Pepper, Margaret Dawn Interview

Good morning, Margaret. This is Caroline interviewing Margaret Pepper on 10th November 2020. She’s going to talk to us about her early days in Elsthorpe. Thank you, Margaret.

Thank you, Caroline.

So you were born ..?

Actually I was born in Dannevirke, but mainly because my grandparents lived down there and Mum went down for the confinement as they say – down to Dannevirke … just that my grandparents had a farm down there. I was born in Dannevirke and then came back to Elsthorpe about a fortnight later. [Chuckle] I’m one of three children; I have a … I did have … a younger brother and sister. Unfortunately they’ve both gone, at too early an age.

And your parents’ names?

[Background traffic noise] My mother’s name was Margaret Gracie Hunter until she married Dad, who was Leslie Thomas Haycock. They got married in 1932 and I was born in 1934. And my father and his father, my grandfather – they milled the timber for the house that they built to live in out there.

And they were farmers?

No, no, Dad had a carrying business, and they used to take stock and hay and goods and the mail. It was usually at Havelock North … he’d pick up the mail bags at Havelock North, and take the mail bags out to the farmers and so on.

And supplies?

Yes, yes – quite often there were supplies. The road up to Elsthorpe in those days was shingle of course, and windy [winding]. A lot of the bends have been straightened out a bit now but it was a very slow trip really, from there to Havelock and Hastings. But dad would do that run to Hastings usually three times a week.

What sort of vehicle did he drive?

He had two trucks. One was an International and the other was a Bedford I think; can’t be certain about that. And he had sheep crates, and they were for carrying stock in those. He had his own little bowser for petrol on the property; I think that was pretty well the norm in those days. He used to do the Middle Road run and our next door neighbour, McAuleys – they also had a carrying business and they did what we called in those days the Boundary Road, but I think it’s the … what’s that back road out from Havelock? Kahuranaki Road – they did that run. And I’m not sure who did the run to the beach – I think they both might’ve you know, carried things from there, so it sort of worked out quite well. Yes, he started that I think about the time he got married, ‘til we left in 1944.

I went to school there; a very nice school. There was only one teacher until after we left the district. [Chuckle]

And so what did you used to play in the playground, do you remember?

Well at school I can remember playing rounders, as we called it in those days; but I don’t know, we used to just … It wasn’t ‘til after we left the district that the school started having like, basketball team[s], netball teams and things like that, but they hadn’t got around to doing that sort of thing in my day.

How many pupils were there?

Well, you know, at the time we left it’d got down to twenty. And I think a lot of that was due to the war; quite a few of the men I think took off, you know, for training, and to the war; as did our teacher. And there was a Miss Corrie Johnson took his place, and she was there for you know, quite a while; she was very nice.

So when the men went to war, where did the families move to?

Oh, I don’t know. I suppose it was more the ones that worked on the farms perhaps? I don’t know … I’m not too sure about that. But that was I think a period in the time when there weren’t a lot around, you know … gradually thinned out. I can remember a lot of the names of the people that lived up there, you know, obviously because Dad was working with them, or you know, carrying for them.

So mainly farming?

Oh yes, yes. We lived in the village itself, so I was lucky enough to be able to just walk to school, but nearly all the other children had to come by horse – they rode horses to school. And of course we had a horse paddock, and I think there was a building to put the saddles and things in and so on. And some of them had quite a distance to go.

So no buses in those days?

No, the buses actually started the year after we left. They had a couple of buses; [heavy traffic noise] I think one went to one side of Elsthorpe and the other one went the other side, picked up the pupils and so on, but up until then it was all horses. No electricity in those days either. The electricity didn’t go on until after we left up there.

And did they have any shops or anything in the village?

There was one store. It was actually started by my paternal great-grandfather who came out from Essex with his wife. And they eventually had ‘bout fifteen children. Three of them died when they were babies or small, but the rest of them all survived. And they had quite a big house up on the hill; and down near the flat they built a store … they had a general store there, and that changed hands a few times.

