Knight, Hazel Margaret Interview

Good afternoon. Today is Tuesday the 3rd August 2021. I am Lyn Sturm and I have been given the pleasure of interviewing [cough] Hazel Knight from Waipukurau, Central Hawke’s Bay. Over to you Hazel.

I was born in England, in Huddersfield, on the 20th September 1934. Mother’s full name was Cristobel Iredale, née Jackson. She was born in 1901, presumably in Huddersfield. Father’s full name was Norman Iredale, and he was born in 1899, likewise in Huddersfield. His father was called Richard Iredale and my grandmother was Maria … I’ve forgotten, and she came from Boston, England. She was a tailoress.

My mother’s mother was Anne-Marie Virginia Dunkersley; and my mother’s father was Robert Jackson, and he had something to do with a woollen mill where they made blankets, and he was a traveller for the mill. I think my father’s father was also a worker in the mill. I know two of my aunties were menders, which meant they had to make up any mistakes in the fabrics before they were rolled up and sent out to the tailors. I had one brother who died of leukaemia some years ago.

Dad was an accountant for a haulage firm, and Mum worked for the income tax people before she was married, but once she was married she wasn’t allowed to work. It was the thing – women weren’t allowed to work once they were married at that stage. We lived in Huddersfield about three miles out of town; it was still slightly built up, but if we went just a little bit up the road we could get onto the moors or onto agricultural ground. We lived in a semi-detached house made of concrete blocks with pebble-dash on the outside. We did have an inside flushing toilet and a bath; I think we only had baths about once a week but had to wash in between.

We had a little pocket handkerchief garden for a while, but then the gentleman next door bought the paddock behind us, and we were able to buy some land behind the house and Dad started a vege garden. I shared a bedroom with my brother for a number of years, but when we got to ten or eleven he had one of his own; quite a little small one at the back of the house.

Neighbours were quite close. We played quite often in the road, because in those days there was very little traffic. And when we got older we started roaming over the moors, and travelling quite a distance from home on a bicycle or over the next valley, and going through the woods.

Yes … we did have some chores to do at home; I remember doing the dishes in the kitchen and there was a spider’s web in the corner of the kitchen window. And we used to wrap little paper pellets up and throw them at the spider’s web and then watch her undoing them when she realised it wasn’t something to eat; she’d undo them and drop them on the window ledge. Mum used to growl at us by the time we had a series of little paper pellets on the window ledge. Sometimes we helped with the washing; sometimes it was so cold that the clothes froze. I remember I had a party dress of green velvet and it froze on the line, and Mum hung it on the back door and it took a week for it to thaw out. [Chuckle]

We did have some pocket money. I don’t remember much about it; I think when we were sort of in our nines, tens, elevens, we occasionally bought a packet of Woodbines from the shop and shared them with all our friends.

You’d better explain what they are.

[Chuckles] Little cigarettes that came five in a packet. We had a gang hut and we used to go to the gang hut and light a cigarette up and share it round. Father found out of course and he made me smoke a whole Craven A, which had a filter on the end – that was flash. And I think he hoped I’d be sick, but I wasn’t; but it cured me from smoking because I’d never smoked a whole one before.

We had a black cat called Spook at home, and my aunties had a dog; and if ever there was a thunderstorm or when the kids got the fireworks out, Laddie used to come up and stay at our house overnight, then Dad had to take him back when he went back to work next morning.

There were very few cars around at the time. The gentleman next door but one had one, but I think that was the only one in the street for a long, long time. During the war of course, there wasn’t petrol about for people to have cars, but it was good because we played a lot in the road and there wasn’t any traffic so it was quite safe.

We did go away on family holidays, since father was the accountant for the haulage firm; they also had buses and we often went to the seaside for a fortnight, because it was a cheap way of getting there ‘cause he had concession on the buses. We usually stayed in a boarding house where they provided meals, and beds of course. And nowadays when I smell bacon cooking, it always reminds me of the holidays because early in the morning my brother and I used to go down to the shop to get the paper for Mum and Dad. And as you walked down the street everybody was making bacon and eggs for breakfast and so I always associate that smell with family holidays. Later on when I got older we didn’t go away as a family so often, but I went away camping a lot with the Girl Guides as a leader, as a member of the … you know, the Guiding people, the admin [administration]. My aunty was a Guide Captain and she ran the camp with a friend of hers; and I usually went as a general dogsbody. And that was fun ‘cause we used to go messages to the village, or go finding the firewood, or make sure all the tent pegs were safe; and just a general dogsbody.

