Graham, Janice Perress (Jan) Interview
Today is the 27th of May 2015. I’m interviewing Jan Graham (nee Hingston) about the life and times of her family.
Well I was born in Hastings 1931, August 23rd to Dal Hingston (nee Perress) and Nipper Hingston. They both were very much in love as everyone who knew them said. Because Dad had Maori blood – he was quarter Maori – his father … Mum’s father was very unhappy about the union and when Mum was sitting her matriculation – I think it was in the Drill Hall in Hastings – Dad used to try and meet her. And grandfather would go in take her hand and put it in his pocket and sort of drag her back to whichever transport he had. I severely doubt that it was a car, it probably was a gig, ’cause the gig was part of our life.
Anyway we had a very happy childhood. But Mum and Dad started off life in Alexandra Street, where Mum’s grandmother had received money from her father who died and they bought land in Alexandra Street, which eventually became Mum’s, and she and Dad built a house there.
But when – I was born in the August 23rd 1931 and my grandmother died and so Mum and Dad had to shift down to the farm to look after my grandfather. The home farm was in Otene Road which was in the old days Tomoana Settlement Road. It was en route to the freezing works and one of my memories as a child was drovers bringing the stock to the works and if there was cattle they’d call out “Get over the fence, girlie”, because the cattle in those days were wild having come down from the hills.
I went to Mahora School initially, as Mum had, but I had the privilege of riding a bike from the day I was five where I believe my mother walked to Mahora School. Anyway my schooling at Mahora was changed because when the Japanese came into the war Mum was fearful, because we had to bike through Tomoana Works to get to Mahora School, that the Japanese would probably bomb Tomoana Works and we wouldn’t be able to get home. So she changed us to Mangateretere.
One of my most vivid memories of my childhood was the big flood in either 1938 or 1939. The Eskdale flood … where our farm was under water. And I remember Dad – we had a small farm – Dad took the pigs away and Mum said that he had to get them out before they swam, because pigs cut their throats with their front hooves as they swam. Reality or not I do not know, but anyway eventually we got our pigs back. I have no idea where they went. The flood came and then receded, and Mum – while Dad was away, this time he was taking the cows – the flood came back with a vengeance, and although I didn’t know it until sometime later, Mum was expecting a baby – my brother – the following month. So she had the job of packing up things, and I remember blankets were put on top of wardrobes. And Flo and I were stuck on a bed while the waters swirled around us.
Your house was well back from the road, and the water was – and the house was off the ground – and it was still coming into the house?
And your younger brother – was that Perry?
Yes. Anyway, Dad was away shifting the cows. Actually they went right up to Toby Simmons at Maraekakaho, and eventually I was lucky – Dad took me and we brought the cows back. And I can remember looking at the dam inside the front gate of the place I live now, and thinking ‘how lovely to have a dam inside your front gate’. But by the time I got there it was time to dry it out. But anyway – so it went on and Dad was away, Mum was trying to pack up the house and then the flood waters came back. And mum had meanwhile lit fires in all the rooms, and I remember so vividly the logs when the fire – the water came back and swirled through the house, the logs floated out of the fireplace and I still remember them steaming and sizzling as they floated through the hall. When Dad got back he managed to harness up the gig and the draught horse he had for ploughing, packed Mum and I and Flo in the gig. By this time the water was over the gates and over the posts and battens and he had to stand on the shafts to stop the horse swimming and capsizing us, and he had to feel under the water for the gates. It was quite an exciting time for us children but I think Mum and Dad were not so excited. I spent my time … we were both – all – evacuated … I don’t know where Dad went actually, but Mum and my sister went and stayed in King Street at a cousins of Mum’s, and I went to the Bernard family at Tomoana.
When I was little, I started school at five, and I used to bike through Tomoana, and the – past the little railway station, past all the cottages that were actually in Waikoko, and then in through the alleyway beside the Works. And the train driver – shunter driver – used to call out to me “Hello little champ”, and as I went through the works the men would call out to me and say “hello little Hingston” or “hello little champ”, and it was quite sweet. And eventually I got to Mahora.
