The close-knit Andrew brothers – Anthony, Brian, Chris and Douglas – proudly admit that the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly is part of their DNA.
They grew up in Christchurch as a mischievous foursome and their mother, Lauris, took pride in her sons’ humorous antics.
During the 1960s and 1970s, she was a prolific contributor to the “Over The Teacups” pages. She had hundreds of her letters published in the much-loved column, in which readers share funny moments in their lives – often involving children.
Lauris, who passed away in 2005 at 81 years old, always signed off as “A B C D” – the first letters of each of her sons’ names in chronological order.
Second eldest son Brian has paid the ultimate tribute to his mother – and the Weekly – by writing a children’s book inspired by Lauris’ “Over the Teacups” entries.
“She dominated that column for more than five years using the raw material that she had observed from our lives,” Brian says, who was paid five shillings (50c) each time a letter was published and proudly kept all her clippings in scrapbooks.
“Our mother’s philosophy was that she didn’t growl, she would always laugh with us. Most of her snippets were humorous. She kept a chocolate box labelled ‘funnies’ – which had hundreds of her observations.”
Some of her entries include one of her sons’ crossword answers. For the clue “female bird” with three letters, he supplied “Mum”. Another son responded to the Middle East crisis by saying, “I really think the whole situation sphinx.”
“Our lives were documented in the Weekly,” says eldest son Anthony, who worked in advertising and had the magazine as a client.
“She was proud every time a story would appear about us, which was frequent. It made us more aware of our mother’s world and gave us a sense of belonging. On a subconscious level, that had a major effect. This is who we are, our history.”
Their mother, who always had homebaked biscuits ready for her sons when they returned from school, was employed as a secretary and had a “good grasp of the English language”, and their father, Malcolm, was a merchant and supported his wife’s endeavours.
Each born two years apart, the men recall how their mother made their home a safe haven and they were called The Brady Bunch because of their happy demeanour. The four say the Weekly played a huge part in their development and helped them understand in their adult life who their mother was.
“Her observations always had a touch of humour with a little life lesson,” says Anthony.
“While that was evident for what she wrote, it was a crucial part of the way she behaved in her life. She was a small lady with a quiet presence.
“She finished her paragraphs with a smile or a little laugh, which underscored her positive approach to almost everything.”
The brothers all grew up to be successful in their family lives and careers – Anthony (63), currently works and lives in Auckland, Brian (61), is a writer and lives in Australia, Chris (59) is a businessman and lives in Christchurch and Douglas (57) is a sales manager in Auckland.
Between them, they now have a number of children and grandchildren, but the brothers have never sent their own anecdotes into the Weekly.
That’s why they are pleased that Brian has documented their lives and their mother’s “Over the Teacups” entries in a children’s book – aptly titled The Adventures of A B C & D.
“We can share the knowledge and direction that comes from our upbringing and also the many experiences that Mum wrote to the Weekly about,” says Anthony.
“And now Brian is using our mother’s stories to motivate and educate others – and it’s becoming a big component of his successful publishing career as well.”
They say their mother was disappointed when they grew up and the “Over the Teacups” entries ceased, but that didn’t stop her from writing. She wrote her life story and gave it to her children to treasure forever.
Lauris would be brought to tears knowing that her adult sons are appearing in her beloved Weekly and are paying the ultimate tribute to a kind and loyal reader.
“Mum would love the book and this article,” observes Brian, looking at his brothers, who all agree in unison.
“She would have been so proud and so touched.”