Memories of Mt Vernon

From Mona McLean
56 Viponds Rd.

Tel H.B.C 47:023

Dear Peter

I found myself in the 8th decade of my life being by the sea here and writing a series of impressions of my life as a child. Thought it might amuse my nieces & nephews.

So much about Mt Vernon came through that I thought it a pity not to let you have it. I did mean to get it typed but if I wait for that another Christmas will have come & gone so here goes. I hope you can decipher the writing. I was so pleased when I heard from my sister Bab Rogers that you had rescued Mt Vernon from its long sleep after the earthquake.

Best wishes for Christmas to you and your family

Yours sincerely

Mona McLean

PS   I have simply extracted the bits that have any mention of Mt Vernon or your mother and father. It will probably seem a bit incoherent & disjointed – sorry about that

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The Mount Vernon Peaches

We are still at Wallace but we are getting used to it and we go along the road with Mummy every day to look at our section. It is really Ours. Not rented. Bought with money from the Eketahuna house and the sale. It is Ours and we go and look at the pegs that tell how big it is and Mummy puts sticks in the ground and takes big steps and says where the different rooms are going to be and I don’t really know if it is true or just pretending. And there is a WAR and soldiers called Our Boys have to go away in ships and fight the Germans. But this story is not about that but I have to tell you because the War comes into it. And How the War comes in is Race and Laddie Godfrey who I told you a bit about in Eketahuna and soldiers in their uniforms and they come up here in a car to say Goodbye to people and one of the people is Mummy and one of the others is called Fluffy Irwin. That is what Race and Laddie called her but now she is married and is Very Rich. And she is called Mrs Harding and she lives in a very Big House called Mt Vernon. And that is what this story is about. You go over the Bridge and then you go off the Big Road and onto a rather little road but it is a real road all the same – you don’t go through a gate so it is really a Road not a big drive. I am telling you this because I think it is Important. Because this road doesn’t belong to everybody like other roads it is called a Private Road and it belongs to

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a man called Mr Harding and he is Very Rich and that is where we are going. I have to tell you about Mt Vernon peaches like this because this is how it comes out of my head.

Well Today we are in the car – Ken and Baby and me in the back seat and Race and Laddie in the front dressed as Soldiers. Mummy didn’t come today. And we go along the Private Road and there are paddocks with sheep in them on both sides. And we go quite a long way and then we come to a very big gate and it is open and we drive in and Now we are in a very big drive and trees on each side and grass and flowers and a Hammock on the lawn hung up between the trees and by it is another hammock with cushions on it. And we think to ourselves Mr Harding must be nearly as rich as the King. And then we get to a Very Big House with a Big Porch and curly posts at the sides and a Very Big front door and Race and Laddie go inside and we stay in the car. And we feel very quiet and as if we mustn’t get out and run about in case someone wouldn’t like it and we might make the ground on the drive untidy. And at last a man comes out and says Hallo to us and it is Mr Harding and he brings us 3 peaches. And he says these are Mt Vernon peaches. And they are very big and we have never had a whole peach to ourselves before. So at first we just hold our peaches and smell it and Mr Harding goes back into his house. And then we

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we start to eat our peaches and the juice runs out. And we have never had such a lovely thing before and all of us all our lives know we have never tasted anything like that before. And we make them last as long as we can and we are very sticky and we don’t know what to do with the stones so I hold them all in my hand in case Baby or Ken might throw them on the Very Tidy Drive. And that is all I remember about that. I don’t remember how we got home or anything. Just the lovely taste and the 3 stones in my hand.

The End

Staying at Mount Vernon

I am eleven and I am going by myself to stay at Mt Vernon with Mr and Mrs Harding. They have a little boy called Brian and a nanny to look after him – the proper kind with a cap and apron and a collar with a real stud in it. They are in the nursery but I am to be with the grownups like a proper visitor. Of course I won’t get a cup of tea and thin bread and butter in bed the morning but I will sit with Mr and Mrs Harding in the big dining room. It is big and I have been there before because we get asked there for Christmas dinner with lots of other children and I think I will have to tell you about that before I can get on with

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this story. It’s funny like that with me – I start to tell you something like staying at Mt Vernon and then I can’t get on with it till I tell you something else so I’ll just stop there and tell you about Christmas Dinner at Mt Vernon and then come back.