Mum actually, as I said, went to Mahora, and she was an only child because her brother had been killed in the 1st World War, so she was brought – absolutely terribly spoilt, she did as she pleased. And her parents tried to make her be a little lady – and she had these high buttoned up boots that they made her wear to school. As soon as Mum got out of sight she’d take them out and hide them under a culvert and I think it was the culvert – where the railway line went across – by the little railway station there was a sort of hollow in the ground and I think that’s where she tucked her boots. Unfortunately for Mum one day the school photographer came, and here’s Mum in the front row in bare feet, and that was a terrible to-do in the family.
As I said we went and lived with our grandfather down Otene Road (as it is now) and grandfather used to take me walking to Waikoko Gardens to feed the swans. I well remember a nesting swan attacking me and grandfather beating him off – beating her off – with his walking stick. He was – I was about nine I think when he died – eight or nine – and I can remember he took ill on one of his walks, and the sewerage system was being put in past our place and the big pipes were all lined up across … along the road ready to be buried, and grandfather crawled in one of these to shelter from the sun and that’s where Mum found him, and he later went to hospital and subsequently died. I was very lucky to be in a home that had my grandfather there. But then it was a family tradition, because my grandmother had had her father there, and therein lies a tale.
We were very much pioneer family, because on my father’s side his great great grandfather, Captain William George Cornelius Hingston, had been a whaler and he had often been into Russell and decided that he would come and live in New Zealand. And in 1834 he arrived in New Zealand and eventually bought land the other side of Waitangi, called Wairoa, on the Brankton Reef. He married a girl who had actually come in 1831. Both families came from England so they had a common interest. And on Mum’s side, her great grandfather had come from … one of the ancestors came on the ‘Strathallan’ from England in 1859. And her father who was the most recent immigrant, came on the ‘Duke of Edinburgh’ from Southampton in 1873 and landed at Petone. And of course, Dad’s Maori ancestors came in a canoe, so we were a real mixed bag with all sorts of ancestry. There was French and Spanish and Maori and English, Scots and Irish, so I think that’s just what the population of New Zealand was in the old days.
On Friday nights – Mum and Dad were great sports people, well-known in Hastings – and on a Friday night we would start at Charlie Bunker’s who was on the Hawke’s Bay Rugby Union with Dad, and we would be dragged along the street talking rugby … get to Hunt’s and – oh, I can’t remember his name – and then down to Redgrave’s with Snowy Miller, another rugby keen advocate – and that would be our Friday night shopping in town. I was so glad when I was old enough to stay home, mind my younger brother. Flo didn’t seem to mind the rugby talk, but I found it very, very boring and I still do.
Eventually – I went to Ardmore Teachers’ College – and eventually after two years there came back and taught at Mayfair. In those days they were very short of teachers, so after six months at Mayfair I was sent … applied for a teaching position in Dannevirke, was certificated and became an infant mistress at nineteen. Of course at that stage Hawke’s Bay – Hastings in particular – had lots of dances, and there was the Kereru Dance, Fernhill Dance, and Sherenden Dances – there were dances all around the countryside. And of course we, as new bold women I suppose, went to these dances and there I met my first husband, Tom Jowsey, whose father owned Te Whana Station at Kereru. Well, it was almost love at first sight, and so my teaching career ended and I married Tom and we lived up at Te Whana. It only lasted two years unfortunately because Tom one day went out fencing and died. And I went out to get him for lunch and there he was with a post – a strainer post – lying across him. Dr Bathgate was called and he said “heart attack”, but in reality we never knew, because Dad being Maori – or having Maori blood – he didn’t want a post mortem. So later on of course, when our daughter, who was only ten months when her father died – she was keen to know what the problem had been, and of course I couldn’t tell her. But however she survived, and she’s still busy teaching at Westshore.
I then married our best man, who was actually a very close relation of Tom’s, Mac Graham, and went to live where Tom’s mother had been reared. It’s quite a complex story. I won’t go into it.
That’s all right.
