NannyGranny’s Olden Days’ Beginnings 36

Halfway through the year, we were told a Maori girl was joining our class and teacher gave us a big lecture about how to treat her. I had never seen a Maori before and couldn’t imagine what to expect. I had a vague picture in my head of redskin Indians dressed in animal skin clothes, from the westerns at the pictures. However when she arrived, she turned out to be just the same as us, only a bit browner, I couldn’t figure out the fuss.

My friend, Judith’s mother, worked at the Self Help shop, down at the John Street intersection in Newtown, and her and I would walk together for visits after school. All the shop ladies were very friendly to us and always having a joke. I remember when Judith, who was a bit flat chested, told the ladies she had on her new first bra, they all had a laugh and someone said, all she needed now, was something to put in it.

Out the back of the shop, they had a bench where an enormous round cheese covered in a white cloth sat. The ladies used a piece of wire they pulled through it to slice up slabs for selling. They let us eat the crumbly bits that fell off. Judith’s mum also gave us free sample sachets, of some new stuff, called shampoo, they were selling. My hair had never felt and smelt so good after using that, much nicer than the good old ‘sunlight’ soap.

The Winter Show-Buildings, up the hill from the shop, were setting up for a new show and us two went for a wander to have a look. On the way we passed by a big building on the other side of the road that had a sign out front, saying, ‘Alexandra Hospital and Home for Unmarried Mothers’. I remember getting puzzled about what that meant.

Doing the rounds of all the stalls set up in the big hall, we were engrossed by lots of exhibits, all the latest of gadgets and anything you could think of were on show, and we gathered up heaps of free samples. I remember the stall I admired the most was covered over on masses of big eyed, Kewpie dolls dangling on cane sticks. I just loved them so much, I stood for ages admiring each one. They were dressed in variations of beautiful, brightly colored net tutus, sprinkled all over with glittering, sparkling sequins. I thought it must have taken them a long time to make so many.

In the paddock, out back of the buildings, we talked to the animals penned up or staked out on ropes making it easy to get up close for pats. Heaps of workmen were putting up the big tent for the circus acts and erecting the huge spinning Ferris wheel. The turning clown faces awaiting assembly, looked odd sitting in a row on the grass, in the sideshow area. We thought we had hit the jackpot, when a kind stall holder, gave us a free candy floss.

A photographer took our photos, snapped in our South Wellington Intermediate uniforms and Judith’s mum kindly paid to buy an extra copy for me. Looking at it confirmed my worst fears, that ugly gym frock did make me look like a sack of spuds tied in the middle. Mum, took my sister and me along to one of the night shows and the same photographer was now out front of the ticket boxes, snapping the visitors arriving and giving out cards for ordering the photos.

Also parked up out front was a large truck with a huge search light attached to the back. Built for spotting enemy planes in the sky during the war time, it now shone its powerful light beam up into the black, night-sky, and could be seen from miles away, even over the hills at our Newtown flat.

Mum gave us a go at putting the ping pong balls into the turning clown mouths, trying to get them to land on a lucky number. Every kid giving it a go, was dreaming about winning one of the Giant Teddy Bear prizes sitting on a shelf at the back of the stall. Instead, all we got was a consolation prize of a pencil.

Mum reckoned it was a waste of money and all rigged to only give the little prizes, as no-one ever seemed to win the Teddies. We all ate candy floss riding the ghost train, which I didn’t think was very ghostly, and at the end of the night, I was really happy mum let us buy a Kewpie doll each.

We also went with mum to see other shows in Wellington Town. At the Opera House we saw ‘Rose Marie’ on ice, and another show we saw was a very big black lady who played the piano, really, really, fast and loudly, named ‘Winifred Attwell’. My friend Judith and I also went to a couple of the big shows on in town at the Opera house and St James theaters, queuing with our autograph books at their exit doors for autographs.