Christmas Dinner at Mt Vernon

On Christmas Day every year Mr and Mrs Harding have all the children they know to dinner. Perhaps there might be twenty – I don’t know how many but it seems a lot. And in the afternoon the mothers and fathers and other grown ups come and play tennis on the lovely tennis courts and have tea and ice cream. So we all look forward to it. But all I am going to tell you is the Xmas dinner because I can’t get on with the other story until I do. First of all we go up the steps to the porch over the big front door and we don’t have to ring the bell because the door is open but there is a real maid there in a black dress and a lovely frilly white apron and a cap with long strings hanging down her back and Mr Harding is there very nice and friendly and making jokes and telling people they have grown since last year and hoping they didn’t have too much breakfast because they must make room for that turkey and things like that. And the hall is very big – much bigger than the hall at Wallace and on one side is the drawing room and we don’t go in there and on

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the other side is the library and we don’t go in there. And there is a lovely red carpet all over and at the very end a big wide staircase and a great big window with stained glass and lovely red carpet on the stairs and everything. And we say to ourselves It is like a Palace in a Book. And the maid takes us to a lovely place where we can wash our hands and hang our hats if we are wearing a hat and go somewhere if we need to in a separate place going off from the place where we wash our hands. And its all called The Cloak Room and the taps are very shiny and the towels are very clean and there is a nice smell – not disinfectant – nicer than that but it is a bit disinfectanty but not Lysol – No. But best of all there is special kind of soap. It is in a sort of glass ball fixed to the wall and you tip it up and out comes the lovely soap- all runny. We all like that soap and even if we were not going to have a lovely dinner we would still think it was an adventure to go to Mt Vernon and wash our hands with the special runny soap. On the way to the cloak room we go past the big dining room and we can just have a quick look in as we go past. And we can see the long long table and crackers on it and paper table napkins made into fans and put into glasses by peoples plates and maids – two – doing things to the table and we feel very excited. And there is a lovely smell coming from behind a big thick door with green stuff on it like the top of billiard tables. Oh and we say to ourselves that is the turkey. And

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then we come out into the big hall and Mr Harding is there and Mrs Harding in a pretty dress – she is Miss Irwin’s sister but her face is prettier than Miss Irwin’s. And we go to Miss Irwin’s school in Waipukurau – well Baby and I do – Ken is a boy so he must go to the proper school and grow up to be a man. And then the gong goes and Mr Harding goes in first and he sorts us out a bit and our names are written on lovely cards at each place where we are going to sit. And we sit like this – a boy then a girl all round the table. Unless there might be more boys than girls – then two have to sit together and Ken always hopes he will sit next to a boy because he doesn’t like girls much. And there is one boy and we all know him but I won’t tell you his name because that would not be kind but we don’t want to sit next to him. And why we don’t is he sticks his elbows out. He always does that at all parties and everything and even when he only comes to tea with us. Perhaps it is because he hasn’t any brothers and sisters to tell him and make him stop. So at home he might have the whole side of the table to himself. But it is a nuisance. And specially at Parties or at Xmas dinner where people have to be squashed together. He is quite a big boy and that elbow can knock into your arm if you are just going to have a drink of lemonade or you might just have a spoonful of trifle and next thing there is cream all over everything so we all hope we won’t sit next to him. But somebody has to. It’s not a good

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thing to stick your elbows out. I expect you have guessed who that boy is when I said he was a Big boy. Yes it’s John Broad. But Ken likes him very much – he is Ken’s Best Friend. Oh well I must stop now for a bit.


The Gong.

