill finally retired in 1967 having sold his business to Hodder and Tolley from the North Island. At the age of 93 years Bill passed away, having enjoyed an active retirement of 32 years which included racing horses, and helping develop Silverstream, a large fish hatchery north of Christchurch.
- Robinson, William Henry. Bill's Story: the life and times of William Henry Robinson. Unpublished, 1998.