Catering to the saleyards flock

SHARE

By John Keast

Caterers Ann Craig and June Steenson recall with amusement now the day of the 1000 pies.

And the 1000 sugar buns – and the 1000 bags of chips.

They, then, were fairly new to catering and had been asked to provide food for the annual Ashburton implement sale.

“How many will be there?”

“Oh, about a 1000.”

So they stocked up – and had so much left over “almost every firm in town got morning tea the next day”.

It’s been a rollicking 24 years – nearly 25 – for the fun-loving women, who have provided the food – and the banter – at the Tinwald Saleyards.

The last sale there will be in December.

Says Mrs Craig: “We only thought we’d be here for two or three years; now we’re in our 25th year.”

The women had catered for social events when they were asked to fill the bellies of farmers and agents at the sprawling yards just south of Ashburton.

It has been a labour of love, and they will be sad when the yards close.

Mrs Steenson is going golfing – and whitebaiting, and Mrs Craig will retire and do more volunteering.

They will not easily forget the yards or the customers.

The first ewe fair they catered for involved 28,000 head – and a swag of customers.

“And we only had one Zip and beggar all cups. There would have been hundreds in that day.”

Says Mrs Steenson: “On a normal Tuesday (sale) we’d look at 50 and now we might get 12.”

For a big sale, they’d prepare a full cooked breakfast, more than enough for most.

But not one. When presented with his breakfast he said: “That’s a bit miserable.”

It was too much for the no-nonsense caterers.

At the next breakfast he was presented with a meat platter – full.

“He never complained again.”

The women said they were often told their food was better than that offered at Temuka – although they are sure there was nothing wrong with the offering there.

The women say they spoil their customers.

Mrs Steenson said she could recall stock being driven to the yards from the Tinwald station, and Mrs Craig said the original cook shop was a building nearer the road and “we used to play Housie there”.

The saleyards have been a background to their lives, with grand-children used to it.

“We’ve had a lot of fun over the years,” said Mrs Craig.

Mrs Steenson agrees, forking neat rows of mashed spud into sausages.

Yes, they, say, stuffed sausages always go well – as does all the food.

Then they recalled the nightmare of the over-stocking for the implement sale – and burst out laughing.

The history of the yards is written on the walls, in pictures of agents in jackets and ties, and in stories.

One, told by the founder of this paper, Frank Veale, involved a tale of a senior auctioneer who began to dress down a junior staff member.

As he was in full flight, a dog entered the scene, possibly mistaking the irate auctioneer for a tree.

As the auctioneer reached full flight he began to realise his leg was getting damp, and his mood was not helped when he was told: “Lucky it wasn’t your pocket”.