I am still really telling you about Xmas Dinner at Mt Vernon but things get so mised [messed] up in my head that I sometimes have to stop. So I’ll tell you a little bit about the Gong because it is Very Important and it keeps coming into any stories about Mt Vernon so you’d better know about it. It’s not at all like ordinary gongs that are just made out of brass and hang there – big round things that people bang with drum sticks. The Mt Vernon gong is  not like that. Perhaps someone might give you for your birthday a thing in a box called a Zylophone that you hit with little drum sticks and if you are clever enough you can play a tune on it. Well the Mt Vernon gong is like that only of course it is big and made of brass and the drum stick is a real one that hangs in its own special place. And children must Not play with that Gong. It is Not a plaything. And one of the maids who is allowed to play that gong hits it at exactly the right time. And if you are staying all night at Mt Vernon and are

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going to have your dinner with the Grown ups at night they play a special little tune on the gong quite a long time before dinner and its called the Dressing Bell. And that means you stop whatever you are doing and come in and go upstairs to Dress for Dinner. And I expect I’ll tell you about that later on. But I just mightn’t so now you will know. They call it the Dressing Bell but it is the Gong, and you go up and have your bath and brush your hair and if you are me you put on your tussone silk dress and your best socks and your ballet shoes.

And a clean hankie.

A Bit about the Dining Room at Mt Vernon

I told you the dining room was very big and with a very long table down the middle. I think the carpet is red like the hall – it mightn’t be but I get a sort of Red feeling when I think about it. What I most like in that dining room – and I wish I could see them now – is two pictures. – one on one wall and the other opposite. They are big and they are Real Oil Paintings and Mr Harding’s father bought them in Italy – I think – I don’t know. They both have the sea in them and a lovely beach and the waves coming in – very peaceful. The picture on the outside wall where the windows are has children playing on the beach. They are not in bathing dresses. They are not that sort of children. But they are not Poor Children

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I think they might be fisherman’s children. The sort of fishermen who have to go out in boats and earn their living even when it is very rough and dangerous. These children look very happy. They look as if they don’t worry about anything. And its a nice day in the picture and I think it must be Saturday about three oclock in the afternoon. I don’t know why I think that. I don’t remember how many children there are. There might be about five, I can’t see their faces in my mind. I just feel their happiness.

The picture on the other wall has the sea and a lovely beach. I think the sand is more goldy in this one and there is a man and a lady and I think the man might be a fisherman and the lady’s father might be, I think they have those sort of clothes – they are not at all old and I think they are going to be married. I think so. His arm is round her and I think she likes it and they walk with their bare feet in the frothy sea as it comes up on the beach. There is a pinky look in the sky – I think it will soon be night. There’s nobody else in the picture – just them. There might be a sea gull or two looking for things to eat on the beach. I don’t see them but I feel as if they might be there. I seem to remember there were reflections in the sand but I might be making that up. I wish I could see the pictures again and get that feeling of lovely peacefulness after their work is done.

The End.

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Back to the Turkey.

When we are all settled down waiting for our dinner somebody comes in with the lovely brown Turkey on a big dish and puts it in front of Mr Harding and he sharpens his carving knife and he very quickly carves it up. And we know there will be enough. Even if it looks as if there mightn’t be we know there will be another Turkey waiting in the kitchen. It stops us from worrying. And somebody puts the gravy and bread sauce on and Mr Harding remembers to give everybody a bit of stuffing. And somebody puts the lovely roast potatoes and peas on. The Peas! they are the Best Peas in the Whole World and as many as you like. Just as many. And someone puts orange drink in our glasses and one of the maids very quickly takes two plates at a time and another takes two more plates and Lo and Behold before you can say Jack Robinson we all have our Turkey. And somebody comes and cleans it away and then there is the Pudding and it is set alight and everybody claps and the mince pies and the crackers and the little dishes with almonds and raisins and Oh Dear – if someone said to me at the end of the dinner you can have anything in the world you would like to eat – just choose. I would have to say No Thank You. And boys say quite a rude thing called F.U.R.T.B and Mumy [Mummy] won’t let us say this and gets quite cross and reminds us of the Poor Little Belgians. And I do think

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about them sometimes. But Not today. And F.U.R.T.B. means Full up ready to bust. I’m telling you so you won’t have to worry in case you don’t know.

But we mustn’t say it.

The End.

Staying at Mt Vernon.

