Wise, Noleen Interview

Good morning. I’m from the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank with the living record of the people and events of the region for the digital archives, for future generations. I’m talking to Mrs Noleen Wise and her daughter, Megan Deacon, about their family settlement in Hawke’s Bay since the early 1800s. Good morning Noleen.

Good morning.

Good morning Megan.

Megan: Good morning Jim.

Now Noleen, if you could just tell me from the beginning when your family first arrived in the Bay and if you could just carry on there – what they did, how they got here and later on from your great parents and grandparents and mother and father, to the present day.

My grandparents came out here from the Shetland Islands and settled here. They settled in Hastings and Havelock. And my grandfather, who I had a lot to do with – they lived in Charles Street and the house is still there. My father died before … my mother was pregnant with Graham, that’s my brother … and my father died, so I never knew what it was to have a man in the house at all. We didn’t know him at all. So he died but he’s buried in Christchurch in the soldiers’ cemetery down there.

What year did your grandparents come to Hastings?

Yes, well she came back to Hastings because she’d always lived in Hastings – been a Hastings girl. And she came back to Hastings and she bought herself a house in Victoria Street that was built by a Mr Hickmott, and he lived on the corner of this block and he built all these houses. And Mum – she had a sign at the gate ‘Sewing’, and that’s how she lived, and that’s the way she … we never went without anything. We had bikes – ’cause we couldn’t have a car – and we had bikes, and we used to bike into town to the theatre at night, us kids with Mum.

Megan: What about your schooling Mum?

Yes, well I went to Parkvale School.

About what year?

Well, in 1931 I was there.

Megan: She was 9 then, so …

Noleen: That’s when the earthquake … and we were all bought home by the neighbours who did have cars in those days. And we had the biggest lawn in the block so the Council gave us a Bell tent, and all the neighbours slept in that Bell tent. And that night we had another really good one – good shake and that really made everybody sit up and take notice. And then Graham and I were evacuated to Woodville to relations of ours who had a farm down there – we were down there for a few months because toilets weren’t working and all the chimneys were down. That all had to be redone. But otherwise we were perfectly all right.

Megan: The house in Victoria Street, still there today.

Oh, in Victoria Street … because we lived in Victoria Street too.

Did you? Oh yes, you were further up the block – up near Karamu Road.

It’s all been pulled down now.

But it was always a very nice street. Mr Campbell lived over the road from us. You know Campbell & Sons in Karamu Road and we had very nice neighbours.

You had Mr Green too the traffic cop. He was down there too. [Speaking together]

Oh, was he there as well?

Megan: Do you know who else Mum, was your neighbours?

Noleen: I can remember the Bristows. They sold eggs, a couple of blocks to the back of us. And Mr & Mrs Jones lived up … Bon Marche? Jones? They lived just further along the block and she came weekly always with a collecting box. ‘Would we put some money in/’ She was a lovely lady. And of course when we went to Hart Drive … this was years ago when I was married and had family, we built in Hart Drive … we had the Jones’ lived over the road from us. We had Stewart on the corner and Ross straight over the road. Lovely people.

Richard’s a good friend of mine. He’s just down the road.

And – ‘cause he’s the only one left. Is he?

No Bryce is still around too …

Bryce is still around …

… lives in Waipawa. He bought a few acres down there.

Megan: So when did you go to work Mum? When did you start work? Can you remember how old you were?

Noleen: Well I was only a junior and I was employed at Westerman’s.

What do you mean ‘only a junior’?

Well, when you were employed you were only … say, 15, I imagine.

And what were the hours that you worked there?

I would say it was 9 till 5. It was a tough place to work.

And no work on Saturday.

I think Thursdays was half day off wasn’t it?

Thursday, and you had late night Friday.

Yes, that was right, yes. But a great crowd to work with.

Megan: But were they hard taskmasters? You know, they were hard …

Noleen: Oh yes. He wouldn’t allow the doors to be … doors had to be open as soon as the shop opened, and you weren’t allowed to shut them – didn’t matter what the weather was like. I can remember having to clean an umbrella stand. I was right up the top in the hosiery, and I can remember we had an earthquake and I wanted to dive outside. [Chuckle] ‘Cause we were very, you know … when you’ve been through those sort of things – you know, you sort of went through it.

