These notes were put together in September 2002, by Jean Hall (nee Stanley).
George McConachie, moulded the first toy tractors in the basement of his home at 80, Kent Street, Timaru.
He first trained at casting and moulding in Atkins (?) Foundry in Christchurch.
In Timaru, he obtained the services of a pattern-maker, Tom Mountford, who made the items he wanted out of timber, so that he could make castings in aluminium, in his basement.
Still using his sandboxes, he used a plastic toy bulldozer as a mould, to make his first aluminium bulldozer, and a small tractor with a man on it, to make another mould. This would, I think cast four or six at a time.
George cast the posthole digger singly and they made the Header Harvester out of sheet metal, which was stamped out on the press, I think also in their basement.
George used to have his wife, Nancy, upstairs in the living room, painting the little men on the tractors in different colours. One day she said she said she spilt a whole pot of yellow paint over the carpet!
She went on to say that she had to use a broom and shovel to clean the whole house as George had commandeered the vacuum cleaner, and I think this did it, as the red paint all filtered up through the floor boards, covering their butter and everything else in the meat safe!
Another time , George wanted to use her stove to heat the sand through ( which they had gathered from the beach) with linseed oil and something else, to make the core for the sand casting better.
Nancy said it made such a terrible stink, that George was banished to the garden, and had to find his own stove to do the job!
The large tractor tyres were made of rubber, from a mould George had made for Para Rubber to use.
The smaller wheels were quite easy to get.
George and Nancy were manufacturing all items singly, and it was very labour intensive and time consuming.
I have been told that around 1954 Peter Knife had the business for about nine months, and called the toys Peak Toys.
About this time Fun Ho! began manufacturing too. [ Fun Ho! began mid 1930's; Fun Ho! Gazetted 1940...Barry ]
George said he registered the Tiger name in 1954, but it is to be found gazetted in 1956, and it seems he began to manufacture the toys again, this time in a disused church, near 140 Evans Street, on a block near the Show Grounds.
Andy McFarlane was working for him then, and lived at the above address.
This is where my father, Charles Stanley (Toolmaker), comes into the story.
Charles Stanley and Andy McFarlane went to school together and were for many years, great mates.
Dad was a tool and die maker in Christchurch, so in due course George paid Dad a visit in 1956, bringing him the items he wanted dies made for, to make for mass production of the tractor, trailer, roller, discs, plough and harrows.
I was a teenager then, and watched as each piece was made in pairs, in its opposite forms, on Dad's lathe.
The lathe was beautifully made by Dad, years previously, and I had been taught as a child never to touch the knobs, as they may be set.
I just itched to wind them and feel how smoothly they moved, but never did, only once, under supervision!
There were many knobs at all angles and layers on it, all with thousandths of an inch engraved around their collars.
Dad would trial the pieces sometimes in his sandboxes, and I can remember seeing all the products with extra bits attached where the molten metal had gone up air vents and things.
It still meant a lot of hand finishing had to be done with the toys. The whole process fascinated me.
Dad used to harden the dies by bringing them inside and putting them on Mum's stove. He would put them on the hot element and just stand there turning them and moving them around for some time.
There would be a slight haze and smell during the process!
Dad had an extensive workshop with milling machines, various lathes, a forge, compressor and all manner of things to do with woodwork, too.
He had a slatted board walk for the metallic 'curls' to fall through as he worked the lathe.
He made all the dies for his gold cast signet rings , also the dies for tie pins and lockets he manufactured.
I can still remember the beautiful molten gold, all pink and pearly looking in his crucible.
He had several recipes where he mixed the copper and silver with it for rose gold. Each type of object had various mixtures as pure gold is too soft.
He also had his hand engraving clamp and hand tools on a special work bench. Its base was made like an indented wooden bowl, lined with leather. A chromed ball swivelled in it , when moved by hand, as it had a stalked head ( like a mushroom upside down, with a clamp on it). He later made some hand held ones which I still have. Kenny Blair of Kennedy Jewellers bought them from him. Kenny said to me, years later, that similar tools had just come on to the market from Switzerland, although Dad had made them 40 years before their time. The style of the modern ones were practically identical to Dad's.
Dad had a big Norton swing press which was huge. It had a big cross bar that held a 28 pound cast ball on one side and a handle on the other. The sheet metal was slid on to the flat bed and when the handle was swung around to the left, the worm drive in the centre would come down through the ram guides, and when it reached the dies in the die clamps under the bed.....then the mudguards, tiepins, or whatever, would be pressed out and fall into the box underneath.
He made the chromed air vent type car bonnet decorations, in the 1950s.
These vents were chromed after they had been stamped and formed. Silver tea services were created this way too, which he made big dies for.
He made big precision rollers ( which Kenny still has ) that rolled gold, thinner and thinner.
These rollers stood about four feet high and weighed a ton.
He had to roll the gold first though; I can remember seeing it getting longer and longer as it grew along the drive from his shed as he re-rolled it time and again.
It was then cut into lengths and put under the bench as nobody would recognise it to be gold from the look of it then. Only when it had been put through an acid dip and was polished up on the buffer, with jeweller's rub, did it come to life.
Charles Stanley, my Dad also made the dies for 'The Greedy Nigger Boy' money box, the Crocodile nut cracker and various items for bakerlite, an early form of plastic. This was during the 1940's, while he was working as a tool and die maker for H.C. Urlwins of Christchurch (now PDL).
After some time , George Mc Conachie moved his factory to its second site, the site of an old bakery, situated on the left, just past the Park as the road rises , as one travels south towards the town of Timaru (just past the Pak-n-Save complex) I can remember it was on high piles at one end.
When I visited this factory with my father and Andy, I can vividly remember seeing all the tractor pieces and implements hanging on their wires, around the walls of the interior of the big corrugated iron shed, drying from their dunking in the paint.
George said he used to go down to Guthries and buy up any cheap paint; he said he used to chuck it all together and mix it up. He later had a conveyor that took all the pieces through the paint, and when they came out he would dry them by the big blue light heater.
George wanted to speed up the manufacturing process as when the dies were used, they became very hot from the molten aluminium, and it took time to cool them before they could be handled again.
So Dad made him a stand that held the dies, for quick and easy access. It had rails which the dies ran back to open, then it could be closed again, the pins would be fitted and the molten aluminium re-filled it.
The whole contraption stood upright; George still has the blueprints for it.
After my Dad, Charles Stanley, died, I found a 1957 diary of his, with all the relatives and neighbours names with orders for the tractors sets, for Christmas presents. When asked at the time if I wanted any, I was most indignant, as I was teenaged girl...what would I want with toy tractors!!
Thankfully, some thirty five years later, I managed to find three tractors for our three children's families.
George made the comment that he didn't sell any toys to the North Island, but sold heaps in the South Island as this was where the farming boys were in the real pastoral land!
When I spoke to him in June 2002 he was aged 75 years and still working with his wife at their clothing factory.
Andrew Baxter, of Timaru, has recently researched Tiger Toys history.
He has told me of other names connected in past years, like Jim Duncan, Sid Sutton and Norm (Earie) Hunter.
Apparently the brand name was sold to the Japanese for a mere $100.
In the blue book entitled 'Blokes and Sheds' (ISBN 1 86950 278,) by Jim Hopkins, another convert, Bill Drake, mentions Tiger Toys on page 78.