Tom’s mother was the first daughter of Bill Graham who bought Waiti in 1908, and his daughter subsequently had Tom, my first husband. Meanwhile Bill Graham married again when his first wife died, and had a son at the same time as his daughter had a son. So I married the son and then I married the uncle or cousin or whatever Tom was. I think Tom must been an uncle because I remember when Susan was little she called him Uncle Mac. But of course eventually, when we married, he adopted her and she became Susan Graham.
Mac and I subsequently had four more children. He used to say that he only married me because he wanted Susan, and then of course the first year we were married my health wasn’t too good and he used to tease me by saying to his friends that he’d never bought a second hand car or a second hand anything, but he got a second hand wife and she broke down in the first year. Which some people used to get quite horrified at but I understood Mac’s sense of humour.
Seeing we’re reminiscing, I’m digressing. In my teenage years I went to Hastings Girls’ – well it was Hastings High School in those days. Once again I – my trusty bike and I biked five miles to High School. And we had lovely friends … I just was very blessed.
In my teens the Ngaruroro River ran in a different direction – it hadn’t been directed at that stage, and it was a lovely river for teenagers to go and swim. I well remember we used to ride our bikes and sometimes eel, and ride down back round Ruahapia Road dragging these poor eels on the shingle behind the bikes. When I think now it was such a cruel thing to do, but however that was part of life. And the river was a great spot for boys to smoke. I always remember having to stand guard while the neighbours and their friends smoked. I didn’t smoke – never have, thank goodness. Now, of course, it’s quite different. Michael Bostock and Mr Lee made a wonderful job of starting that lovely park, and now I take my grandson with his dog to the Dog Park, as he calls it, but it holds great memories of happy summer days for me. And what a wonderful park it is and so well maintained, and so popular.
Cornwall Park was another haunt of ours when we were children, ’cause Dad played cricket in the summer. And I well remember an earthquake – watching the cricket and seeing the ground ripple with the primary thrust of an earthquake – quite an experience.
Of course those days people were still talking about the War – they were still talking about the Depression, and so and so lost in the ‘flu, and so and so lost in the earthquake. It was very real, all those disasters they lived through, but they seemed to have a resilience I think perhaps we’ve lost nowadays.
We had an aunt who really made our life much easier. She had come out on the boat with somebody that my grandparents knew. She came out from Ireland in 1873 and was married in 1894, and lived in Karamu Road for the rest of her long life. A lot of people remember Bridget Wright. Her husband was one of the last carters in Hastings, and dear Uncle Sam used to sit out in the shed at the back of the house – Auntie Wright wouldn’t let him inside – and he smoked his pipe in his old stables. The smell was quite unique because the horse smell lingered on together with the tobacco leaves that he had hanging around the walls. Auntie Wright never had water inside. There was a water ram thing in the backyard, and every bit of water she carried from that ram inside – no bathroom, just a little tub that she used to sponge herself in. No electricity except the light. She had a gas ring on the old wood stove. I never saw that stove lit. She actually taught herself to read by reading the newspaper. How on earth she did it I don’t know. She lived to a great age, and when she died she left the land that they had in Collinge Road and the land in Karamu Road to my mother, and in turn Flo and I inherited it. And Mum built shops there that have now been demolished. And Flo and I were very happy that we actually sold them before they needed maintaining.
Were they in Collinge Road, the shops?
No, they were in Karamu Road.
I think it’s just about opposite – they’ve just been demolished. Mum sold the back part to Pictorial Publications. We used to pick daisies and make daisy chains. It seemed such a big paddock at the back when we were kids. And Dad was a very kind man, and he demolished the old stables in … oh, I don’t know – in the 1950s I suppose … and had the iron all heaped up and somebody stole it, and Mum badly wanted him to go to the Police and he reckoned that “no – they must have needed it – we didn’t really need it”.
Well the stables were probably for cart horses and gig horses. This old Auntie Wright that we called her – Bridget Wright – she actually remembered when she was young and there was no hospital in Hastings of course. And there was – oh, a Quaker family, I’ve forgotten their names – and they had a horse drawn vehicle, I think it was called a brake, and they used to lend it to sick people to go to Napier Hospital. And Auntie Wright said there was an epidemic of diphtheria and she used to go with the sick people – children I think it was mainly – and hook the membrane out of their throats as they started to choke. So … very glad it isn’t like that nowadays.
