The Ups And Downs Of Jeremy James

Avon Primary School: Standard 1 & 2 (1966-1967)

In New Zealand, the academic year runs from February to December, with a long summer holiday at Christmas and through January.  So every time February came around, we would all move up to the next class.

In Standard 1 (1966) we had Miss Barrow (Mrs Barbara Sextus) and it was around this time that we were given books to take home and read.  These were very basic children’s books with just a picture and a few words on each page.  Once you had read the book, you would take it back and get the next one.  Unfortunately I lost my first book and so Miss Barrow told me I was not allowed to get my next book until I had returned the first book.  Other children learned to read at home sitting on their mother’s knee and reading together.  My mother by now was working full time and in the evening she often had work to mark or her own study to do.  She tried her best but really she had very little time available to sit down and read with us.

In spelling we had 9 levels of tests.  Spelling seemed illogical to me.  Why did we have 4 and ‘four’.  Why not just 4.  There was also ‘for’ which sounded exactly the same but was a different word and a different spelling.  But for me it wasn’t just 4 that was a problem.  If we went 2x4 we got 8.  This was spelt ‘eight’ but there was also another word ‘ate’ that again sounded the same but was spelt completely differently.  A half of 4 was 2 and this was even worse.  2 was spelt ‘two’ but there was also ‘to’ and ‘too’.  There was of course the dictionary that listed all the words but I did not find this very easy to read either.

Even at the young age of 7, and having only just discovered what a dictionary was, it was obvious to me that, whoever wrote the dictionary they had not done a very good job of it.  Years later I was to learn that Dr Samuel Johnson was the man credited by most as writing the first dictionary, which he published in 1755.  But even this was not correct, as there were earlier dictionaries.  In 1604 there was ‘Table Alphabeticall’ created by Robert Cawdrey.  This only had 120 pages with 2,543 words but it was definitely a dictionary and it was definitely earlier than Dr Johnson, even if hardly anyone knows who Robert Cawdrey was.  And another thing, Dr Samuel Johnson didn’t actually finish going to university so he was not a real doctor but years later a university in Ireland decided he was a great guy and so they sent him a certificate confirming that they had honoured him by making him a Doctor.  His dictionary sums it up quite neatly.  If you look up the word Lexicographer, his definition is: A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge.

Years later I read a lot of history and finally figured it all out.  The real facts of the case, was that no one was in charge of the English language and that was really the source of the problem.  If you go way back in time, everyone had just been picking up words from here and there, usually from other people’s languages, and they all just got added together into one big melting pot.  There are lots of little rules, but the overall result is just chaos and this has now become widely accepted by everyone.

I mention this here because for me, this was all a bit of a disaster.  I liked numbers but I found words to be difficult.

Hilary (and later also Michael) were both top performers at spelling, but I found it a real struggle and dropped behind.  Mum did give me a bit of extra tuition and in only a short time I had got to level 3 but she then stopped giving me any further help as she just didn’t have the time and if Hilary could learn to spell then surely I could also.

Looking back, one major barrier to my learning was probably the fact that we were given a half pint bottle of milk to drink in class every morning.  I never liked the taste of milk but we were told we had to drink it, so I did what I was told and I drank it.  Years later (in my early 50s) I discovered that I had a dairy allergy.  Drinking milk, and in fact eating anything with dairy in it, just made me feel very tired.  The other symptom was a headache and a snotty nose.  I would blow it and blow it, but the snot just kept running.  I must have looked fairly horrid when I was at school.

While I found spelling difficult, I found arithmetic to be very easy.  It was logical and you didn’t really need to remember much as you could just work it all out in your head as you went along.

Another thing I remember in Standard 1 was the large map of the world, which hung on the wall.  Half the countries shown were pink and these were all the countries of the great British Empire.  The map must have been printed before 1947 as India was still pink.  The United States of America was not pink so the map was definitely printed after 1775.  We were a bit young to really know much about the British Empire but we could certainly see that it was very large and very pink.

