Berry, Patricia (Pat) Doreen Interview
Good afternoon. Today is Monday 16th November 2020. I’m about to interview Pat Berry, wife of Ian Berry of Arataki Honey Limited. Right, where would you like to start, Pat?
Well, I was born in Hastings in 1935 at the Memorial Hospital, and my mother always used to tell me when we went past Pernel Orchards that Nurse Mardon had delivered me; every time she would tell me this; ‘cause the Mardons owned Pernel back then. Every time a coconut, when we’d go past there … “Nurse Mardon delivered you, dear.” “Yes, Mum.” [Chuckle]
So we lived in Arbuckle Road. I spent my first seven and a bit years there in Hastings, and then during the war we moved into Nelson Street in Hastings ‘cause my dad was a … well, he thought he was going overseas as a soldier but then they found out he had five kids, so he didn’t go.
So my father was Russ Bixley, whose family came over to New Zealand in 1920; that was my grandparents with their five children. And they landed in Napier on my father’s twelfth birthday – another thing he would tell us about – and moved out to Tuna Nui Station where they worked for Sir Andrew Russell. And in 1926 they bought an orchard in Twyford, and that’s where they stayed until they retired.
My father was an orchardist; he worked for the Misses Shaw in Hastings where Fantasyland is now. That was a big orchard. So that was his trade. And then they leased an orchard out in Jarvis Road in Twyford until my father retired.
My mother was Winifred Hodgetts, and she was born in Hawera. And when she was two years old they had trouble with their dairy herd – mastitis or something like that – so my grandfather decided to move to Hastings with his then eight children. He died in the flu epidemic in 1918, so my grandmother was left with nine children and another one on the way, which must have been very difficult for her. Then her eldest son died suddenly when he was only eighteen, so it was very heartbreaking for her. Yes – so that was my parents. Winifred Hodgetts was my mother, and my mother and father met at Mangakuri. My mother worked there as a maid for the Williams family, and my father worked in [on] the farm. And [they] met up, and that was it. [Chuckles]
So we moved right into Hastings to Nelson Street. I always went to school to Mahora; I used to walk there from Arbuckle Road, which I used to think was about ten miles – when you’re five it’s a long way. But I eventually realised it was about two miles. Then when we moved right into Hastings it was only about three blocks to walk, so that was wonderful. And I didn’t know it then, but my husband actually went to Mahora School too when they moved up from Eketahuna. He and his sisters and brothers were all at Mahora at the same time I was, but I didn’t know any of them then. So it was very nice because we could go to our school reunions together which was lovely. And of course I went to Boys’ High School, [became Hastings High School] just like so many girls back then.
So, I had various jobs after I left high school; I worked as a Mother’s Help in Wairoa for about eight months; I worked at what was then Wilsons’ Nursery for about eight months. I don’t remember ever looking for a job – I think my father must’ve got a bit tired of me sitting around at home and found me these jobs. [Chuckles] Then I went nursing when I was eighteen, but [a] couple of months later I met my husband. We used to go to dances in what was the Oddfellows’ Hall – they’ve pulled that down now, but we would go there on a Saturday night. And we were introduced by a mutual friend, and three weeks later we were engaged. [Chuckle] Yes …
… and then we were married eight months later, so … yeah. That’s the way it was. Yes – we went to the Tramping Club Guy Fawkes’ Night on 5th November, and that’s when he popped the question. And the next night being Friday we went shopping for an engagement ring, and there was a little shop on the corner of Heretaunga and … oh, I can’t remember the name of the street now … Upstairs, a little jewellers’ shop; and we went up there to have a look, and we found a nice little engagement ring but it was a bit tight. So Mr Dobson said, “I’ll make it bigger for you, and if you come to my house tomorrow morning you can collect it.” Mr Dobson lived by the hospital, so we trotted along there on Saturday morning and got the ring. And what we didn’t know was that Mr Dobson had a little boy who was about two or three years old, who would one day marry our eldest daughter. So how about that? [Chuckle]
Yeah. So he’s the father of some of my grandchildren.
Yeah, so we built this house here; it wasn’t quite finished when we got married so we lived in a funny little old cottage over behind the Honey House. We lived there for a couple of months, and finished our house; and we did all the … dear old Pop Grooby down the road showed us how to do our wallpapering, and lent us all the gear. And he did our bedroom for us and then we did all the rest of it. We laid down the lino tiles on the floor. We didn’t have much … oh, somebody gave us a table and chairs for a wedding present, so that was good. We had absolutely nothing for our sitting room, so we bought one chair each for ourselves. We had a couple of old bee boxes sitting over there with a radio on top – and I don’t mean new bee boxes, they were really old ones with propolis and stuff in the side … and put a curtain on the front and that was a cupboard. [Chuckle] And he bought me a sewing machine and he got a desk for himself, and that was about – ‘course we had a bed and a dressing table, but that was about as much furniture as we had.
