During our card games, Nana also recounted, that often when ‘Father’ was missing, ‘Mother’ would be desperate for supplies to feed them all. She would bravely take his ‘remittance cheque’ when it arrived in the mail and use it, knowing full well there would be, what Nana called, ‘hell to pay’ when he came home and found out. She used the horse and trap to go to the nearest town where a friendly shopkeeper knowing her situation with ‘Father’ would help her out and cash it.
When ‘Father’ had his awful temper fits he would create such a terrible scene he scared all the little kids. Once he got so mad at Nana he told her that he wasn’t her father. She laughed telling me about that bit, because she had been cheeky enough to tell him right back that, ‘she was glad’.
‘Father’ also beat the little kids so bad sometimes, they were unable to walk and had to be carried into the house by the older ones. Whenever Nana talked about her little brother, who she called, ‘poor little beggar’ Phil, she got sad again because ‘Father’ was really mean to him. He was always picking on him and had a habit of dragging him around by his ears, causing them to get cracked and bleeding. Nana reckoned, ‘poor little beggar’ Phil’s sore ears, would hurt so bad on cold frosty winter mornings, it made him cry. Eventually, he ended up with cauliflower ears like boxers get.
A happier memory from her kid days she liked talking about was the exciting time, Father’s rich family from England, came on a boat to New Zealand for a visit, bringing with them lovely presents for all the children. The driver of the taxi they hired to get out to the farm from Palmerston North, got them lost in the back-blocks of Rangiotu and had to ask directions from the local Garage man, who figured out who they were by their accents and posh clothes.
When it came time for them to return home, they wanted to take Nana, who was excellent at her school work, back to England with them to be educated, but ‘Mother’ wouldn’t allow it. After achieving her leaving certificate at age thirteen, Nana really, badly wanted to stay at school and go on higher. Her teacher spoke up for her, telling ‘Mother’ that Nana was very clever and should further her education, but ‘Mother’ had other ideas, she insisted Nana had to leave as she needed her on the farm. Nana said, it always seemed funny to her, how educated people like her parents, could treat their own children like little more than farm slaves. This remembrance made her eyes get wet.
Another baffling thing to Nana about her mother, was how secretive she was about any information concerning her own family. She never talked about her other siblings in New Zealand, or England and there was no contact with them. She secreted away any family letters that arrived under lock and key in a box in her room. Nana wondered why she never read them out to the children.
‘Mother’ had a nasty, very spoiled, little white terrier that sat with her on her lap getting petted while she fed it biscuits. If she ever left her chair, he jealously guarded it by snarling, viciously, and trying to bite any of the kids who dared to go near. Nana thought he was lavished with more love and attention than any of the kids ever got and said he had put her off dogs for life.