As we progressed through school we were also told great stories of English history. Of heroes like the explorers Livingstone and Stanley of Africa (“Dr Livingstone I presume”) and General Gordon of Khartoum.  Also some New Zealand history, with the Treaty of Waitangi which confirmed that the Maori owned their land but that they could sell it if they wanted to in return for money or barter (some glass beads and a few tomahawks).  These were probably called half axes in 1840 but we certainly knew what they were and we called them tomahawks.

 

2 ½ d stamp issued by the Post Office in 1940 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Treaty of Waitangi, 1840.

 

In 1940 the Post Office had created a stamp to mark the 100th anniversary of the Treaty.  Over time, more and more people started to realise that there was quite a lot of Maori land that had been clandestinely purloined by the Government and the Maoris did not even get the tomahawks.  From the 1980s onwards the Government had to pay a lot of money to the Maori tribes to correct this injustice.

I think 1966 may have been the year that our class went on our first ‘school trip’, which was down into town to visit the new Stratford Post Office which had only recently opened.  This really was a special treat.  We got told all about the savings bank, the mail system and the telephone system.  In those days the Post Office had responsibility for all three of these. 

The Post Office Savings Bank was straight forward.  You went to the Post Office and took with you, your money and your Post Office savings book.  Your savings book was written up and stamped and they then took your money away and kept it safe.  Your savings book then told you how much money you had in your account.  When you wanted to take your money out, it was just the reverse of the process.

The mail system was also fairly easy to follow.  A customer addressed an envelope, stuck a stamp on it and posted it.  The Post Office then took it on a long journey with bag deliveries and sorting stations until eventually it reached the postman and he drove out in his car and delivered it to the recipient’s letter box. 

The telephone system was much more complicated.  There were no delivery bags, instead the phone calls were passed, as a special type of electricity, along a series of wires, to make a connection between the person making the call and the person receiving the call.  If it was a local call, this could be done fairly easily, as there was special machinery that just linked up the connection and rang all the people who shared what was called a “party line”.  If someone made a telephone call to my Mum at home, all the telephones inside the various houses on Sole Road would ring (I think our number was Stratford 3194).  If the call was for my Mum, the ring bell would go ‘long ring, short ring, long ring’.  Everybody on Sole Road would listen carefully to the ring and they would know that it was not their ring sequence, so hopefully they would not answer it.  My Mum, recognising her ring sequence, would answer it by picking up the handset.  Of course it was not always easy to recognise the rings, so sometimes when Mum answered the phone, she would find that she would also be talking to one or more of the other people who shared the line.  No great problem, as eventually they would all figure out who was who and then everything would be fine.

This was how the local calls worked but long distance (toll calls) were more complicated.  To make a toll call, Mum would pick up the handset and dial 100.  I had better explain here, what it meant to ‘dial’ a number in those days.  The dial on the front of the phone, was a circular piece of metal with holes in it for each digit (0,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1).  You would assume that it went 0 to 9 but it didn’t and no one ever questioned why, as those highly intelligent people at the Post Office must have had a good reason for it.  Mum would put her forefinger in the hole for ‘1’ and then rotate the dial clockwise a short distance round to its furthest extent and then let it go.  It would make this amazing whirring sound as the spring inside would quickly send the dial back to the starting position.  Mum would then put her finger in the ‘0’ hole but this time she would have to rotate the dial right the way around before she reached the end stop.  Again she would let it go and once the spring got it back into position, she would do it one more time.  This was how you ‘dialled’ 100 to reach the operator.

The operator would be sitting in a chair at the switch board, wearing special headphones, just waiting for someone to call and request a toll connection.  My Mum would tell the operator that she wanted to ring ‘so and so’ who lived in a certain town and had a certain telephone number for that town.  The operator, who was highly trained in using the switch board, would pick up a cable with a plug on the end of it and she would stick this into one of the many sockets on her switchboard.  This would connect her to a second operator who would be sitting at a switchboard in the town that my Mum had requested.  That second operator would then ring the person, and if they answered, my Mum would then be connected through and would be able to talk to the desired person.

