Rona Ann Fair Interview
Today is the 14 September, 2016. I’m interviewing Rona Fair about the life and times of Rona and her family starting back as far as she can remember. Rona would you like to tell us about your family.
Yes. Dad came from England when he was nineteen, and he came to Christchurch and then he came up to Hawke’s Bay. He started over in Pukahu. He had the first Post Office there not that there was anything – only for mail – and they just dropped it off and picked it up again – I think they did all that. Then he shifted into lower Te Mata Road as it was then, on an orchard. I think he might have planted the trees, I’m not sure on that. He was a great friend of Jack Fickling’s up above, and Mr … he was a German – he was a diamond merchant from Germany. ‘Cause he gave Mum this ring when she was married … when they got engaged. And then when I arrived he brought home a big doll for me.
No, it wasn’t Mr Meisner, it was before him. There was a German man before him – Frank Meisner took over after him. And when my sister Norma arrived she had a smaller one. I had the bigger one. Anyway Dad’s first wife, Lucy, died and they had four children, two boys and two girls. Mum’s husband died, and she came from Christchurch and she had three children, two boys and a girl, and then Norma and I were from their marriage, Mum and Dad’s.
We went to the Havelock school of course. We used to walk along the road, and I can remember it was lower Te Mata Road then, its Brookvale Road now. It was a metal road of course and we used to paddle along in the wintertime, and every puddle that had ice on it, we used to jump on it. And it used to grow grass in the spring right down the middle of the road, it was very rarely graded in those days. Mr Ross used to take us when we got down the road at about eight o’clock. He was going to Hastings to work, and he’d pick Norma and I up if we were there at eight o’clock at his corner by the bridge, and he dropped us off at the Presbyterian Church and we walked through to the school. We walked home, and – it’s rather interesting now with the water in Havelock – that the corner as you come down Brookvale Road, there used to be a – Bale’s orchard – there used to be a big water pipe there.
Yeah. And it came out and it was just running all the time. We used to put a hand on one end because it came out there, and we’d put a hand on there and it would come out the top and we could have a lovely drink. Yeah, and then across the road there was another one there, with a big piece of board or something. It used to go up there but we never went over there, it was always wet all round. So there was two there.
Dad had evidently when he was first there in Havelock he had a bore there, pumped water up into a tank. There was no water from the usual Water Board supply. Dad had the orchard and … used to give him a hand when I got a bit older, pruning some of the trees and picking the apples and things like that. That was a great time. We enjoyed ourselves there.
So what was it like growing up in Havelock those days? Because this would have been about the war time wouldn’t it?
No, before the war. I was at High School when the war started. My first year at school was ’39 – I was there then.
And did you play ..?
Played netball and swimming, running – I used to run.
Yes. Was the old swimming pool there then?
Oh, yes … yes. That was the earthquake. We were all in there, the school was in there, but one class – and in those days there was a big brick frontage … you used to go through the door and then you’d go down some steps to the baths. There was a grandstand there and then on the other side of the baths were the sheds for changing. Well we just got through there, just into the thing when the earthquake came and the water was coming up. Mr Lyall I think was the headmaster then, and he stopped us from going then – we just had to stand back and there was the paddling pool then in front. And the water was coming out so we were all in one corner so they said “spread out, and we’ll all go down the other corner on this hill”. And as we left there we all went up this corner and that one fell out on the road. All the bricks fell out on the road. So then the teachers decided we’d better get out in case the other one fell on top of us. I can remember an elderly couple – well I suppose they weren’t elderly in those days – they came down Duart Road and there were bricks across the road with all us climbing over them. They stopped “What’s wrong?” We told them there was an earthquake. The wife said to the husband “oh, that must have been what was wrong with the car – we couldn’t make out what was wrong with the car”. Anyway, that was all right.
Dad came down and he had a car – an old truck – and he came down and took the children that he could manage to West [?] – it was down that main road, because the bridge was down so they had to go down the bank and they had a pump or something across there and they were all waiting the other side to take them home. Anyway when we got home there was Mrs … Russell, across the road from us, and Mum & Dad … Mum there, and Mrs Leedom, and she had had a – see, I can always remember because she had bluebags all over her face and that. Apparently they had a stack of empty fruit cases by the back door and when they fell down and there was a hive of bees in them, and she got stung.
So they put the blue bags – they used to use …
Yes. Yes, they did – always bluebags.
Then during the war I was at High School to start with. When I finished High School I went and worked for a couple or three years, or two and a half years at Nutter’s in Hastings … ladies shop, and then I went from there into the Havelock Post Office. I was there for quite a while and that’s where I met – well, Phyllis – I always knew Phyllis, but she had … I was working with Phyllis but she was there too. Gladys …
Phil Horley worked in the Post Office.
He wasn’t there.
No not there, but he worked in the Post Office.
Did he? I never knew where Phil worked. Anyway, we went there. Phyllis and I used to go to the dances in Hastings on our bikes of course. And I remember when the balls were on we used to have our long frocks on and we’d have a belt round our middles. We’d pin all the hem up …
That’s right, hitch them all up – I know.
