Hantler, Lillian Dorothy Interview

Today is the 7th of February 2019. I’m interviewing Lillian Dorothy Hantler about their family in Hawke’s Bay. Lillian, would you like to tell us something about those times?

Well, when I was small we lived in Thames for a while and then we shifted to Gisborne. My Dad drove trucks, and he also drove the service car from Gisborne to Napier for a few years for a chap called Billy Whitfield, and then he drove for a chap Monk, in Gisborne. And then we shifted back to Thames and we lived up the Kauaeranga Valley for a while – well I didn’t live there, I was too young to go to school there, because it was too far for me to walk. My sisters went. And Dad was gumdigging, and then in the school holidays I went and stayed there and we did all the cleaning of the gum. And it was put into sacks and sent to Auckland, and it went away to make varnish and that sort of thing. And then when Mum became pregnant we went back to Thames to live for a while, and that’s where she passed away.

And then I was put on to a farm. I had never met the people in my life – I had no idea who they were – and it was a dairy farm. They were very kind to me and the family were very nice. And my sisters were put out to different people. In those days you made the most of whatever was given to you. And then brought us down to Hastings.

When would that be?

Exactly a year to the day of the earthquake. ‘32 we arrived, and we came down by train. And my sister never slept the whole way from Thames, but she counted tunnels all the way. And then we were here about six months and we were put into [a] Children’s Home for fourteen months, which wasn’t so good but it taught us a good lesson … that’s one of the lessons of life.

So where were those Children’s Homes?

You know where the old jail is in Napier? And then just up … I think it’s Coote Road, well just up there on the right is another little road, and at the end of that there was the girls’ home, and then up on the hill behind it was the boys’ home. And there was about forty of us I think, and things were pretty tough. And we walked from there … I was seven, and I walked from there over to the Central School in Napier. And you had to come home for lunch … your hot lunch … and then back to school again and home, so … but many a day I never made the afternoon because I was still getting back to school. And then when we came back we went to Central School.

And then Dad met Annie Weaver, and she was living at the corner of Dufferin Street and Riverslea Road. And both of them liked dancing, and they used to go to the [dances]. And then he shifted us … beginning of 1934, he shifted us.

That’s a name I’ve only run across once before in Hastings, and that was Charlie Weaver …

I know there was George … was the eldest son and he was a photographer as far as we could make out. And I know there was a girl, but whether there were other children … and my stepmother’s husband was Arthur, and he was the youngest. And they had the six children – well, she had six.

[I] didn’t know the Weavers were so close to the village …

Yeah, well we used to play there as kids, because the Weaver children’s father – he kept their gardens going there, and so every Saturday he brought vegetables along to the place, and he was very good to all us children.

So what was it like growing up in Hastings those days as a young girl?

I hated school. Yeah, ‘cause I’m quite dyslexic and I got belted every day.

Oh … well they didn’t understand, did they?

No, and every spelling word you made wrong … or your writing, ‘cause there was no such thing as … I was just dumb and stupid, so every mistake you made she belted you for. One of my sons is too, and he had a hard time at school.

Unless we were dyslexic ourselves, how do we know what it must be like?

Yeah. Well I never knew anything about it ‘til … it was Bev Romanes, ‘cause we’ve always been friends with Romanes … and she was telling me that one of their daughters … and she was explaining it. And I said “Well that’s how I was at school.” And she said “Well they’ve only just sort of given it a name”.

Maybe they didn’t know then?

No, I don’t think they did. I was actually thinking of Bev the other day.

They were a lovely couple.

Well they were, yes. Well we knew … when they first came to Hastings they lived in Duke Street, just up from us. ‘Cause my husband worked for them, and Harry was still at school then. And then when they got into a bit of difficulty, all the firms in Hastings here helped them out. And so we followed their lives and they followed ours. Very, very nice – the whole family were.

So then you left school?