This really was magical, and it was amazing that our whole class could actually see it all taking place in the Stratford Post Office.  I think all the telephone operators were ladies because this was a lady’s job.  The other thing that the lady operator would do, was to write out on a little card my Mum’s number and once the call was finished she would add the duration time of the call.  This card was then passed to another lady who collected all these up and took them off to the accounts lady.  At the end of the month my Mum would receive a bill from the Post Office, telling her how much all her telephone calls for the month added up to.  Telephone calls were very expensive and so most people only used the telephone if it was important. 

As I mentioned earlier, overseas calls were even more complicated, so much so, that you actually had to book the call, in advance, usually the day before.  This gave the Post Office forward notice, so that all the required telephone operators, located at various places around the world, would each be able to get their cords and plugs ready on all those switch boards, just for your call.  If it all worked ok, you could speak and be heard but sometimes the sound quality would be very poor and on these occasions the telephone operators would pass messages to each other, to convey your words to the recipient and back.  These telephone operators were wonderful people.

Our visit to the Post Office really was an eye opener for me and from that point on I was always fascinated trying to figure out more detail about how the telephone system worked (electronic engineering).

For about 20 of us in our class at Avon, we started at Primer 1 (in 1963 or 1964) and from Primer 3 (1965) onwards we were together right through until Form 2 (1971).  The class size varied each year from 30 to 40, as there were always a few new pupils arriving and a few leaving.  In some cases I have no idea who they were because they were only with us for a short time.  In Standard 1 we were joined by Prudence Walker who had done Primer 1 and 2 but she skipped Primer 3.  We were also joined by Janet Sulzberger and Joe Sheehan who had moved from other schools.  Joe was from a Catholic family and had been at the Catholic School (St Joseph’s)but his mother had a difference of opinion with the nuns about her children’s education and so she had moved the whole family to Avon, all 9 children.  Initially we thought this was strange having a Catholic person in our class but of course very quickly we realised that he was completely normal.

Another thing to mention here, is that the size of the average family has very much reduced in my lifetime.  Today (2020) most people just have a family of 1,2 or 3 children.  In Taranaki, back in the 1960s, we had quite a few pupils in my class who were from relatively large families.  Joe of course had 8 siblings.  Prudence Walker had 8.  Murray Wharton had 4.  David Rogers and his twin sister Dianne had 8 other brothers and sisters.  Quite a few of the others were also from large families.

It should be noted here that the population of humans on our planet was approx 3 billion in 1958-59 when we were all born but now in 2020 it is nearly 8 billion.  The population has more than doubled but the size of the planet has not increased.  This is becoming a huge problem and will lead to disastrous consequences but for the moment politicians and journalists hardly ever talk about it.  It is crazy, as this is a ticking time bomb and although it is not an easy subject, if people will not talk about the problem, it is going to be exceedingly difficult to solve.

 

 

1966: Set of stamps, on a first day cover, issued by the British Post Office to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings (1066).

 

Another memory of 1966 was that my Nana (Dora Bailey) sent me a very special set of English stamps that showed sections of the Bayeux Tapestry, depicting the story of the invasion of England by the Norman Duke, William the Conqueror, 900 years earlier in 1066.  It was a very big set, as there were 8 stamps in all, so obviously this must have been a very big event.  These stamps certainly got me interested in history and the more I found out about this particular war, the more questions I had.  Why did they call William a “Norman” when he was definitely a Frenchman?  The other odd thing was that the Bayeux Tapestry wasn’t in England, it is in a place called Bayeux, in France.  Also, if the English lost to a Frenchman, why did they want to celebrate it?  Very strange.

Murray Wharton has found another excellent photo taken of us at the end of this year on the occasion of our Christmas Nativity play.

 

December 1966: Our class (Standard 1) dressed up for the Nativity play.

????, Elizabeth Capper,  ????, Pauline Staveley, Prudence Walker, Rebecca Western, ????, Nigel Dey, Donkey1, ????, Gerald Landruth, Donkey2, Murray Wharton, Murray Reed, Jeremy Heath-Caldwell, Graham Peyton, ????

 

Away from school, it was around this time that Michael and I joined the Klenners for a week in the summer holidays.  We went and stayed at a bach (a beach house) at a place called ‘Onaero Domain’ which was located on the north coast of Taranaki.  This was a fantastic adventure and I think we actually did it for three years running. 