But when my grandparents both died about two years later – three years later – we said could we have their sitting room suite? So we had that for quite a while, and the good old carpet square that went down; so we gradually acquired more furniture as the years went by, but never on the never-never. You know, if you wanted something you paid for it, and we always believed in that. I had an aunt and uncle in Auckland and my mother would say “Don’t be like them – everything’s on the never-never.” So yep. We learnt that you … if you want something you save up, you buy it; and that’s what we did.
So, we had one little daughter thirteen months after we were married, and then a couple of years later we had the twins – that was one of them you saw just now, Peter. [Chuckles] We had another two daughters and then we had another son. And somehow we managed to squash them in, but eventually we got a ready-made two-roomed unit for out the back so we could [chuckles] sort of spread the family out a bit more as they were getting bigger.
So we had six children. They went to school at Te Mata, which is a lovely little school. Jenny liked to play … what do they call it? Is it netball, I think, nowadays? Yeah – used to be basketball, didn’t it? And the boys played football or rugby or something, but they didn’t like it; they took after their mother, they were not sporty. The four older ones went into town to Karamu [High School], whereas the two youngest got to go to the Havelock High School. And eventually the boys went to work for Arataki; our middle daughter also did that. But Jenny went to work for her grandfather, who at that stage had an office in town; that was Percy Berry. But eventually most of our kids worked for us – well, some of them did – as beekeepers; John and Peter did, and Pamela, our middle daughter, is still running the whole business now. But our David is allergic to bees, so he decided to go school teaching.
Socialising: Yes, well one of the things we did when our kids were little – there was four or five of us ladies who got together every Tuesday afternoon. We’d meet at each other’s place[s] – we all lived within a short distance of here – and we’d get together, sit round and talk, the kids would play together, and then you’d walk home again afterwards, about half past three. And if you had school kids they’d come and join you at whoever’s place you were at. And that really saved our sanity, just to have other mothers to talk to, because up ‘til our fourth child was a year old we didn’t have a car. If you wanted to go out you walked all the way to Simla Avenue to catch a bus, which is not easy when you’ve got twins. So that was fun, and we got together for years and years afterwards; and then eventually it got to say oh, we’d have lunch now and again, and do something like that, but I think there’s only two of us left now, out of the original five or six.
Ian was always very proud of the fact that he was born at Eketahuna at his Aunty Whatsit’s nursing home; he was born there and he was very, very proud of that fact. They moved up, as the Arataki things will tell you, they moved up to Hawke’s Bay in 1942, because they thought they would do better here. And I’ve basically … apart from my eight months nursing … I worked in orchards for most of my life. As my kids went off to school I worked for the neighbour down the road; I worked for another chap; [background traffic noise] I worked for my dad for a while, which involved – that was when my eldest child was little – bike down to the bus stop; the bus all the way to the hospital; bike out to Twyford; work for my dad, [chuckle] and reverse the thing. Mum would look after Jenny for me. Don’t know how I did it. I was only young then. Then of course the twins came along, and that put paid to that one. But no, that’s basically what I [did] – picking fruit. And then I see today that they’re supposed to be young strong men; that women can’t do it. Really? That was mostly young … well, thirties women who were doing all that fruit picking in those days … yeah.
You didn’t have any side effect from the sprays?
No. No, we didn’t. I know that’s one thing [that] did happen, that so many of those orchardists did die of cancer. Dear old Russell Robertson, he had cancer because I remember my dad telling me that he’d been to hospital to see him, and there he was all shrunken up. And another one of my uncles died of cancer too, and probably caused by sprays. Dad got leukaemia; that’s what took him out. But I think … they didn’t wear any protective clothing. Dad would drag this hose round the orchard and spray the trees, and spray would go all over him; he’d be breathing it in. But now you see, they’ve got every sort of protective thing that they can wear.
Grandchildren: yes, our eldest daughter got married and she had four children and now we have nineteen grandchildren. The youngest grandchild is thirteen now, so most of them have grown up, and we have twenty-one great-grandchildren. So that’s why we’ve got baby toys on the floor, for little Hawker, who’s our youngest one.
That was another thing I did; once we got grandchildren I looked after the grandchildren. Number 2 grandchild – I had him from a week old; I looked after him while his mum was at work, and she’d pop over, feed him, go back to work. I loved doing that, that was good; always enjoyed looking after them.
On the spot nanny …
Yep. And of course I’d say to them when they got bigger, I’d jokingly say, “Oh – this is one more day looking after me in me [my] old age.” And that is coming true. [Chuckle] My granddaughter, Caroline, has been great. She works over at Arataki too, and she has been so good looking after her old Nana and helping me with things. All the granddaughters … and the grandsons too … have been great. I don’t know what I’d do without them.