When I left school – the day I turned fifteen I left … got all my papers and I said “I’m not going back”, although I had a nice teacher at the time, but up ‘til then I’d had some crookies[?] And I got a job … oh, I had some odd bits – my stepmother was helping out a friend – at Bell’s Bakery, and I worked there for nearly a year. And I met a chap, a friend of the family, and he was going to Auckland and he persuaded me to go up to Auckland with him and I had a year in Auckland. I worked at the Clipper tyre factory – thoroughly enjoyed it. And we had a very, very good marching team, and we went in the marching all the time. And I got a bit homesick and came home. [Chuckle] And that’s when I met Tobe. And then I went and worked at the Blue Moon for about four and a half years.

Was this when Tom McGavin had it?

Yes – Hazelwoods had it, ‘cause we saw the Blue Moon built, ‘cause Delaneys across the road built it. And the only ice cream they had when they first opened was a vanilla, an orange, and a blue one.

Yes well we used to supply the cream from our dairy farm in the winter time.

Yes. Well Hazelwoods were there when I went, and they were there for a while and then McGavins took over. Because they knew nothing about a shop or doing anything. ‘Cause I was more or less in charge of both the ice cream part and the grocery part, and you’d run from one to the other. And then they changed the wages, and you got more pay if you were working in the dairy part of the shop than you did in the grocery. So I was put into the groceries and had to stay there. His daughters were running the other part, but when it came to weekends and that he’d give his daughters a break, and I would have to work.

And so at what stage then, did you get married?

Well – what was it? ‘46 … Tobe came back from the war October ‘45, and we got engaged straight away. And then we had Christmas at home and that, and then he said, “We’ll get married straight away and go and start something”, so that’s what we did. His parents were living … top of Duart Road, and where Tanner Street meets – well they were in there. And their house was full, so we pitched a big Indian Army tent on the back lawn and we stayed nearly a year in that. In fact our eldest son was a month old before we got a State house. But I wasn’t allowed to have the baby in the tent, they said “You’re not going to take your baby home if you’re in a tent”, so we had to shift Tobe’s youngest brother out of which [what] would have been the maid’s room in the house, which was tiny.

So those days Toby was a painter and paperhanger?

No – well that’s when he came home and started at the Works, until … it must have been about March when it finished, and he joined up with Sam Wise and did his two-year apprenticeship. And so we were living on £5 a week. It’s not much. [Chuckle] Oh – you made do. And then when he finished his apprenticeship he went out with … chap, Charlie Ward. Charlie had worked for the Wises for years. He was a bit older and so they joined a partnership, and … yeah – we thought it was, but we were being done a bit. But never mind. And … must have been three years I think they were together. And then Tobe and I had talked – he said “Oh, when the end of the year … in the March … when we come to do our books”, he said “I’m going to pull out and go on my own.” But in the December we decided we would buy our State house. We’d saved £65 as a deposit, [speaking together] and our youngest daughter had arrived. He [Charlie Ward] was killed at the beginning of December [1951]. He’d gone down to the Woodville races and on the way back, they think he fell asleep at Te Mahanga, and he was killed.

What age was he then?

He must have been in his mid-thirties, and what did he have … five children. And she had been Trixie Lester from Havelock – one of the Leicesters.

That would’ve been one of Ted Lester’s …

Yes, she was one of the twins. And so we had to pay them out … buy, you know, their share, and keep us going as well. And he did terrific hours. And then when it settled down we extended on the house in Duke Street. We stayed there about ten years, and then he went looking for land. He said “Oh … we must have a bit of … get out of town. Hate all these houses all round me.” So we bought Ada Street down here, and it was an absolute dump that was on it. We patched it up and made do for nine years, ‘til we saved up enough to build the big house down there. And now the fourth generation’s living there.

Now that’s the big house back towards Louie Street, is it?

No – it’s right on the end, this side, where the trees … where all the sheep are.