Onaero Domain is a very small holiday park at the mouth of the Onaero River and on the west side of the river there is a hill covered in bush which was once an old Maori settlement (Puketapu Pa).  You could still make out the terraces and defence ditches.  There were also some pits but everything was overgrown with native bush.  In among the trees were some little gravestones, all that was left relating to some of the early people who had once lived there (one was dated 1876).  We used to love walking up through the trees and exploring.  I often wondered who those people were who had once lived there.  We also went up one evening, just as it was getting dark.  We could hear the moreporks (owls) high up in the trees making their creepy sound.  The whole thing was very scary and we ended up running back to the campsite as fast as our legs would carry us.

David Rogers has now brought me up to date on this.  Puketapu Pa is located within the Pukemiro Historic Reserve west of the Onaero River. The tribe (Iwi) this site is associated with is Ngati Mutunga. The site is one of many that was handed back by the Crown to Ngati Mutunga iwi through the Treaty of Waitangi negotiations as part of the Grievance Settlement process.

During the day we spent our time catching fish with a line and hook.  In later years we got proper fishing rods which were even better.  There was no bridge there in those days, so we had to wade across the river at low tide if we wanted to go to the beach for a swim in the ocean.  It really was fantastic and we enjoyed every minute of it.

 

 

1967: Avon School, Standard 2.  Teacher: Mrs Brunning (Miss Johnson).

Karen Andrew, Karina Thayer, Pam Murphy, Pauline Staveley, Gayll Buckthought, Verna Shelford, Janet Sulzberger, Terril Benton, Dianne Rogers, Elizbeth Capper.

Graham Payton, Stephen Thomas, Murray Reed, Prudence Walker, Heidi Drescher, Rebecca Western, Murray Wharton, David Rogers, Bruce Vickers.

Warren Hayden, Nigel Dey, Dennis Wheeler, Kerry Johansson, Tony Bradley, Eric Hayward, Jeremy Heath-Caldwell, William Roa, Joseph Sheehan.

 

In Standard 2 (1967) our teacher was Miss Johnson (Mrs Brunning) and the big event that year was currency decimalisation.  The way the old currency worked was that two halfpennies made a penny (1d), three pennies made a threepence (3d), six pennies made a sixpence (6d).  Good so far, but this was where we started to get onto the difficult stuff.  Twelve pennies made a shilling (or a bob), two shillings or twenty-four pennies made a florin.  Two shillings and sixpence, or thirty pennies, made a half crown.  One would suppose that we had a crown which was worth two half crowns but no such luck (there were special commemorative crowns but they were not used for general circulation).  The next denomination was moving up to the high value stuff and this was a ten bob note (ten shilling note) and two of those added together to make twenty shillings or two hundred and forty pennies, which was one pound (£1). 

 

 

Old New Zealand coins used until 10 July 1967.  Half penny, one penny, three pence, six pence, one shilling, one florin, half crown.

 

 

Old New Zealand ten shilling note used until 10 July 1967.  Shows a native kiwi and the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi

 

If you were buying a horse then this was different again, as the price was usually given in guineas (instead of pounds).  One guinea was equal to one pound and one shilling but there was no such thing as a one guinea note.  Back in England there had been a one guinea gold coin but apparently these went out of circulation in 1816.

Just another short note here.  Pounds, shillings and pence were sometimes abbreviated to ‘Lsd’ but this had nothing to do with drugs.  It goes back to the Roman words for various coins: libra, solidus, and denarius.  I had often wondered why 1 penny was shortened to 1d, when surely it should have been shortened to 1p.  But again, this was the English language, so I suppose our parents had just got used to it. 

This was all very complicated and hence the reason to decimalise.  We all thought that moving to dollars and cents was much more sensible!  We had regular adverts on the TV most evenings, all about the change, and indelibly printed on my brain ever since, has been the date 10th of July 1967, which was when we started using decimal currency.  When we awoke that morning, the whole of the country was in dollars and cents.  They even changed all the postage stamps.  One old pound was now replaced by two of the new dollars (£1 = $2).  One hundred cents made a dollar and that was all you needed to know (100c = $1).

