Religion, the tornado, and Auntie Maida’s bloomers

Now, I apologise in advance because this blog item is rather long.  But all the stories are related in some way or other, so it made sense to tell them in one go.

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The Houghtons lived directly across the road from us in Maungaturoto and we called their parents Auntie Maida and Uncle Win.  They weren’t really our aunt and uncle, but, in those days, children never ever called grown‑ups by their first names.  If a family were very close friends, you called them auntie and uncle (I think Maori people do a very similar thing).  Adults who weren’t close family friends were called Mr and Mrs.  Very formal, eh.

Anyway, the Houghtons were a lovely family.  Uncle Win was a mechanic at the garage just down the road (it’s now called Noel Radd Motors).

joan-houghton-lynne-dale-houghtons-car-maungatororo-1948I don’t have a photo of Auntie Maida and Uncle Win, but this picture was taken a few years earlier than this story.  The children are Maureen (their daughter), my sister Lynne, and Grandad Dale.  Maureen died of a brain tumour in her teens, which was very sad for her family, and for us.  She was a bit older than me, but I liked her a great deal.

When Maureen was very ill, they held a service for her at the nearest church (about 100 metres or so from our house, where the Carters shop is now, I think).  She was too ill to attend, so they blessed the eucharist in the church and the minister walked along the road to their house where he gave it to her.

It was the first time I had ever been in a church and I found it quite interesting, if a bit forbidding.  I don’t think our family ever talked about religion, but, looking back, I now realise that my parents must have been atheists or agnostics, which was unusual for those times I think.

My parents were really advanced in their thinking in quite a few ways.  I liked them both, and I admired them.

~~~

bloomersNow let’s talk about Auntie Maida’s bloomers.

“Bloomers” were women’s panties, but, in those days, they were very big and loose.  (Some women wore them almost down to the knees.)  I know that Auntie Maida wore bloomers because one day they had a grown‑ups party at their house (which we kids were allowed to attend) and Auntie Maida got a bit tipsy and sang her rendition of “Knees up Mother Brown”, along with all the actions, and I still remember seeing the bottom of her pink bloomers as she flicked her dress from side to side.  Here is an old music hall version, in which you can see the dress‑flicking movements that accompany the song:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OHEQngxsHg.

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tornadoAuntie Maida’s bloomers also feature in another big event from my childhood.  I’m not certain when it was (I can’t find any record of it on the internet), but there was a big tornado in Maungaturoto somewhere around 1951 (when I has nine).  A tornado is a very localised and very violent wind, sometimes called a twister.  Here’s a picture of one.

Anyway, this one was extremely violent (I remember that a horse was killed).  It just missed us (although our chimney pot was blown off), but hit the Houghton’s house across the road with full force.  It took their roof off and Auntie Maida’s bloomers ended up down in Bickerstaffe, a couple of kilometres away (along with the rest of her washing).

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bob-patterson-alf-1925My father Alf Lacey (known to his grandchildren as Grampy) knew quite a bit about clouds and the weather.  He’d done a lot of sailing as a teenager and had even crewed on a sailing boat that circumnavigated New Zealand.  Here’s a picture of him (on the right) with his sailing friend Bob Patterson.

Now, back to the tornado.  The afternoon before the tornado, we’d all been to Whangarei for the day.  On the drive home, dad noticed a very unusual cloud formation and said that he was sure it meant something about the weather, but he couldn’t remember what.  Anyway, the tornado struck that night and then he remembered!!!

If only he’d remembered in time, Auntie Maida could have brought her washing in and wouldn’t have had to buy new bloomers.

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