Wednesday, 23 November 2016 09:07

Henry Ford Had the Common Touch

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Personally wheeled in drinks trolley to New Zealand dealer employees



Your news of the deal that Henry Ford 11 sought to make with New Zealand prime minister Keith Holyoake in Wellington in the mid 1960s has the ring of truth. Mr Ford, and it was always “Mr” Ford, was like his grandfather the founding Henry Ford (pictured) in that he was a production and marketing genius. He saw opportunities in terms of great simplicity. He had also the gift of the common touch.

When he and his Detroit group came to Wellington they stayed at the White Heron Lodge in Kilbirnie. The White Heron was the first of the modern hotels in the capital.

I was employed by one of the Ford regional franchisees in New Zealand and Mr Ford had stated that he wished to spend time with as many franchise representatives as possible including those at a junior level such as myself.

Mr Ford enjoyed fine living and was a connoisseur of wine, especially red. He traveled with his own cellar. At the conclusion of the formal dinner at the White Heron it was made known to our group that Mr Ford was allowing guests overnighting at the White Heron Lodge access to this personal cellar.

All we had to do, we were told, was to ring an internal hotel number for access to the private cellar and its contents. A steward would be on duty there until late, very late.

As our own company party gathered after the formal dinner in our manager’s suite there was at first a certain shy reluctance to avail ourselves of this offer.

Time wore on. We got bolder. Eventually someone took courage and rang the number of Mr Ford’s own cellar room. A voice answered and asked exactly what sort of wine we had in mind?

Whatever you recommend came the response from our side “and bring plenty of it.”

The party resumed. A few minutes after the call there was a knock at the door. In came a substantial bottle-laden trolley being pushed by Mr Ford.


Yours faithfully

S. Gibbons
Palmerston North