 

New decimal coins used from 10 July 1967.  The large one dollar coin in this commemoration set was not used for general circulation.

 

 

New one dollar note used from 10 July 1967.  Shows a native fantail.

 

 

New decimal stamps issued by the Post Office from 10 July 1967. Each stamp tells a story.

 

Janet King (Sulzberger) has reminded me that we all had to sit a special test about decimalisation and provided we passed we were given the prestigious ‘Dollar Scholar’ certificate!

DECIMAL CURRENCY BOARD
This is to certify that Janet Sulzberger of Avon School
 has attained a satisfactory knowledge of Decimal Currency
 and is fully prepared for the New Zealand change over
 on the 10th Day of July 1967. 
She is therefore entitled to be called a
DOLLAR SCHOLAR
Signed Mr Dollar.

I think most of us passed the test and were presented with our certificates.  Within a few years we had probably all managed to lose this special memento but looking back, it is nice to know that we can still call ourselves “Dollar Scholars”.  For Denis Wheeler the day was even more memorable as it was his birthday!

Sets of the new coins were issued in special commemorative packs to mark this momentous event.  We all loved the new coins especially the 50c coin as this depicted James Cook’s ship HMS Endeavour sailing around the Taranaki coast with our mountain in the background.  They also issued a special commemorative $1 coin but this was not for general circulation as we had a $1 note.

During the year, one job that each of us was given was to be the class ‘milk monitor’.  In fact this highly responsible position was usually shared by two of us at a time and we would carry it out for a week.  The crates of milk were delivered to the school each morning and the two milk monitors would pick up a crate and bring it into the class and everybody would be given their half pint glass bottle.  What I do remember about this was that on the very cold days in the winter the bottles of milk would start to freeze, the milk would expand, the aluminium tops would all start popping off and the milk would drip down the sides of each bottle making quite a mess.  On the hot days in the summer, the milk would sometimes be so warm that it would start to go off and taste fairly horrible.

Another memory from Standard 2 was that I got my first watch on my 8th birthday.  It was made in Switzerland by a company called ASCO, incorporating “17 jewels incabloc”.  This really was something, even if I had no idea what the 17 jewels were being used for, and no idea what incabloc meant.  It was a clockwork watch so I had to wind it every few days and it lasted me 10 years before it finally conked out.  I still have it as a little memento of my early years. I suppose you could say that it is no longer “working like clockwork” but that is also a phrase that you don’t hear so much these days.

At the back of the school there was a large bike shed, as most of the pupils cycled to school.  It is quite incredible to think how ‘health and safety’ was so different back then.  I suppose today most primary schools no longer have bike sheds as all the parents always take their small children to and from school, dropping them off, and picking them up, from the main gate.  I was not to get a bike until I was about 11 years old.  Living out at Ngaere, it would not have been safe for an 8 year old boy to cycle along the busy main road and even if there had been no cars, 3 miles (5km) was quite a long way.

Mrs Brunning showed us some interesting things with plants.  One was to submerge a plant in water and then observe it two days later, when you could see all the little bubbles of oxygen, clinging to the leaves.  We were told how plants take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen (as noted by Joseph Priestly in 1774).  Another experiment was putting a daffodil flower into a pot of ink.  After a few days you could see the ink working its way up the stalk and into the flower petals.  You could then see all the veins in the flower and get a feel for how the plant was moving nutrients around.  I was really keen to see what happened after that but of course the flower wilted and died and that was the end of the flower.

Elizabeth Capper has reminded me that Mrs Brunning’s temper could sometimes be a bit quick.  She had a one yard long wooden ruler (that is 91cm into today’s money) and every now and then she would slam it down onto one of the desktops.  Wack!  The sound was earth shattering and we would all “jump out of out of our seats”.  Of course, we didn’t actually jump out of our seats, but that is the phrase in the English language, that we all use to describe the feeling.  The other phrase that is a bit odd is “in today’s money” which doesn’t seem very logical when we are actually talking about a length and not a currency.  In fact we don’t hear this phrase much these days either.