Ian and I did travel. We joined the Waipawa Bus Club, oh … thirty-odd years ago, and we did some great trips all over New Zealand. We just loved that, and all round the South Island, right down to Stewart Island, all the way up to Cape Reinga in the North Island. And we did at least four Australian trips with the Waipawa Bus Club, and that was great. We really got to see the countryside and to see a bit of Australia. We really enjoyed those days, and that’s the sad thing about Ian getting dementia, that we can’t do that any more. Well, it’s a bit tricky with me with my walker, but … yeah, it would’ve been lovely if we could’ve carried on travelling and seeing things.
And yes, I am retired, yes; but my main interest in life is making miniatures. This is like, dolls houses and things that go with them, and I will show you afterwards so you can see what I’m talking about, but tiny little dolls house things, but for adults, not for children. I belong to Keirunga … Hawke’s Bay Miniatures at Keirunga … and that’s something I really love, and I just hope I can continue to drive up there on the first Sunday of the month and do whatever we do on that particular day. I don’t know how long I can do it; I’m getting to the stage in life now that I’ve had to give up so many things, like with my church. I belong to St Luke’s, and that is I think … I’m going to say the main part of my life, my church. Yeah. I’ve done all sorts of things in the church and I’ve gradually had to give those all up now as I get less able; and that to me is very sad that I can’t do these things any more. But it’s just one of the things that happen when you get older.
What were the things that you’ve had to give up?
Well, I was a sidesperson for many, many years; we used to fold the church newsletter and deliver that – that was another thing I did. And of course every year we had our church fair. I was always on the cake stall, making cakes and working on the stall, and once again I loved doing that every year. But that’s had to go by the by, and I finally gave up doing the newsletter this … [a] couple of months ago. [Traffic noise] I still fold the newsletter but it’s getting harder with arthritic hands; but the delivering of them … I mean, you had to stop the car, get the walker out, go round to the letterbox … but I got really good at parking up close to the letterbox so I could just sort of lean out [chuckle] and do it.
Your arms got longer?
Well … or you could hang onto the car door and get round to it. But it’s all the little things that you have to give up, and that is sad. Oh, what was the other thing? I thought of something else too …
And I did work in the Honey House – we had a shop in the village, and I worked there for five years, but never really my favourite thing. It was nice meeting people, but it was very lonely because I was the only person in the shop, and I found that very … I’d much rather look after children, it’s much more interesting. [Chuckle] I liked that.
So [as] I say, church and my miniatures – yes, that’s been my main thing. And I love reading; I like doing jigsaws – this started with the lockdown. I started doing jigsaws and now I suppose I’m sort of addicted to them. [Chuckle] And of course the grandchildren come, and I say, “Can’t leave until you’ve helped me with my jigsaw.” [Chuckle] Which is good.
How else did lockdown affect you?
Didn’t really worry me. The kids would still come and see me, so I’d sit in my chair over there and they would sit out on the verandah, and we’d chat, and so no, it didn’t worry me at all. I don’t mind being by myself. Like, Ian’s been in the rest home now what … fifteen months, and I’m quite happy being by myself, ‘cause apart from anything else I had a husband who worked all hours of the day plus half the night. And he came home for meals, but I’d go to bed at night and I’d wake up in the morning; and sometimes he wouldn’t come to bed until I was well and truly asleep. And he’d be off in the morning, so I’m quite used to being by myself. So nothing strange about that. Actually, it’s the first time I’ve ever been by myself, ‘cause when you’re a child you’re with your family, and then you get married and you have your children; but you can do anything you like, watch whatever television programme you want, [chuckle] eat what you want, not cook if you don’t feel like it. [Chuckle] No, it’s good, but yeah, I wondered how I would get on; got to say it doesn’t worry me at all, so yeah.
But the little things as you get older – like, I’ve always mown the lawns here; that was always big … well, apart from when I fell pregnant or was sick or something. But I’ve always mown the lawns. And I had this really good chap who did them when I gave up two years ago; really good chap. And he can’t do my lawns any more. Oh dear! So you ask around; oh, this fellow said he could do it, so he came. Talk about a cowboy! Oh – what a terrible job he made! Oh! So I’ve told him I don’t want to see him again, thank you. But luckily there’s another chap come on the scene, and he can do them properly, thank goodness, so I’m very grateful to him for doing my lawn, but I always enjoyed doing that. I had my ride-on mower, and I did all the Arataki lawns with that, and … oh yes. That was my job, [chuckle] mowing lawns. Something about mowing lawns, it’s very … I was going to say peaceful … ‘cause it’s noisy, but you can think all sorts of things as you’re mowing around, [traffic noise] and you take a pride in how you just get it exactly right. And of course I took care of the garden; we had a lovely big vege garden that Ian would look after, but gradually as he got more frail we mowed over this bit and mowed over the next bit, so we don’t have a vege garden any more now, which is sad.
