Friday, 11 November 2011


i remember my mother's father, pa, as a story teller. i would have been only fourteen when pa died and he lived in new zealand so i had only met him a few times and my impressions have been formed more by mum's remembrances than my own observations but i clearly remember him telling me the story of epaminondas. he told it with a sparkle in his eye, with great accents and facial expressions, humour and suspense. a very quick glance at some websites tells me that the story is regarded as racist and i see why but times were different then and i imagine he just liked the story.
i also remember pa writing a birthday card for somebody and smudging it a bit. he didnt want to give a smudged card so he turned the mark into a picture and though i didnt know it then, in that moment i saw a glimpse of pa's perfectionist side. the turning of a mistake into something acceptable, even attractive would also have been part of his work as an artisan.
pa left school at about the age of fourteen and worked in his father's blacksmith shop and around the age of eighteen he was offered an apprenticeship in some kind of engineering work. pa's father was a binge drinker and knowing that he had a problem he determined to move to a dry area and expected his son to go with him. the plan was that together they would establish a life and the rest of the family would follow. and that, is in fact, what happened. pa never took the apprenticeship. of course we dont know what might have happened if he had taken advantage of that opportunity but i suspect it may have involved great personal cost. i also have fanciful dreams that maybe his sacrifice made a significant difference in the lives of his siblings.
it must have been relatively soon after the big move that pa worked in what i understand to be a mixed business where he learned to make confectionery and ice cream. it would also have been about this time that he met my nanna and these two aspects of his story collide for the period of the great depression, during which time pa made confectionery to sell door to door and waited, a long wait, to marry his sweetheart. without further research the story is hazy but the time from meeting to marrying was seven years for pa & nanna, not so unusual in these days of cohabiting but surely an agonising wait in those days.


  1. I like the idea of turning a mistake into something acceptable or beautiful. He must have been very ingenious to do that on a regular basis.

    Making confectionery and ice cream sounds like an enjoyable job. And one much appreciated by other people.

  2. I love the idea of turning a smudge into an art work. And I am envious of the mind that could see the possibilities.
    And yes, looooong engagements did seem to be the norm.

  3. He sounds very enterprising. Selling confection during rationing wouldn't have been easy. My Great Grandfather was a black marketeer in Wales and sold all sorts 'under the counter' but like you, I have sketchy memories that my mother told me. Seven years? Long time. Makes me think of my mum. A nurse diagnosed with Tuberculosis after nursing children with the disease, she spent the first 2 years of married life on absolute bed rest. Makes our lives look pretty cushy huh?

  4. I found this a bit hard to follow, but I got there in the end. I think. :)

  5. hi nick!
    confectionery is always good :)

    i guess there wasnt enough money for weddings, that was certainly the case with my grandparents.

    two years bed rest! surely antibiotics were around then? and yeah, out lives are pretty cushy much of the time.

    i was afraid it was convoluted! maybe i should edit more. its really hard to put it all together in logical order, actually

  6. I don't think you ever could have found a dry area in this country. Where I grew up in the Southern US, liquor was illegal, but this just made it easier for kids to buy it since smugglers didn't care who they sold to.

  7. snow,
    i guess the kiwis were less into the bootlegging?

    i think we have some dry communities here but i would need to check....

  8. A lot of people are living the Depression all over again right now. Reason to enjoy the sweet spots when we find them. Unfortunately, it takes years to learn that and often too late.

  9. I enjoyed your post, Kylie. Thanks for sharing. Your Pa sounded like a good man.

  10. I love going back in time and learning about ancestors! He sounds like a fun man.

  11. "Pa" my father-in-law and Ma were victims of the great depression in that earlier marriage was impossible because no person had the money to set up house and parents had no $$'s to provide the conventional wedding. If Baino's mum had TB prior to WW2 then I think a/b's did not exist. My paternal g/father died of TB in the early 1930's

  12. That bit about the mistakes reminded me of a my grandma - she would darn my school blouses and dresses when they got a hole in with beautiful little embroidered leaves and flowers.. until her fingers got too bad :)

  13. haha,your "pa'a raconteur i also am a raconteur and for the last 6 years have done it {raconteuring} all over my blog

  14. ha ha also comment unlucky 13

  15. Kia ora Kylie,
    Love the family history - it is good to have that knowledge. New Zealand, as far as I know, never had dry areas as much as simply remoter areas where no one could be bothered setting up a still or pub. Most of the time they would store up the need and head for the coast or nearest town where they could binge away, then go back out of harms way. Of course the temperance movement and religion eventually resulted in NZ allowing it's pubs to remain open only till 6:00pm - called The Six O'clock Swill, the men would rush from work to the pub to guzzle as much grog as possible for an hour after work. You can imagine the fun that must have made many dinner times for wives and children. It wasn't till the late 60's that pubs were finally allowed to stay open, but the binge drinking culture certainly still remains here, passed from generation to generation it seems. Sorry to ramble. Hope all is well e hoa and have a lovely and healthy Yuletide Season.


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