Archive for category 1951

Best mates

alf-nell-dale-1951The 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.

brian-dreadon-dale-at-an-acc-partyThe 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.


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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.


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:


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).


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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