A gopher?

Gopher, yeah. Assistant medical officer I was called …


… but it was a gopher job, and it was great. In that case we were under canvas mostly, but we got about; we had a near-at-home one, and then we had a further-away-at home-one. And I got to Edinburgh where I went to see the Tattoo actually in Edinburgh Castle. We went to Holywood [Holyrood] where it poured for about six days, but then we went to visit the Giant’s Causeway, and that was fun. We went to Flamborough … Flamborough Head, and saw lots of puffins; and we went to the New Forest and saw the wild ponies. Yeah, that was fun. We didn’t have a lot of money so it was a nice cheap holiday too. One of the best holidays was at St Anne’s when I was ten, going on eleven; and we were there out of season. It was just after the war had finished, and they were bringing back donkeys and ponies to ride on the beach; and we were there before they actually got there, but they were getting the animals primed. And two or three times we actually went for a long ride down the beach on a real horse, and it was fun.

As I said, I was brought up during the war so things were rationed; but being out in the country, with my uncle who lived on a farm and delivered milks; and the gentleman down the road kept chooks and we had a vege garden; we didn’t actually miss out on an awful lot. We were very lucky … very lucky. We had the occasional bomber came over. Want to hear about him?


One stick of bombs dropped – high explosives they were; one on the moorland, one on the road in between two rows of houses, and we went up to see the crater at that one. The next one through the local picture house roof, but it was Sunday – the only day they didn’t have pictures. The next one in a paddock outside my uncle’s house where it broke all the windows on that side; and the next one through the school dining hall roof. Being Sunday of course, no children there, so we got off very lightly with that one.

That was the Germans?

Germans. They were usually on their way home from Liverpool or Manchester, and if they hadn’t bombed them then they’d drop them on us just as a parting gift. So we were very lucky; realised that we weren’t in the middle of the bombing. We had an air raid shelter in the garden, but we lived on a clay pan so every winter it filled up with water and didn’t run away because it was too solid. So if there was an air raid we sat on the cold cellar steps underneath the stairs above, and just hoped for the best. One night they did that, and then … I think it must’ve been after the ‘All Clear’ went … we went to the back door and we saw the ARP [Air Raid Precautions] wardens going down the paddock with buckets of sand putting out the incendiaries, because incendiaries were flares, sort of, so that they could see things. You know, they dropped a row of flares …

Right, mmm …

… and then if they were on the houses they could bomb the houses; but if they weren’t they knew not to bother. But they were just putting them out with sand in buckets by hand down the paddock at the back; but that’s as near as we ever came. Oh, we had two days off school which was fun, because there was a landmine dropped in the mill dam next to the school. So they had to evacuate all the area round the school and we had two days off school, because they had to drain the dam to get at the landmine before they could de-commission it.

[Truck reversing warning] There was a little sweet shop near the school and I remember they used to have these lovely spearmint lollies; but of course when war broke out they weren’t allowed to sell lollies any more because all foods were rationed. And we had these little books with tickets in to say how many ounces of whatever you’ve got. When I first came to New Zealand, [chuckle] one of the girls said, “Oh, during the war food was rationed; we only had a pound of butter a week.” And I said, “So what? We had six ounces of fat – two ounces of butter, two ounces of margarine and two ounces of lard.”

To last for a week?

[Chuckle] Per person, to last for a week. It wasn’t a lot.

Our next-door neighbour was a baker but he was allergic to flour, so he used to tell them all what to do and then get out of the place ‘til they made the bread and the cakes and then he would go back down later in the day and decorate the cakes. There must’ve been still a few cakes around during the war, and bread; and the bread was always lovely and warm. We used to go down and get a loaf of bread, and …

Pull the centre out?

[Chuckle] We didn’t have those double-barrelled loaves like you have here. No, we had to wait ‘til we got home. But he used to do these malt loaves that sort of rounded like that, and really yummy.

You really couldn’t pick the centre out?

No, you couldn’t pick the centre out because they didn’t have holes in. But occasionally came home with the odd custard square or something that was left over, and that was quite nice. He was a beautiful gardener; I learnt most of my gardening from … his name was Jack Smith … and how to look after bees. We had to look after his bees one time while he was away – well, his brother was supposed to be doing it but his brother took the day off – and they were swarming and my brother and I had to go and fetch the swarm back. And that was quite an experience.

Did you get stung?