You can never see that house because there was always hedges or trees around it.

Well they’ve chopped down the trees. ‘Cause Ted Miller lived opposite.  A Miller lived here, Walter, and then Alex lived round the corner, backed on to us. Oh, we cropped it and we put plum trees in; we had asparagus in there; and then youngest daughter came along and wanted horses, so we went into the ponies for a while, and the sheep. And now my daughter-in-law is spinning the wool now … knitting it up.

So does she live in the same house?

Well, they built a cottage – they were allowed to build a cottage at the back, ‘cause my son, when he was fifty … twelve years ago, nearly thirteen … Ross had a stroke right at Christmas time, and he has never worked since. But it’s his present memory is the one that’s affected, and his left side, but he’s out walking every day to keep fit. And he was determined he was not going to come out of hospital in a wheelchair. He worked on it, and we had our sixtieth wedding anniversary at the time and he was allowed out of hospital to come to it, so … And then we had our seventieth, six, seven months … eight months … no, ten months before Tobe died.

So he died here?

Mmm. Yes, he had a heart attack, and I got the ambulance and they took him to hospital and they more or less told us then. And he said, “Well, I’m going home”. And that was a week after we had that photo taken of the family.

I never knew your husband, I knew the other …

Geoff and Colin. Colin was a painter too.

And of course along the road from you were the Anderson triplets?

Yes, they were in … well, round that area. Well, ‘course Mary was a Hortop, and we belonged to the same club for a long time.

Your children – what do they all do these days?

Well Bruce, the eldest one, he’s seventy-one or something – he’s about two doors the other side of the creek here, in a flat there. And he comes over every day to see me. Comes over about three o’clock, puts the kettle on and we sit and have a cup of tea.

Is he married?

He was, and she had two children but she was a ‘gimme’ – she wanted everything. And – that was in Australia – and anyhow he came home, and he worked for truck stops until he hurt his back badly. So that’s where he is. Our second son is in Perth, he’s a builder. And of course Ross is the third one – he’s down the road here. And our daughter lives in Dufferin Street, that’s the one you met, Janice.

Well she lives not far from the old homestead.

That’s right. And Larry, our fourth son is a scientific … he’s got a big title … and he works in one of the mines. Anything that can be reinvented – one part there he was working with a group and all the waste – he invented it all so it went into a cooker and made the power, and he got quite a big citation for it. And that’s where he’s working now, out of … I hope they’re not in the flood … but he’s inland from Gladstone – he’s about a hundred k [kilometres] in. And then we’ve got a younger daughter that lives in Perth but her husband’s been [a] forestry officer, and she’s been a prison officer and secretary for twenty-eight years. She said she’s done more time than all the prisoners. [Chuckle] It was a big open prison in Perth.

And is your daughter like you?

Yes, I think the youngest one is. And her husband, he’s a real sweetie. They’ve got land, and they’re both into exotic fruits.

And so did Toby play bowls or golf or …?

He was into indoor bowls for St Columba’s for years and he really enjoyed that. But up ‘til then he never had time. Oh, and of course we had the skating – from the day they said they were having a skating rink here he was into that, and years and years of skating, and helped build it all. And then when we shifted here he was living at the skating rink just about. But all the kids skated. No, it was an interesting time to see it all built.

My Dad was a champion waltzer in Gisborne, and he said when you went in you were … ‘cause you never wore your street shoes, you always had your dancing shoes … and he said they would put chalk on your heel, or else glue a little bit of egg shell, and if they were cracked or marked you were out. You went on your toes, and he taught us – we were only seven, eight, nine, ten. Yeah, and he used to make us waltz round a chair. And then him [he] and my stepmother started taking us to the old Buffalo Hall in Warren Street, old time dancing. And then when war started we went out to Clive. Oh, that was a good hall.

But actually every little place, Haumoana, had a good hall.

Oh, Haumoana, yes. I was laying last night thinking, ‘there’s no halls left.’ The good old Assembly Hall.

