Iris (Nancy) Eunice Tuck Interview
This is an interview with Nancy Tuck on the 16th June 2018. Good morning, Nancy.
I also need to identify that Sher’s on the side here. Nancy, could you please give me your full name?
My name is Iris Eunice Tuck, nee Stewart, but I’m known as Nancy, and I am ninety-one-and-a-bit years old, and I was born on the 10th of the ninth 1926 in Napier. And my parents were living at Tutira at that time.
What’s your father’s name and mother’s name?
My father’s name was Arnold William Ernest Stewart, and my mother was Maude – she was a Le Geyt before she married Dad.
And date of birth?
Mum’s was the 12th of August, but I don’t know what year. She died at ninety and there was forty years between us so … work it out. [Chuckle]
About 1880 or something?
Born 18-something. Grey’s got all that.
Sherrin: Didn’t bring it with me.
Grey is Nancy’s son, and his name might pop up further on in the interview as well. What about your father … where was he born?
Dad was born on the 2nd of October, and he was four years older than Mum so … I don’t know. Once again Grey’s got all that information – he’s got the family Bible.
What was your father’s occupation?
Well he was a bit of everything actually, but he was mainly a storekeeper. He started in Westshore with a billiard saloon, and then as the railway went up … as it [was] built … he decided to go in the transport business of taking stores up to the camps as the railway was built. And he went from … as the railway went up he went as far as Tutira, and then when that moved on he went to Kotemaori, and had a store at Tutira and a store at Kotemaori. And then he went on to Raupunga when the viaduct was being built, and he just said “no”, he’s not going to go any further, so we stayed there. And that was quite an experience, to see the viaduct being built, ‘cause I was at a school. The first school I went to was just across the road from my Dad’s and so I could come home at playtime and everything. But then we went into the Raupunga … one year it was a Maori school, another year they called it a Native school, but then they went back to a Maori school. So though we didn’t speak any Maori we learnt all their customs. I can do the poi, I can make my own pois, my own headbands, flax baskets – we were taught all that in school by Maoris, so you know, it was ridiculous that they didn’t speak Maori. And I was the only white child at the school, once my brother left. He was there but he would have left two years … he’s two years older than me, so when he left I was the only white kid there. ‘Cause they were all bussed in from you know, up Putere and all round the place – they came by bus. So I was left on my own mainly.
Did your mother have an occupation?
Not that I know – no, she was just a housewife – just Mum.
What about your grandparents?
All I know is that Dad’s father was born in Greenwich, England, but I don’t know when. I didn’t know any of my grandparents because they were all dead before I was born. But I’ve seen photos of the Le Geyt side of the family and also the Stewarts, but I didn’t know them. My parents never spoke of them.
And what about brothers and sisters?
I had three brothers and two sisters. The eldest one was twenty years older than me, and then I was the youngest of the lot, and we sort of came down the line a bit.
And what were their names?
The eldest one was Myra – she married a Lucas. And then there was Edgar – he married the girl Reid from Begley’s Fill. And then there was Dolly – Doris her name was, but always known as Dolly – she married Roy Skittrup in Hastings, and Johnny married Dot Reid who was also from Begley’s Fill. And Trevor married Rhonda Clark who was from Tuai. And then I married Neville from here … Napier.
You didn’t hear stories about your grandparents from your parents?
No, my parents never spoke of them. And funnily enough Trevor knew them but he never ever spoke of grandparents – none of them. The only thing I do remember, my sister Myra saying that Grandma Stewart was an old battleaxe, but her husband was a lovely old man. But other than that I don’t …
Sherrin: Grandma’s parents came from Jersey.
Nancy: Oh, my mother’s parents came from Jersey. Yeah. I didn’t know that.
You say you were born here in Napier, did you ..?
At McHardy Home. But … well, we lived at Tutira so I have no recollection of Napier in the old days. And then as I say, we’d gone to Raupunga by the time of the earthquake, I remember that. But other than that no, we just went with the line.
What sort of houses were you living in?
