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Writer, film maker and sculptor Franki Wood is 92 years-old and has been an entertainer since childhood. She still performs with her life-sized puppets, mouth organ or accordion and is always ready to burst into song. But in the first of two programmes, Jack Perkins discovers that Franki’s talent and energy are also reflected in a life crammed with incident and adventure.

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In 1927 in a Napier theatre, 7 year-old Franki sang for world-renown Australian light opera star Gladys Moncrieff. Moncrieff advised on Franki’s training but a singing career was cut short when hard times brought on by the great depression overwhelmed the family, even robbing them of their piano.

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Franki with her puppet Ritchie the Rabbit.

The 1931 Napier earthquake added to their woes and Franki joined a stream of refugees fleeing the devastated city. The family found refuge with relatives in the deep-south near Gore. Franki’s mother soon returned to the boarding house she had been running at the time of the quake only to find that it had been looted. Even the family photograph album had disappeared.

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 Mahuika Maori Fire-Godess by Franki Wood.

In the second programme to be broadcast on 5th February 2012, Franki Wood recalls the housing shortage after World War 2 and spartan conditions in the newly-founded state housing settlement of Taita in the Hutt valley. In her 60s Franki turned her many talents to helping youth offenders in Witako prison.