Now I will go back and tell you about the first time I stayed at Mt Vernon. First of all I have my suitcase packed – I have clean clothes packed in it and specially I have two tussone silk dresses and my black ballet shoes and my best socks to wear for grown up dinner. And I have 2 new nighties and a dressing own [gown] and I can just wear my ballet shoes instead of slippers when I to the bath room. And I begin to get a bit frightened about will I be able to do things right about eating because someone tells me they have lots of knifes [knives] and forks and I tell Mummy I’m afraid I’ll do it wrong. But she is quite cross with me and says Don’t be Silly – why should you do it wrong? If you are worried just keep quiet and do what the others are doing.” And then she said ” I haven’t been bringing you kids up like savages you know.”  So I shut up. Well Mr Harding came to get me in his motor car and it’s a Buick. And I sit in the front with him and first of all we go to the Railway Station to meet the train and pick up a lady.

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She has a big suitcase and a Hatbox. She knows Mr Harding and she calls him Waldron but she doesn’t know me. And she says “Who is this?” and he tells her. And then I sit in the back of the car and keep quiet and the lady sits in the front and Mr Harding goes back and gets some parcels out of the guards van and men carry them over and put them in the car. Then we go over the railway line to the Hawkes Bay Farmers and Mr Harding goes in and comes out again and men bring a lot of things out and put them in the car and its lucky I’m not any bigger because the car gets quite filled up. And the lady keeps talking a lot to Mr Harding about people I don’t know and I feel very quiet. And I get the feeling I don’t belong to people and I’m sort of looking in. And I say to myself “That is how the little Match Girl felt in the fairy story. And I know what I mean only of course she was hungry and cold and ragged and I am not. I am very Lucky and I tell myself this but I don’t feel very lucky. I feel as if I shouldn’t be there somehow. I didn’t feel like this with only Mr Harding. I didn’t. And I say to myself. I like men better than ladies and I do. Oh Well ! And we drive through Waipukurau and the lady talks and talks to Mr Harding and I look around and I pretend to myself that this is My Car and that Mr Harding is My Slave and so is the Lady. And I pretend all the way over to Mt Vernon

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and when the car stops at the Big Porch I almost don’t know who I am because in my head I am a sort of princess.

The End.

Sometimes I have to stop in the middle of a story and talk about something else for a change. I’m sorry but thats how it is. So now I will tell you a little thing that stays in my mind and come back to Staying at Mt Vernon later.

The Fernery.

One of the things I like best at Mt Vernon is the Fernery. You go round a corner in the garden and then there are some trees. And suddenly you see a door and you go in and Lo and Behold you are in a sort of magic bush. It is all green and cool and a sound of water splashing and you say to yourself This is like the Bush up the Wanganui River and the Swing Bridge Bush in Eketahuna and the Spring and everything. All rolled into one. There are ferns and moss and dear little fuschias [fuchsias] and lots and lots of little creepy plants and pungas but specially ferns – all sorts –  lovely lacy leaves and lovely brown curly stems and a little pool and I think there are water lilies but perhaps there were not. I get a feeling of water lilies but even if there were not the lovely feeling was there and the cool and yet warm and the green and the sun coming through in little chinks and the splashing sound of the water. And more water coming out of

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the air in a lovely spray. Oh I think about the fernery when I get home. And I say to people “Have you seen the Fernery at Mt Vernon?” and they say ” Oh is there a Fernery there?” And nobody properly understands. But I remember it.

The End.

And now I will go back to Staying at Mt Vernon

Mr Harding stops the car at the front porch and he helps the lady out and Mrs Harding comes out and she knows the lady and they talk and talk and I stand there. And then Mrs Harding sees me and she says hello and tells me to run along to the Nursery and someone will look after me and someone will see to my suitcase – Don’t Worry. But I do worry and I go along to the Nursery and Brian is just a very little boy with curls and this Nanny doesn’t really know me. Well she does a bit not for staying in the house. And she says “Sit down and have your milk and bread and jam. Strawberry Jam! So I sit down and drink my milk and I look at the paper on the walls and it is all about. Do you ken John Peel with men in red coats and horses and dogs and all that – all over the wall. Ken would like that but I would rather have fairies and things like that. But of course Brian is a boy so I expect John Peel is better for him. And the Nanny says to me in a rather cross way ” I hear you are to have your meals in the Dining Room”. So I suppose I am a bit frightened about that but I don’t tell her. I expect she just likes dear