Yes, you know when you sort of look back, women – or families in those days – without water, without any of the comforts that people today take for granted …
… it wasn’t easy but it didn’t detract from them living to an old age did it? The hard, hard life.
No, and it didn’t spoil their sense of humour either. There must have been flooding – well of course the Heretaunga Plains were pretty swampy, and I know Auntie Wright’s house was very high off the ground. It had to be, she said, because of the floods.
Anyway I had a very happy life with my dear Mac, but in about 1970 he developed cancer. We had four children – well five counting Susan, but she’d just married and the rest of them were at home. Mac got cancer and he was one of Dr Brink’s patients and Dr Brink gave him four extra years with his immunotherapy. And of course nowadays it’s just been discovered. But, Dr Brink was practising immunotherapy in the 1970s. Dr Brink was banished from New Zealand and Mac eventually went, but it was too late … he went to Rarotonga and he died there. He was just too late. Meanwhile he’d had some lovely trips overseas. We’d been to China and round the Pacific and to the States. Anyway …
So on the farm, this farm while it’s been in the Graham family since 1908, Mac continued farming it with you. What sort of crops did you grow those days?
Well of course in the early days, Bill Graham was an agriculture contractor. He was just mad on machinery and he had grain – I know one crop he planted was linseed – he was very experimental. He grew grapes, citrus trees, and sheep and they had cows too, but he was one of the ones who got hydatids, and died just before the earthquake, and Mac was two and a half and Marion was four. So Nana had to battle. And actually, they had land at Turamoe but there was an agistment court or something in those days – I’m a bit vague about that period of the history. But of course Bill Graham died and then there was the earthquake and Nana was pretty destitute I think, for a long time. However, we changed … Nana Graham … Mac was great on experimentation and he wanted to try poultry farming. And Nana, who owned the place, was so disgusted that she sold 300 acres over the road which of course the Lyons bought, and eventually Lyons sold part of it to Sileni which is now quite a famous name around the wine industry.
Mac died in ’77 and I put a vineyard in myself in 1982, was about the first one in the district, but Mac had always said “if you don’t go forward you go back”. And he used to come in off the tractor when he was putting in peas or whatever he was doing on the tractor, and he’d say “I’ve just been thinking” and my heart would sink, because I knew it would mean more work. He was a real workaholic. Never considered himself at all, and I don’t think he considered anyone else either. But of course time went on and he died, and I was left with a … about a fifteen thousand layer unit, a meat chicken unit, a brooder shed for about three or four thousand chickens and a pig unit. So times were pretty busy. But times were good too because the poultry industry wasn’t regulated, and it was deregulated when I was about 65 I think, and I decided that I was a producer not a marketer and that was the end of that.
But still I had the vineyard which now my daughter has taken over as part of her inheritance. And the other children have got their inheritance and I’m left with my thirty acres and Ruth that’s got the vineyard, she runs the thirty acres for me. I’ve had a great life, I’ve got my certificate for thirty years of being in the Red Cross. I was on the Hawke’s Bay Education Board for twelve years I think. I’m still in the Red Cross. I enjoy my china painting – I’ve china painted with Margaret Walmsley for many years. She’s a well-known china painter around and I helped run a day-care centre for elderly and disabled for about twenty years in Hastings, so I really haven’t been sitting on my hands.
What do you do for leisure?
[Chuckle] I don’t have any leisure – oh, painting’s my leisure … oh, looking after grandchildren is wonderful. And of course for forty odd years I went overseas every year to a different country and that was a great experience. I feel so privileged to have done that because my children haven’t had the same chance. Money was easier to make I think in our day.
Now after Mac died, you didn’t remarry?
Yes of course you did … there was Dick.