Might have got stung once, but not that day; not when we were trying to recover the swarm. But we had to go about three times before we got the queen. They’d flown across the paddock, and we went and … the idea was that you brushed them off the branch onto a bag, and then took the bag and put it down in front of the hive and they would all walk into the hive. And the first time we did it they all walked in beautiful; and we thought, ‘Right, that’s good – yes!’ [Chuckle] And then they all flew out again because we hadn’t caught the queen. I mean, you don’t always know, you know – they’re all flying around. But third time lucky, we went back and got her and [the] third time was lucky. But they were buzzing around for ages. But no, we didn’t get stung; they were very quiet bees.

When I was older and I’d done my teacher training, [I] decided to come to New Zealand with a friend, who couldn’t make it in the end. I think it was my first flight in an aeroplane. We left from Stansted Airport in England in a DC8 which was a very big aeroplane in those days. And we landed at Keflavik [Iceland] because we only had half fuel on board, because in England it couldn’t get off with a full load of fuel on board. So we landed at Keflavik to fuel up, then we flew across to Alaska. In Keflavik we just got off the aeroplane and walked into the airport and sat down and had a drink, or looked around; then went back to the aeroplane; it was good. We thought we’d do the same in Alaska. Well – Alaska was American of course, so they compared your name with the flight list, your face with your passport, your flight list with the passport, and goodness only knows what else. And it took us nearly three quarters of an hour to actually get into the airport, so we had about ten minutes to look around you know, the counters, the shops and everything, and we were back on the plane again. So that was a bit disappointing; there were some Eskimos there but never got a chance to talk to them. [Chuckle] All this time – we left at four-thirty in the afternoon and we were flying in the daylight ‘til we got to Tokyo; and the sun started to set just as we were arriving in Tokyo. Then we refuelled; we weren’t supposed to be on the plane when they refuelled. But then we landed in Biak [island near northern coast of Papua], and we weren’t allowed off the plane there, ‘cause they said it was so hot and sultry that we’d be absolutely dripping by the time we got back on the plane and it wouldn’t be very pleasant for everybody. And then we flew on still overnight to Australia and landed in Australia about six in the morning where they divided us into three groups …

What airport was that?

Sydney. They divided us into three groups. One lot left for New Zealand straight away – I think they were going over to Auckland – first lot left at lunchtime; the second lot left … we were on the second lot … left in the evening; and the third lot were there ‘til next morning, I think. There were a hundred teachers and ten immigrants – we were part of an airlift over three years. There was one lot the year before us that flew out round the equator; all got a tummy bug, and that was why they decided we had to fly over the top. And it was fabulous – we flew over the North Pole, and saw Mount McKinley in Alaska which were [was] incredible because the snow was on the bottom of the mountains, not the top. We said, “How come there’s no snow on the top?” And they said, “Well, it’s so windy it blows it off.” [Chuckles] Six months after we came out the airport was flattened in an earthquake. So that was quite an experience.

Anyway, to carry on, we landed in Sydney. We were put into a hotel, the Hilton in Sydney, where I had the biggest steak I’d ever seen for lunch, and an equally big crayfish for tea. My friend and I … I’d teamed up with a girl on the plane because the one that was coming out with me couldn’t … and we took the ferry from a beach in Sydney over to … famous place on the other side that I can’t remember the name of. And then we came back by bus over the bridge; you know, it was sunset, so we didn’t see much of Sydney coming back. And then we left at, it must have been about ten o’clock that night and landed in Christchurch in the morning.

We were supposed to have a Civic Welcome in Wellington, but they couldn’t see the runway in Wellington. So they landed us at Christchurch and put on breakfast, but before we could eat breakfast we were told, “Get on the plane; there’s a window in at Wellington”. And we came flying back to Wellington in a DC3 I think, and coming into Wellington of course, you couldn’t see anything but water … water, water, water. Water, water, water, water, water. Eventually we bumped down, so we did hit land. And by that time the Civic Welcome had dissipated because nobody turned up; so they said, “Oh! Nice to see you all – goodbye”, and just sent us off.

Once again we were divided up; all the local people were sent to the people they were staying with; some of them were put on buses to go places; and we were put into a hotel overnight on Lambton Quay … forgotten the name. Stallards was it? They don’t do things on Saturday, Sunday – it was Saturday when we landed and Sunday when we departed – so Saturday, we got to the hotel about lunchtime. Lambton Quay … they were taking the tramlines up so it was all forty-four gallon drums and goodness knows what. We walked from one end to the other to see if we could find a place to have a cup of coffee, because the hotel wouldn’t provide one ‘cause it was Saturday and they don’t do things on Saturday.