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little children and I think I am about eleven. And someone takes me upstairs and shows me my bedroom and where the bathroom is. And someone has taken my suitcase away and put the things in the drawers and I don’t quite know what to do next. And at last I go downstairs and Mr Harding sees me and he says ” I hear you like books” and I say “Yes”. And then he takes me into the library and he says “There are lots of books in here and you can come in when you like as long as you are quiet and careful.” And he showed me a low shelf near the floor lots of Punches bound in red covers and magazines like the Tatler and the Sketch and the London Illustrated News. And I know I am going to like Mt Vernon. And I could go into the library whenever I liked and there was never anyone else there because they were all grown ups – playing tennis and going for rides and things and of course talking. And they didn’t bother me and I didn’t bother them. That was one of the things I liked at Mt Vernon. Oh Dear! There is such a lot more that this will turn into a Very Long Story so I’ll stop now for a bit and come back later or you will get sick of it. Oh one thing there is a big oil painting a a Maori Man – in his cloak made of feathers and he is tattoed [tattooed] on his face. I think he is a Very Import [Important] Chief. I quite like his face.


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The Cherry House

If it is Christmas time and you are staying at Mt Vernon the cherries are ripe. It’s not always Christmas time when I’m staying there but if it is there will be some other child or children too. It might be Sybil Patenson who is my best friend. That is what I like most. Only q[know]uite a bit later did Ken come with me and much later Baby. I’ll tell you about the time Ken came but not yet. Oh I don’t know perhaps I will just tell you. I was quite used to staying at Mt Vernon by now but this was the first time Ken came. His bedroom was quite a long way from mine- on the other side of the house. Mummy made him a new pair of pink and white striped pyjamas. I remember them well. We went upstairs to bed and I had just got into bed when Ken came into my room and he really looked very little. He is three years younger than me so he would be eight. It was only when he went to Nelson College that he grew and grew and finished up being six foot tall. He asked me if he could get into my bed and I said “No”. It’s alright at home but I didn’t think it would be alright here. Ken kept looking at my bed and he said it was big enough for two and he’d promise not to kick. But I still said “No”. and Ken said “There are bees in my room”. But I was horrible and I said ” I don’t suppose they are really bees – just flies buzzing around.” and Ken went away. And in the morning at breakfast time Mr Harding said “Well I had

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a visitor last night and he slept in my dressing room, didn’t he Ken?” And Ken got very red. And there were other people at the table and they all looked up. And Mr Harding made a little story about it and he said ” A little boy in pink striped pyjamas came into my room when I was getting ready for bed and guess what he said.” Nobody guessed and Ken looked very red. “He said Mr Harding I’m afraid I am upsetting your bees and they won’t make any honey if they are upset.” So Mr Harding went along to Ken’s room and there were bees and they are called mason bees, and they had made a nest and were buzzing in and out. So Mr Harding took Ken into his dressing room where there is a bed and he slept there. And Mr Harding looked at me and said “Ken has a very hard hearted sister.” And I got very red but Mr Harding gave me a nice kind smile.

But I am really supposed to be telling you about the Cherry House. There are two very big cherry trees out in the kitchen garden. One is a white heart and the other is a lovely lovely black cherry and they live in a big cage to keep the birds off. And there is a wire door to the cage and a lock and key. That key is fixed onto a piece of wood – a very big piece that no-one could pick up and put in their pocket and forget about or drop on the ground and lose and why the board is so big is Mr Harding got very sick of people going home with the key to the Cherry House in their pocket and nobody can get in. We can sit in those trees and eat as many cherries as we like as long as we bring the key back and hang it up in a special

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place Mr Harding shows us. So we can sit in that tree for a long time in the lovely sun eating first black cherries and then for a change white heart and throwing the stones on the grass. And cherries are the sort of things you can eat a lot of. The black ones make our lips purple. I have never had so many cherries in my whole life as at Mt Vernon.

The Band plays Carols

At Mt Vernon on Christmas Eve in the middle of the night guess what? The Band comes all the way from Waipukurau and they go on the lawn at the side of the house and they play carols. Hark the Herald Angels Sing and Shepherds Watched their flocks at night and Come all Ye Faithful and all. If I hear them I get up and go to my window because my room is on that side and there they are and Mr Harding giving them mince pies and things. And I think to myself. Fancy being so important the Band comes and plays specially for you. The End.