Yes. In 1985 I’d been going out with a very dear friend – one of our gang actually. We had a gang, and we used to have meetings every month. There was John Phillips and his wife …
… John Nimon and Diane, John being a cousin of Dick’s actually. Donald and Ellie Hammond, Bob and Judith Elliott, Dick and Judith Klingender, Jeff and Joan Russell, Jock Crawford and Janice – unfortunately Jock’s in Summerset in the Vines – Donald’s still in his own home and managing very well. Oh, Jean and Craig Rosenberg where another couple. The men have gone, they’re very diminished nowadays. But in 1985 I went on a trip to Tanzania. And Dick and I had been keeping company. He managed Big Hill for the Glazebrook brothers, and he’d been a lifetime smoker and was finding the hills got steeper and steeper although he was only in his 50s. And when I came home from Tanzania, lo and behold Dick was ensconced, and there he stayed, and after about ten years we got married – much to the joy of the children who never approved of any of the men I went out with until … and one of them used to say “why don’t you find a nice man like Mr Black?” Well, I did find Mr Black – or Mr Black found me, I don’t know which. Dick always felt I’d contrived the whole thing however.
Another thing I was fortunate to do – in the ’70s there were adult education classes at the High School. The Government finally chopped them off and it was probably just as well because we were all middle-aged. And I took geology and that was only accidental because I had booked in for art, and the night I was supposed to enrol … at least I was going to enrol for art … Mum rang me from Napier, and Dad had died at the West Indies cricket, and of course I had to go and pick her up. He was a great cricket fan, a great rugby fan – they were his life after his children and wife of course – so …
Yes, while we’re talking about your father, how did he get the name Nipper?
He was the tail end of a big family.
And it stuck with him his whole life?
All his … whole life. I think he was only 63 when he died, but he’d been an asthmatic and he said he was the ‘scrapings of the pot’.
I always remember Perry. He was the big contractor went up the Taihape Road to those huge stations and it was mind boggling – he did more in a week than we did for the whole season. But he died reasonably early too, didn’t he?
Yes. He was a heavy drinker and smoker so he didn’t look after himself at all. So – yes, and here I am 83, can’t believe it.
Well yes, but when you think about it Jan, your involvement in life has been not only your family and your work, but you’ve always made time for other people too, other organisations, and your life has been too full to worry about ill health or anything hasn’t it?
You haven’t spoken about your involvement … foray into the political world.
Oh [chuckle] – that’s best forgotten.
Oh no – these are things that form us. You know they make us stronger people in some ways.
D’you reckon? Ha … oh dear. I started a women’s … National Party Women’s Group in Ngatarawa. We functioned for a few years and then fizzed out through running out of time. I launched Michael Laws of course. Ruth Richardson was the Minister of Education I think. I knew Ruth through being on the Education Board and she sent Michael Laws to me. And I – this fellow turned up in a taxi one evening and he said Ruth had suggested that he get in touch with me because I was well-known, and he had to have a certain amount of people on his nomination form. So I went round the block … [chuckle] and I got my children and – who were of age of course – and went round the block … round the district and got, I think it was ten names, and therefore launched Michael Laws. Actually I’ve only lost touch with him in recent times … I painted baby plates for his children as they came along. But anyway I felt – I backed him because he had brains. He had almost brilliance, but he also lacked certain … stability shall we say? He had the brains …
Hawke’s Bay once upon a time – we trusted people.
Yes, that’s right. You didn’t lock your doors, you didn’t lock your car …
No – didn’t take the key out of any tractor or truck or anything.
No. No. Times certainly have changed. Well everybody – I mean in my day everybody went to Sunday School. Didn’t matter whether you were Catholic, Protestant … whatever you were, all the children went to Sunday School. So you learnt ethics, you were kind, there was no bullying as such.
They taught us the Ten …
Ten Commandments – we grew up with those things.
Yes, we had – you know – treat thy neighbour as thyself and … all those things that have gone by the board. It’s terribly sad because New Zealand was actually built on faith and ethics.
And so you’ve got four children, you talk about Susan – she has a vineyard?
