It's as if Rex Brewster needs to balance truth against legend. When you ask about his father, Edgar Roy Brewster, you inadvertently tap into a small seam of pain. Rex is softly spoken and candid, and you quickly come to appreciate his gentle honesty. It's a way of telling the true story of a man who was not a hero but a real person with real failings. And it doesn't take long to understand the difficulties of living with someone obsessed.

“All his footballer friends called him Chooky Rooster. Most people weren't generally familiar with his nickname; he was too serious a person. He could enjoy a joke but he didn't get into light associations with people because he always tried to expound his theories and ideas and get people to listen. Consequently, they'd avoid the subject or keep away. He had several favourite subjects and just look out if anyone got him started. Bees, hexagonal shapes, aviation…”

Rex and two brothers, Barry and Grant, helped their father build the remarkable hexagonal house called Norian - No Right Angles - which sat for twenty years on a section at Sanders Avenue, New Plymouth, and created a good deal of public interest. Made entirely of hexagons and triangles, nothing at all in the house was square. Even the garden was made of hexagonal concrete paving with every second or third one missing and flowers planted in the space. In photos, the grandfather clock looks oddly angular against the walls of the honeycomb panelled lounge. That clock now stands in Rex Brewster's house.

Rex says Norian was unique in many ways but a hugely laborious project. “The hexagons weren't mass produced, they were crafted articles that looked like parquet flooring, all made up of little pieces of wood, all fitted together.” Though his father once milled his own timber to make beehives, this timber was brought in. “Some of it was scraps of honeysuckle, rewarewa and rimu.”

Other photos show the intricate detail, and how much time must have been consumed in the making of the hexagonal prefab floors, triangulated ceilings and roof. But the house had serious flaws and the roof leaked because, as Rex says, “How do you put guttering on a dome?” It was something Roy had not worked out. Buckets in the wardrobe collected the rain and Rex's stepmother dodged unsuspecting and wide-eyed visitors to empty them.

Rex thinks it was possibly the combination of an unemotional father and uneducated, highly religious mother that produced a man so full of ideas that he would create his own philosophy on life; a man who came to believe that shapes influenced spiritual well-being and that all unkind thoughts were expressed on the square. A halo, of course, has no angles at all.

Roy Brewster was a driven man, but what drove him is still up for speculation. “My thoughts in recent years have been trying to understand my father, you know, like many men before me” Rex says. He believes a constant need for money drove endless aviation experiments and a lifelong search for new ideas. “He was constantly looking. Anyone who came along, he'd press them hard until eventually they would say, 'No thanks',”.

Because of his father's fanatical ways, the family suffered through some mighty hard times. Rex was twelve when his mother died in 1941 leaving six young children behind. Two of his brothers were born totally deaf, something his feels his father could never accept. The family was stony broke and World War Two made the national situation about as grim as it could be.

Rex believes the stress of living day to day on the edge may have hastened his mother's death. “You might say she just didn't want to go on living any longer. Things had got very unhappy. Dad had virtually given up any hope of going anywhere with his aviation ideas, he'd been pushing away at them for years and years to the extent when one time he went full time on it for 12 months, building a full sized aeroplane, did nothing else. He ran out of money and he had to go back to work, to start earning again, and just as he made that decision, he got some correspondence from some aviation department and away he went all over again. I'm sure my mother just gave up.”

He thinks, in some ways, his mother was dismantled along with her piano. “Mum had a piano which she played and it stood in the front hall and he said it had borer, which it did, and he took it to pieces. Then he took it to work and made it into an office desk. I don't think it was calculating, it was just something he did.”

Rex sometimes tagged along to aviation events because he was curious as a boy but on the whole, he got weary of being brow-beaten by his dad. “If you can imagine, when you have a father who is extremely enthusiastic about something you don't really believe… family quietly skive off and do their own thing, escape.”

His father was a short man but physically very strong and a little frightening, and if you erred, you were beaten. It wasn't an emotional beating, it was measured punishment. “His father was the same. Cool and consistent, I suppose. I never met anybody who would stand up to him, no matter what size. He wasn't cocky, he was just single minded, and once he got started on something he'd just keep going and people had better look out.”

Edgar Roy Brewster was not a man to let anything go. He had his ideas and felt people should embrace all his theories. But as Rex says, “The way he talked about his hexagon house and hexagon ideas was just the same as the way he talked about his aeronautical ideas. They were all going to change the world, but none of them did.”

Related Information


Puke Ariki Heritage Collection: Roy Brewster


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