The Candles on the Hall Table.

At Mt Vernon there is electric light downstairs but not upstairs. So when it is time to go to bed you must first stop at a long table in the Hall by the stairs and get your candle which is sitting there waiting for you and a box of matches. It makes me think of Wee Willy Winkie.

The End.

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Breakfast At Mt Vernon

I specially like breakfast at Mt Vernon because you can choose what you will have. First of all there is porridge and lovely pouring cream to go on it and brown sugar. And there is a hot silver dish with a silver lid and it is full of nice Rice for breakfast. But it’s alright – it’s not a pudding. It is to eat with your bacon and egg or whatever else you may like. Perhaps you might like ham or sausage or scrambled egg. It is very hard to choose my breakfast. I sometimes take quite a long time to choose and I look about. But I always really know I am going to choose bacon and egg. At home if we have bacon and egg it is for dinner not breakfast. It is very nice to stand at the table at the side and look at the lovely picture of the fisherman and the lady and think what you will choose and look under the lids. What I would really like is a bit of everything but I know I mustn’t do that. Ken likes the sausage but then if there is smoked fish too he likes that. but we must only ever take one thing. We don’t want Mummy to feel ashamed of us. We specially don’t want that. We wish Mummy was here but she says she is having a lovely peaceful time at home with Gramma when we ring her up.

Oh Yes and now I remember that picture of the fisherman and his sweetheart. They were reflected in the wet sand. They were – surely or did I make that up. I do make things up you know but surely I see them reflected.

The End.

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My Bed is Turned Down.

I think perhaps the Best Thing at Mt Vernon is coming up to bed and finding your bed is all lovely and turned down. Someone has taken off the cover and folded it very carefully over a chair and they have turned down the bed and there is your nightie all ready and waiting and your dressing gown waiting for you to go to the bathroom and clean your teeth and everything and if you had slippers they would be waiting for you by the bed but never mind I must wear my ballet shoes and I’ve got them on of course. All the same I would like to have slippers – nice rose pink ones would be best. When I come back from the bathroom I brush my hair and I plait it and tie it with a pink ribbon that I have very carefully brought with me in a special chocolate box with roses on the lid. I look at myself in the glass and I put the candle on a special place on the dressing table where it makes me look very nice. It makes a big difference where you put the candle. And I look at the girl in the glass and it is me but much much nicer. And I get into bed and say my prayers but I still leave the candle on the dressing table. I must not take the candle near to the bed to read in bed. I know that and I don’t do it. When I have said my prayers I get up and look in the glass again and I say to myself that is me – I do look like that. My hair is not curly but I do look quite nice and I look again and say to myself – Why can’t people see me when I look nice like this but only when I look horrible. And I blow out the candle and get into bed. And I make up in my head. The End.

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A Dear Little Motor Car.

Oh today I want to talk about something I have always remembered, a dear little motor car. We are living in Waipukurau at our new house Quamly [?] and now we seem to know a lot of people with motor cars but they are all quite big. Well they have to be for fitting in the children and quite big parcels to take home to theirs fathers and mothers farms. Because most of the people Mummy seems to know live in the real country. Well I told you about the Mt Vernon peaches when Race and Laddie Godfrey in their soldier’s uniforms came to Waipukurau to say goodbye to people they knew before they went to the War. And one of those people was Mummy and one was called Fluffy Irwin but by now she was married to Mr Harding and lived at a very big house called Mt Vernon. Well sometimes she might come and see  Mummy and have tea or lunch or something. And I don’t know where Brian was then. I expect he was still only a very little boy and he would be at home with his nanny. Yes I expect that is where he is. Now one day Mrs Harding – and her name is Madge – came to see Mummy and she was driving herself in a dear little car that I always remember. That is what this story is about – and Mrs Harding was driving it all by herself. It was white – a lovely creamy sort of white and very clean and shiny. And best of all the seats were lovely blue leather. Oh they were a nice blue – not too