… hitch them all up, and gloves and … all up. When we got to somebody’s place in Hastings that Phyllis used to know, just along from the Municipal Theatre, nearer there, and we used to leave our bikes there and unpin our skirts and put our shoes on and off we’d go to the Ball. I remember going over to a dance at the old Scout hall over Mahora way, and we were coming home and Phyllis said “oh, I’ve got a puncture”. So we pumped up her tyre [chuckle] – before we got to Hastings we were stopping every few minutes to pump this tyre up. So when we got through Hastings we couldn’t do this because it was early in the morning or something, so we took it into turns. Either one or the other sat on the back and towed her bike and the other pedalled. We got home, Phyllis … when we got to our place I said to Phyllis “how are you going to get the rest of the way home?” Imagine walking down that hill there. “Oh”, she said “oh, I’ll get on my bike and ride it”. And I can remember her going bump, bump, bump. And when she came to the Post Office in the morning I said “how did you get here? On your bike?” She said – I think it was Bill mended the tyre.
Those are times that the young people of today don’t even know. Everything was by bike, it was dark, there were no street lights and it didn’t matter what you were wearing – if it was raining or something you still went. Coat over everything and …
[Chuckle] Yeah, well when I was working in Hastings before the war like before I went to Havelock, Gladys McLeod and I used to bike and she used to be down by the river and they had an orchard down there.
Was she Alf’s sister?
Yes, and she’s the youngest one of the family. And Pickering’s used to have a truck for carrying the fruit into town and we used to catch in behind it – we hardly ever pedalled at all. [Chuckle]
Because the trucks didn’t go very quickly those days.
[Chuckle] And they pulled you along in the slip stream at the back you see. But you wouldn’t dare do it now.
When it was just a sort of a showery day there was always … across the road, just past Painters orchard by the gate … and it was dry one side and wet the other. We often struck that.
Cars used to move to the left as you came past. But I’ll always remember that. At some stage then you met your husband.
Oh, yes. Well he was down the road. I mean he – I never knew him till he came back from the war. I knew Bruce and Laurie. And we used to play on the corner where … James’s were there. There was Bob and Stan and Norma and I. Sometimes Laurie came. We used to play there for ages but there was a big dip there, it’s closed in now. Stan was only young, he was a skinny little blighter, skinny legs. And he was on the back of my bike and I was going down the hill, and I don’t know what happened but he got his foot between the two forks at the back. [Chuckle] ‘Course we fell off, but fortunately I managed to get into the grass rather than on the road and I couldn’t get his leg out but Arthur Russell came along and got his leg out for him. It wasn’t broken or anything, he was so tiny.
No – soft bones.
[Chuckle] There’s Arthur and Fred Russell.
And so when your husband came back – he was overseas for all the war time.
Yes. He went over and he was a prisoner of war …
… taken prisoner of war in Italy. Just before Cassino. He was in there until after the war.
So did you know him before he went away?
Not really. No, no – I think I might have seen him once. Yes, well he was out on the farm, he was always farming, working on farms – he was out at Patoka, Waihau.
And his name was ..?
Ted. He was the third one of the Fair family.
And so did you move ..?
Well when he came back he wasn’t able to do much ’cause of his bad diet I think. His feet weren’t too good and he went into hospital to have a look at his feet or something and he came out with his tonsils out. [Chuckle]
You’re joking! [Laughter]
Hughie took us – Norma and I in – we were going to see him, and Hughie said “oh, I think you’d better sit in the car and I’ll come and get you if he’s okay”, you see. And he came back and he was laughing like one thing and he said “he’s had his tonsils out”. [Chuckle] Anyway he got better and when we were married we went up to Waihau. No power, no car, no telephone, two miles from anybody. [Chuckle]
Oh! So whose farm was that?
Horgan’s. Just sold recently for about three or four million.
Did it have a name?
Wade Hill was the name of it.
And so how long did you stay there then?
We weren’t there very long. We were only there about six or seven months I think, because Scott, the son, got married and his wife wasn’t used to having a father-in-law there. He was a nice chap – very rough farming. [Chuckle] And he’d used to have his dogs on her couch [chuckle] sleeping there, and then to cap it all off, evidently he used to take his shoes off – working shoes off – and put them in the oven and leave the door open, you see. And she came along, lit the fire and closed the door and he had no shoes. [Chuckle] It wasn’t so good. But he was a very nice old chap. Ted liked him, he was working there before the war.
Then we went home for a little while and stayed with Mum and Dad – worked up at Ficklings’ orchard. We weren’t there very long and then we went out farming, you know – working on a farm. We went to Avery’s down Middle Road. We were down there for quite a while, and then we went up – up to a place up over the Te Aute Hill, that windy road?
Oh yes, the Burma Road.
Yes, Mick Grooms, yes.
