By Suzanne Hanse
In their seventh year of working seven days a week, Whiti City Cab’s Phil and Michelle Butler, although sometimes road-weary, are still two of the most cheerful people in our lovely town. They run a tight ship with Michelle as boss, and Phil doing a lot of other stuff, along with their three or four other drivers providing a reliable, and friendly transportation option in town and around Mercury Bay. They also provide bad weather, or bad visibility land transportation to and from Auckland in alliance with Barrier Air on those few days in the winter when the planes cannot land at our boggy grass runway.
It was on one of those nights, when Ruth Young, Trustee and Secretary of the Mercury Bay Cancer Support Trust and loyal Barrier Air Customer arrived at Auckland domestic airport from Queenstown to learn that her Barrier Air flight to Whitianga was cancelled which was no surprise as the weather was incredibly bad. She was assured on landing in Auckland that Whiti City Cabs would get her home, if a few hours later, so in the meantime Ruth headed to the bar, as many people do to kill time at the airport. It had been a long day, so Ruth was gratified to see Phil arrive with a big comfy van and blankets, and they headed off in the dark, and persistent rain and shared their life stories as Phil carefully negotiated our infamous Coromandel roads. They got all of the way to McLeod’s Straight , just 5 minutes from home only to find the stretch of road closing due to water rising. Although very close to home, the pair were forced to wait it out for four hours until the tide had receded sufficiently to open the road. Ruth with a post bar-session bladder had a need for distracting entertainment, so Phil purchased some extra data and they both watched a lot of Ricky Gervais until midnight, when the road opened.
They also talked a bit about Phil’s large afro hair and that he was actually thinking of doing something with it for charity. As it turns out Phil has a pedigree of raising money for charitable trusts. His father Dan had spent a lot of time volunteering for fund raising in Palmerston North for a support house to accommodate the family members of remote cancer patients, who could then stay near their loved ones. The house which opened in 1967 is called Ozanam House, and is now extensive with several wings, one of which is named after Phil’s father. Phil and Ruth hatched a plan to do something meaningful with Phil’s burgeoning “FRO”. They decided to shave it for the fund-raiser for a new van for the Mercury Bay Cancer Support Trust. Due to an increase in the need for in-home palliative care in the bay the Trust now requires a purpose-fit vehicle which allows quick, reliable and safe movement of heavy equipment by volunteers, in and out of client premises, and will provide all-weather protection for the valuable equipment.
So Phil is giving up his incredible “FRO” for charity on Sunday, 27 November at 3.00 pm at Smitty’s Sports Bar. He has been growing this “FRO” since August 2021, mostly as a dare by his children who found some photos of Phil with a childhood “FRO”. Phil normally sports a shorter and more tidy hair style, but the past 14 months have created a more “Sideshow Bob” look for him. Wife Michelle is pretty happy to see the “FRO” gone and would prefer something a “little more stylish with a little more product, please.” The crowd at Smitty’s will be given the opportunity to vote on various outrageous options for Phil’s new look, in return for a donation.
When I asked Phil what his goals are for the “FRO-Moval” on 27 November, he said he wanted to raise a lot of money, have a lot of fun, and actually have the day off from driving so he can have a beer.
Look for the buckets with Phil’s picture on and donate what you can. They are at Smitty’s, The Informer, and at the Book Shop in Blacksmith Lane.