[Audio missing]

Yeah, Brixton in Waitara, and he was one of eleven children, and seven of those boys were in the First World War. And I can always remember in the living room, there was a ceiling as high like this, and there was this big photo. And there were all these photos of these boys. And we’ve got some rather interesting letters there Megan. Letters that he wrote to his mother when he was on the front over there for years, and we’ve got them … we’ve kept … all these years.

Lovely to look back on.

Megan: When you were at Westerman’s, is that when you started marching?

Noleen: Yes.

Megan: Did they have their own Westerman’s team?

Noleen: No, I don’t think we did in those days. There might have been earl… but it was later when I’d been in for a while that we joined the Kilties, the Scotch one, and then – ’cause we had …

Megan: Was that Westco, was it?

Noleen: No I played netball for Westerman’s and we were Westco’s. We used to play on a – I think as you say – on a Thursday, or something. We used to have to bike over to the other side of the town to play.

To – whereabouts were the courts then?

They were over there in the Baptist area. What’s that road ..? You know where the Catholic Church is – which road is that?

Heretaunga Street?

No, no, no – back further, and there’s a park over there where they play soccer.

Megan: Oh, Francis Hicks Avenue.

Noleen: Yeah – Francis Hicks Avenue.

Megan: Is there netball courts there?

Noleen: No, but we played in the school courts, because you had to go to a school to play.

Okay, so you did that, but the marching now – I’m interested to hear more about that.

Yeah, well we had this team that was called Shaws’ Kilties and we had this guy – he was head of one of the pipe bands and he used to take us. And we used to travel all over, down the South Island and go to all these places, and we’ve got photos there where we won lots of trophies and that.

And how did you travel to those places?

Mostly on buses. We did go to the South Island once, so we had to cross … we must have had to go over on the boat.

So you went over, but the buses didn’t go on the boat in those days.

No, no, no. I think we just all had to go ourselves – and get ourselves …

And then get a bus at the other end.

Yes, and get buses at the other end.

How many in a marching team?


And you were the leader?

No I wasn’t. I had a Margaret Wright who was the leader – she was an absolutely fantastic person.

Megan: Who was your – who was the sergeant major, the guy at the front, who was that? Was that the guy Shaw?

Noleen: No. Jimmy Shaw sponsored us. And of course he had that shop in Queen Street. It was a furniture shop, wasn’t it? Jimmy Shaw …

Shaw’s Furniture.

He sponsored us and kept us going. And ‘course he was Scotch too so we wore tartan and he thought it was just wonderful. So did we.

So you did this up until age … what age?

‘Til we all started getting boyfriends and we were all getting married. [Laughter] We had to give up then.

Oh, oh. And you had a few of those I’ve heard from my …

We all dropped by the wayside.

OK, and then you got married?


In what year? Just after the earthquake or before.

Oh, no – well after.

Megan: Well after the earthquake. In the 40s it would have been. Was it 1942 Mum?

During the war.

Yeah, because I had come back from the Islands, that’s right, and I was working at Hunt’s then and I met him then. And we got married soon after that.

Local boy?

Yes, name of Wise. [Chuckle] And his father … they did all sorts of things. They lived in Mahora.

Megan: Dad’s dad built a lot of the homes in Mahora, in Konini Street.

Noleen: No. His father did. Konini Street and Waipuna Street, all that area. And he went to Mahora School.

And Noleen, your married life must have been fairly hard starting off?

No not really.

Rationing cards we had, did we not?

I can’t remember.

Megan: Well where did you live when you first got married?

In Konini Street.

Megan: Oh, you move straight into a family house.

Yes, because Ike’s father, he owned all these houses and so they provided us with a house.

Well that’s a good start.

It was a wonderful start. And Ike, he and his brother were painters and paper hangers so of course it was all done up for us to move into and everything.

And then the children arrived? Over the … was it a while after you were married before the first one arrived? Not like today?

No it’s not like today.

Megan: Barry arrived pretty quickly, didn’t he Mum? After you were married. I think you said it was probably about 18 months.

It was something like that, yes.

And how many others?