Well, they were all … the one in Raupunga was a nice one. Dad had a new … the first one was old, and outside toilet and all that sort of thing, but then he built a new one and we got onto the main highway, so that was a very modern home.
That time in the world, what sort of food were you eating?
Just the normal. During the war and the rationing we were very lucky ‘cause being a shop, everybody brought their coupons in and we bartered with people, you know – if somebody had too much sugar they might want butter, and they just worked it and it was like a food bank actually.
But he had a general store in Raupunga where he had the Post Office one end and the shop the other. And I was sworn in in the Post Office to service the Post Office, so that was quite good. But we had the old phones where you plug them in – no dials or anything like that. And on pension day … used to get the money on pension, and most of our customers were Maoris and they’d come over on the Wairoa bus and be there early. So on pension day we always had to be up and have the shop open early, and they’d go to one counter and get their money and come and pay their bill on the next, and book it all up again. As the Maoris used to say “put it on the numa”
Put it on the ..?
Numa. Yeah, on the bill.
Oh, I hadn’t heard that term. What sort of clothes did you wear as you grew up?
Well, just ordinary clothes, but my mother was a great knitter and crocheter, but she used to knit me long black stockings. And when I was at Raupunga School I had to wear these damn long black stockings, and they were terrible.
Sherrin: They were itchy.
Nancy: Yeah, but no – had to keep warm. But just clothes with the times. Nothing startling.
What about games as a kid, what sort of?
As a kid at primary school I played just basketball – that’s all they had, well which is now netball. After school I used to go for … as there was no other kids to play with I used to go for bike rides, and pick blackberries or get some stones and play knucklebones … and amuse myself.
What about family activities … what sort of things did your family celebrate? Christmas?
Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries really. Yeah, that’s about all. We used to play cards a lot, I know that. I remember that.
What sort of Christmas Day did you used to have back in those days? Can you remember those?
No, not really. It was just … well, it was a treat to get a chicken in those days ’cause you didn’t have chicken. But we didn’t have the ham and the pork and all that. We just had normal, which was chicken and all the veges that went with it, and trifle and salad. ‘Cause we had plenty of milk – Mum had cows. They used to milk those every morning and night and we used to separate the milk and send some milk into the factory. And we always had cream on hand, so it was good.
Did you make your own butter?
Yep. Yeah, we did have to churn it and Mum used to apply the salt to it. Even now I quite often, if I’ve got sour cream, will make butter. And it’s so simple to make, just time consuming.
Sherrin: And there were the big metal canisters that the milk went into.
Nancy: Yeah. Yeah. And it used to go to the factory. But then later on in years, Dad – there was no electricity up there, so Dad put his own engine in … motor in … and we had … lovely, we used to have ice cream. And when the Skittrup family came they were spoilt – they were given all the treats … [chuckle] ice cream and all sorts. Mum would say “hello, here’s the favourite coming”. [Chuckle]
What was discipline like in your childhood?
Very strict. At the table we were not allowed to speak. We sat there and whatever was put in front of us we had to eat, and before we left the table we had to get excused … ask permission to leave the table. They were very, very strict in that.
What about alcohol and smoking – were they part of your life?
At that stage we didn’t have alcohol. Dad smoked occasionally, but in latter years he smoked nothing but cigars and he was a very heavy smoker. And he lived ’til he was ninety-five, so it didn’t hurt him. [Chuckle] And when I was at … I was sent from Raupunga to boarding school … and there it was rude awakening to me, ’cause I had to eat what was there and if you didn’t eat it that day you got it for breakfast the next morning. And you were never allowed to ask anybody to pass you anything. The girl on your right had to look after you and say ‘would you like some salt, or would you like this’ and they were very strict there too.
The school you went to was the Raupunga School?
I went to Mangaturanga School first, which was just one big room – we all had the one room – and our teacher in those days … I remember that was Mr Gordon. And then after that they built the Raupunga, so I went up there. Trevor and I went there.
Where was the other school you just mentioned?
Mangaturanga? It was – where Raupunga is now, it’s off the road. You go down a side street and the shop was … like in one paddock, and across the road was the school. So it was nice and handy – didn’t have to get up early.