No, Susan my eldest daughter is a school teacher at Westshore. And they have an orchard block at Pakowhai that they lease out. Tim is a mad keen tractor driver – John Deeres – even their mailbox is a John Deere tractor. And she married Tim Averill, who actually was in the next bassinet to her in the Home. He was the eldest son of Hanson and Carol Averill. And Margaret married John Lowe – number two daughter married John Lowe – who was a nephew of George Lowe of Everest fame. Number three daughter married Mark Nelson. They live on the family station at Whakamarumaru up at Crownthorpe. Number four daughter married Jeff Taylor who now flies the – no, he doesn’t fly – he’s the winchman for the Lowe Walker helicopter. He’s a very clever electrician. Unfortunately the marriage didn’t last but they had three wonderful children. And then – she now has a partner, Warwick Hayes, he’s a policeman in Hastings and they produced my last grandson who’s now seven years old. So I’ve had grandchildren for twenty six years, so I regard myself as truly fortunate. I believe in being a hands-on grandmother.
When I was 71, I – if you can’t beat them you join them – and my third husband, Dick Black, was a very keen and able horseman. He’d been in the hunting scene and the polo scene and the show circuit and he was now trekking, and he used to come back and tell me what wonderful time they had and what wonderful country they saw, and all the lovely bits about it. So, when I was 71, I decided that I’d better get on a horse and join him – and I’m still riding. Not the treks any more, I haven’t the stamina. And I like my sleeping arrangements to be far more comfortable than obviously … so that’s about all.
Oh – John. I forgot my son. He went overseas to Australia to catch up on Mac’s relatives because Nana Graham’s brother had gone to Australia before the first World War – he actually fought in the first World War for the Australians. And John went over to meet their family. And from there he did the harvesting, and then he went to the States to do the harvesting. And the next thing I know he’s got a wife and proceeded to produce three lovely kids who are real Americans. And he lives in Julesberg in Colorado. And he now has seven rigs. With the money he got from his father’s estate he bought one rig, and to my amazement he’s now got seven rigs. I remember his schoolteacher saying “he’s a lovely kid, he’ll never set the world on fire. He’d make a great second-hand car dealer.”
And a rig – what’s a rig – truck?
A truck and …
Oh, it’s … huge things.
So do you plan on doing any overseas trips still?
I went to Cuba last year but – I just think physically … I’ve had a few health hiccups.
We keep saying no, we’ve done the last trip, but we go again, and again.
I said that. Yes I said that when I went to Cambodia, and then I waited a year. When I went to Cambodia it was the year Dick died, and I couldn’t – and it was horrible coming back to an empty house. And I thought ‘well I won’t – I won’t go overseas any more’. And I remember once going to Turkey with Helen Swinburn from the Wakararas, and before we went she said “oh, I’m getting excited”, and I said “oh, that’s lovely”. I said “I’m excited too”. She said “yes – I’m excited about the prospect of coming home”.
I’ve got kids in Kalgoorlie in the middle of the Nullabor.
I’ve got the mining right of Mac’s father from Kalgoorlie. 1874 I think they – mining over there.
You’ve still got them?
Yes. It’s framed. Well actually he and his brother went, and I’ve got the mining rights.
Did you ever ask him how they got there – how did they get to Kalgoorlie?
Haven’t a clue because he died before I was born.
But when you think about it, if he lived in Sydney or Melbourne, the only way to get there in those days was to sail round the bottom of Australia and land at either Esperance or Albany. Or go to Perth. From Perth or from Esperance it was nearly 700km by horse or by foot.
I think they rode.
But you know – 700km – there was no water, there was very little horse feed or anything. But – my father actually went to Coolgardie in 1898 – he went from Hastings as a wheelwright to further his trade as a coach builder in Sydney, and while he was there he went to Coolgardie. We didn’t realise it was 5,000km and a sea trip.
Today is the 2nd of June. This is an addendum to an earlier recording of the life and times of Jan Graham.
When Dick died in 2008 I decided to retire from being a JP which I had been since 1985. I think Dick Harrison had a hand in that.
