The ‘Barratt Girls’ mother, was another of the flats’ mothers who went out of their way to be nice to us. She was a lovely lady with a tall willowy figure, who I loved to watch when she danced around their lounge, by herself, singing along to the radio. When I scuffed my new shoes she bought me some special polish to hide the marks so I wouldn’t cop it from mum.
On Friday nights, if mum had the money, us flats’ kids shared a fish and chips tea together, at our hangout on the hall steps. Up at the Berhampore shops for a shilling, we could choose from a fish, or a hot dog with a scoop of chips. The Bell and Barratt girls being Catholics had to settle for a fish as their Church said they were not allowed to eat any meat on Fridays, so only us heathens got to enjoy the hot dogs.
Settled down eating from our newspaper packets we read aloud any snippets of news on our wrappers. A ‘Truth’ wrapper was a big score and we pored over their stories trying to figure out why they were a big secret, as our parents normally wouldn’t let us see that paper.
Two nice girls from my new school class, Judith and Jimeece made friends with me inviting me over to their houses for after school visits. I loved Judith’s old fashioned, two storied house at the top of Newtown, near to the Zoo. We had fun hanging out of its huge, push up windows, in the upstairs bedrooms, for a great view over Newtown, calling out to any kids we knew. Like mum, Judith’s mum went out to work every day, leaving delicious home-made chocolate and biscuits in tins under their bench, that we were allowed to eat.
Most of our time together we spent doing her, after school, chores. She did their ironing and put their tea on. When I helped her to fetch in the washing, I sort of wondered why they had a row of rags all pegged out on the line, thinking it a bit odd. At four o’clock, I raced home to do my own jobs, making beds, doing the dishes and getting the tea cooking.
If I climbed up and stood on the sofa, I was able to get a glimpse, out through the sitting room window, between the houses, of mum getting off the tram in the far distance. It gave me a heads up to be ready.
All the South Wellington school’s students were divided up into groups, called houses, to do sports. Each one named, very originally, after a color! My team was ‘Blue House’, and our theme song was based upon the war-time song, ‘Maori Battalions’.
Once a week, the whole school, divided into their houses, filed across the road to the, empty and silent, Athletic Park, for sports activities. As we walked, we sang, ‘Blue House march to victory’ etc. It reminded me of the seven dwarfs who sang on their way to work in the ‘Snow White’ picture, I had seen on holiday in Christchurch.
On Saturdays, Athletic Park was a different story it came alive in a big way. Swarms of people filled the seats and stands to overflowing. The days they held, the ‘All Blacks’, rugby matches the chaos and noise was amped ten times.
Supporters decked out in the colors and gears of the team they supported overran Newtown and Berhampore, their cars blocking the streets for miles around. Down the road at our flats, the cheering, roaring, noise of the crowd erupting each time a try was scored or some play got them up on their feet, was so loud it was like we were right inside the park.
I wasn’t that interested in doing school sports and absolutely hated the swimming lessons in the new school pool. For a start I had the big embarrassment of trying to squeeze my body into the old black woolen bathers from my Epuni ballet days. On top of that, mum’s insistence, I use dad’s holey old, khaki army towel, from ten years ago, only added to my wanting to hide. Lastly, I found it near impossible to coordinate my limbs and breathing how they wanted, making me feel like an idiot.
Knucklebones became a craze going round at school. The kids with money were able to buy their sets of five and the rest of us saved them up from Sunday roasts or scrounged at the local butchers who gave them out for free. The playground at break-times, was covered in rings of squatting kids doing, onesies, twosies, etc, up to harder levels like, sweeps, clicks and no clicks, or horse in the stable. Some kids got the hang of it really fast and became unbeatable masters.