And then we had two girls and we lost a boy. There was a boy in between. It was a good street to live in. All the kids went to the same school and played up and down the street. It was really good.

Megan: And you lot used to get into the sherry, didn’t you? Get these flagons of sherry and …

Oh, that’s when our girls were left – when all the men went to the … cars.

Megan: What, a car show or something?

No, it wasn’t a car show – no, they had races.

Megan: Oh!

And they used to leave the girls at home. They wouldn’t take us, so one night we got into whatever was under the house. There was some beer there and some sherry and things like that. They came home to find us not in a very good condition, so we weren’t left alone after that. We were taken to the [chuckle] … taken to it.

Taken to the Car Club?


Megan: Was it car racing?


Megan: And where was it at?

It was in a park somewhere.

‘Course we did have car racing down Omahu Road at one stage.

Yeah, and that would be round about where it would be. Yes.

Yeah. Chatham Road, or somewhere round about then I think. I remember Bruce Abernethy was here at the time …

Oh, that’s right.

… and two other guys. Morrie Dunn, the bike racer, and … Now if we get back to the early days with your grandfather coming here. They came to Hastings? Your grandfather?

Yes, they came to Hastings and they settled round Hastings, Havelock, Napier. A lot of the houses are still on the hill, where my grand… my grandparents are buried up in the cemetery at the hospital up there.

At the Havelock Cemetery you mean?

No, Napier.

Oh, Napier – sorry.

Megan: Up on the hill in Napier is it Mum?

Noleen: On the hill.

Megan: Oh!

Noleen: The cemetery’s very close to the hospital.

Megan: Oh – I didn’t know that.

Yeah – there is one.

Yes. Yes – and Graham and I, you know – we’ve been up there and had a look at them and we’ve, you know – read them.

So Megan, have you got something to add to all this?

Megan: I’m just trying to think what Mum has told us over the years. Their life hasn’t been easy. It has been quite tough. You know – Mum will tell you it’s easy, but I can remember even saying some mornings that if she never ate her porridge or anything from the morning she’d be given it again the next day, or a meal from the night before was given it to her the next day, because times were so hard they just didn’t have anything like that.

You went out and picked lots of things, didn’t you Mum? Your mother took you out lots on your bikes and you went gathering things, and …

Noleen: Yes.

Megan: Mum’s Mum was – she was a very quiet sort of person and obviously had to go through a lot with her life of bringing up two kids but she did so well. She did really well and she was … Mum said she just never let them go without.

I think it was pretty hard in the days in the 1800s and what-have-you from all my readings that I have read about. You know, things were not easy.

Megan: What else about your grandparents and that Mum? You talk also about when the earthquake happened and you were in the classroom, and you said you went out and the water in the pool …

Noleen: Oh, no that was when the earthquake happened, and we were all told – it was play time and it was Parkvale School, and all of us – we were all outside and we were all … said “go over and sit under the fence … under the big fence at the end”. And of course we all sat in it – but the swimming pool was just around the corner and of course we all sat into water.

Megan: It overflowed.

This is interesting. I’m just reading from your notes here. ‘The ship arrived in Hawke’s Bay on the 4th day of the New Year, 102 days out from Gravesend, and the darkness and the danger of the reefs persuaded the captain to anchor in the bay overnight. It was 12.30pm the following day before the captain eventually dropped anchor in the roadstead about half a mile off East Pier, East Spit, Ahuriri foreshore. With all the illnesses experienced on the journey the passengers and crew expected the ship to be put in quarantine. It surprised me the Napier officials cleared the vessel’. So, you know, that seems to ring true with a number of the ships that came to New Zealand. They had deaths on the way and they had births as well.

Noleen: Oh, they lost children, and … oh, it must have been dreadful.

This is great – this is great. Who wrote all this?

Megan: Who wrote that Mum? Your nephew?

Noleen: My nephew. He did the family tree and he did it all up. Did some wonderful … really good reading.

Megan: She’s never bought the book – you never bought the big book on the Fultons either did you?

Noleen: No. Was I supposed to?

Megan: Oh, you’ve got one of those as well that we never dug out.