I love children and when I married Mac I started getting children from Hillsbrook Presbyterian Home in Havelock, and for years I enjoyed having these children until I had my own children, and they wanted their friends. So to continue my love of children I had farm visits from schools, and I must have had thousands of kids over the place in those days. At one stage Dick had goats and of course the children loved handling them. And then of course there were always the lambs and the meat chicken, and I’d take the children into the sheds where they’d be able to pick up chickens and fondle them. And at one stage we had a child who put one in his pocket and we were heading off over to the laying shed and the rearing sheds and there was a squeak from one of the little boy’s pockets so we had to retrieve the chicken and take it back to its … to thousands of others.
At our peak while rearing pullets and having laying hens and meat chicken and what-have-you, we actually got up to rearing 130,000 pullets which I used to deliver round the island. I couldn’t even back the trailer, so I always had to work out my route so that there was no going back. I had to find a place to turn around and it got me into a few corners at times.
We also had farm visits, Dick and I, farm stays for 14 years and we had people from all over the world come and stay with us and it was quite embarrassing when they’d say ‘well when you’re in England, or when you’re in the States, or when you’re in Aussie you must come and stay with us’, which was rather embarrassing because they’d had to pay for staying with us, but here they were offering their hospitality back.
I think our vintage were quite a nostalgic crowd, and I started in Mahora School in 1936, and in about 1995 we decided that the survivors should get together and have an annual party. So we’ve been doing that every year since. Of course there’s been a bit of depletion over the years, but this year we had twenty five old pupils and their spouses. My memories of starting school were about a polio epidemic where our mothers had us carry around little bags of camphor around our necks – I don’t know what it was supposed to do, but it didn’t work for some people anyhow.
It sure smelt nice though.
It sure did smell nice. [Chuckle] Yes .. did you ..?
Yes, we had it too.
Oh gosh. One progression from civilisation that I really appreciate was the evolution of the ensuite. When I was a child you were given a candle and you went down the back path, over the bank to the long drop. We had the Farmers Magazine – was cut into squares, hung on a nail and the door was always shut with a piece of No 8 wire hooked into a staple. I just wonder what today’s children would do if they were confronted with the same situation. Sometimes Mum would call out to see what was happening to me because I loved making little models out of the wax that dripped from the candle. Later on of course, our first flush toilet was a real episode to celebrate and it was in the corner of the washhouse and the washhouse was off the verandah – step two. Step three, it progressed into a separate room in the house. Step four was into the bathroom, a corner of the bathroom, where it was quite good because you could converse with whoever was having a bath. Then of course today we have the ensuite and that is the ultimate as far as I’m concerned, especially on a cold frosty night and you have to get up.
The other thing that I really appreciate is electricity. I do think that you’ve got to have the sour before you can appreciate the sweet. In my married life – I started off married life with Tom Jowsey up at Kereru, and we had no electricity. His parents had a generator but we had to rely on candles and lamps. I was terrified of the Tilly lamp which hissed and squawked and went on, so I used to stay lit with a candle until Tom came home from work, and many the time I had to brush my singed eyebrows.
My parents were teetotal and our parties were lots of fun. I can remember Mum and Dad and the gales of laughter coming from the lounge as they had funny tricks and … oh, I don’t know … they just seemed to have a lot of fun without any booze. I always remember my engagement party to Tom Jowsey – of course it was all young farmers, and I think they were primed up well in the front paddock because they knew there was no alcohol in our household. And I shudder with embarrassment when I think had these young farmers prancing around the front lawn doing “Where oh where is dear little so and so, Down, down, down in the pawpaw patch”. A game that I’d played with the children when I was teaching.
So many doors have shut over our generation. Geology trips through our local study group began from the Hastings Boys’ High School night classes, which of course were discontinued. We had overseas geology trips through Victoria University and weekend seminars – discontinued. We had … another thing that was discontinued – oh, I was on the Education Board for many years and I had the country schools and Havelock North. Well of course Waiwhare’s shut, Otamauri’s closed, Sherenden’s gone, Crownthorpe’s gone. And actually I think Sherenden’s gone [Sherenden and Districts School has been open since 1916 and is still open today in 2017] … but certainly Crownthorpe’s gone, Mangatahi’s gone and – what else? I can’t think of what else – oh, Maraetotara’s gone, that was one of my schools. I used to love my trips round the schools and although we just administered what the Government sent us from Wellington, I felt my place was to be a public relations officer, so that was another thing … I loved giving parties for my school committees and teachers and staff.
