After the war ended and the grass outside was grown, dad transferred to the Air-force reserves and we shifted down the North Island to his new spray painting job at the Austin car factory and another new, government, ‘State House’. Number 13, Purser Grove, Epuni. Tucked underneath a row of hills, in a suburb on the eastern side of Lower Hutt, it was nearby to Petone, where dad’s family lived and he had grown up.
Sometimes, dad and me took big walks through the spooky quiet, bushy tracks up the hills. The trees were so tall, I had to tip my head right back to see the shiny, sunny, sky bits. Dad would get me to ‘stand really still’, and listen with him, to the different birds’ voices, or watch cicadas, clinging to the wooden power poles, rubbing their legs together to make loud chirping noises.
Out in the sun at the very top, we stood in the long grass and spied out down below us, the rows and rows of tiny, new-same, state houses just like ours, and saw lots and lots of veggies growing at the Chinese market gardens far away.
Dad and me also went together to the indoor skating rink at Lower Hutt. I watched as he did faster and faster laps on the shiny wooden floor, practicing for the speed skating competitions. Back at home he let me help him take his skates apart into lots of pieces to rub shiny clean. I got to have a go with his funny little oil-can with a long spout like our teapot to oil the little round silver balls, called, ball bearings, in the wheels.
The biggest memory of this time, is really the visit dad and me went on, to the Taita speedway. It was on the night of the spectacular, ‘The Wall of death’ big attraction, which he reckoned was a pretty dangerous stunt.
The images, sounds, and smells of that night are burnt into my brain forever, massive crowds of people, overwhelmingly loud noise, from roaring, revving motorbike engines, heard all over the district and my squashing my hands tightly over my ears was no help, as well as air so swamped with stinking petrol and exhaust smoke, I couldn’t breathe.
The motorbike rider sat astride his bike, furiously revving up his engine until it sounded like a rocket ship taking off for outer space. Then he attempted to ride, round and round inside a steel barred cage, climbing the walls to the top and back down without toppling over and crashing.
My Nana, mum’s mother, gave up her job managing the same Adams Bruce shop in Palmerston North, where mum used to work and followed us on our move south. She took a position at another of their shops, up Cuba Street, Wellington, all of the Adams Bruce shops all over New Zealand looked exactly the same and sold the same yummy chocolates, ice creams and cakes.
It was fun to go on visits to Nana at her shop. While her and mum had big chats, I liked to peer into the glass counter and ogle all the mouth watering chocolates laid out in rows on glass shelves. Each chocolate was topped off with a different, fancy swirl decoration, to tell what sort of yummy filling was inside. I also studied the window display stacked full of empty, white ‘Queen Ann, chocolates’, boxes. They were covered with pictures of funny looking Queens dressed up in old time clothes exactly like the ones on Nana’s playing cards. In my head, I decided that when I grew up, I was going to buy lots of those boxes and try them all out.
The cakes arrived in huge slabs, that Nana cut up into pieces and weighed out for the customers. Any crumbs, she let me have, to give me a taste. Some cakes had funny names like, Madeira, which Nana called a plain cake, and Seed cake which really did look like it had real bird seeds all inside it. I was never game enough to try that one. Sometimes she rolled me a delicious little ice cream to lick as I waited.