SIMMONS (HADDOW), CRYSTAL VICTORIA BROWNE nee PLANT (BA)
Crystal Plant was born in Revelstoke, Noss Mayo, Devon, on the 17 July 1896, the oldest child of eight of Harold and Evelyn Plant, a headmaster and his wife, who had eloped from Staffordshire. The family moved back to Staffordshire, and schooling was at Stafford, where Crystal, who had shown scholastic and musical promise from an early age, won a scholarship and passed University Entrance. She attended Bangor University in North Wales and was on the student representative council. Crystal gained her BA in 1918, and qualified as a teacher. She taught English, literature, Latin and took games and singing classes.
At this time she met and married a convalescent New Zealand army officer, Robert Wallace Haddow. He was a Scot, but had lived briefly in New Zealand before the First World War. The couple arrived in Wellington in 1919, and as jobs were scarce, Crystal took a teaching position in Mercury Bay. Next, a position was found in a film company office in Wellington, and she played the piano at night for silent movies.
Two children were born and in 1928, Crystal and Robert obtained a mortgage and bought the lease for the Patea picture theatre. In those days it was common for travelling acts to also appear at picture theatres - people from all over the world, singers, magicians, dancing groups, acrobats etc, with their accompanying families. Life was never dull, and Crystal's talent as an accompanist was often used. These were the years of the depression when everyone was poor, and during this time she gave free seats for the pictures to the freezing workers. In Patea, people bartered with vegetables, fruit, flowers, odd jobs, all for a small amount of cash or clothing.
Parenthood had stimulated what was to be a life long interest in the Plunket Society which she joined about 1923. Crystal moved from local secretary to president and then became dominion vice-president in 1956. She was also dominion advisory councillor until 1971 when she retired. These last two positions involved a great deal of travel all over the country, opening Plunket rooms and addressing meetings.
She was a gifted speaker, vigorous and forceful with an ability to stimulate discussion and ideas. She possessed an enquiring mind with a gift for grasping essentials immediately and was able to explain problems clearly to all levels. Conversation was always broad in outlook, spiced with humour and knowledge and her home was full of discussion, music, friends and laughter. She was a firm believer in education for women and encouraged young people to set goals and work towards them.
During the war years she managed the picture theatre alone as her husband had re-enlisted. They also bought the lease for the Waverley picture theatre. About this time, Crystal was elected as a dominion councillor for the New Zealand Motion Picture Exhibitors Association - probably the first woman to be so elected.
Crystal joined the WWSA during the war, and began to cycle around the district to conserve petrol. She was head of the clerical side, and was active in sending parcels to the soldiers, feeding of the troops on field manoeuvres, making camouflage nets, and was responsible for arranging transport and routes for evacuation of the town of Patea to safety, in case of attack.
Life had become a heavy schedule of meetings, plus running her business, but she seemed to be all things to all people and coped. Her relaxation was in playing and listening to music, reading, playing golf and bridge. In later life, duplicate bridge became a passion. She was also a great organiser for balls and suppers for RSA and Plunket. In 1947, Crystal remarried, to Dr Wilfred Thomas Simmons, and with her husband was often on the receiving line at RSA and Masonic balls.
After the death of Dr Simmons in 1951, she moved to Hawera where she became a member of the Hawera Star Board of Directors in 1960, a position she held until retiring in 1975. Even when she retired from committee work, she never stopped her interest in government and public affairs. Her belief was that women should be striving for greater recognition, and be in key roles in all areas.
Crystal Simmons died on the 3 August 1982 at Hawera.
Mrs Dorothy Franklin, New Plymouth (daughter)
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