So when you were growing up what sort of things did they sell at the store?

Oh, everything. [Chuckle] All the tins of biscuits. By the time I came along the store was owned by Jim McAuley, who was sort of a cousin – probably about a third cousin of mine – but he was a cousin of the family. And I think he used to spoil me a bit, give me some bits and pieces. [Chuckle] No, well they had bacon; I always remember him slicing up bacon, and the smell of it, you know? And then there was … oh, the usual groceries that you, you know, could buy. And also, I’m pretty sure they used to sell things for the farmers too – stock …

Stock feed and things like that.

Yeah, I think so.

Any particular treats that you liked from the store?

Treats? Mmm … well I was always up for a lolly or two or something like that. [Chuckle] Unfortunately that still applies. [Chuckles]

Fair enough. And tell me, they had the centenary recently?

Yes. That was back in 1998, and it was a great occasion. They had quite a few things up there for that.

Oh, another thing … at school, getting back to that, the womenfolk had an Institute day once a month.

The Country Women’s Institute?

That’s right. And [of] course they used to take baking along to be judged, and flowers and all this sort of thing, and then we thought it was great that we could call in there on the way home from school and they would give us some of their eats that they’d baked. [Chuckles] And they used to hold [a] fancy dress ball there once a year in the hall, and we used to all dress up for that and do dances etcetera.

And that was for all ages was it, the ball?

Well it was for the school; yes, but of course, as I said before, there weren’t a lot there in my day. I presume they probably carried them on as time went on. Another thing that we all looked forward to at school was the school picnic where we all went down to Kairakau Beach. And it wouldn’t be allowed today, but I think it was the McAuley truck – it had sides on it [engine noise] and they put forms on the back of the truck, and we sat on those and were taken down to the beach on the back of the truck. [Chuckles] Oh, we had a great time there having sack races, and egg and spoon races, and swimming and so on. Yes.

What sort of food did you have at the picnic?

[Chuckle] Oh, can’t remember that. I don’t know – I really can’t remember whether we took lunch down or it was supplied. I know we all really looked forward to it, and were a bit tired at the end of the day but …

And were there any baches at Kairakau Beach

Yes, they’ve all gone now, but there were baches right along the seafront. Dad had a section that he leased which had like a double shed on it, and we used to stay there every Christmas for the six weeks; and that was fantastic. It was really one of the happiest times of my life down there. I loved going down there.

And what would you explore while you were there?

Oh, we used to go round the rocks and look for crabs and cockabullies and all that sort of thing. And there was a waterfall – not a big one, but there was a waterfall – you go to the end of the beach and then just go through a paddock or two and you come to this waterfall. And you could sort of swim in it and so on. And a group of the children would all go round – we didn’t have any adults with us, but we never seemed to get into any trouble or anything like that. It was all just … go along there and [traffic noise] mess around there, and then back home again, or back to the camp. And while we were down there in the holidays, people by the name of Scrimgeours from Otane, Waipawa way – they used to take a couple of cows down and they would supply all the people that were there for the holidays with milk. And it was usually my job to go down with the billy and get milk from them. Mmm. We were one end of the beach and they were sort of down the other end. Yeah.

Was there much fishing going on?

Yes, yes. I know Dad used to get quite a few crayfish; yeah, he’d come home with a kerosene tin full. [Chuckles] And yes, there was quite a lot of fishing went on down there. Mmm. I know Dad used to go to Mangakuri which is a beach just around the corner; I think that’s where he used to get most of his crayfish around there. Mmm.

Lucky days, weren’t they? And did you have any pipis or anything like that you remember gathering?

Well I don’t remember having them, but maybe others did, I don’t know.

How fabulous. So that’s where you spent your summers?

Yes. Yes, the school holidays … Christmas school holidays, that we had great times down there. Actually my great-grandparents originally had a house there too, in those very early days. Mmm.

And how far is Kairakau from Elsthorpe?

About … well, I think it was about nine miles.

