The picture shows Grandad Dale in 1951 (when I was nine) with my father and mother (Alf and Nell). I’m not sure where it was taken, but it looks like we were dressed up for the occasion!
All my best mates at that time were boys (boys and girls didn’t often play together, in those days, apart from brothers and sisters). Girls were socialised to a different and lesser role in society, right from a very early age, and boys, in turn, were socialised to a more dominant and entitled role. Looking back on it, I realise that, although our parents were very advanced in much of their thinking, they conformed to the norm of the day at least in this respect. For example, my brother Max and I went to boarding school (to get a better education), but they didn’t see this as necessary or appropriate for my sister Lynne.
So, you’ll see below, that practically all of my mates (cobbers, as we sometimes called them) were boys.
Probably my very best mate was Robin Hargraves, who lived at 12(?) Whaka St. In those days, Whaka St was called “the old railway track”, or something like that (I think it was originally a droving track). My older brother Max once tried to get all the way down the track to the railway station on horseback, but didn’t make it. He gave up after riding through some bushes too quickly, straight into a clump of bush lawyer.
Now, bush lawyer is a vine with lots of thorns that hook onto your clothes. The old joke is that (like a lawyer) it won’t let go of you until it has drawn blood. So, poor Max got entangled in the bush lawyer, the horse kept going, and Max ended up hanging from the bushes. When we heard the story, we thought it was very funny, even if he didn’t!!!
The Stanaways lived in the house just past the Hargraves at 14(?) Whaka St. Their daughter, Marilyn, was a good friend of my sister’s. One day, when they were quite young, I heard them chatting in the basement of our house, and Marilyn was telling Lynne that Santa Claus didn’t really exist. I tell you, Lynne’s face was literally white with shock. Fortunately I was able to explain that Marilyn was mistaken and that of course Santa existed. (I can’t imagine where Marilyn got the silly idea from. Maybe she misunderstood something her parents said.)
To sidetrack for a moment, it was Whaka St I walked up on the day I ran away from home. I was about three or four, at the time, and had become seriously disenchanted with my mother. Mum did what good mothers throughout history have done when their toddler threatens to run away from home; she helped me pack my bag (with an apple and a soft toy, I think). Off I went, trudging resentfully into the twilight. Mum, of course, had rung ahead to “Auntie” Beryl (Robin Hargraves’ mum), and by the time I’d gone the hundred metres to their house I’d calmed down enough to be coaxed home. I’ve no idea where I thought I was going, but it was a great adventure.
Another good mate was Terry McMahon who lived in a newly built house behind the Houghtons. If I remember right, the McMahons were catholics, which was something I hadn’t come across before (our family wasn’t religious, so being friends with a catholic was quite esoteric)! I remember they went to mass only once a month, because the nearest Catholic church was so far way away.
On one occasion, Terry and I had this ginormous game of monopoly that went on for days. At the end of each session we’d leave the board set up on their lounge floor and next day, after school, we’d resume battle. However, it all ended in extreme acrimony. I don’t remember why, but we got so upset with each other that I set off home in a huff (yelling insults back at Terry) and he got so incensed that he threw a huge rock at my retreating figure. Well, maybe it was only a medium‑sized stone, but it did gash my head and there was blood everywhere. I can’t remember whether that was the end of our friendship or not, but I imagine we got over it soon enough.
Another friend was the McMurchy boy (I can’t remember his first name). His father owned a hardware(?) shop a few doors away from us (it might have been where the supermarket is now). Anyway, one day, when we were very young, he talked me into stealing a toy from his father’s shop. (I swear it was his idea, not mine!!!) Anyway, we did the dastardly deed (we stole one of those “invisible ink” sets) and made a clean getaway, or so we thought. However, next day mum and dad started gently questioning me and eventually the whole truth came out. The toy was returned and apologies made to Mr McMurchy.
(Obviously, he had seen what was going on but, instead of nabbing us in the act, had kindly had a quiet word with my parents, who left me in no doubt that I’d done wrong. I don’t know what he said to his own son!!!)
Most of my other mates were farmer’s sons. Bradley McCrae lived on a sheep farm up on Griffin Road. He was a bit younger than me, but we both loved riding horses. It was on their farm that I first saw an aeroplane. It was a Tiger Moth and I think it may have been doing the first aerial topdressing in Maungaturoto.
The Snellings owned the sheep farm at the bottom of the Brynderwyn Hill (on the Maungaturoto side, just opposite where Atlas Quarries are now), and their son Doug was one of my very best mates. I had great adventures out there, and also fell hopelessly in love with his sister Una (ah, unrequited love). I’ll tell you more about Doug and Una in later blog entries, when I talk about horse riding and dances.
The Dreadons were dairy farmers who were close family friends. They lived out on Mountain Road. Brian was more my sister Lynne’s age, but I met him again many years later, in Wellington, and we became friends again. The photo (with Brian on the left) was taken much later, in 1983, when I was 41.
And, of course, there were the Houghtons, who lived across the road from us at 196(?) Hurndall Road. Their children (Len, Maureen and Ray) were good family friends, but none of them were my age, so they weren’t really mates, but I was often across at their place.