So you walked to school?
Sherrin: So you had to cross the railway lines?
Nancy: No. To get to it? Yeah. Well then – see the main road wasn’t in then – you had to go down that way.
And you did all the way through to Standard 6?
I did Standard 6 at school, and the teacher there was Mr Wills. We learnt more about the Maoris at that school, but not about local history, you know – normal New Zealand history. When I came to boarding school we had to fill in the stations from Napier to Wellington, and I couldn’t go past Hastings. I didn’t know, I’d never been down there, never heard of anything like that. So that was a rude awakening to me, but in mentioning it … the first year I was at school I got the Noreen Wetherer prize for diligence. [Chuckle] Yeah, and my mother wasn’t there to see it. I got the surprise of my life.
And you say boarding school, was that Napier Girls’ High School?
Yeah, Napier Girls’ High.
How long were you there?
I went through to the fifth form – third, fourth, fifth – three years. I would have been there three and a bit. And I went from there … while I was there I was allowed to go over to the hospital ‘cause I was always interested in nursing. So I went over there and then I went straight from high school to nursing.
What subjects did you take at high school?
Well, I took a professional course to start with … I took Latin and French. And the teacher I disliked most was Miss Gallagher, who was out Latin teacher – she was terrible. Our French teacher I liked because all she was interested in was if we had brothers, so she was looking for a guy I guess. But … didn’t have to worry about her. I didn’t enjoy the school but I enjoyed the boarding after the first year. So that was that – made lots of friends.
Do you keep in touch with any of those over your life?
Well … not now, I think they’ve all gone. That’s the worst of getting old, all your friends disappear.
Did you keep in touch with any of them?
Oh yeah, I did – quite a few of them. ‘Cause a lot of the girls there were over from Wairoa, or down Porangahau and Waipawa and Waipuk [Waipukurau] girls so it was easy to keep in touch.
You mentioned the discipline in the dining room … what was the discipline like at school – did you get the strap or anything?
No, never had the strap. Mr Wills used to – if you did something wrong he’d throw chalk at you, so you dodged that. But I didn’t have any trouble with school at all. The only ones … I used to fight my brother’s battles for him because I was a tomboy. We used to have to walk quite a way to go to school round the road, then we decided we’d cut through the paddocks and the kids used to pick on my brother and he wouldn’t fight, so I’d fight for him. And they’d go round the other way rather than come where I was. I was a bully. [Chuckle]
What sort of games were you playing at Girls’ High?
We played – those days at primary school was just rounders and what is known as netball now. But at the Girls’ High I played tug-o-war, relay, basketball and tennis. ‘Cause it was basketball, not netball, then. And while I was boarding there was two of us – Una Anis from Waipawa – she and I were picked to represent Hawke’s Bay in basketball, so that was a good thing, we were allowed to go out by ourselves down to school.
And every Sunday was very strict at school. We used to get up in the morning and have scripture. Then we’d get ready and there’d be an inspection on our clothing and our gloves and everything, and given our money to put in the box. And we’d march down Shakespeare Road, in crocodile fashion, and go to Church, and then come back up. And then we’d have our meal, and then we were allowed to go wherever we liked in the grounds, but we weren’t allowed to play any sport or do any knitting or sewing. We were allowed to read a book or just sit and talk. And then at night after tea – and every Sunday night we got a piece of cake – and after tea we had scripture again and then back to bed.
Did you listen to the radio at any time?
When I was married I did, but up until then I didn’t.
You mentioned before, after your schooling you went off to become a nurse.
Tell me something about your nursing – how did that go?
Well, they were pretty tough. If you wanted to go out late you had to get permission from them and then sign in when you came in. And I lived in the Nurses’ Home and they were very strict on us. And we had to go from the Nurses’ Home over to the hospital for all our meals if we wanted anything, and if we were working on the wards we just had time off to go and have meals. Everybody wanted to go to men’s Midgley ward … I think it was Midgley … because that’s where you … first thing you’d look at, ’cause we were all young then, and we looked to see who’d come in and whether they were married, or how old … whether they were [chuckle] prospective boyfriends.
