Franki Wood is 88 years young and visited Doubtless Bay from her home in Lower Hutt. I was delighted to have the opportunity to interview her recently on Voices from the North. She’s lived through the Depression and the 1931 Napier Earthquake. She’s exhibited sculpture, spent lifetime writing and performing plays, written a couple of books and she’s been featured on Closeup on TV1.


She grew up during the Depression and describes the terror of the 1931 Napier Earthquake and becoming refugees as a result. For a time during the Depression her parents ran a boarding house. But it was a family affair with seven-year-young Franki setting tables, waiting on boarders and polishing silver. As she said, “If you wanted to keep the family together everyone helped.” They then moved to a farm because they could be ensured of a supply of food. Now Franki became a farm girl, milking cows and bringing in sheep before reading and studying by candle light.


My one obvious impression of Franki is her positive perspective to everything that has happened in her life. There must be a lesson in this for anyone wanting to live a long, meaningful and healthy life. Her one book is called Franki: The Life and Entertainment Passion of One Woman. There is no stopping this lady. She’s even built her own caravan (trailer). These few words of Franki’s from the interview clearly describe her attitude to life, “I make the best of what I’m doing. Where you live, it’s you that has to make it.” “I never think about the weather. I never think about it. I’m too busy anyway.” There’s no complaining for this lady.

Franki chose to have us play Send in the Clowns because she’s been able to entertain with five clowns at once during one of her shows. “Send in the Clowns” is a song by Stephen Sondheim, from the 1973 musical A Little Night Music. It is a ballad from Act II in which the character Desirée reflects on the ironies and disappointments of her life. It became Sondheim’s most popular song after Judy Collins recorded it in 1975.

Towards the end of the hour listen for Franki singing her own song for us. Here are a few words from the site where Franki’s book can be found:

With an ailing father, Frankie’s mother struggles to support her children by running a hostel. Fleeing when the Napier earthquake strikes, they return to find their meager possessions ransacked. Ever aware of sadness, Frankie grows up entertaining others to bring them joy. Now in her 80s, her passion has not wavered as she continues to bring laughter to the many groups she is asked to entertain.

I’ve been inspired by this lady’s spunk and vivacity. I trust you are too as you listen to this Voices from the North interview.