By 1972 I was settling into school routines and involved in ballet. I have a few recollections of school during this time that didn’t involve fitting in any better. I had had some awesome teachers including Miss Cushla Ryan who wore “hippy’ dresses, played the guitar and taught us to sing Morning Town Ride – a popular song of the times. She was very cool – even my daddy thought so. The following year Miss Philippa Thompson was in charge of our class – she was young, pretty and got married….what a fairy tale. Some of the parents organised for us to go and see her emerge from the church…..a princess. No idea what we did in class all year.
As a family we made the annual pilgrimage to Hastings for the A & P (Agricultural & pastoral) Show – a 12 mile trip. It was generally hot & boring walking about looking at smelly animals and big machines. The show was for the rural community to show their prize animals and culinary skills while the machinery suppliers were there to make sales. There were also the displays of cakes and scones – but we weren’t allowed to eat them. I’m sure we would have had a picnic of some sort to eat. It was also an occasion to dress up in our good clothes.
1972 saw Mr Kerry Davis in charge of my education. I recall Mr Davis being a ‘nice’teacher who we tried to please. Again I don’t recall any specific lessons although Missy and I did get in a spot of bother after absconding from school at lunchtime, heading off along Battery Road towards Dees house, picking flowers, delivering them to Mrs Davis (who had recently had a baby) and returning to school late!!! Getting in trouble for doing ‘ the right thing’ has become another trend in my life. Hasn’t stopped me from my belief that the right thing to to is the only thing to do.
Following on from Mr Davis was Mr Mana Forbes and it was under his guidance that I began to learn some Maori language and songs. My grandfather Dee was a Maori Gentleman who grew up in an era where the maori language was discourage – he was strapped at school if he spoke in his traditional language but by the mid ’70s there was a small swell of resurgence in Te Reo (the language) and Tikanga (the culture) Maori. Port Ahuriri School even had a Maori Culture group that competed in the local Kapa Haka (song & dance) competitions. We had taiaha (fighting sticks) made from painted broom sticks, poi (twirling balls on string) made from newspaper & plastic bags, and piu piu (skirts) made from decorated paper. We only had two kids who looked Maori but there were a few of us who looked Pakeha but were of mixed heritage. I loved being involved in my grandfathers culture as it kept him close to me and honoured his memory. Mana Forbes was the only teacher to ever punish me with “The Strap” and to this day I declare my innocence. Bullying was rife then and I still have trouble getting myself out of these type of situations with honour and dignity.
We were still very active in the Knox Church and the wider Ahuriri-Puturino parish that extended out through Eskdale and up past Tuitira. There were plenty of parish picnics and events that we attended at Knox and out into the rural areas. Andrew Brown was the Minister with his wife Marjorie and their children Paul, Ross and Sarah. As families we shared outings and holidays including a trip up the Coromandel Peninsular. The Browns moved on to St Marks Church in Tokoroa (which reappears in my late teens) and we had holidays with them at Marsdens batch in Taupo and in Tokoroa through some home swap deal with the Kithers. Sarah Brown had a dolls house with lights that worked – she was SOOOO lucky!!!! The Browns have remained family friends as they moved to Balclutha and Whangarei with visits and attendance at each others performances and recitals. I still have a bag I purchased from Hallensteins in Balclutha where Ross had an after school job in 1980 – such are the bonds of family friendships.
As a family our home was open to others with Mum and Dad fostering many children and babies. Some of them attended our school, some of them broke our hearts and some of them just made us sad through their situations. What I remember from these experiences was realising that while we didn’t have as much as some of the kids at school – we had a lot more than some of the other children and we had some sort of obligation to help those less fortunate than ourselves. At some stage a decision was made to permanently add to our family with the adoption of Steve.
Steve was never a baby brother, but he was ours and we took him in lock stock and barrel. We picked him up from Wellington (a days drive away) and brought him home to Napier. He was cute then and (according to his wife) still is. I took Steve on as my project and loved being his little mother. As he grew I taught him the things he needed to know like how to open beer without a bottle opener and how to buy cigarettes for his big sister. He was a willing learner and was easily bribed with some Pinwheel Scones. Home baking still works today and I love cooking for him when I get the chance. Steve and I almost share a birthday which has been an added bonus as he doesn’t forget when my birthday is.
I cant imagine what my life would be today without the influence of my early teachers, the browns, foster caring and my Steve. These people and experiences have been the foundation of my caring, welcoming and compassionate side which has seen much of my working life spent helping others to achieve their potential.