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dark and not too light – just exactly right. And it had a hood that went up and down but today it was down because it was lovely summer – And that little car was called a Singer. Same name as Mummy’s sewing machine. And Mrs Harding is quite a young lady for a grown up and she had on a white dust coat to keep her dress clean and a lovely blue veil to tie over her hat to keep it blowing off. And she has pretty blue eyes too so it all looked very nice. I expect she has some goggles to keep the dust out of her eyes but she wasn’t wearing them when we saw her put the car into our drive and come in to see Mummy. Well she wouldn’t be wearing them when the car stopped would she, because you don’t look pretty in goggles and I think she is a lady who likes to look pretty. Well I think most ladies do but some more than others. Some ladies scrape their hair back very tight and pin their hats on very straight but Mummy doesn’t. We like her hair she is pretty – and so is Mrs Harding and Mrs Broad and specially Mrs Frank Donelly. I wonder why I’m telling you all this when I’m really telling you about a dear little car. It just while I remember about the car these ladies who Mummy knows and plays tennis with come back in my head.

Oh and another thing I suddenly see. There was a lovely white fur rug to go over her knees in the car. I don’t know what that fur was – it seemed longer and silkier than sheepskin. It had a blue lining. I remember that.

Yes and when Mrs Harding wanted to start her dear little car, quite often it

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wouldn’t go and she and Mummy would laugh and laugh. And they had to get a nice man to put in the handle and crank it up. And they would all laugh and be happy and suddenly with a bump off it would go and Mrs Harding would wave her hand – a white hand with rings on it.

And in bed at night I would pretend I had found a lot of buried treasure and we could buy Mummy a dear little white car like that only hers would have pink leather seats, because her eyes are brown. Yes pink would be nice. And we could buy her lots of nice rings and a lovely rug.

The end.

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Dec. 1986

Well Peter if you have waded through this you will see that these are not necessarily Accurate Memories of Mt Vernon. I simply sat down with a book and a pen and let childish memories surface. It’s quite interesting to read them again and realize that the old girl writing me at 82 has somehow reverted to the child of 1914 – 18 or so in the vocabulary she uses. It just seemed to me a pity that as these pictures of Mt Vernon and your Mother and Father had presented themselves so clearly to me that you who have relived this – to me – Dream House should share them. One realizes that life is really amazingly short and that things very quickly change. I like to think that for me Mt Vernon still stands as it did a Magic House.

Mona McLean

Oh Dear – Strange as I sit here trying to make up my mind to go through all the tedious things like getting a special bag from the Post Office to send this off it is much simpler to sit back in my chair with the sparkling Hauraki Gulf outside my window and let my mind drift back to a much simpler period. And as I have been writing of Mt Vernon I take a shy child’s step into the Drawing Room and walk up to the table in the window where all the china

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figures are and put out a tentative finger to feel the “lace” on the sleeves of the 18th century ladies and gentlemen – were they Sevres or were they Dresden? I only know they were Magic. And was there a model of the Taj Mahal or have I made that up? I know I do I make things up! And out in the Hall is a painting of a Maori Chief or is that in the library. And surely I Hear a Clock. I see no dogs or cats. I know there are horses in the stable. I know the gardner’s [gardener’s] name is Mr Stabler. I see your mother in a low cut dress at dinner with a very white neck and jewels – I see your father in his dinner jacket. On Xmas morning I see chairs in the little sitting room with the presents. I see a picture – a photograph of Brian in fancy dress as a House & Valerie looking adorable as a Powder Puff. I help to turn the handle to churn out the ice-cream. I don’t think ice cream has ever tasted like that again. I go into a fruit cage to help pick the raspberries and strawberries. And yes Gooseberries. I taste the peaches again. I sit at breakfast with my bacon and egg and rice and I hear your mother say “Walnon! Such a strange thing! I went down the cellar steps today & there was a postage stamp on a big spider webb [web]. A Postage Stamp!” And even I know that he had put it there to see how long it would be before anyone swept the spider web away.

Oh Well it’s a long time ago. But only a flash away in the mind.

Original digital file


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Probably written by Mona Cecilia McLean (2/9/1904-1990)

Format of the original

Handwritten document

Date published

December 1986

Creator / Author

  • Mona McLean


  • John Broad
  • Mrs Frank Donnelly
  • Laddie Godfrey
  • Race Godfrey
  • Mrs Madge Harding
  • Miss Irwin
  • Ken McLean
  • Sybil Patenson
  • Mr Stabler

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