We had a lot of Yanks in. During the war they came in. They used to like beer and raspberry … that’s what they used to drink mostly. But other than that, just nursing – it was a lot harder then than it is now, ’cause we didn’t have any of these pull curtains – we had to carry big stands around and the Matron was Miss Croft, and she was a tartar. She used to come in and speak to you, and you might be in the men’s ward and you’d be holding two or three bottles and you had to stand to attention and put it behind your back. Nine times out of ten you’d spill them, and she’d just look at you down her nose. And then if your hair was too long she made an appointment with your hairdresser and you had to go and have your hair cut. You weren’t allowed any jewellery, nail file or make up of any description, so it was pretty strict there.
And when you started nursing, what year was that?
Well I don’t know, I think I started when I was about seventeen. And it was ’43 ’cause I was working there when all the soldiers were coming back. A lot of them had TB and we had the wards down there for that. Yeah.
And how long were you nursing?
I got through to my finals and then I had to have a thyroid operation so that was it. I stopped. I didn’t go back. ‘Cause when I started there was only four of us started at the one time, so instead of going into school as you usually do up there, we had to go into the wards. And then when the next group came in we had to come out of the wards, and learn what we’d been doing in the wards, so to me it was a bit stupid. And my brother actually married one of my friends who was a nurse. She was up there. Yeah.
What sort of contact did you have with your parents at that stage?
At high school we had to write to them once a week, and if you wanted to write in the midweek you had to get permission. And at the nursing I used to ring them, and I used to go home every day on my days off. I used to – if I was on night duty which was coming off at half past nine, I’d get permission from the girl in charge and I’d take my clothes over. I’d catch a taxi at nine o’clock … catch the railcar, and I’d go up. And they got to know me – they used to let me off at the crossing so I just had to walk across the road. And then I’d have the next day so I used to go in the shop, and anything I wanted like toothpaste [and] that, I’d just help myself. So my wages were just for me, but they weren’t very high in those days either. Yeah.
Did you contribute any of your wages back to the family?
No, they didn’t need it – they contributed to me. [Chuckle] I used to be able to go the warehouse and just say who I was, and buy what I wanted from the warehouse so that was quite handy.
Sherrin: Which was the warehouse?
Nancy: Oh there was Ross & Glendinning’s, I can’t remember the other one. There were two in Napier.
Sherrin: Were you socialising while you were ..?
Nancy: Nursing? Oh yeah.
Sherrin: What were you doing?
Nancy: Well I was in the basketball team, and while I was playing there, Mercy Nelson – she came over and watched me one day and asked me if I’d play indoor for Swifts. So I did. And I stayed with them right through until Ann was born.
What did you do in your spare time if you had any, nursing?
At nursing? I mostly read, or just sat in the lounge and talked to the other girls.
No youth clubs or other clubs?
Did you go on any bike rides?
No. Oh when I was married I used to bike from the Port over to Westshore to see my aunt. I went with my sister because we gambled, we played cards.
So what did you call a good night out back in those days?
Went to the pictures with your boyfriend, and you went in afterwards to the cafeteria and hot toast and soup. That was good. Then they’d walk me back to the hospital.
Did you have a group that you stuck with at that stage … group of girls that you grew up with?
The only group that I really stuck with all along was Tigers basketball group. Although I didn’t play for them they had a big club, and I just went along and helped them at the cafeteria and that at Easter. They had a big Easter tournament here every year of basketball, and I’d be in the kitchen with Ann and everybody else. And the St Pat’s team used to come up every year and they would put their order in the night before for what they wanted for breakfast. And all my gear went from here to the hall – that’s the Centennial Hall. So that was really a nice time.
How did you meet your partner?
Playing basketball. Actually it was quite funny, ‘cause I was going with this one guy and my Mum and Dad didn’t like him, so they got Neville and asked him to break it up. And then they weren’t very happy when I married him. [Chuckle] He wasn’t good enough. Yeah. So that’s how I met him.
And did your parents finally approve?
