Jennifer Anne Wicken Interview

Today is the 24 September, 2015.  I’m interviewing Jennifer Wicken, nee Lowe, about the life and times of her family in Pakowhai, and then later on her married life.

Well I come from a family of eight children. My parents were Arthur Lowe who was born in Stanley, England, and Annie Lowe was born in Derbyshire in England.  Dad emigrated to Australia with his parents and celebrated his 6th birthday on the day of their arrival. While a young man he swagged around Australia before joining his father as a market gardener in Brisbane.

In 1904 he came to New Zealand where he worked as a sharemilker on a Taranaki farm before taking a new job as a coach driver and groom in [a] Palmerston North stable.  At the outbreak of the first war he returned to Australia and joined the Army. He fought at Messines in France.  Dad was wounded twice while fighting in the trenches, and returned to Australia to sell the Market Garden business he and his father had run.

Dad met Mum during a brief visit to England in 1918. They were married in Palmerston North in December 1920. The first two children, Dorothy and Bill, were born in Wellington, and then they ran a greengrocer’s in the suburb of Kilbirnie. In 1923 they arrived to Pakowhai where Dad resumed his chief love, market gardening. Dad maintained an active interest in gardening, cultivating a huge a part of his Pakowhai property as a vegetable garden. And after that there was [were] another six children [chuckle] born, all in Hastings.  [Chuckle]  There’s Bob, Marjorie, Daphne, Hazel, myself Jennifer and Patricia.

So what was it like growing up in Pakowhai?  As a young girl you didn’t have far to go to school did you?  It was just down the road.

Well we walked a mile to school and a mile back every day.  No, we had a happy childhood.

How big was the school?

Just [a] two roomed school. The Primers were all in one room and the Standards in the other which went right through to …

Standard 6.

No, we enjoyed ourselves if we went anywhere.  We – you know, always went to the neighbours and all joined in together.

Yes, the community really centred a lot on the Church, the hall and I guess the school – that was the centre of what happened there, wasn’t it?

Yes it was. Yes.  The Minister came from All Saints Church in Taradale to take a service – I think it was every two weeks and we had hot cocoa in the winter at playtimes, and otherwise we had little bottles of milk supplied.

Yes – I always remember the bottles of milk that were sitting out in the sun.

Yes, that’s right – all warm.  [Chuckle]

Cardboard caps in them, [chuckle] and the cocoa. We used to have cocoa at Havelock Primary School too.

But we were never bored when we were young. All the boys and everybody else played cricket, just friendly matches. We went eeling down at the creek, and mushrooming over at Chesterhope … used to go out there early in the morning doing mushrooming in their paddocks, and blackberry picking along the river bank which Mum made into jam and pies.

And of course the river would have been giving you swimming?

Yes – we used to go [to] picnics down at the river. And then the floods, before the new Chesterhope bridge was built, the water used to come over the road there in the dip.  And we used to spend hours [chuckle] down there watching cars get stuck because they didn’t know the flood was … get in the water and they couldn’t get out again. On the Hastings side of the dip I remember one year there was a big hole burrowed out, you know – with the flood waters and some car decided that they would try and get through it and ended up in the hole.  So that was the end of that.

‘Cause those days before all the banks were put up, the floods used to go right to Tomoana Works nearly – all those flats right to Pakowhai Road, to Pernel Orchard – that was all under water, wasn’t it? 

Yes.

Did Pakowhai flood too?

Yes, we used to walk through the flood water. It used to come right around our house at Pakowhai. Once – well, I can’t remember – it came inside.

‘Cause that was quite high off the ground wasn’t it?

Oh yes. We were surrounded by water and to go to high school we had to walk through the flood waters to catch the bus, to go to high school, and the bus had to go all the way around Fernhill to get to Hastings, which made us late for school, which we liked.  [Chuckle]

And there’d be no dodging school.

No, we weren’t allowed to stay home – no way.  No.

I always remember my mother, if we were ever not feeling well, she had a big blue bottle full of castor oil and a big tablespoon and she only had to bring that out and the recovery was instant.

[Chuckle]  Yes, we used to have that, and Lane’s Emulsion we had to have.

Yes – Clements tonic, [chuckle] and you name it.  Did you play any sport at primary school?

Oh, yes – we used to play basketball, which is now netball, cricket.  We used to have swimming in the swimming pool at the school.  Pakowhai Swimming Sports.

School picnic, away somewhere?

Yes – we often went to Windsor Park on a picnic, you know, and had lunch. Went in the canoes down the stream.

So then once you left primary school did you go to Hastings?

Yes, I went to Hastings High School which is now Hastings Boys.

And what did you do there – did you take any special course?

I was just in an ordinary general course. I went there in 1950 and I left halfway through 1952. The first year I was in a mixed class ’cause it was boys and girls, and quite a few of them, they really you know – got high up jobs. Selwyn Cushing was one of them …

Was he?

… and I was in the same class.  [Chuckle]  Peter Bannister of course. He’s our [?] man.  We had a lot of fun.

So when you left high school where did you go to work?

