Francis Joseph Krippner celebrated his 90th birthday at the start of this month Aware of her dad’s mortality, Maree Smith asked The News to share some of the wealth of local history that her father has lived through.
Franz was born on March 1, 1932 and grew up in Te Rore. He was one of five siblings who attended Te Rore School. Back then, the school had 21 students and the kids walked to school each day on roads that were made from gravel and sand.
“We were lucky if we would see one car a day,” Franz said.
Franz worked on his father’s farm before he eventually started his own. In 1954 he bought 56 acres of land from his uncle Percy, and sent his first batch of milk to the Te Awamutu Lotus Dairy Co July 26, 1956. He continued to milk cows for the next 45 years.
Franz is a lover of history, and as the world around him changed, he recorded it along the way. He has a vial of ash collected after falling on his homestead in 1975 from Mt Ngāuruhoe erupting, as well as a vial of dust from a 1942 Australian dust storm.
He has notarised many of his lived experiences, as well as his family’s history in a small book.
These notes vary from obscure to profound. On the first page of his book, Franz records the year Te Rore School was built (1879), as well as the names of his first teachers, including a Mr Ferguson, who became a pilot officer in WW2, before he died in a Sunderland flying-boat crash.
Franz trained as a radio operator as part of his compulsory military service, which sparked a lifetime interest in amateur radio.
On another page of his book, Franz detailed listening to the countdown of a nuclear bomb test in Enewetak Atoll, using a radio that he built.
“In 1962 USA were conducting high altitude atom bomb tests, I listened in on the countdown. When the blast went off I could hear the click on the radio, then silence. I went outside and after about a minute in the north rays of light rose up and went right across the sky to the south. An amazing sight,” he wrote.
Franz joined the Te Awamutu Amateur Radio club, and his radio call sign was ZL1AJD. In 1964 he received a DXCC award for contacting 100 different countries with his two-way radio. He has since contacted over 155 countries. Franz became friends with many of the people that he spoke to, and in May 1961 he travelled on a cruise ship, the Oriana, to meet one of these friends in Hawaii.
In 1965 Franz met Jeanette Moreland during a Catholic social event. They married the following year and had six children who all attended Te Rore School.
Franz is a keen photographer and was a member of the Te Awamutu Camera Club.
“He’s always got his camera with him wherever he goes,” Jeanette said
He captured many moments from New Zealand’s recent history, including the 1951 Tangiwai Disaster and both of Ruapehu’s eruptions, in 1995 and 1996. Jeanette and Franz watched Ruapehu erupt for over an hour from the side of the road.
“The strange part was there wasn’t any sound coming from it, it was dead quiet,” Franz said.
Franz and Jeanette are both seasoned travellers, but Te Awamutu will always be their hometown. They share a unique perspective of it, as they grew alongside the town and saw first-hand how it changed over the years. Both are sentimental to the days of old.
Jeanette said when she first saw Te Awamutu, she couldn’t believe that they had a town clock.
“Why they took it down, I’ll never know.”
Franz recalled the now non-existent Te Awamutu Train Station, which he used to travel to Wellington in 1951, marking the start of his military service.
The pair exclusively shopped at Three Guys Te Awamutu until it closed in 2003.
They have since committed to shop at Fresh Choice, where Three Guys used to be. Jeanette remembered shopping at McKenzie’s, and laments that it is one of many stores in Te Awamutu that are now closed.
“It changed Te Awamutu forever, shutting those shops down,” Jeanette said.
“When the Warehouse came, they all seemed to go,” Franz.
To celebrate his 90th birthday, Maree treated Franz to a ride in a 1928 Hudson, Franz pointed out bits of local history that Maree had no idea about as they drove around the district.
Franz now spends a lot of his free time on YouTube, using it to learn of the world.
Jeanette says this is “Why he’s still got a big brain.”
He also uses skype now, instead of a valve radio.
“You been on Skype ever? Brilliant, isn’t it?” he said.