In February 1945, I had a really serious accident just before my third birthday. (The picture was taken around that time and shows Grandad Dale, his younger sister Lynne, and his older brother Max.)
To understand the story, you really need to know two things The first is that, in those days, many roads were made of gravel (not tar seal), so cars could skid much more easily. The other thing is that car door-handles were very different in those days. In a modern car, the door handles inside the car are flush with the inside of the door, but, when I was a child, they stuck out more, so it was easier to accidentally open the door.
So, back to the story. After spending the afternoon at the local tennis club, mum and dad were invited to visit friends on the way back home. He was the manager of the Bank of New Zealand, which in those days was on the quite steep hill going up to the township. When we left the bank manager’s house, after the visit, and got back into the car to go home, I started playing with one of the tennis rackets in the back seat. Then, at exactly the moment that dad started driving off, I somehow managed to hook the tennis racket onto the door handle and open it. The door flung open, I fell out, dad panicked and hit the brakes, the car started rolling and skidding backwards and one of the wheels ran right over my head!!!
Well, you can imagine the scare this gave my parents. The doctors said that if my head had fallen just a little bit to one side I would have been killed. But, as it turned out, all was well and I ended up having jelly and ice cream in hospital on my third birthday. But I’ve still got a scar on my head, more than seventy years later!!!
The picture on the right was taken in about 1949 and shows what cars looked like around the time of my accident. Notice the sticky-outie handle on the inside of the open door?
The children in the picture are our neighbour (Joan Houghton), my sister (Lynne), and me (Grandad Dale). Also notice the number plate (5,851), which I think means there must have been fewer than 10,000 cars at that time in all of New Zealand.