Well I worked at Hawke’s Bay Farmers in the China Department, and then after a few years I left there and worked in the Dispatch Office at Soma. [Speaking together]  And I stayed there ’til a year after I was married.

Was this when Morrison’s ..?

They used to be in Heretaunga Street.

So you were a dispatch person, sending stuff here, there and every…

Yeah, well I had to do the orders and the accounts to be sent out.

When I first met you, you were playing table tennis?

Yes, we played table tennis in the hall in Pakowhai.  Went to different dances.

‘Course a lot of the various little communities all had a table tennis club and they used to have interclub matches.

Well we went to Haumoana to play table tennis – Pakipaki, we went out there, and we sometimes went to Palmerston North in the bus and called into the pie cart outside the Police station.  [Chuckle]  No, we did – we really had a good life and we enjoyed it, and nobody was … we weren’t fighting or arguing, you know – we just got on with it and enjoyed it.

There were lots of balls those days …

And dances, yeah.

… and there were dances everywhere and – quite different.  So what did your brothers and sisters do? Did they all stay in Pakowhai?  Bob was a diesel mechanic for Gough, Gough and Hamer, wasn’t he?

Yes.  Yeah, that’s right. He used to drive bulldozers before that for Druzianic.  And Doss – well, she was in the Army, she was a WAAC;  Bill was in the Air Force – he was a panel beater;  Marj – she worked in Baird’s in Hastings;  Daphne worked in an office and so did Hazel;  and as I say I worked at Farmers;  ‘Tricia … she worked in an office at Murray Roberts.

It’s interesting looking back to the Hawke’s Bay Farmers, and when you think of all the things they sold there once. You could buy salmon from Canada, you could buy cheeses from the Continent, you could buy crockery from anywhere in the world.

Yeah, everything.  Mmm, well I was in the China Department, yes.

And it’s hard to believe those businesses have gone now.

Oh, that’s right – they have.  It’s a long time ago.

[Showing photos]

When I came I thought ‘I wonder if you’ve still got freckles above your nose’, because you used to have freckles. [Chuckle]

I got married in 19 … what?  ’59 I got married. I had three children – three boys I had – three sons.

In 1959 you married Wally.

Yeah.

Walter Wicken. Can you tell me where he came from?

Pakipaki.

Did his people just live at Pakipaki, or did they have a small ..?

No, I think his father used to work on the farm [at] Pakipaki but he was killed during the war.

So Wally grew up without a father?

Yes.  He was only about seven I think, when he was killed. And I met him through table tennis – Wally – and he was a builder for Mackersey’s.

He was there forever wasn’t he?

Well, yes, and then him and … a Libby – I can’t think of his first name – went out on their own.  Bill Libby.

And did they build until Wally retired … together?

No. Bill gave up, you know, and Wally built on his own for a lot of different farmers around the district.  He built our house in Florence Street in Hastings just after we got married.

Quite a handy thing to marry a builder.

Oh, yes.  So I had a new house – then he decided that he wanted a little bit of land so we bought a small orchard out at Mangateretere with a real old house.

That was the Kirkmans’.

It was Kirkmans’ house, and the piles underneath were you know, had it.  And the house used to shake when you walked, and I hated it.

The old homestead or the one on the right?

No, on the other side by the creek … backed on to the creek, the Karamu stream.

Well the Kirkmans lived in that most of their lives.

We went to have a look at it – I knew her because she actually used to live in Pakowhai years before, and I knew who she was.  But I didn’t like it out there. Well I came from a near enough new …

Yes, [chuckle] I can imagine, a young bride …

… house in Hastings … out there, and I hated it.  We were there I think ten years, and then Wally decided that he was going to sell it. So we came for a drive over to Taradale one afternoon and they had just started this subdivision – our place is one of the first when it first started. I said to him “Oh, come on, we’ll go down and have a look”.  “I’m not going down there”, he said, but anyway we went and there was an open home which was just through the gate. And I said “Well, we’ll go in and have a look”. He said “I’m not going in there,” he said “I know everything there is about building houses – I don’t need to go in there”.  So I said “all right, stay here, and I’m going”.  So I went in and next thing he’s right behind me – he got talking to the guy who was in charge of it.  And the next thing we were looking at sections and … has the house built.  And we’ve been here about seventeen years … well, I have.

So when you left the orchard in Napier Road you didn’t want to go orcharding again?

No, no.  Well he was old enough to retire. So this was our retirement house, and we were in it twenty months and he got cancer and died. I’ve been here, you know, ever since then.

The W Wicken Trust or partnership in Lawn Road …

Yeah, that’s Stuart’s.

That’s your son?

That’s the youngest son.  No, well Stuart actually bought the Mangateretere block himself to start with, and then – well, he was working for Jim Scotland at that stage.  And then he decided he would get his own orchard which he has now.

And so how long ago did you say Wally died?

Fourteen years he’s been dead. So it’d be just – what – fifteen … coming up sixteen years.

Now during your marriage I know that you played golf.

Yes, I still do.

Were you pretty good?

Yes – well I won a few trophies. I got down in the middle 20s … handicaps.

You used to play at Maraenui?