Pretty close …

Mmm. Don’t ask me what that is in kilometres. [Chuckles] And it was a very windy [winding] road, and of course all shingle. You wouldn’t have travelled faster than twenty or thirty k [kilometres] all the way down, I shouldn’t think. In fact there was one bend that was so steep that some of the bigger trucks would have two goes at getting around it … one of the bends. Mmm.

And getting back to the Country Women’s Institute, your mother would’ve been involved in that?


And what was her sort of speciality that she liked – was she into sewing or cooking?

More cooking I think, yes. I really don’t know; I don’t think we took a lot of notice. You know, we were more interested in what we could get to eat afterwards. [Laughter]

The best sponge …

Yeah. [Chuckle]

And so then you moved to ..?

Haumoana. Yeah, Dad bought … oh, just under seven acres of land out there that had a big house on; and eventually cropped that. And then when Dad got sort of past doing that he ran a few sheep on it.

And what crop did he have?

Oh, things you could sell at the gate, like lettuces and you know, usual veges and that. Yes.

And how old were you when you moved to Haumoana?

I was ten.

And then you went to the ..?

Haumoana School.

And that would’ve been quite a small school again, was it?

It did have about a hundred pupils; it was much bigger than the Elsthorpe one, so it would’ve been more of a shock I think, to the system, going to that one after the Elsthorpe school.

And what were your main interests when you were going through school. Sport?

I used to like playing the likes of rounders and that sort of thing. Later on I played netball – that was out at Haumoana – and table tennis and things like that. Yes.

And then the war came?

The war … it started about the time I started school.

Back at Elsthorpe?

‘Cause I was born in ’34, and then the war was in ’39. Yes, so I’d just started school when that started.

And any of your family go to war?

No – Dad did apply, but he apparently had flat feet and they wouldn’t take him; but he did do training for what they called the Home Guard, I think.

Was that compulsory in those days, to do training?

I should imagine they’d’ve had to do that if there was … Being young I really didn’t know whether they did nor not.

And do you remember any rationing ..?

Oh yes. Well, I remember it more after the war when we were at Haumoana, because I would go up to the store at Haumoana to get things and I’d have to take the ration book up for sugar, and I think butter, and you know, various things; and I think also for clothing, even then. And that was after the war really.

I know when we first went down there we used to grow peas for Wattie’s, but they were all hand picked; didn’t have the machinery like they have today. [A] lot of the people from Haumoana would come and … you know, might’ve been about forty people in picking all the peas and so on. And mum would have to – ‘cause she would supply a cuppa and so on to them. And she’d need tea and sugar and all that sort of thing, and I think she used to sort of try and scrounge from other people that didn’t need them, some … what d’you call them? You know, things out of the ration book. Yes – I remember those books quite well. I don’t think we ever kept one, though.

What high school did you go to?

Well, what’s now the Boys’ High School, it was sort of co-ed. [Co-educational] Or when I say co-ed, the boys go on one side of the school and we were on the other side; but it was a co-ed.

Napier Boys’?

No, Hastings, in Karamu Road. and it was before they had Intermediates. You know, at Haumoana we went to Standard 6 as they called it, and then you went to high school. It wasn’t very long after that that they started the intermediate schools.

And that’s where you started playing netball?

I did in my younger teenage years, yes. Mmm. The Haumoana people – not the school, although I played it at school – but the village itself; they had their own team. I’ve got one or two pictures of that. And they used to raise money at the Haumoana Hall for the club, and sell all sorts of things.

Did you sell anything that we don’t have today?

Ah – I think a lot of sales tables … they nearly always had food on them. They still do today, I think. Plants; goodness me, I can’t remember [chuckle] what we used to sell now. It was one way of raising money for the club.

And then after school – what happened for you then?

Oh, I think we used to just play with the next door neighbours; they were the McAuleys … John McAuley and his family, and I think there was [were] about eight children, so there was always plenty of kids to play with. And we used to go to each other’s places and just play around; can’t remember what we used to play at.

And then you left school?