We were beginning to wonder what sort of a place we’d come to. I was put in a room with a girl I hadn’t met, because my friend had gone off with her lady; she was staying in Wellington. And it was really … they’d just thrown a cot in a room with one bed … they’d thrown a cot in for the other one, and we had to sort of push it out of the way with the door as we got into the room, so we weren’t very impressed. But we commiserated with each other and as I said, went for a walk. Later I found out she was destined to go to Ōpōtiki, so I often wonder what she thought of [chuckle] New Zealand and how long she lasted. [Chuckles] So yes, that was a bit [of] fun.

Next morning three of us – there was Max and his wife and myself – got on the bus to Waipuk. [Waipukurau] Things must’ve been a bit busy or something because they put us on an express and we were told we’d be met at the other end. But it came through quite a lot faster than expected so we were hanging around for quite a while … round in the back of Waipuk where the old bus station was – you know, where the hot bread shop is now?

When I first came to New Zealand I thought it was a place of set seasons but I found out that it’s very much like England, you can get anything any time. On the way up I thought, ‘Oh, it’s just like home’; it was just clouds to roof level and green trees,; admittedly a few more evergreens than there were at home. But then we came through Levin and there were camellias out, and I thought, ‘Wow – camellias out in the middle of winter’ … because this was July/August, sort of … ‘that’s a bit different.’ And then I saw a cabbage tree in a paddock, and I thought, ‘That’s a bit different.’ And we landed in Waipuk round the back at the bus station which was off the main street, but nobody to meet us because they were expecting us an hour later and we had to huddle there in the rain … or drizzle … ‘til somebody came to pick us up.

But after that things came right, because we were met by Les Grant who took us round to Geoff Sharp’s house; and they put on a sumptuous afternoon tea with a huge cream cake and a roaring fire, and things really started to look good. Max and Barbara were put in the Tavistock Hotel, and I was sent to board with a lady called Melvie Hartley down Wellington Road. For about ten days all you could see was mist and drizzle, but on the tenth day I woke and it was very bright; and I decided to walk down to the bottom of Wellington Road to look down the main street. And it was a big, bright blue sky with a row of snow-topped mountains, and I just thought, ‘Wow!’ … ‘cause we only have big hills at home. [Chuckle] ‘I’ve really come somewhere.’ I’m a bit blasé about them now, I’ve got used to them; but they really put an impression on me when I first arrived.

During that first week Melvie Hartley went out of her way to introduce me to New Zealand. She baked artichokes and pumpkin and other stuff for meals. Mr [?B?] give [gave] me a tree tomato and a kiwifruit. Helen Johnson took me up to the flower festival [blossom festival] in Hastings, and yes, it was really nice. It was very nice, and I’ve loved Melvie ever since; kept in touch with her until unfortunately she passed away. But I’ve really happy memories of that.

Then we come round to the school. The school I came from at home was a high school. The children came in from all around the country in buses. They wore a school uniform of white shirts, grey skirts, royal blue blazers; or grey trousers and royal blue blazers. They were all very musical; all our local villages had a brass band. We had a musical competition at school. Yeah – come to the College, and all the kids come in by bus from the country round about. They were grey gym tunics or trousers which I thought was a bit prehistoric, but royal blue blazers and white shirts, so it was very much a home from home.

The Friar Cup was just starting; admittedly they were singing ‘Michael Row Your Boat Ashore’ in unison, whereas at home they were singing six-part harmonies. That was a little bit different; [chuckle] but oh, it was just so welcoming and so brilliant; I’ve loved Central Hawke’s Bay ever since.

My schooling started in the year 1939 when I was five, and I went to primary school in the August, and then of course war broke out. I was five in September and we were told that we had to go home for three weeks and then if we weren’t five we couldn’t go back to school because they’d taken all the male teachers out to go into the army; and so they were short of teachers, and classes would’ve been bigger and not so many. So I was on tenterhooks for a while, but on the … I think it was a Wednesday before the Monday we had to go back to school … I was five, so I was able to go back to school. And we had a Primary department where we were for two years, then a Junior department where we were for two years, then an Intermediate department; and at the end of your Intermediate schooling – it was all in the same area but different schoolrooms, different bits of the school – we took an Eleven-plus exam, which meant that we either stayed on at school in the Seniors or we went away to high school. I went to a co-ed [co-educational] grammar school when I was ten going on eleven, and we started in Form 1, worked our way up to Form 6, and 6A, 6B, which was two years; then we went to college or university or off to work. I went away to training college in Worcester down in the Midlands, and did a two year primary teacher training. Then I taught at a local school on the top of the Pennines where the head teacher said there was nothing between us and the Ural Mountains, so it got quite cold and snowy in the winter; we had adventures for that one too. [Chuckle]

