My mother, still working more than one job, as women didn’t get much wages back then, had recently bought a large, two storied, old fashioned house at the bottom end of Hopper street in Wellington. As banks at that time, wouldn’t lend to women on their own, she had been very fortunate that the house seller’s mother, a Mrs Fox, advanced her a loan for the mortgage.
Her house was within walking distance of the Holloway Road house where I was living, making it easier for me and the children to go visit. The spare rooms in mum’s house, were rented out to boarders, which seemed to be mostly elderly men on their own. Some liked their drink a bit too much, and others were also a bit light fingered. Padlocks had to be put on the boarders cupboard doors because they had no qualms about raiding each others rations.
A pair of Mormon missionaries stayed for a while, their ‘magic underwears’ causing a bit of mirth, when pegged out in a row on the clothesline. ‘Magic underwear’ as some wag had nicknamed the one piece, long john suits, worn next to their skin under their other clothes, were supposedly to ward off evil and keep them celibate.
Hopper street had a steep incline from top to bottom that caused downhill trams to gather up a lot of speed by the time they rattled past mum’s house. At the bottom they were meant to take a hard left into Webb street. Every time, we heard a tram come racing downhill we couldn’t help pricking up our ears, listening to see if it made the corner. Not long after mum moved in our fears were realized. A tram arrived at the corner intersection too fast and jumping right off its rails went plowing straight ahead through the large glass front window of the Chinese Green-Grocers.
Two doors down the street from mum’s house, there was a bakery shop where my sister worked as a counter hand. I was able to get hired there as well to make sandwiches. Each morning at 6am, I began buttering and filling untold slices of fresh bread from the virtual mountain of bread loaves, not finishing until after the lunch-time rush. After that it was a big hotfoot home to take over the childminding for the afternoon shift worker.
My Nana, visiting at mum’s boarding house, came for a walk over to my house for a chat and cuppa. Unknown to us, the council had been and dug up the broken footpath outside our front door, and the workers left behind a large unmarked, uncovered hole. It was dark when Nana headed off home again, not seeing the hole she tripped and fell headfirst in, leaving her with a badly damaged back that took ages to mend.
The government in the sixties, announced a new scheme to allow parents an opportunity to cash up in advance, some of the children’s family benefit they paid them. The lump sum gained could then be used to finance a deposit on a new build house, with the balance of the mortgage held by them. Family benefit, was spending money paid directly to mothers for each of their children, up to the age of sixteen. Some men, being the main earners at that time, often controlled all their wages without giving any over to support their families.
Deciding, that this chance of a new home and the opportunity to improve our lot was too good to miss, we went on an expedition to investigate. The only catch appeared to be that the houses were all being built in suburbs far out from town. Wainuiomata, accessed by a long winding road up and over a huge hill, from Lower Hutt, was one place enjoying the building boom. Virtually overnight the Wainui valley had been populated, with young families and their children, similar to us, and was already dubbed ‘Nappy Valley’.
After a ‘Tiki’ tour with a local builder of some ‘spec’ houses he had built, we chose to join the exodus over the hill, and signed up for One Eight Seven, Wellington Road, Wainuiomata, costing $3,500 pounds. It was a great feeling to be buying our own, nice and new everything house, after all those decrepit old farm cottages we had lived in. When the paperwork was settled, we chose the painting colours and the interior decorating, and waited excitedly with high hopes about our fresh start, for the finishing off work on our new house to be completed.
Mum invited us to cram into one of her boarding house rooms to enable us to save some money for essentials before our big move. We went out shopping, on time payment, for more furniture and a washing machine, goodbye copper boil ups, forever!
Waiting at mum’s, the kids were entertained watching her new black and white television set. They loved Bill and Ben the flowerpot men who kicked off the day’s viewing, at two o’clock in the afternoons. In the evenings, adults and kids alike, sat around together enthralled by everything that came on the screen. Mum’s favourite was the western, ‘Bonanza’. and she loved the character ‘Hoss’.
Also at this time, my husband got hired for a new job in a car parts factory in Petone, through an old friend from his school days. In his new position, he got to wear a white coat, have a posh sounding title, ‘quality control’ person, but really, the job involved taking random car seats off a conveyor line and smashing the heck out of them with a hammer, looking for weak spots. The wages, eighteen pounds a week, were a large rise in income from the slave wages back on the farms.