They had to, ‘cause I married him and had two kids to him, so they had to, and they thought the world of both the kids.
Now where did you get married?
We were staying at the Gisborne jail ‘cause Neville’s father was the warden there, and we got married in the Gisborne church … Presbyterian Church.
So you lived up in Gisborne?
No. We just went there for the marriage, and after the ceremony we went back to the prison and all the prisoners joined in, because when they were prisoners in there they were like family. And the doors were so thick, you’d push it and it would move about you know, an inch or so. But they did all the housework and that.
And then we came back and we got a house down Hardinge Road. It’s not there any more, it’s gone. Can’t think of his name … well known Napier guy that owned the house, and it was a one bedroom and we had to …
Sherrin: Stayed there with you.
Nancy: Yeah. Then from there we got a State house, and then from there we built.
Where was your State house?
Well the first one was in Nuffield Avenue, and there was only one bedroom, ‘cause I had Grey. And then when we were having Ann we wanted a bigger house so we went to Barker Road. And we were 55, and then when Ann arrived – that was only a two bedroom, so we got a three-bedroom two doors down at 61 Barker Road. So we stayed there, and we built here. So we moved in here in 1969.
Did you go on a honeymoon after your marriage?
Oh just a couple of days, that’s all.
And that was local?
Yeah. Napier … we came from Gisborne to Napier.
Some of the housekeeping that might have gone on there – how did you manage your housekeeping, pay the bills and … who was the boss?
While the kids were growing up I was always home for them. So Neville was Manager of Newman’s Travel, and he used to give me wages. He paid all the bills but I used to have housekeeping money. And every now and again I’d say to him “well, you know, you haven’t given it to me”, so I’d get two in one week. But he found out about that so stopped it. [Chuckle] So then I got a job. I started working for the Napier Senior Cits [Citizens] – they asked me if I would, and I started there when I was only about forty and I stayed there until I was sixty and made Manageress. And in those days we had a thousand members, but now they are down to about a hundred, I believe.
Neville, your husband, was Manager of Newmans – what did that involve?
Well he had to oversee all the buses coming in and out and he had a staff and he was responsible for all the offices from Napier to Wanganui and Wellington … all those stations all the way down, he had to watch and make sure that everything was going right there, and organise the bus to go out at four o’clock that … wanted to go down to the Wellington races. So he’d be on deck for that. Yeah.
Where were they located in Napier?
They were in Dickens Street to start with, where the mall is now, and then they built where Countdown … and they went there. But before they went there Nicholson’s Undertakers was in that site and then they moved out and Newman’s took over. And then they sold, and they folded in Napier. So the Countdown was Newman’s.
Did you do much travelling on the bus?
I did, with the Senior Cits, we used to go on big two-week tours all over. I’ve been all over the North and South Island, even down Stewart Island, with the Senior Cits. I used to take them over there and organise them all. It was you know in those days it was about a forty-seater and you’d have forty senior citizens on board. We had a lot of fun, it was good.
What are some of the trips you’ve been on then?
With the Senior Cits I’ve been down … right down the South Island, down one side and up the other, and same with the North Island. And we’ve been over to Australia a couple of times – flew into Sydney, and then went down to Brisbane then back up to Melbourne, and then home. So we travelled extensively, and with Neville being in Newman’s we were lucky we got a very cheap bus and we always worked it out. I used to do the arranging, and the driver and myself used to get free travel and free meals – that was part of the bargain of going there. We’ve been over to Waiheke Island and all, so with the Senior Cits, but now they don’t travel at all.
Did you drive the bus too?
No. I drove a car. When we were in Barker Road I learnt to drive … had Dad’s car, so it was all right.
And you had two children, Grey and Ann?
Grey and Ann, yeah.
And they live in Napier now?
No, Grey is in Wairarapa at Greytown, and Ann is in Melbourne. And Grey’s got three children – two are lawyers and one … I don’t know what he is but he’s got his degree. And Ann’s got two, she’s got a boy and a girl. One’s got a child – Samantha’s the eldest, she’s got a child – and then Jason has got a job finding jobs for people.
