January 1947, my new sister arrived, joining the booming batch of babies all born after the men came home from the war. Dad and me went to visit mum and the baby at the Hutt Hospital and he let me ride all the way on my new, blue, three wheeler bike, mum had let me pick it out from the shop all by myself.
To get to the hospital on the town side of the railway lines, we crossed through a scary dark, concrete underground tunnel, at the Epuni train station, called the subway.
At the hospital, only grown-ups were allowed inside for visits so dad parked my bike up on the round grassy patch out front, where I was to sit and wait. He told me he would get mum to hold our new baby right up close to the window so I could get a good squizz. The baby, all wrapped up in a white roll was hard to see, but I thought mum looked funny because she was still wearing her nightie and it was daytime.
When they got home again, my sister slept in a cot in our sitting room and each time she woke up, screamed her lungs out to get mum to come for her. One time when I trailed along behind mum to get her, the room had a big pong because she had painted her cot all over with poo.
March 1947, just after my sister was born, dad re-enlisted at the Whenuapai, Air Force Base, to join up with the, J Force. Squadron, No 14, left New Zealand in April 1947 to help Japan clean up the mess from the Atomic bombs that had been dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to end the war.
Dad sent photos home to mum of him and the other soldiers, standing posed among heaps and heaps of piled up rubble as far as the eye could see. There was not a building left standing. They returned home, in October of 1947.
Nana arrived to sleep-over and baby-sit, which us kids loved because she always arrived with treats in her suitcase and lots of stories to tell us. Her story this visit was about dad and his pearls.
Even though the soldiers were not really meant to, when dad was away in Japan he had posted strings of pearls home to family members in his letters because pearls were very rare and hard to get. Nana said Japanese divers held their breath for ages and went deep down under the sea to get to them. Dad and mum had now gone on a trip up country to sell them secretly to a jewellry man.
Dad fell asleep at the wheel on the return trip and their car went over a bank, ending up in a ditch in the dark. Luckily for them they never got hurt bad and someone came along to tow them out.
With the pearl money mum got some new furniture, dad got a new car and built a garage to put it in. He also made a wooden plane, painted just the same as his Air-force ones, and stuck it on the garage’s top corner. On really windy days, the wings on Dad’s plane whirred round and round so fast it looked like it was about to go flying off.
Years later, Nana confessed up, that she had been so desperate for money at that time, she had opened her letter packet with the pearls and sold off a string.
One of the things I remember, Nana always said about dad, was that he was full of big ideas. So when he arrived home with a huge truck with a room built on the back, we knew it was another one of them. Dad planned to do a, ‘veggie run’, delivering fresh veggies to all the new government houses around us we had seen from the big hilltop.
Whenever, I got to go out on the run, I felt real grown up, sitting way high up in the truck’s front seat. First, at the Chinese market gardens dad filled up with fruit and veggies, then we cruised to our regular neighborhood stops and parked up. After letting down the steps at the back of the truck, gathered housewives in flowery or checkered covered pinnies, clutching purses and wicker baskets clambered on-board.
Lots of gossiping and laughing with dad went on, as the ladies took their time to poke and prod, having a good nosy before making their picks. Dad used shiny, silver bowl, scales, dangling from the ceiling for the weigh up, and after the pay up, we drove to the next stop.
One time playing outside in our yard, my eyes spotted the back door on dad’s truck a little bit open, and got the bright idea to sneak up the back-steps for a try out of some fruit. Busy enjoying my tasty little feast, I never saw dad until he appeared really mad and gave me a big fright shouting. Mum heard the fuss and came out from the house to give me a good whallop around the ears.