When my father’s family came out from England, both my grandmother and my father were very travel sick. As soon as they got out to sea they were both sick the whole way to New Zealand, the poor things. And the rest of the family were fine. My uncle said that he felt very sorry for them, but there was nothing they could do about it, you know, there was nothing you could take to stop it. And poor old granny just stayed in her cabin most of the time, for … what is it? Six weeks, I think it took then, to travel. And then they landed in Auckland and came by train down through Palmerston North and up to Napier. And apparently the trains then were very, very dirty in those days, and if people didn’t shut the windows you got smoke coming in. Oh, there’d been a strike up in Auckland, so they managed to lose their luggage; and all they had was what they were carrying with them. They landed in Napier; and my father always told us this story how he’d slid down the slide at Napier, at the children’s playground; ripped his best trousers, and Granny had spanked him on his twelfth birthday. [Chuckle] But then they came through to Hastings and caught this bus thing, that took them all the way out to Tuna Nui, and there was the cottage where they were to live. The beds had no mattresses; they were just wire-wove beds, no bedding of any sort. And I imagine my poor grandmother – she would’ve been in her fifties then – after coming from her lovely cottage in England to be faced with this bare cottage with nothing for them. So apparently people gathered up stuff for them so they would have somewhere to sleep. But oh – that must’ve been such a shock. And she had to boil up kerosene buckets over a [an] open fire to do her washing. Oh, that was … I don’t know how that poor lady survived, but she was so tough, she managed to survive.
And of course they came to live in Hastings at Twyford; they had an orchard in Twyford Road. Four years down the line the earthquake came along; shook the house to pieces. Granny said all her bottled fruit that she’d been doing all fell to the floor – broke. So one of her sons actually got to work and they managed to get the cooking stove outside and set it up so they could still do cooking and sleep under the tent. But I think my granny must’ve been such a strong person.
And I was lucky enough that I still had my three grandparents – I lost one grandparent in the 1918 flu, but I still had three grandparents when I was growing up. My grandfather died when I was expecting the twins, and my two grannies died when the twins were babies, so I think I was very fortunate; there’s not many people who get to have their grandparents to that age. I was very, very lucky.
What was your granny’s name?
She was Susan Bixley; Susan Emily Bixley. So one of my granddaughters has been named Emily after her; nice. And my Jenny was Jenny Susan after her, so … yeah.
And my grandad of course, worked in his orchard, and the boys all learnt how to work in an orchard as well; but he always insisted that all the boys should have some sort of trade so they had something to fall back on. So they went out farming or fencing or doing different jobs so they knew or learnt how to do lots of different things. And ‘cause he said he never wanted his sons to go cap in hand to the bosses saying, “Could I have a job please?” He wanted those boys to [traffic noise] be independent, ‘cause he’d had enough of that in England.
Another thing that I did when my kids were young, my girls became Girl Guides … Brownies and then Girl Guides … and the boys wanted to be Cubs, so as it was in those days, if you want your boys to join the Cubs you’ll have to be a Cub leader. So four of us mothers became Cub leaders and two years later when my sons left Cubs to go up to Scouts, I said, “That’s it; I’m leaving.” So I became a Guide leader then. But my sons did not enjoy their scouting so they only lasted for about one or two terms.
But I loved my Guiding years; I became camp cook, and I used to go out camping with the Guides. My husband said, “You want to go camping? You take the kids with you.” So I went camping with then five children. Yes. [Chuckle] It was fun; I enjoyed it. I loved being camp cook. ‘Cause I’d enjoyed my own guiding years, I’d loved that. That was way back when I was thirteen and fourteen, after the war; and we had this lovely Guide leader came out from England, Elizabeth Bennett, and she started up a Guide company at St Matthew’s and I just thought this was the [most] wonderful thing I’d … ever happened to me. Me and my best friend [My best friend and I] went along to Guides every Wednesday night I think it was. And we went camping – oh! That was … I knew all about camping ‘cause as children we went out to camp; Mum and Dad took us camping anyway, so … oh, that was great! Going camping with the Guides, wow! Thoroughly enjoyed that, so I stayed in Guiding about four or five years I suppose, more or less until I went nursing. I thoroughly enjoyed those years. I helped as a Brownie leader for a while, and that was fun. Still got my Guide uniform would you believe?
One of the things Ian and I have enjoyed over the last few years – we belong to the Country Music Club in Napier. I was a bit shy the first time I got up to sing, in fact I was terrified; [chuckle] but I got up and sang with a microphone and thoroughly enjoyed it. And then people say, “Ooh, that was lovely!” Oh! Oh, they don’t mind. [Chuckle] ‘Cause you have no idea what you sound like, because you hear everybody else sing but you can’t hear yourself, and you don’t know whether you are okay or not. So my husband and I would sing together or apart, and we loved those years doing that.