It’s amazing how names crop up with everybody that we interview. Just reading through here and I see ‘the garden of Henry Tiffen, himself a keen horticulturist. The Tiffens’ gardens were a beautiful sight, frequently thrown open to the public. They were planted in tropical flowers and shrubs amongst which were many rare specimens’. Now I went to school with a Tiffen at Hereworth and then he went to England where he died. He was a very good man with radios, and he worked for television in Central England.

Noleen: And did he in those days keep up the gardening part? Can you remember?

Yes he did. He was pretty interested in that at Hereworth. Now Mary Anderson, where does she fit in? Mary Anderson – eldest daughter.

Megan: Yeah. Mum’s mum was an Anderson.

So how many in that family – in your mother’s family?

There were three boys and two girls, I think. Charlie lived in Hastings.

Megan: Oh, Charlie Fulton, yes he did.

Noleen: Charlie Anderson.

Megan: Oh, Charlie Anderson?

Noleen: Yeah. And Mum had a sister who married a sea captain and went to Australia and lived there – well, she’s lived there most of her life. That was Mum’s eldest sister.

Yeah – this is really fascinating reading, this.

Megan: I’ve never seen it before, other than today.

Oh, have you not? It’s been tucked away?

Megan:  Yeah, well, we just – we sort of started going through a few bits and pieces – what we could for you.

Well, funny thing you should say that. I interviewed someone recently, great interview and his wife said “Oh, we’ve got a box of stuff outside – look, I’ll go and have a look”. Came down with the box … all over the floor. She said “Jimmy, now you’ve stirred something within me. I’ve got five boxes upstairs”. They were big boxes too with photos and whathaveyou. She said “Now – what I promise you I’ll ring you in five months’ time, and I’ll have it all together and we’ll have another interview”. And I said “that’s what I want to hear”.

Noleen:  Amazing.

It is, yeah. And it just stirs people up because they just have stuff. It’s a bit like my family as well. I’ve had boxes and cartons of stuff lying around for years, and then my son said to me “Come on Dad, do something about it. Get it together”. And I’ve got two boys and the other one said the same thing. So I got stuck in and I went through all the papers and then sorted them out and then … built everything around it. I’ve got about sixty pages that I’ve written on the family that I can find at this stage, and still adding to it.

But Megan, now – let’s get on to you. You know – what can you add to this?

Megan: Oh, well obviously we grew up in Mahora, as mum said – they lived in Konini Street, and we grew up at … all us kids grew up with a great life – a street life really with all the kids in the street. It was pretty fantastic really, and I know Dad used to come home always reeking of paint and he’d … Mum used to have to soak his overalls to try and get all the paint off them. Yeah. We had a great upbringing in that area. It was really neat. Even now we can go down the street and say ‘oh, yeah, we can – those people lived there, and there’ and – you know … even some of the original people when we were there – the Kales for instance, they’re still there.

Noleen: Yes. They would be the only ones …

Megan: From when we were there.

Noleen: Yes.

Megan: Big families. Even nowadays you see somebody, and they go “Were you a Wise?” And I go “yes”. And they go “well, we lived in Mahora too, and we lived in Waipuna Street” – like the Meehans. I caught up with some of them the other day. You know – so it just – the legacy goes on doesn’t it?

Noleen: Yeah, well you see Ike – he grew up with those Meehan girls.

Megan: Yeah, well my father had a lot more knowledge of the city than what Mum ever did. He just had so much, obviously ’cause he painted … [Speaking together]

Noleen: We lived at … we lived at Parkvale end where he lived at Mahora.

Megan: Yeah. And he painted so many peoples’ homes and you know – was in and out of peoples’ houses all the time. And then when I was nine Mum and Dad shifted to Frimley and built a house in Hart Drive and the rest of my schooling was at Girls’ High from there on. I went to Intermediate and then Girls’ High.

And then became a very good sports woman. Played netball and ..?

Megan: No – never played netball. No, it’s a sport I can’t bear. No – I was a always … I was a hockey girl at school and any racquet sports. We play a lot of badminton – played for Hawke’s Bay for many years, but the body’s sort of broken down a little bit now – as it does.

Were you a good badminton player?

Megan: Yes I was a good badminton player. Played for Hawke’s Bay.