And then after three years there I went away to art school for an extra year’s training, and went to a high school on the edge of Huddersfield. I taught there for three years before getting a job out in New Zealand. I was at the high school in Waipukurau for three years and a term, and then I went back home again, back to the same school I’d been at before, for another couple of terms. And then I was looking at going to Canada, but I decided to come back to New Zealand, and did another term in Levin.

After that I sort of got married, and we went and lived out in the country for some time … Mangaorapa, towards Porangahau.

[Speaking together] Mmm.

Yeah, well my husband was sole charge manager on a six-hundred-acre farm, so we did most of everything ourselves. We came into town once a month to see the accountant and top up on supplies. We did have a truck came [come] out and deliver papers Monday, Wednesday, Friday; and he would bring orders from the shop on the Friday. Yeah …

So did you have a mail bag?

I think he just put it in the mailbox. You know, we had a box at the bottom of the drive, and would just put everything in the mailbox. And then we’d have to go down the drive, and it was quarter of a mile … quite [a] steep drive.

So what road was it?

We were on Schaeffers Road which is off Mangaorapa Road, which was about ten miles off the tarseal in those days. It’s been tarsealed halfway since then. Yeah, trips to town were quite an adventure, especially when we had a couple of children to cart in the back. And as we did in those days, we had a shearer’s mattress in the back of the station wagon, and put the pram on top of the mattress when the little one was very little, and wheeled it round town. Later on we just had the children attached; they had a harness on them with a hook on the back, and it attached to a strap that went round the back seat so that they could fall over and sit down, but they wouldn’t shoot right out of the front windscreen if anything happened. When we got to town we just took them off the strap in the car and put a rein on them, so that when we were walking around town they could take off to a certain extent, but not rush across the road and get squashed. They were pretty well-mannered kids anyway, so we were blessed, I think. [Chuckles] After a while they had to sell the farm because some of the family died and they had two or three lots of death duties all in a row. So we had to find another position and we came into town.

Well, while I was at the College I was taught to drive the bus by Paddy Howlett. He was a really good teacher and made me do all sorts of things before I actually took my test. After I’d taken my test I drove the bus to Te Hauke, and then back behind the radio station down Te Aute Road to Otane, and back into Waipuk. On one trip one of the boys asked if he could leave the bus at the store, and I said, “Ooh …” He wasn’t really supposed to, but in the end I let him go; and we were down to the last half a dozen children on the bus and guess what? When he came out of the store he had an ice-block for each of the children on the bus, and one for me as well. I was only allowed to drive that bus for three weeks; for some reason or other they decided I shouldn’t be driving all the way to Te Hauke. I loved it, because every time you went up the road the place looked different. It might be a foggy morning or a slightly mizzly [drizzly] one or a beautiful day, and it was really nice to see the countryside from an elevated position in the bus. Since then I have driven buses on other occasions out in the country, and I must admit the bus I had at the College was a brand new one, and beautiful to drive. Some of the ones I’ve driven since were horrible. One I was driving actually went clunk, clunk, down a hill and completely lost its engine; and we had to take the children to the nearest house and get them dispersed by parents in cars.

Somewhat later, that one I carefully placed in the ditch; because it had been raining and I was on an acute corner, [I] took it wide to get round the corner, and just gently slid into the ditch. But it didn’t go too far over because there was quite a bank the other side of the ditch.

Another one I drove should’ve really been at the crushers because you used to turn the steering wheel round about three times before anything happened, and on a very bendy, unsealed road it was very scary trying to navigate this bus round the corners. I gave up my licence after that. [Chuckles]

Think that’s about it.

Well Hazel, on behalf of the Knowledge Bank I’d like to thank you so much for sharing your life with us today; I really appreciate it. And I’m so pleased that you came to New Zealand …

Thank you.

… and you’re not allowed to go back.

I don’t want to go back. [Chuckle] It’s nice to go back for a holiday and see the family, but I don’t want to leave New Zealand, or Hawke’s Bay for that …

Oh, that’s good news.

… I just love it here.

Well we wish you all the very, very best.

Thank you.

Thank you.

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