By now lots of things were not going very well for me.  My handwriting was terrible, my spelling was bottom of the class, I certainly didn’t like reading books and I was hopeless at sport.  The only thing I was mildly good at was arithmetic.  As a total contrast there was the beautiful Rebecca Western (her with the long blonde hair in 2 neat plaits with 2 coloured ribbons) who had wonderfully neat handwriting, was excellent at spelling, quick with arithmetic and even quicker when it came to sport.  She was just good at everything.  I must point out that it wasn’t just Rebecca that was good at things as Joe, Elizabeth, Janet and quite a few of the others were also reaching a high standard.  In fact we had one pupil, Gerald Landreth, who was so exceptionally good that he was put up a class.  He was a very nice kid but once he was a year above us, none of us played with him anymore.  He made friends in his new class.

Meanwhile, I was often in trouble with the teachers, but I couldn’t really understand it all.  The deputy principle strapped me one day and I have no memory of why.  I was very traumatised by the whole thing.  I decided there and then that he was a very horrible person and that all the other teachers were probably in the same boat.  It was best to try and have as little as possible to do with any of them.

My ability to mix socially with the other boys in my class was a bit variable and it was only occasionally that I got invited to other boys' houses to attend birthday parties and that sort of thing.  I think part of the problem here was that our home at Ngaere was 3 miles away (5km) and this made us a bit isolated.

I remember going to Joe Sheehan’s house once.  As I mentioned, he had lots of brothers and sisters and they were a very big happy family and lived in one of the very few two-storey houses in Stratford.  They seemed to me to be rich.  One person who I did get to visit, on several occasions, was Murray Wharton.  His mother and father were really lovely people.  Mr Wharton was a carpenter and I remember him building a massive workshop behind his house.  He was also into photography as a hobby and he had a “dark room” where he could develop his own photographs.  These days we have digital cameras and the pictures mainly just stay in a memory somewhere, unless we actually print one off.  In the 1960s, cameras required a plastic film which could only be used once.  To develop the film, it was necessary to dip it in a chemical solution and then dry it out.  This was then called a “negative”.  After that the film image was projected onto special paper and this produced the photograph or “positive”.  All this was done in the “dark room”.  I found all this technology to be incredible and I will revisit this a bit later in my story.

Most of the boys played sport on Saturday morning but for me this was not possible.  I was no good at sport and living at Ngaere, it was just too far away.  They all had bikes and their parents were happy for them to cycle around the streets in Stratford as much as they liked.  It was fairly safe and I don’t remember any of them ever getting run over.  Again, they all had two parents and so in most cases received a lot of support and encouragement.

Some of the boys did come out to Ngaere to play at my house but this was only occasionally.  Murray Wharton has reminded me about the flying fox and this was very popular.  Mr Walker had obtained a large roll of number 8 wire from his brother Peter, who worked for the Electricity Board.  I think this was disused power cable, taken from the overhead electricity distribution network.  In New Zealand, electricity is distributed via wires high up on power poles (in the UK it is mainly underground cables).  Mr Walker wrapped one end around the large tree on the top of our hill and then ran the wire down to a strainer post in the fence at the bottom of the hill, probably a distance of 100m.  He had then put a wire strainer on the end, so with a handle we could tighten or loosen the wire.  If it was too loose, the wire would be low and you would just drag along the ground.  If the wire was too tight, it would be high, in which case you didn’t touch the ground, which meant you just got faster and faster.  On one occasion I had it too tight and too high, the result was that I had a nasty accident, as I crashed into the ground, just short of the end.  I remember having the wind knocked out of me and for a brief moment, it was very difficult to breath.  I was badly bruised but of course I did recover after a few days.

Another great past time was climbing trees.  In Taranaki, children did not have climbing frames in their gardens, as with there being plenty of trees around, there was no need.  We all started by climbing the small trees and then as we built up our confidence, we would scale higher and higher trees.  The Walker’s garden next door was full of trees so there were always lots of new challenges there.  Years later my mother said she found it quite unsettling seeing us all at the top of some of these trees, to the extent that she found the best way to cope was to look in the opposite direction.  None of my friends died falling out of a tree but I understand it did happen from time to time.