Yes I left school at fifteen, and went to Westerman’s.

Let’s talk about Westerman’s …

[Chuckle] When I first went there I worked downstairs in the haberdashery department where I was in the area where they sold wool and buttons and lace and all that sort of thing. And at that time was Mr E A Westerman and his brother Vic Westerman. I think they started that shop, and they also had another shop about half way down the block; it used to sell linenware and things like that.

Tell me about how people used to pay …

Oh, [chuckle] yes – we had the chutes, as we called them. Children were very fascinated with those [chuckle] and sometimes we would let them push the tube thing … what d’you call them? The carrier thing that had the money and dockets in …

[Speaking together] A canister, wasn’t it?

Yes. And they would shoot them up to the office. [Pneumatic tube system] Things were so different to what they are today, there.

And then would it come down again with the change?

Oh, they made quite a noise when it came down, yes. [Chuckle]

And then patterns, of course?

Oh yes, yes, although they were sold I think in the fabric department.

And anyway, later I left there, and went to work at Rawling’s Wool Shop; and went out to Havelock … worked in a children’s home for a while; and then they asked me if I’d like to go back to Westerman’s, so I went back again and worked there ‘til I was having my first child. But I was working upstairs then.

Ah, in the office?

No, no, in the underwear department, ‘cause they had all the frocks and skirts and jerseys – everything like that was upstairs.

So it was a real department store?

It was, yes. They had a lot of linenware and … quite a big department with all that sort of thing in. And menswear department; no, it was a … Roaches was another shop similar to that, and Baird’s and Bon Marche, they were all similar kind[s] of shops.

School uniforms? Which shop specialised in them?

Yeah, we used to have uniforms; I think that the major shops in town, the ones I mentioned, I think they all had uniforms.

But you know, just things were so different. In the haberdashery department with a big long counter, you know, and they had the odd high chair every so far along. And old E A Westerman, he would fuss over the customers ‘cause a lot of them had an account there, ‘specially the business people. And he would come along and fuss around them, and put a chair under them to sit down. And I always remember just after the war there was a shortage of stockings … nylon stockings … and someone asked me, you know, if we had a certain kind, and I said, “I’m sorry, we haven’t got any”, you know, “they’re hard to get at the moment.” And I think all we had were lisle stockings as they called them in those days. And about that time E A Westerman came along, and he said, “Hello, madam – now what was it you were wanting?” And she told him what she wanted. “You just wait here a moment, I’ll see what I can do for you.” And he went out to the old shop as we called it, out the back way; comes back with these nylons, which makes us feel a bit silly. He said, “Oh, we found these. Is that what you’re wanting?” “Oh yes!” And that was that. [Chuckle] They were the sort of things that happened in those days.

And were there tea rooms at Westerman’s?

They never developed … I think upstairs they had what we called the Balcony, and it went along Heretaunga Street and round to Russell Street. It was sort of like, an area from that window to where I am wide, and I think that’s where they were going to put the tables and chairs and so on, all the way round there; and that people could look out the windows and so on. And whether it was because of the earthquake or not I’m not sure, but it never got off the ground; but, it wasn’t until Haywright’s took over from Westerman’s that out the back they had what they called … Westerman’s had sample rooms for reps [representatives] that used to come to …

Sell their wares?

Right. And they found … when they were cleaning it out they found this huge lot of teasets, yes … obviously going to be used. I’ll just get you a piece … I was lucky enough to be given a piece. Art Deco, eh?

Beautiful …

That’s what the sets were like. I don’t know how much there was of it; I didn’t see them.

So this is Maddock from England. Beautiful … absolutely stunning. That’ll be such a treasure.

That’s right. Yeah. Yes. I think they found all sorts of things in those sample rooms because they eventually took them down. What were we talking about?

The tea rooms …

Oh yes, yes. No, it just didn’t seem to get off … the earthquake I should imagine, had something to do with it.

So if you did go out, were there cafes or tea rooms in Hastings?