I just wonder if the story of my maternal grandparents is worth telling. When I was a child, and even when I grew up I was led to believe that our great grandfather John Scott Patterson, had called into the Orari Hotel down south when he was taking stock from Nelson down to the farms in Canterbury. And he called into the Orari Hotel with his mate, and he saw this girl behind the bar and he said to his mate, “I’m going to marry that girl.” And his mate said “haven’t you seen the wedding ring on her finger?” That was the story we got. Next year John Scott Patterson came back and the husband of Anna had committed suicide. So he gathered her up with her two children and they came up and worked on Mangawhare Station up the Taihape Road. This was about 1872.
Anyway I went to the Napier Library that had a very good section on historical documents – not the Library – the Museum. And they said “oh, we’ve got the Balfour diaries covering that period of history.” So I started to read the Balfour diaries. And actually I knew when one of my great aunts had been born, because she used to say that she was the most high-born woman in Hawke’s Bay. And of course she was the first white child to be born up at Mangawhare.
The story went that her mother had tied the two surviving children from her first marriage to the legs of the table and put down food enough, and water for them, and lay herself down to produce Auntie Suzie. Her husband was away somewhere according to the legend and she was frightened she’d die and the children would wander off into the bush. So the legend went that Maoris came by and helped with the birth and several days later her husband returned to find he already had a new little baby, Susan. Well, to my absolute astonishment, when I read the diary – and I knew when Auntie Susie was born – a month before her birth there was a terse note ‘Got the fencer to make a coffin for Mrs So-and-so, died in childbirth this morning’. So I understood where my great grandmother’s fear had come from. Then further on I read of the birth, and then further on I read where my … my great grandfather had come back from the Lakes up the Taihape Road where he’d been mustering, to find his wife and the new baby.
Anyhow eventually, on a horse trek, I went to the Lakes and I wondered about the Maori story about the Maoris coming through. There was no record of it in the Library [Museum] but however, whoever was with us told us that this was part of the Maori track through to the Hawke’s Bay. So that sort of verified the fact that the Maoris had called in, probably for food, and had found my great grandmother in the birth process. So eventually, how I found out that they weren’t married, they were, at that stage – I did a bit of research with genealogy and I found out that her husband – her ex-husband – had cut his throat in Christchurch. So that was the end of that little episode.
But further on in the diary there was a story … a record of how John Scott Patterson and one of the shepherds had had a fight up on a muster, because they had said that his – Mrs John Scott Patterson wasn’t Mrs John Scott Patterson, she was his mistress. And of course there was a fight and he decided to leave despite the manager not wanting him to leave. And on the way down he had – this is legend again – he had the two toddlers on his saddle and his wife had the baby on a cushion. And as they came down to Taradale the baby kept crying and when they stopped to give it a feed or change its naps or whatever, they found that the pin, the safety pin had come off … undone … and with the movement of the horse the poor little baby had been jabbed by the pin. So of course that was all sorted up and they moved down to Taradale, and actually that’s where the next child was born, which was my grandmother. They actually worked for Kray at Te Aute and that’s where their – more children were born. And we have a photo of Aunt Elsie and Uncle George, the youngest sister, who was married in the Pukehou Church in 1900. And on the way down to the wedding breakfast – at the Te Aute Hotel it’s supposed to have been – the horse bolted and one of the guests was thrown off and got killed.
Well, isn’t that a nice story?
It is – a sad ending, but the reality of those times.
Just, you know, just – we can’t imagine what it was like for a woman on her own isolated, little children, no husband there.
And it poured – in the diary it said it rained and blew for three months at one stage, and it blew the outhouse over and the chimney off the house.
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Interviewer: Frank Cooper
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