No. Well it used to be Flaxmere – Wally was actually a foundation member of Flaxmere, and it’s now Hawke’s Bay.  I’m not a foundation member. I didn’t start until Stuart went to high school. All our friends used to say, you know – “come on, when are you coming?”  I said “no, I will not go until my youngest goes to high school.”  So the day he went to high school they all come [came] … “come on.”  I’ve been there, what – thirty-seven years.

Where’s your handicap then?

Oh, I’m only a 9-holer now … it’s not good now.  I think I got down to about a 25, but one day I was playing with Judy Gimblett who is a good golfer, and there was just her and I playing, and I must have been so scared [chuckle] and nervous, I played to a 19, and I’ve still got that card in the drawer.  I never ever did it again, but I think …

It was a very social game.

Yeah.  Well we used to go away every Labour Weekend on golf trips.

Now also you used to belong to the …

Institute.  Te Mahanga.

Te Mahanga Institute?

Well … well Annette Webb actually, got me into it. Warren Webb.  They used to live on Washpool.  That’s where I met your assistant.

Yes, Pat – yes.

Gordon Berry, and Verna.  No.  Well, as I say, Mrs Nilsson – she used to live just round the corner from me when we were in Florence Street and she and I used to go together. She used to pick me up and take me, so that’s how … but I don’t belong now.

Did you play any other games?  Like Bridge?

No, I’m not a card player.

Or that Chinese game?

Just golf and table tennis.

And your grandchildren – how many grandchildren have you got?

I’ve got five grandchildren.

What age range?

The eldest one is twenty-six.

So you could almost be a great-grandmother couldn’t you?

I could be, but I’m not. [Chuckle]  I don’t think she has even got a boyfriend at the moment. [Chuckle]  The next one – she’s … must be twenty-three.  She’s in England – the second one is in England doing her OE.  And then I’ve got one nineteen, sixteen, and they’re all girls, and then one grandson. He’s coming up eleven.

So they all live in New Zealand, your grandchildren?

Yes.

I mean your children.

Yes.  Colin, the oldest one, he’s fifty-five. He’s in marketing in the meat industry and he lives in Hamilton, and the two oldest grandchildren are his two. Brian is an engineer at Haden & Custance – he lives just around the corner here.  He’s fifty-three.  Stuart – he’s the youngest one, and he’s just fifty and he owns the orchard in Lawn Road.  He’s got three children, two girls and a boy.

Did you travel at all?

Oh yes, I’ve done … I have … quite a bit.  I’ve been to Australia. Wally and I did a boat trip around the islands. I’ve been to Hong Kong with two of my sisters. And oh, yes, well we went to China.  And after Wally died, Daphne, – she’s a great one going way back … history, and we’ve got relations in England of course – her and I went over to England for six weeks after Wally died … couple of years after he had died.  I said I’d go with them so we went, but that’s the last …  So I have – I’m lucky really, I have been around a bit.

About two hours into a flight you don’t know what to do with your body. It’s just a nuisance.

Well that’s how we felt going to England – it’s so long.

And as a retirement suburb this is a lovely spot in here, isn’t it?

Oh yes, it is, yes.

And these were all built about the same time that you built here.

Yes. There was only I think … was it two houses … and then ours was built, and the rest of them have all been built since.

If you thought of one thing that you remember about growing up in Pakowhai, what would it be?

Oh, it’s all the community spirit, you know.  It’s the way we all got on together. The whole district more or less you know, joined in everything. We all did it.  We had a lot of friends.

Just to finish off Jennifer. You made a comment about the community and the friendship that was within that community. It wasn’t a time of a lot of money, but would you just like to make a comment about ..?

No, there wasn’t, but we were well fed. We were, you know – had proper meals all the time and we daren’t say that we didn’t like a certain vegetable or something because we were told “eat it – you haven’t even tried it”, and we wouldn’t dare say no, so we ate it.  And I used to sit beside Dad at the table [chuckle] and I knew I had to do it, otherwise we would get a slap. I mean we did get hidings, and I can [chuckle] always remember my best friend, June Bracken – her and I used to get around, and we used to walk around Dad’s market garden quite a bit, you know – for something to do.  And I happened to pick a leaf off one of his cabbages, and when we got up to the house Dad was waiting for me in front of the black stove inside, and here he was with the horse’s reins and I got a good hiding for daring to pick a leaf off his cabbages which he used to take into the IMD or McGlashan’s in Napier to sell. [Chuckle]  And I still remind her every time I see her – June – that I’ll never forgive her for that, [chuckle] because I got the hiding of my life because I did that. It didn’t do us any harm.

No – it was called discipline wasn’t it?

Yes it was.  But I mean I had good parents – I did.  Loving parents, and we used to go to town on the back of his old truck, and always got an icecream at Rush Munro’s, and then called into Lynch’s at Stortford Lodge and got the groceries.

Well that’s great. Thank you very much, Jennifer, for that.

Original digital file

WickenJA1042_Final_Sep17.ogg

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Additional information

Interviewer:  Frank Cooper

Accession number

1042/1192/42013

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