Yes, there were a few, yes. There was [were] dairies, and all sorts of things that there aren’t now; you know, repair shops. These days it’s buy and throw out when you’ve finished, but when things break down you don’t get them repaired. But yeah, over the road from Westerman’s was a radio shop where you could take your radio and that sort of thing to get repaired, and get all sorts of things repaired. And now [it’s] just a throwaway, isn’t it? Unfortunately.

Well, there would’ve been alteration shops for clothes, and …

Mmm. Westerman’s used to have someone do their alterations, most of the time I was there, yes. It was quite a big material department; a lot of people made their own clothes. They couldn’t afford to buy, a lot of them; they’re not sort of as cheap as they were [are] now.

What sort of fabrics did they have in the shop?

Oh … would be cottons, satiny ones, there was silk; but eventually there was sort of seersucker and … ‘Cause I actually worked at three different stages of my working career – I worked there all told about twenty years. But after the children were born, and then later on my husband and I split up and I got asked if I would like to go back and help with the sale; and I did, and stayed about another fourteen years, I think.

And how many children did you have?

Oh, just two. My youngest son – he unfortunately had a motorbike accident and was killed about ten years ago, so I’ve just got the one son now. Mmm.

And grandchildren no doubt?

Oh yes, I’ve got a few grandchildren. Some of them I haven’t seen for years, because of where they’re living. One’s in Canada and so on; I won’t go into all that.

So tell me your interests through your life?

Well I haven’t had much time for hobbies. In my younger days I worked very hard, and …

So you were … like a solo parent?

I was for quite a while, yes … yes. Yes, for a few years. But my parents were very good – they offered me about three quarters of an acre of their property to see if I wanted to crop it and grow veges and so on; and I could sell those at the gate. Because there was no help for single people with children in those days, you know, so I was very lucky to have my parents help me in some ways, and I cropped … oh, I got quite good at even putting up fences and things. [Chuckle]

So this is at Haumoana?

Yeah. Yeah. And when I married we eventually bought an orchard. We worked quite hard on that, and then we went up to just out of Cambridge; planted an orchard up there, but because no fruit was forthcoming in the early stages I cropped a lot of it, and that was a fifteen-acre property.

Why Cambridge?

Oh … we were looking around areas to crop, and went up to Tauranga way and had a look up there; came back to the Cambridge area, and there wasn’t a lot of fruit growing up there at that time. We just thought it would’ve been quite nice to start one there.

Didn’t actually move there?

At that time, we’d had the orchard down here and then we sold that. And then we went up there, and I liked it up there. And things weren’t going very well with my marriage, so I eventually came back down here. But I worked damned hard, I can tell you.

I bet you did.

Yeah. And then of course when we came here. After I’d been cropping for a year or so, my sister and her husband came in with me and we cropped the whole property; planted potatoes and pumpkins and kumi kum [kamo kamo] and lettuce, and just about every vege you can think of. [Chuckle] Yeah – anything to you know, keep your head above water.

And would you sell to local fruiterers?

Quite a bit of it was sold at the gate, but there were the things like the potatoes that … we’d send some into markets. Up in Cambridge too, we grew pumpkins and corn and potatoes, leeks, silverbeet. Some of it we took into the market in Hamilton, and some I would take into the railway line at Cambridge – pumpkins and that – and they would go to various parts of like New Plymouth and Auckland and so on. Yeah.

So when you came back here, then you became a solo parent; brought up the boys?


Then what happened?

Well I’d gone back to Westerman’s to work, and a girlfriend of mine who also worked there, she had decided to buy a jeweller’s shop out at Havelock, just a small shop next to the little bank; it was almost next to the St Luke’s Church there. And it had got very run down, and so between us we sort of got to and cleaned everything up, and opened up a shop there. And we were there for about four years. The property belonged to Hereworth School and they wanted to sell it to the bank I think, that was next door.

What was the jewellery shop called?

I think it was just called Havelock North Jewellers. At that time it was the only one out there.

And was she a jeweller?