‘Cause I remember the badminton playing the squash players once, and the Hawke’s Bay badminton team lost to the squash people [laughter] at badminton. But we had some very good badminton players that took up squash. Owen Bold and somebody else.

Megan: Owen was a – he was an excellent badminton player. Good … an excellent tennis player.

We used to play in the YMCA is that right?

Megan: Yes that’s right. You remember te big house at the front of it? That got pulled down.

So you’ve kept good health all your life Noleen?

I’ve been very, very lucky. I’ve never been to hospital except to have a baby.

That’s a real plus.

Very, very lucky and even like now at my age … I mean people say “you just walk down to the shop, and you’re lively and you come out … get out in the garden”. I said “I just can’t help it, I’m just built like that”.

Could I ask you your age?


93. Wonderful, wonderful.

Very, very lucky.

Megan: Mum’s mum died quite young. She was – she was 63 I think she was when she died, and Mum’s brother is still alive. He’s 91 and Mum’s 93, so the longevity on that side is quite amazing.

Noleen: Yes well there were only two of us and Graham was born after my father died. As I say we never knew what it was to have a man in the house. I mean – I often sort of think ‘I wonder why she never married. I wonder if she had the opportunity.’

Megan: You don’t remember other men being around or anything?

Noleen: No – no. She had lots of friends and that, but – had lots of good family like the Fultons. They were good. You know – they all came over for holidays and that. No, it was really good.

So it’s a changing world as you see it, from those days to today. Not for the better you would say?

No, I don’t think there is anything wrong with the way we live today really.

It’s just all the forms we’ve got to fill out. [Chuckle]

Megan: I always say that to my granddaughter. I said we lived in the best era being brought up as kids. We had no TV, we were out there doing things with our parents and playing together all the time and it was such a wonderful era, you know, and other school friends I’ve met up with too, they just said it was so good. Nowadays it’s so techno and – you know, and other things that are happening in the world. Never had any racial tension at school or anything like that like they do now. So things are changing that’s for real.

Well, anything to add? I’m sure you’ve got plenty to add.

Noleen: Not really, but we did bring a photo of me at Girls’ High and I wonder whether you could tell me what year it would have been.

Black stockings in those days – Girls’ High?

Here it is.

Megan: So you think there’s a year on it Mum?

It’s a great pity isn’t it?

Noleen: I wondered if that says something, but I can’t read it.

Megan: Well, that’s the Boys’ High – that’s the front of the Boys’ High now. That’s still there.

Noleen: Yes, but – being Girls’ High – yes, but we were all there as well. It was girls and boys …

Megan: You could work it out what year it was, because if you think what year you went to High School.

But I can’t remember. And I can see myself there, but – I’m along here somewhere.

 Do you remember the headmaster, or the headmistress’ name?


Megan: Who was it?

Noleen: [Chuckle] I can’t …

 Just give it … just give it – that’ll give us a real … 

Megan: Oh, it looks like a headmaster.

 Yeah, it does.  

Megan: Yeah – looks like a headmaster Mum.

Noleen: Oh God. That was Miss Steele, and that – I think she was Miss Hammond. And Miss Kelt’s along here.

Megan: No, she went to school with you, Jean Kelt.

Noleen: Yeah, but she’s in this …

Megan: That’s her there – was she a prefect?

Noleen: Yes, she was a prefect.

Megan: Bet you that’s her there.

Was her name Kelt?

Kelt – Jean Kelt. [Megan & Noleen speaking together]

Noleen: She was along here …

Megan: Who are the teachers here Mum? Can you remember any of them?

Well, that’s been a very interesting talk, and thank you Noleen, for coming through.

Well I’d like to … if my memory would – you know, if it would been a bit better. it makes me so … infuriating you know, that you can’t remember things.

I know what it’s like.

But when you say a name and all of a sudden you think ‘good, yes I know that person’. You know – and you start to think ‘well, you know …’ No, it’s great.

And Megan, thank you for coming as well and sharing …

Megan:  Oh, thank you Jim.

… some of the stories with your mother. It’s very much appreciated and on behalf of the Knowledge Bank I say thank you very much.

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  • Noleen Wise

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Interviewer:  Jim Newbigin


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