Archive for category 1950

Aerial topdressing

tiger-mothIn 1950, when I was eight, regular air travel had only just started and most ordinary people had never been in a plane (or even seen one flying overhead).  My first memory is of a Tiger Moth at my friend Bradley’s farm.  The picture on the right shows a Tiger Moth dropping fertiliser in one of the very first aerial topdressing trials.

Aerial topdressing was invented in New Zealand.  Before that, bags of fertiliser would have to be carried by tractor or horse and then spread by hand.  It was very hard work, of course, and not very efficient.  There’s a very interesting article about it all here, on the Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand.


claude-stephenson-max-xIn the 1960s, my older brother Max became a topdressing pilot and spent much of his life flying, in New Zealand, England, and Africa.  Here’s a photo of him (centre) in Martinborough, where we lived in the 1960s, in front of one of the Auster Agricola planes he flew at that time.  The Agricola was a British plane that had been designed specifically for the New Zealand topdressing market.

His boss, Claude Stephenson (on the left), had been a fighter pilot during the Second World War, serving with the RAF (the British air force).

You can see a shot of Max flying (in Africa) in this clip, which is from a 1970s(?) documentary:  Points to note are that the narrator is the famous actor Anthony Hopkins (“Silence of the Lambs” etc) and that Max and his close mate Paddy Mackay are mentioned shortly after the one minute mark.   (The reference to Max is quite amusing, so have a look!)


Leave a comment

Intimations of mortality

dale-around-1950On 1 January 1950, I remember becoming aware, for the very first time, that one day I would die!!!  A half century had just ticked over and I realised that this wouldn’t happen again for another fifty years (which to a nearly eight year old seemed an awfully long time).  I calculated that I would turn 58 in the year 2000 and thought “boy, that’s awfully old, I wonder if I could possibly live that long”.  In fact, of course, I’ve lived to the ripe old age of 74 (so far).

I’ve already talked about lots of ways that life has changed, but here are some other things:

  • There were no dishwashers, no microwaves, not many fridges, and no deep freezes.
  • Houses that didn’t have a fridge had a “safe” in the kitchen, which was a small cupboard with vents to the outside of the house, so the contents would be kept slightly cool by the breeze. That way your milk/butter/etc lasted a bit longer before “going off”.
  • There were no portable radios, and no TV at all.
  • No zips or velcro.
  • No airbags, no electric windows in cars. No seat belts or child safety harnesses.  No indicators.
  • No tissues for wiping your nose. You used handkerchiefs (cloth squares made of cotton), which, if you had a bad cold, would quickly become very damp and very yukky!!!

Leave a comment