I used to go over there with Neville when he had his stroke. He had a stroke at fifty-nine, and we used to go over there every year for two months to get him you know, active and that. And that was quite good … then at the end he couldn’t move. He was badly paralysed all down one side and couldn’t talk. So he was like that for seventeen years.
When you were bringing your kids up, was it a joint effort or did you both do your bits?
Oh yeah. Well, every Sunday was family day. We had … just the four of us sat down – we played cards, euchre or something like that, you know, but we always did something together. And every Friday, as they reminded me the other day, we used to go to the five o’clock picture theatre. And we had the same seats every week because then Neville knew exactly where to come when he knocked off work at five. He’d come and sit down there. Then we’d go and have fish and chips and sit on the beach and eat it, if it was fine.
Which picture theatre was your favourite?
We used to go to the State or the Odeon.
Not the Gaiety?
The Gaiety … yeah, there was a Gaiety. The Odeon was on Hastings Street, the Gaiety was in Dickens, wasn’t it? And the State was Dickens. Yeah, those two.
And the Mayfair was in Emerson Street.
Bringing up your kids – did you need to talk to your own mother about some of the skills that you needed?
No not really. We used to visit Mum … I used to visit Mum about three times a week and then later on every day as she got older. And the kids always went at least twice a week to see them.
So they moved from Raupunga to Napier?
And when did your parents die?
Well, Mum died … Myra was seventy, I was fifty, so forty-two years ago my Mum died.
Sherrin: Grandfather died in ’79 …
Nancy: Was it?
Sherrin: … and Grandma I think died the year before.
Nancy: I thought she died … I know she died when I was 50.
Sherrin: Mmm. Might have been – it was either the year before or two years before.
Nancy: It’d be about two years before.
Sherrin: But grandfather was 1979.
In your nursing career it was the time of the war – were your parents involved in the war in any way? World War II.
No. They only thing is they had the shop, and they used the bank for the coupons. And once a week they used to take a truck up to Putere and deliver bread and tea, and there were groceries and the paper … they’d have papers and they had it all in one go, in a week. It was nothing … I used to go up there well, for a ride when it was school holidays, and nothing to see a deer on the side of the road. I t was quite fascinating really. And go … all the stations – there was Hornes, and there’s two Lakes up the Putere Road and … it was nice.
What about the Depression – were your family involved in the Depression or affected by it?
No. Though Dad would have been at Westshore and that, I would think.
Sherrin: He was building bridges also, do you remember?
Nancy: In Waitara?
Sherrin: That’s where Mum was born, in Waitara. He also helped to build the Grafton Bridge in Auckland.
Nancy: Yeah. And he did the lighthouses out at …
Sherrin: The Beacons.
Nancy: Yeah, the Beacons.
Sherrin: In Napier.
This is your father?
Nancy: Yeah. He was very handy with his hands. He did marvellous carvings, and he had a round table, it was absolutely beautiful. He gave it to my brother. He used to … in the later years he gave everything away two or three times, you know, so my brother got it but what happened to it I don’t know. But he used to build his own sheep crates, and then he went into shingle and he had that and he gave that to all the kids. It was good.
Sherrin: He had a trucking business didn’t he? And so did his father.
What was the trucking business called?
Just A W Stewart. He had about four or five trucks.
What else can we talk about?
Well, we never ever went to Wairoa until I went to high school, and I caught the train there. When I was coming home during the war and coming home from school, we could only go as far as Kotemaori, ’cause you were only allowed to travel so many miles, and then they had to come down and pick me up and then we’d go home that way. But Dad used to always come down to Napier to do all his shopping. And it would take us … what, now it takes us an hour and a half … and it would take us about four hours. And you’d go over the Elbow, and there’s all these fords you had to go over. It was a frightening place to drive in.
Sherrin: Did you learn to cook at Raupunga, ‘cause Grandma had the big coal range?
Nancy: No, I didn’t.
Sherrin: Did you learn to cook on that?
Nancy: I was the only child at home I didn’t do … I only made my bed and set the table. I wasn’t allowed to do anything. I had to learn the hard way when I got married.