But back when I was in my early forties one of my friends said, “Oh, come along and join Jim Lawson’s Gilbert & Sullivan group.” And, “Oh … don’t know about that.” “Yeah, come on.” So I went along, and I loved it – loved the Gilbert & Sullivan. We used to meet in the old St Luke’s Hall and we had a lovely time. We’d go through the winters practising in that freezing cold hall, and then we’d put on our shows. They were maybe three or four nights; and then we’d start thinking about what the next show would be. I was only in the chorus, so that was all right. Eventually Pete came and joined us for one or two shows; John did as well, and then my youngest daughter, Barbara, was in one show as well, so it was great. We really loved those years with Gilbert & Sullivan; it was something really special.
And I think that country music was something I really loved. Before that I belonged to the Poetry people who used to meet in Hastings. I used to write a bit of poetry for a while, and we’d go along to meet at … oh, what was it? The Cat & the Fiddle I think it was – we’d go there, and you’d get up and recite your particular bit of poetry and hoped everybody liked it. My eldest daughter, Jenny, writes a lot of poetry. So we’ve got Peter with his singing, and of course he does his acting as well, which he really enjoys.
As a child I used to go to the Women’s Institute out at Twyford. My mother would walk all the way from Arbuckle Road out to Twyford – I’m not quite sure how far it is, might be two or three mile, I suppose – pushing the pram; it would’ve been shingle roads in those days. And she would have lunch with my granny in Twyford Road, and then they would go down to the school house – that would be a Saturday – and they’d have the Institute meeting there, and us kids would play outside. And eventually after I married I decided I’d like to join the Institute in Havelock, so I found out when it was on, I thought; went along, and … ‘Hmm – it’s not quite right here.’ I found I’d joined the Women’s Division of [chuckle] Federated Farmers instead, so – I did stay with them and I was with them for … mmm, I don’t know how many years, ‘cause I ended up as treasurer for about thirty years. But once again, like so many of the organisations, gradually the people die off; and we got down to I think about twelve people, and oh! I thought, ‘Nup.’ So we just had to close down.
[Traffic noise] And the same thing happened with the Institute group that I belonged to – it gradually got smaller and smaller, and I thought, ‘That’s it, I’ve had enough. I’m going to leave now.’ And that’s sad when that happens, but the young ones aren’t coming on. They don’t know what they’re missing out on. It’s getting together with other people like that … like-minded people, which is I think why I enjoy my miniatures group so much, because we all like the same thing. Every two years we have a convention in New Zealand which we really look forward to going – we didn’t get to go this year because of that jolly covid. I was looking forward to going down to Christchurch, because at my age I don’t know how many more conventions I can go to; it gets harder and harder. And once again you’re meeting up with like-minded people. We have people come from Australia and England and America; and they come all the way over here for our conventions ‘cause they’re so good. Maybe two hundred-odd people all coming. And it’s hard to describe, but you meet up with these people that you haven’t seen for two years, and it’s great to just catch up again. I have been to some conventions in Australia as well, which I’ve really enjoyed. I’ve been over there maybe six or seven times.
Whereabouts were they held?
Usually in Sydney, the ones that I went to; [traffic noise] it was right out the back of Sydney where the Police have their place where they gathered, and it’s great – you’re all under one roof. But I’ve been to Tasmania twice, and I really loved that. When I saw it was going to be in Tasmania again, I thought, ‘Yep, I’m going back there.’ That’s when I first started using this thing. [Chuckle] I thought I’d be all right with a walking stick, and then I found it was very hilly so I thought, ‘No, I can’t manage with a walking stick.’ So I went and bought this thing in Hobart, and she’s been with me ever since. [Chuckle] But no, that was another thing … just being with women who like what you do. And not just women – in the miniatures group we’ve got lots of men who belong to it, and they do the most amazing work.
On Saturday 7th November my Bixley family all met at the Twyford School Hall for a family reunion because it’s a hundred years in December since my family arrived in New Zealand. And we had a wonderful time – meeting up with cousins, some of them I haven’t seen since I was a child – and seeing all the young ones coming on. And as I’m eighty-five I’m now the eldest female in the family, and my cousin John who’s two months older than me is the oldest male, so we got to cut the cake. And we had all the little ones sitting with us … the youngest generation, which was rather fun. And then we all went out to the football field and we had our photographs taken, just a big group. Nowadays they do it with a drone, and you look up and there’s the drone – it looks like a giant dragonfly without wings – and it’s sitting and you see these two little eyes watching you [chuckle] and taking your photograph. They did the big group and then they divided us up into families; my particular branch was Ralph Bixleys. We all lined up and we had our photograph taken, and then all the different family groups had their photos; and we all went back into the hall and had afternoon tea and a piece of the cake. My sister-in-law, Leigh Bixley, had made a lovely cake and she had managed … I don’t know how they do these things, but she had the family photograph of my grandparents and their children on the icing. I don’t know how they do this but they do, and you can eat it. So when she cut the cake she said, “Here we are”; so she gave me the piece with my father’s photograph [chuckle] on it. I can’t bear to eat it – I can’t eat my father! [Chuckle] I’ll eat the cake. [Chuckle] And then Sunday morning [traffic noise] eight of us went to St Matthew’s because that was our mother church where we were all baptised; and I was confirmed and married there, and our first three children were baptised there as well.