Always had a Saturday night dance.

Saturday night – ‘cause there were Saturday night dances everywhere. I know when we were teenagers and anything went wrong during the week and that was our punishment – you don’t go out Saturday night, no dancing – oh dear!

Now, grandchildren and great grandchildren?

Yeah, our eldest is … Janice has got three, and then Graham’s got two, Larry’s got two, Ross has got three, Margaret’s got one – eleven of them. And then we’ve got eleven great grandchildren, and we’ve got two great-greats. They’re the twins there – they’re two and a half now, and they’re gorgeous.

So can you remember their birthdays?

Some of them.

And so have you travelled much around New Zealand?

Yes, we did the South Island three, four times, but we spent about a month each time and went down a different … Pretty well done all the south and, when the kids were small we used to go camping, and go all round the place. And then we’ve travelled overseas – to Perth about sixteen times. And we did it two or three times, ‘cause all the children shifted over there. So we’d fly to Adelaide or to Melbourne, and then we’d go on to Perth. And then we started going up round Australia. The only place we haven’t really been is Canberra. And then my daughter and I – be two years now … no, it’s eighteen months … we did a cruise. I flew to Perth and I had about three weeks in Perth with the family, and then her [she] and I boarded the Princesses, and we went up right around to Broome, Darwin and down [to] Cairns and Brisbane and home.

You wouldn’t want to be in Darwin today … crocodiles swimming in the streets!

Yeah – Townsville is shocking! I got my photos out we’d taken of Townsville, and we were up on that big hill, and we took them right round. And now when you see the photos … the water!

We’ve got a son that’s in the Police in Kalgoorlie …

Oh, yes. We’ve done three trips to Kalgoorlie.

I find it fascinating.

Yes, the first one we did we went over on the old Prospector. It was big – just Tobe and I, and it wasn’t so crowded and that then, and there was [were] no big pits, so we went underground. And we did the bus trips all round to Coolgardie and all round there. And then we went back, did another trip with my sister and we did all the casual trips all the way round. And then ten years ago we went over to a grandson’s wedding, and Bruce, my eldest son, he drove the car, and Tobe and I and we drove from Perth right round there and then back to Perth. Took about a week, ‘cause he used to be a traveller there to all the shops and he wanted to do another trip round, so we said, “Right – you drive, we’ll …”

Well, our youngest daughter and husband – they’ve got a house up at Port Dennison. The other side of the river is Dongara.

But even going down the coast towards Margaret River, there’s some lovely spots.

Oh yes, our granddaughter and husband, they live at Busselton. And he was a policeman there and he got badly knocked about – some youths took to him one night – and so he’s given it up and into something else now. Simon – they bought two hundred out from England twelve, thirteen years ago, and if they stayed for two years they were given permanent residence. And Simon’s one, he’s a heck of a nice boy, and he married our granddaughter. And anyhow, his Mum and Dad have come out to Australia to live now, and his sister, so he’s quite happy.

Have you any more trips left in you?

I don’t think so. I’ve done seven cruises. This time last year I did a cruise and I flew to Brisbane and our youngest son met us and he’s got a timeshare there, so we all sh… and my daughter and son-in-law, and son and daughter-in-law, they all came over from Perth so the five of us, we did a cruise round New Zealand. And then I got off at Auckland and they went on to Brisbane. This time last year I was in Brisbane, but I always got airport assistance in the last two years. And last year when I went over I upgraded myself and that was wonderful. All the pampering! But I said to somebody the other day … I’m starting to get aches and pains all over the place now, so …

Well you know, three score and twenty-four is a fair …

It’s a fair innings. And to be able to walk around, and …

These [homes] are quite pleasant here, aren’t they? Private.

Yeah. [Knock on door, visitor entering]

We’ve just completed it, so I can actually turn that off.

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Interviewer:  Frank Cooper

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