We weren’t there very long before we got – we were in for ballots of course, and I think we’d put in – Ted had put in for about a hundred. He said “that’s the last one”, he said “if we don’t get that I’ll get a new car”, ’cause we thought we had to have a thousand pounds deposit, but we didn’t apparently. So we got the farm out of Wanstead up on the corner of Te Awa Road and Hiranui Road, yeah, where the water blocks off the bridge. We were out there for … ’til Ted took sick, heart attack, so then we went to Waipukurau and lived.
So Wanstead, the old Wanstead Hotel, would have been a major player in the …
D’you know – there’s a chap recently took it over and developed it into the most beautiful hotel?
And then did a runner and didn’t pay for it.
Did he? Is that what happened? [Chuckle]
Hasn’t spent that – didn’t pay anything. Whether they’ve caught up with him I don’t know.
I don’t know, I’ve never heard of that one.
See that happened after I … when I was in Waipukurau. I knew the hotel had closed down, but they’d done it up.
So anyway – so then you went to Waipukurau, and because Ted had had a heart attack he was sort of disabled from working?
Yes, he wasn’t able to do the heavy work.
And so you started your retirement there.
Yes. Oh, it was good – I enjoyed it there.
And so did you both … did Ted come to Taradale with you?
Oh, no, no, no. He’s been dead – he died in 1980 … been a while. Yeah. I built another house right in Waipukurau. We were in McLean Terrace. It was a nice little place. I liked the house, but it was a bit big, the section, for me. So I built another one just out of Waipukurau, just opposite the school on Porangahau Road.
So you’ve seen some changes haven’t you, over time?
And when you think – over ninety two years – you farmed without a car, without electricity, [chuckle] the shingle roads, the bare feet. [Chuckle] They were just normal weren’t they?
When they had the problem with the water the other day, I thought ‘gosh, a lot of people used to pump water out of streams and out of all sorts of places’.
But we want it all perfect now don’t we?
[Chuckle] Well that stream where you were, where did that come from? That would be part of that one at the bottom
It started at the Wilson property. Just up near where the … Dimonds were living those days.
Oh, that’s right.
Just behind Dimond’s house, that’s where the creek starts with springs. Those wells they put in Brookvale Road are on the same aquifer as the stream starts on.
‘Cause that – where that was coming in by Mrs Guthrie’s cow yards over the road – remember Guthrie’s had a cow bale I think there – well it was just over the … on Bale’s side of their orchard but within Bale’s orchard. Well that used to come down and went down the bottom of our place towards your place. I thought they must have joined up there somewhere.
Didn’t? Well where did that one finish up then?
That water would have gone down to that drain that ran down below Ellisons’ and where the Moores’ is.
Yes that’s right, that’s where it was. Where did that go to?
It runs back down towards Havelock …
Oh did it?
… towards the bridge It ran the opposite way to which water was running – strange because we’ve got lots of drains in this area that run contrary to the contour of the land. So anyway that was interesting seeing those changes. When the Horley’s first moved to Arataki Road, old Mr & Mrs Horley used to run the orchard and of course that area had no irrigation or anything. But over time of course I got quite close to Phil and Phyllis, and Lindsay and Bob and Bill.
Yes. They’ve all gone though haven’t they?
Yes, they’ve all gone, yes.
Lindsay would have been the first.
Yes. Well Mum was the last, and she was the hardest because she was ninety six when she died.
Was she? Now what was your mother’s name?
There was a Violet wasn’t there?
Did she marry a …?
She married a Bixley. Mona married a Smith. Dolly married a Davey – he was a farmer at Redcliff and Jim Wilson he was up at Tuai …
That’s right, yes that’s right.
… he was an electrical engineer. So that pretty well covers it. So now you’re sitting here retired. Do you play bowls, or …
Yes. I read a bit but I have to keep those out of the road a bit. I paint and I do my garden.
Right. What sort of painting do you do?
Oh, and I do needlework. That sort of thing.
Are they crochet ..?
Needlework – are they?
Yes, cross stitch. And painting. Most of them are from around the world. I’ve been painting lately.
And so is there anything else you can think about? This longevity certainly runs in the Slade family doesn’t it? Because you’ve got Carol at a hundred and one.
Well, she’ll be a hundred and one in October.
That’s right. I saw her three weeks ago. I went and had a cup of tea, because I’ve got a son and daughter-in-law in Mt Eden, so she’s just back down the road and it’s so easy to go and say hello. She’s a neat lady.
How’s she doing, all right?
She’s fine. She hasn’t changed from …
No – she’s got a terrific memory. She still plays the piano apparently.
And even when she made me a cup of tea – she’s sure – she knows what she’s doing.
Yes, she does … oh no, she’s great.
Well Rona, that probably gives us a picture of the past.
[Chuckle] We weren’t bare feet at school – we always had shoes.
Did you really? You didn’t take them off?
No, we used to … first one along, we always cracked all the puddles.
Well we had shoes too, but we used to put them in our bags. ‘Cause we had a little bit further to go than you. That’s lovely … well thank you Rona for that.
Original digital file
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Interviewer: Frank Cooper