Hall of Fame Inductee 2014

Melven Aitken

Melven was born in Dunedin in 1935 where he spent a short time of his life before moving to Beaumont where he was schooled and became known as Rowdy. He left school at the age of 16 and spent the next 8 years labouring on a farm in Waitahuna then moved on to driving bulldozers for a contractor in Lawrence breaking in land around Hinden and Lawrence area. In the late 1950s Rowdy moved to Nelson to fruit pick for a year before moving to Timaru and embedding his life in the transport industry, starting out at Millers Transport driving predominantly stock trucks and lime sowers.

In May 1967 Rowdy and 3 drivers from Millers Transport, Trevor Walsh, Des Cunningham and Johnny Priddle compiled a deal to buy an ailing Temuka Transport, acquiring a yard and 17 trucks of which half were on blocks and robbed of parts to keep others going. Des and Johnny sold out after a couple of years. 10 years later Trevor and Rowdy split the business with Trevor retaining all earthmoving equipment and establishing Temuka Trench and Excavation and Rowdy retaining the general and rural cartage side of the operation continuing to trade as Temuka Transport.

As with many families in transport, the early years saw them investing every cent they had in finding a deposit to purchase a house, leaving them without a car for many years. The ultimate family outing Rowdy, wife Margaret and three sons Garry (Gutsy), Brian (Slim) and Brendan involved a ride in truck number 12, a pig truck, taking them everywhere, even to weddings and funerals. Many Sunday outings involved loading the TK Bedford with 200 lambs, packed lunch and family and heading to Burnside freezing works in Dunedin and retuning home in the evening.

Manual labour was a hallmark of the business, operating under the strictly controlled distance regime with everything railed, from stock and hay, to clay for the insulators as well as all goods for the local shops. Trucks hauling everything to and from rail siding, including livestock to the sale yards across the road (which would then have to be carted back to the rail, two blocks away it if was going out of the district), hay bales, bagged potatoes and bagged grain, all manhandled on to and off trucks.

Harvest season saw the workforce grow by between 40 and 45 men, students, freezing workers, all looking to make a few extra dollars, some staying on as full time drivers post harvesting. There wouldn’t be many people in Timaru Rowdy and Margaret haven’t employed at some point in their lives.

In Temuka Transports 47 year history local dairying has accounted for 60% of the business operation with its unprecedented levels of service and outstanding relationships within the industry contributing to the long standing success of the company. The Aitken family have grown the business to a level where it now operates over 70 trucks and six large container handlers. It also runs the Temuka rail head for Kiwi Rail, operates a number of storage sheds and has a staff of 115. Their long standing relationships with many clients continues to stand them in good stead for future growth by generations to come.

Rowdy is a great believer in the community spirit and there are very few sports clubs or organisations in the district that have not benefitted from his input in some way or another. His services were honoured in 2008 he was awarded for his outstanding contribution to the community with a Queens Service Medal.

At the age of 79, Rowdy continues to run the business as Manager/Director, when not out practicing golf! A recent acquisition of one of his first trucks, a 1962 Bedford lying dormant and bedraggled in a paddock in Luggate will keep Rowdy busy restoring it to its former glory.

Les Mackenzie
Dave Carden