Wellington Registered Master Builders Association stalwart Les Hall was honoured with a Queens Service Medal for community services recently. “It was pretty exciting,” Mr Hall says of the phone call he received to tell him he had been awarded the medal.
“I’m happy that all the work I’ve done has paid off to a certain extent.” A glance through his CV shows the award is well warranted, being involved in the construction industry, at the sharp end and in an administration role, for more than 60 years, and in sport as a trainer and volunteer for more than 30 years.
Mr Hall can recall his time in the building industry and with Wellington rugby. Beginning his career as an apprentice joiner, the 77-year-old recalls how easy it was to choose what part of the construction industry he wanted to get into back then.
He says things are more specialised these days. “You could do anything you wanted — training is so much different now.” From materials being manufactured offshore to the advent of new pricing systems and computers, the modern age means the building industry is a young man’s game now. “I started off doing minor repairs which led to more work, and I rode to all my jobs on a pushbike.
The hardest job I had was to re-glaze a window, taking my toolkit and everything on my bike. “There seemed to be more trust and promise back then — I would go to some houses to measure something and the key would be under the mat. Shaking hands over a deal was good enough as far as I was concerned.”
In the 1950s Mr Hall established Les Hall Builders Ltd, with his home doubling as an office. Originally based in Ngaio, Wellington, it has been located in Grenada North for the past 15 years and is still a family-run business, with son Jeff one of the directors. Up until the end of 2004, Mr Hall would be in the office every day “pottering about”, where he would regularly astound office staff by never needing a calculator to tally purchasing costs for a job.
One of the driving forces behind the Wellington Registered Master Builders Association (WRMBA), Mr Hall was involved with its administration for more than 50 years, serving on the executive for 45 years and as president for a two-year term. “I had to do a lot of work at night,” he laughs.
He also played a key role in setting up apprentice training in the region, was a carpentry tutor at Wellington Polytech and conducted peer reviews for the Association. In most cases, he would do this work unpaid. In the 1970s, largely through his children, he got involved with rugby and, before he knew it, was masseur for the Onslow senior side.
When asked “out of the blue” to be masseur for the Wellington representative team he jumped at the chance and for 21 years, up until rugby turned professional in the 1990s, Mr Hall could be seen running onto Athletic Park to tend to the injuries of Murray Pierce, Murray Mexted or Bernie Fraser — again, all voluntary, and without qualifications, but he loved every minute.
He says it was a sad day when he had to give that up, but the professional era of rugby required team physios and masseurs to have qualifi cations from then on. A life member of the Wellington Rugby Union, he is well qualified to pass criticism on players and coaches past and present, and says the reign of lan Upston as coach in the late 1970s and 1980s was a golden time for Wellington rugby.
Softball, athletics, judo and cricket also benefited from Mr Hall’s training and management. Residency at Village At The Park — on the site of the old Athletic Park — is fitting for someone who gave much of his time to Wellington Rugby Union. He says he still tries to watch every Wellington game he can.