Charles Pelvin

CHARLES PELVIN b. 27 Feb 1892 the eldest of twins born to Charles and Jessie Pelvin; d. 13 Aug 1975, Loburn, Rangiora. CHARLES enrolled at the Tawai School on 28 Oct 1897; home address Waitaki. He left after Std 3 for home doing farm work. He was a great dance band pianist before and after World War 1 and a very clever man with machinery, especially motor engines, bikes and cars.

His military call-up came in 1917, place Glenavy; Occ; Farmer. He never married and in 1936 joined his brother William on “Sunkist Orchard” at Loburn .

Apples Have Meant Cider and Contentment
(Report by Vicky Duncan for a ChCh paper)

When a North Island couple bought a Lowburn orchard, they found they had also acquired an old identity of the district, Charlie Pelvin, 82.
He has been associated with the district and the Sunkist Orchard in the North Lowburn since the 1930's. In that time he has got to know apples fairly well.
Mr Pelvin has seen Sunkist Orchard change hands twice. He went there in 1936 to help his twin brother William, who took over the orchard from his father-in-law Mr J E Middlebrook.
The next owner sold the orchard to Mr and Mrs Dick Woodward, who have it now. But Charlie Pelvin is a permanent fixture. "It's a nice place up here" he says. "The people are friendly and an orchardist's life is one you don't get tired of." Mr and Mrs Woodward are grateful to Mr Pelvin for passing on his store of knowledge about apples. But one aspect of fruit growing which he has not had occasion to pass on involved a great deal of his time in his early days at Lowburn - cider making. Although he has not made cider for more than 25 years, Mr Pelvin says people passing through, still come up to the orchard asking for a bottle.

In the 1930's, there was not much local demand for apples, and most of those grown at Lowburn were exported. Becase of the high quality required of export apples, there was a lot of waste fruit which was just right for making into cider. There was no secret in making good cider, according to Mr Pelvin. But he said his "snake juice" had to be 18% alcohol or it would not keep. The apple juice was squeezed out of bags and put into barrels, then 4 lb of sugar was added to a gallon of juice. The amount had to be precise or the cider turned into vinegar. "Once we did not have enough sugar in a batch and had to tip it out. We poured it out along a long line of weeping willows and they died with the potency of the stuff." From the tree stump he was sitting on, Mr Pelvin waved his hand across the road where the trees had been, and pointed to the one weeping willow that survived.
Rokewood apples were used for cider. When all the orchard rejects were used up, Mr Pelvin and his brother used to buy flat cases of apples for 1/6d and 1/9d. To make the 80 - 90 barrels of cider a year required about 1000 cases of apples.
The cider was bottled from the barrels, cased and brought to Christchurch for distribution. "We used to go to town 2 or 3 times a week, delivering anywhere around Christchurch" Mr Pelvin recalls. "On a Sunday, cars would be lined up and down the road waiting for the cider which was sold at 1/9d a bottle when they first started in 1932 and by the time they gave up in 1946, it was 2/6d.

Maturing time for the cider was nine months and by all accounts it was a refreshing drink. A writer in 1932 described it as "a satisfactory substitute for Olympian nectar on a hot day with a dusty road behind and another ahead."
The shed housing the cider press was of clay and straw brick which kept the temperatures down and the cider cool. The shed is still used by the Woodwards. "We ask him things about the orchard - he's a great help like that. He keeps an eye on things when we are away." said Mrs Woodward. Mechanically minded, Mr Pelvin always helps any neighbours with any car problems.

Mrs A Watson, of a nearby orchard, says Mr Pelvin always keeps up with what the young folk are doing, and does not miss a thing. He has his little quirkes but these only endear him to his Lowburn friends. "Sometimes he will just lie down in the orchard or by the roadside and go to sleep. They say he slept in a chair for a year until someone gave him a bed," said Mrs Watson. When he is not talking to friends, or keeping up with the young ones, Mr Pelvin still finds time to help out in the orchard, but cider these days is out of the question. "Apples and sugar are too dear now" he says.