And then we went for lunch at the Clubs; and I think well over a hundred of us met at the clubs, and we had a lovely lunch. And we were sitting at a table … there was me and my daughter, Barbara, and my brother, Trevor, and his wife … and Trevor has been Father Christmas for I don’t know how many years at Harvey Norman and places like that. He looks the part, exactly; he looks the part for Father Christmas. My daughter, Pam, was sitting across from me with her grandson; Barbara’s grandson was there as well, little Jack; and Barbara’s other grandson, Nathan. These three little boys were what … five or six years old, and they kept looking at Father Christmas. And then Jack says, “Are you Father Christmas?” “Yes”, says Trevor. And Aunty Pam says, “Better watch out, he’s watching you, better behave yourselves”. These three little boys were angels all afternoon; [chuckle] it was so funny to see. Every now and [again] they’d look up and look at him, and he’d look back at them. [Chuckle] It was one of the funniest things. Yeah, that was lovely.
We had … I suppose you could say our most famous Bixley … who’s Donovan Bixley, who writes the books; well he does children’s books and he does adult books. So, he lives in Taupo. That’s one of his children’s books, but he also writes books for adults, which I have. Our Jack loved that book when he was little, that’s one of his favourites. So, it’s good to have an author in the family. Once again, we got to meet up with cousins and talk to them, and see their children and their grandchildren etcetera, and it was so nice; it was just lovely to see them all.
When was the last time you had a family reunion?
We’ve never had one before. I think the last time would’ve been when my grandparents had their fiftieth wedding anniversary; I was not quite eighteen, I think, then. And we all met at Cornwall Park when the kiosk there was a little afternoon tea place. I see somebody saying had it ever been an afternoon tea place – I thought, ‘Yes it has. Way back that’s what it started life as’; as a place where you had a cup of tea and cakes and things, and I think it’s had all sorts of things happen to it since then. Once again, that was a place from our childhood, Cornwall Park; because Nelson Street – we were only about three blocks from Cornwall Park and as children we spent a lot of time there, ‘specially my brother, Trevor, who loves birds. And he would sit watching the birds in the big bird cage; sit there for hours and come home at six o’clock and get growled at for [chuckle] being so late home. But that was a lovely … you know, it was a special place, Cornwall Park.
We did have some interesting times, ‘cause I had one incident that happened. I was suppose about twelve, and our neighbours had their granddaughter staying with them; I think she was about three years old. [I] said, “Could I take the little girl for a walk?” [Traffic noise] So I took here down to the park And I don’t know if you know the stream going through there?
Yep. I stood there looking around, and took my hand off the handle of the pushchair, and it went straight down into the stream. Oh!! Rushed down there, jumped in, pulled the child out in the pushchair, took her home and confessed what I’d done. [Chuckle] Oh, I don’t think I ever looked after another kid for several years after that. Oh dear; I was so upset. Imagine! Kid was [chuckle] wet through [chuckle] … oh dear! Oh dear, dear – things we do.
But we spent many happy hours at Cornwall Park playing hide-and-seek and all sorts of games and things there. And of course in those days the bird cages were all on the far side … the Pakowhai Road side. They were right over on the Pakowhai Road side, the bird cages; [traffic noise] and they had wallabies in those days – funny little kangaroo things; and of course they had swans as well, they used to have the black and the white swans, but eventually – the usual story – kids were throwing stones at them and assaulting them, so I think they took them away in the end. And then for some reason they shifted the bird cages over to where they are now, next to that Rest Home … whose name I can’t remember.
Eversley, yes. Yeah. Used to go there and the old parrot was in the cage, and you’d look at it; and there was a tortoise and it always seemed to be in the middle of the cage. We decided it must be dead, ‘cause it never moved, [chuckle] poor thing; there was a shingly … ah, the poor [thing]. I suppose they fed it eventually, but [sigh] … felt so sorry for it. Loved the parrot; you could talk to the parrot and [say], “Hello Cocky”, and it would talk back to you. [Chuckle] We had a parrot like that in Havelock. There used to be a garden centre off Joll Road and they had a parrot. [Traffic noise] And I took our grandson, Joe – I was looking after him this particular day – and I knew the parrot’s name was Joey; so I knew if you said, “Hello Joey”, he would talk back to you. So … “Hello”, to the parrot. The parrot says, “Hello Joe”. Little Joe was … the parrot knew his name! Wow! [Chuckle]
He thought that was amazing. [Chuckle] I must remind him of that; he was only a little fellow so he’s probably forgotten all about it.