No. No, we learnt very quickly. We had the Moys Brothers in Hastings – they were starting to get well-established in Hastings, and they were a big help to us. Yes.

What sort of jewellery? So this would’ve been in the ‘sixties or the seventies?

No, this was in the early eighties. Yeah. Oh, we sold a bit of everything, yes; and put new batteries in watches, and fixed jewellery … you know, like broken chains and things like that … you got to soon learn how to do things like that. Our watch repairs would go to a watchmaker to be repaired. Yeah, so we had to just close the shop after four years because the bank wanted it … the property was sold. And then I went to Redgrave’s and worked there ‘til I finished work; worked there for about seven years.

So you liked the jewellery?

It was quite interesting. Yeah – I don’t think Verna made a lot of money out of it though. You’ve got to spend quite a lot of money in a place like that. Yeah.

And what was your favourite type of jewellery?

Actually, I’ve never been a big jewellery person. [Chuckle] I had quite a nice diamond ring made, and Richard Moys – he made me a ring which is very nice. Oh, I used to buy the odd necklace and earrings. In fact I didn’t get my ears pierced ‘til I was there. [Chuckles] Verna talked me into it. [Chuckles]

No, I quite enjoyed working at Redgrave’s; they were very nice people to work for.

And they were right sort of in the centre of town, weren’t they?

Well yeah … nearly, yes.

And did you used to frequent the Farmers’ tea rooms?

Oh, I’ve been there the odd time, and I even went to a wedding reception there once … a cousin’s. But actually after Haywright’s took over Westerman’s, then the Farmers’ took it over. I think at the time the Farmers’ had it that Verna and I went out to Havelock, so we sort of had a bit to do with the Farmers’.

That’s the Farmers’ Trading Company?

No, no – Hawke’s Bay Farmers. I didn’t think this was going to be about me … [Chuckle]

Sure is. So then when you retired, is that when you moved here to Frimley?

No, I was … the reason why I retired when I did was my mother was quite sick and needed quite a bit of care. And she lived over in Ellison Road on the other side of town; she had a nice flat there. And between my sister and I we used to take turns at going there. Eventually … like, there had to be someone there twenty-four/seven for her, and we both nursed her until she died at home. And then after a few months I bought her flat and was quite happy there. And then I met Ron and we came here. We both sold our places and bought this place. Yes – so they were happy times, with him … very good.

And what have you been enjoying doing since?

Oh, I used to play golf. I took up golf while I was at Redgrave’s, actually; I thought, ‘Well, one day I’m going to have to retire – what am I going to do?’ So I decided to take up golf, and learnt that.

And where would you play?

I played out at … at that time it was called the Flaxmere Golf Club … I think it’s called the Hawkes Bay Golf Club now. But I did have to give it up because of arthritis in my hands and that. And I took up both outdoor and indoor bowls and I really enjoyed that until I had trouble with my shoulder. I’ve had that operated on now; but I just do gardening and bits and pieces now.

It’s a lovely time of year …

I’ve always been interested in the garden; I don’t say it’s great or anything, but you know, quite like pottering around.

And do you belong to any clubs?

I used to, but not now, no – I’ve sort of given up all that sort of thing.

What clubs were you interested in?

Well, I was in the bowling club; Ron belonged to two of the clubs, the Hibernian and the National Service Club; so I joined up in both those too, [chuckle] and we went away on a few trips together … actually did quite a lot of travelling around here and there. We actually had his mother living with us when we first came here; she lived with us for eight years until she was a hundred.


[Chuckles] Yes – Ron and I used to go on quite a few bus trips and things like that. Now I’ve got a hundred and five year old aunty out at Waiapu at the moment, that [whom] I’m going out visiting quite a bit.

How fantastic! And she’s still with it?

Yes … just starting to lose it a little bit now, but she has been pretty good.

That’s fantastic!

She can out-talk me. [Chuckles]

Oh, Margaret … that just sounds great. Thank you so much for your time.

I didn’t think this was going to be about me. [Chuckle]

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Interviewer:  Caroline Lowry

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