Sherrin: Was there home help?
Nancy: Oh yeah, Mum had somebody in, ’cause she served in the shop as well you see. Yeah, so that’s good.
Second voice: ‘Cause there was the door from the passageway into the shop.
Nancy: Yeah. And they had their own gas place to cook, and they actually had them open as Sher said, the …
Sherrin: Coal range.
Nancy: Yeah. And she used to do some beautiful baking. She was a marvellous baker.
Sherrin: And the water pump in the outer area from the kitchen … there was a water pump.
Nancy: No, don’t remember that.
Sherrin: For the cold water.
Nancy: I don’t remember that. I know that he put an engine in and we had electricity and everything, so that was good.
Recently you had a car trip up that way?
Yeah, I went up there ‘bout three weeks ago. The house is … oh, it’s terrible. ‘Cause my father had a marvellous garden. He put in a tennis court so we used to have tennis tournaments, and he had every fruit tree imagine … well, you could think of growing, and he really looked after it. We went up this time and it’s a disgrace, ’cause it was a lovely home.
Sherrin: There was the covered garden for all the soft fruits, all covered with netting.
Nancy: Yeah. And he had the first lot of kiwifruit – it was Chinese gooseberries in those days.
Sherrin: That was huge when I was a child.
Nancy: Yeah, all down one trellis and he picked them all and sent them to Wellington to market. Yeah. But he used to have the shop, and on picture night the kids used to come and raid his garden and he caught them one day and they were his grandchildren. [Chuckle]
Second voice: Tell us about the picture theatre.
Nancy: Oh that. We used to have pictures once a week and the buses would come down … Ansett’s Buses they were … and they’d come down, bring the people from up the Putere Road and then go over Mohaka and bring them. And then you’d sit in these stalls and think … nothing to [for] them to come in, and you’d see the Maori kids – pie in one hand, a fizzy drink in the other, and they’d be going flat out, you know. And at half time I’d have to tear back home to help Dad serve, ’cause they’d all go to the shop ’cause there was no other shop around. And then the picture would break down and there’d be all howls and what not … no, it was quite good.
Second voice: It was a hall wasn’t it?
Nancy: Yeah, it was a big hall.
Second voice: With forms to sit on.
Nancy: Yeah, with forms, yeah.
And that was located across the road from the shop?
Just down the road, just … there was the shop and then there was … Pittars lived next door, and then it was their hall … it was right there, so it was within cooee. Yeah, it was a big thing.
The tennis tournaments were big, ’cause we used to go down to Kotemaori, drive down there with a team, and then we’d have all of them come into Dad’s place and play. But now it’s just – you know it’s just a mess.
Second voice: ‘Cause there was a beautiful tennis court …
Nancy: It was.
Second voice: … at home.
Nancy: Yeah. So I learnt all my sports there.
Sherrin: Did you used to go hunting with grandfather?
Nancy: No, I was never allowed. Dolly did.
Sherrin: Mum did, yes.
Nancy: Yeah. He used to go out pheasant shooting and that, and whenever he could he brought back a quail, and Trevor and I always got a quail each for our meal. Mum would stuff it and cook it, and that was ours. But he used to get ducks and pheasants and that. And funnily enough going up to Tutira … on the way to Tutira this time, there were two pheasants on the side of the road, which I haven’t seen for ages.
When we visited the last time I was here, we were talking about the telephone exchange ’cause that was part of the Post Office too, wasn’t it?
Yeah. And if … somebody in Waihua used to always be ringing another station at night, so he’d ring and say could he book in for a night call. So it meant I had to go … Dad wouldn’t do it … so I had to go in and say “yeah”. And we got two shillings – that’s what we got for opening up, and you’d have to plug into him then use the plugs, you know, to the thing. And they’d connect, and he’d talk for about an hour and you had to sit there and wait for him – for two shillings. I think now ‘I wonder who got those two shillings?’ ‘Cause I never got them. [Chuckle] Must have gone on his bill.