Denis Wheeler remembers visiting and we went down the road to the little pond that was just below Mr Cox’s house.  In the spring this was always full of frogs and tadpoles and a wide variety of insects.  We used to spend countless hours catching tadpoles and then taking them home and putting them in a large tank at the bottom of the garden.  It was amazing watching the tadpoles slowly growing, gradually getting bigger and then a pair of rear legs would start to form, followed by a pair of front legs.  At the same time, the tail would get shorter and the tadpole would change from black to more of a brownie colour and eventually to bright green.  Then all of a sudden, we would realise that we didn’t have any tadpoles left.  Instead we had a tank heaving with hundreds of small green frogs.  It really was absolutely fantastic.  Who wants an Xbox when you can get all this for free!

For posterity (somebody might be reading my story 100 years hence) I had better just record what an Xbox is.  This is a computer (video game console) which arrived under the Christmas trees in 2001 for children who had been well behaved and who also happened to have well off parents.  For the next 10 years, and in some cases even longer, children have been glued to screens, clicking buttons and watching amazing combinations of colour (together with complementary sounds) presenting worlds that are completely imaginary.  We did not have these toys in the 1960s and looking back I must say I would still have a preference for the tadpoles and frogs.

Opposite the pond was Mr Cox’s haybarn.  This was another fantastic place to play.  We would move all the hay bales around and make little huts.  Sometimes Mr Cox would come in and find us and he would be a bit grumpy and chuck us all out but other times he was happy to let us carry on playing.

In the summer we could not afford to go on long holidays much but Mum did her best.  One year we went on a trip to Tauranga which was one of the few occasions where we met up with our father.  James was very pleased to see us and he had arranged a very special trip out to Mayor Island on a boat which was full of people who were going to spend the day fishing.  This was fascinating as we had never been on a large boat before and as we were chugging along, we saw dozens of flying fish jumping out of the waves.  Unfortunately, James had not realised that there is nothing at Mayor Island and there was nowhere to buy lunch.  If my mother had known beforehand, she could have sorted out a packed lunch.  As it was, we were dropped on the island by the fishermen and we spent the day sitting there feeling rather bored and very hungry. 

The fishermen picked us up late afternoon and by the time we got back to Tauranga we must have been starving and probably quite subdued.  For James this must have been very disheartening, as he had obviously put a lot of thought into trying to plan a really good day out for the family but, as in the past, things had not worked out as well as he had hoped.  For Mum this was just another one of those small events that again confirmed the significant limitations of James’ capabilities.

Looking through some of our old family photos I have a picture of me, Hilary and Michael, taken at Christmas, where we are all wearing very neat looking blue patterned jerseys.  The picture was taken in our garden at Ngaere.  We always had lots of jerseys and we wore these through the winter months and also on any cold days in the summer.  Some of these jerseys were sent to us from Nana & Grandpop in England (my mother’s mother and stepfather) and others were knitted by my mother.  Denis Wheeler has told me that he always remembers me wearing unusual jerseys.

 

 

Boxing Day, 1967: Hilary, Jeremy James and Michael in new Christmas jerseys.

 

The other thing noticeable in this photo, and also in some of the class photos, is bare feet.  Most of the summer, and even occasionally in the winter, we went to school without shoes.  In general, you could run faster if you were in bare feet, and also, you didn’t have any shoes to polish and no laces to tie up.  Many of the other pupils at Avon School also went bare foot.  After a while, the soles of your feet hardened up, but you did have to watch where you walked.  Stepping on a bumble bee and getting stung was quite painful and walking on the stones on the side of the road was not easy.  The other thing I remember was walking across the paddocks on the farm, and every now and then, accidently stepping in a cow pat.  If it was a few weeks old, then this was not much of a problem, but if the cow pat was fresh, and a bit runny, it would all squeeze up between your toes.  It was quite smelly and the only thing you could do, was get the hose pipe and give your feet a good drenching.

 

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