Well Pat, you’ve had a very interesting life.
Oh yeah. There’s been a lot of it, ‘cause we’ve been married sixty-six years.
Amazing – congratulations on that, and thank you so much for spending this time with me this afternoon; I really appreciate it.
It’s a pleasure.
And it will be a help for the Knowledge Bank to have it on record.
I think it’s a fascinating place; we went out there with our Trefoil Guild, and we had the talk and everything; it’s such an interesting old house. And one of my friends – I think she is in our miniatures [group] – she said when she was a kid her parents used to work for the … Bathgates was it? [Ballantynes] No … whoever owned the house anyway; so they lived on the property, so she knew all about that house and what it was like then.
It is Friday 27th November, and I’ll now pass it over to Pat.
Meals on Wheels is something I started doing when our eldest grandson was about two years old. One of my aunts suggested that I would like to do it, so I did; and that was back in the days when they had the big metal containers that held four metal dishes. And my aunt said to me, “Don’t forget to take an oven cloth because they’re very, very hot.” So I listened to her advice and started my Meals on Wheels thing. And my small grandson loved it ‘cause we’d line up at the kitchen to collect the meals and the ladies’d say, “Oh, dear little fellow”, and give him a bag of chips or something like that.
So I did that for nearly forty years with a few breaks in between and I finally gave up two years ago. I was coming up for a big operation so I thought. ‘Nup – this is it.’ I had to take my walker off the back of the car every time I delivered meals; I thought, ‘No, time to stop.’ But I really enjoyed those years of delivering to people; you get very fond of your … well, old dears, they were. [Chuckle] Some of them some were younger than I was, [chuckle] but they were good. I enjoyed that, and when I first started doing it I was doing it twice a week; and also if they needed another driver I would help out, but towards the end it was once a week that I did it. And my mother would come along with me, she enjoyed doing it; and then my cousin also used to come with me as my navigator; and then finally my youngest daughter would come with me, and then we’d go and have lunch afterwards. In the school holidays the kids loved it – they would come with me, and they looked forward to the lunch afterwards – I think that was the best part as far as they were concerned. [Chuckle] Because that’s done through the Red Cross, and I joined the Red Cross when I was at primary school. Miss Coles was our Primer 1 teacher then, and she was the one who did the Red Cross. I loved those years working with the Red Cross and doing all the things that we did, yeah.
And then, when was it? About twenty-five years ago, my daughter-in-law said to me, [traffic noise] “They’re very short of Mother Helps at Lucknow School.” So, “Oh, okay, I can do that.” So off I went, and at that stage our then youngest grandchildren were six, I think; so I came in and I helped the teacher and you know, listened to the children reading and things like that. That first year I was known as Nana Pat, with two grandchildren in the class and a great-niece as well. And I remember one day we went to see Harold the Giraffe, and the lady said, “Who’s this lady with you?” And the whole class said, “Oh, that’s Nana Pat.” But after that I became Mrs Berry when the children moved on and I didn’t; I stayed in the same class. I did that for about twelve years – I loved it; went twice a week and helped the teacher with the children, and that was fun. So yeah, that was my … I suppose you could call [it] voluntary work. Yeah.
With the Red Cross what were the sorts of things that you did with that at school?
Oh, I suppose we learnt to do bandaging and things like that. I remember it used to be a meeting on a Wednesday afternoon; I would leave school, I would go along to the Red Cross meeting, and we learnt how to do first aid and things like that. Then after that I would bike down to St Matthew’s Hall, and we had Girl Guides so I wore my Guide uniform [background engine noise] to school that day [chuckles] when I was at high school, ‘cause I remember very well we had the class photographs taken on a Wednesday. The headmistress was not amused because I was in my Guide uniform, not in school uniform; and I nearly got left out of that photograph … so there we are in the school photograph, and me sitting in the middle in my Guide uniform. So I’ll go down in posterity. [Chuckles] But I enjoyed those Red Cross years because as I say, we learnt how to do all sorts of first aid and things like that, and yeah, it was good. We’d go along to the parade with our little …
Veils, yeah, the little veil with the red cross on the front of it; we would wear that to show we were the Red Cross girls. Yeah.
I also did taking books from the library to people as well – what do they call that? You go to the library, you collect books and you take them to people who can’t leave home. Can’t think what they call that now; I did that for quite a few years too. So you’d take the books and hope that they liked those particular ones that you had picked out, because once again – do you get the right books? But mostly they seemed quite satisfied.
So you chose the books?