And that was at Raupunga … what about Kotemaori and Tutira – did they have telephone exchanges?
Well, presume he did – I don’t know, I was too young. I was only – what, four when I left Tutira, ‘cause I was just four in the earthquake.
I can’t actually remember the earthquake, but I can remember Mum carrying me through the shop, and there was glasses, broken jars of jam and scone syrup all over the floor – it was a hell of a mess. And she took me through there. And then Dad was down the cutting, ’cause he had shingle works, and to get home he had to hold onto the fence … and that was swaying around … to get up there to get home. And my brother, Edgar, was in the Kotemaori shop, and Trevor was at school there … at Kotemaori School. And the earthquake came, so they drove so far and then had to go over a slip … leave the truck, go over the slip, and the truck this side met them and brought them home.
And I can remember going down with the school and seeing the span they put on the viaduct. And we used to think nothing of walking across that viaduct.
And then we had the Rabbit Bridge which was down the bottom and at night it was closed, and you drove – you had to open it and then close it – to stop the rabbits from coming over from one side to the other. But they came across the viaduct, so it was a bit … [Chuckle]
Second voice: ‘Cause you had to pull the rope when you got near to the closed end.
Nancy: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah – it was a damn nuisance. And that was over the Mohaka River.
Sherrin: Did you have pets?
Sherrin: Did grandfather have dogs?
Nancy: Oh yeah – well he had … for his shooting and that. Had setters. But I never had a pet. I don’t think Trevor had a pet either.
Sherrin: And Uncle John was caught in the earthquake, wasn’t he – at school in Napier?
Nancy: Yeah, he was first day at the Napier Tech, and he was on the second floor and they were told to jump. And he jumped, and the corrugated iron landed on top, and then the bricks, and his whole body was pitted. And he would never go without a singlet because he was ashamed of his body, you know. But that was his first day. Then Mum and Dad … there was lost communication, and couldn’t find out where he was or what had happened to him, but my Aunt had got him and taken him home. So everything worked out well.
Now, can we think of anything else?
Sherrin: I’m just madly trying to think.
Nancy: When I was younger, Mum wanted me out of Raupunga because there was nobody there for me, so she sent me down to stay with Sherrin’s mother ’cause she didn’t have any kids at that stage. So I stayed with her for a while and then I got homesick … went to Parkvale School … got homesick and I came home. And the first day at Girls’ High when I was boarding I got so upset that I walked out of the hostel down to Myra [chuckle] … down Shakespeare Road to Myra who lived in Battery Road, and she made me go back. So I was stuck there.
Were the trams still running? No, they wouldn’t be, no.
No, they weren’t running while I was there. Though Neville’s father was a trammie, and then he went from there to a policeman. He was the first policeman on horseback up Ruatoria, and the stories he told there was terrible. People used to come to the pictures, and they’d ride their horses right into the pictures into the hall. And he was a very strict man, and he had wire fence all the way round because he was threatened quite often. But he was a burly big guy.
What was his name?
Norman Henry Tuck. He and his wife, Dolly – they were very musical, they could pick up any instrument at all and play it. They had their own band. They were in Wairoa – Neville was born in Wairoa. And he could pick out any tune. We had a big organ, and he’d sit down and pick out a tune. It was quite interesting. But me – I can’t sing even in tune.
Sherrin: That’s where I get it from. [Chuckle]
So we’re not going to get a song?
Nancy: [Chuckle] I’m hopeless. When we had classes at school singing, I’d just mouth the words. Just thank God she never asked me to sing.
Sherrin: And when Grandma’s parents came out from Jersey, they settled at the Western Spit.
Nancy: Yeah, it was known as the Western Spit. It was where the whaling station was and all.
Sherrin: He was a fisherman?
Nancy: Yeah – Mum and Dad lived there for ages.
Sherrin: That’s right, there was a big meat works there.
Nancy: Yeah, that’s down the Spit, but I don’t remember that … I didn’t even see it. That’s about all.
Okay – we shall call it quits. I mean … been going nearly an hour.
Been going a long time.
Original digital file
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Interviewer: Michael Bull
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