I chose the books, yes.
Big responsibility …
Yeah, it was. And you took them to the person and you got to sit and chat with them for a while, and they would tell you the sort of things they liked. One lady was blind so she always had those talking books. That was fun; I enjoyed that for many years.
I’m intrigued … can we talk a little bit more about the miniatures, please?
Yes. Yes, we can. Thirty-odd years ago I had collected lots of little things. I’d been to England and seen the shops there, and collected several things, thinking that there was nobody else in the world who collected stuff except me. And I came home, and there was an advertisement in the paper : ‘Anyone interested in doing miniatures, or dolls houses and things, to go to a certain place one Sunday.’ So off I went, and there was, I think eight or ten of us, who were all interested in doing things like that; but we had no venue. We all met in this board room with this big flash table that they have in board rooms, and we couldn’t do anything. We had to just sit there and talk about what we wanted to do. We hardly dared touch the table because it was so beautiful. And then I thought, ‘What about Keirunga? We can go there.’ So that was it, we went to Keirunga and we’ve been meeting there ever since; as I said, ‘bout thirty years. And we go to conventions every two years and we meet up with people from Australia, America, England, who come to these conventions and take workshops, and do things, and … yeah. So I’ve made an awful lot of stuff over the years. I started off doing the ordinary one inch to a foot, which is the [loud background noise] … I suppose you’d call the average scale, and then gradually I started making smaller and smaller things. Because it’s smaller you can make more; you can collect more; and I love working with the tiny things. But that’s my thing that I love doing, so I shall show you some of my tiny things.
I’ve always loved reading, right from … I can never remember actually learning to read; I’ve always been able to read. And my earliest memory is of my father bringing home his library books and me grabbing them and reading them before the poor man had a chance to read them. He was into cowboy stuff in those days so … I would love anything I could lay my hands on I could read. Belonged to the library, so that was good; and one of my cousins introduced me to the library and I thought this was like paradise! Oh wow! All these books, and you could take them home and read them! Wow. And I’ve got a very big collection of books myself – I like science fiction, I like detective stories; I’ve got a collection of Agatha Christies, Ngaio Marsh, and other authors from … well, I suppose twenties and thirties, aren’t they? And forties, yeah. I’ve got all these paperbacks which I re-read, over and over again, as you can do. I’m just re-reading my P D James at the moment, ‘cause I like her. And then the science fiction – my sons introduced me to that, and I really enjoy that as well, so I’ve got a big collection of them.
I enjoyed doing jigsaw puzzles years ago when I was younger; but with the lockdown I decided to take up jigsaws again, and now I have one on the go the whole time. It’s good if you can’t sleep at night, you get up and fiddle around with the jigsaw. I don’t like them too difficult; I don’t like too much sky or green stuff or anything; I like … well, not a simple puzzle, but one that I can handle, yeah. I don’t like Wasgijs much. Now this one is rather good, I quite like that – look at it – all these lovely Christmas things, [chuckle] so I’m quite enjoying that; all that food, and no calories. [Chuckle] No, that’s my occupation nowadays, when I’m not sitting in my chair and having a snooze. I find [chuckle] as I get older I do more sleeping. I do watch television, but not a lot … depends what’s on.
And you can’t get out to your garden now?
No, I can’t do gardening any more …
That’s a shame …
… which is a shame. I can’t do much housework; once again it’s something that you can’t do any more, so it’s a wee bit sad. I used to love my gardening. I can’t mow my lawns any more, I’ve got to get other people in to do them, and that’s something I really enjoyed, mowing lawns. I’d get out there on my ride-on and do it.
So as a child did you have the old ..?
The push mower? Of course, that’s how we started this one off. When we built the house we were in the middle of a paddock, and [I] got the push mower and I mowed a little piece off in the front of the house there, and then a little bit more next week, and a little bit more the next week, and gradually got bigger and bigger until we had a whole big piece of lawn. And then my husband bought one of those ones you pull the cord on, and they’re all right if you can start them. Then one day he came home with a ride-on mower for me – well! I was right after that; [chuckle] no trouble at all, and I loved my ride-on. I’ve still got it in the shed there; I had to give that up two years ago, and that was very disappointing ‘cause [there’s] something about mowing, it’s very satisfying … get everything just right. I had this really good mowing man who had to give me up unfortunately; but now I’ve got another new bloke, so he’s doing a good job. That was one of my pleasures, mowing the lawn.
You’re a brave lady to say so. [Chuckle]
You can think all sorts of things, and … I don’t know, there’s just something about it.
Well Pat, it’s been lovely to be here with you this afternoon. I really do appreciate you letting us interview you. Thank you very much. You have certainly filled all your days in, and you’ve certainly balanced the books as far as giving; it’s been amazing, your life.
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Format of the originalAudio recording
Interviewer: Lyn Sturm