Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 41, September 1997


By Mona Townshend

Milk: This was delivered to one's door in a can by the Milkman and cost from three pence a half pint. Later it was bottled - no cream on top then.

For many years free milk was available at schools but many children did not like it as in the summer weather the milk soon turned sour.

The Grocery & Butcher Shop: Bacon cut from a long roll; cheese from a round, cloth covered. "Mild or tasty?," one was asked; sugar from bagged sugar; the same with flour or the flour was in cloth bags which were later used for children's handkerchiefs or lining boy's trousers or even as table cloths. Goods were placed in brown paper bags or wrapped in brown paper. Fly papers were ordered with most orders in the summer time; no sprays until later years. The grocer would ring around for orders or call to those not on the phone for your weekly order, on his bike. He would travel far and there were no good roads, mostly loose metal.

Often children were asked to collect extra bread (no wrapping) and by the time they arrived home only half remained, as they had been hungry after school. They were tempted to eat a hole in the centre of a loaf.

Daily delivery mostly by bike around the town, or cart in the country. Meat for cats and dogs was always in great demand until the grocer started selling dog rolls or pet food in tins. During the slump when many were out of work a farmer would donate a beast and the butcher would cut it up free of charge and folk would call and collect a parcel of free meat.

On Saturdays shops would open until noon and what joy it was when long weekends arrived. Beach homes became popular plus folk were able to attend race meetings, mostly travelling by train or later by bus. There were no swimming baths but if a creek was near, children soon learnt to swim.

Schools: Schools were surrounded by horse paddocks as several children had to ride to school as it was too far to walk, one horse often bringing three children on its back. No buses in those early years. Children who went on to High School often had to go by train which meant early rising and late returns until country towns were given High Schools. Most children who did not attend Catholic Schools attended Church and Sunday Schools. They always looked forward to their annual prize giving and picnics.

Petrol: There were no petrol stations; petrol and kerosene was in tins. (These were later used for buckets or for preserving eggs for winter use.) Before electricity was available kerosene lamps were a must and most older children had to clean the lamps on a Saturday morning.

Dances: Most dances were held each Saturday night but Balls once a month with the odd fancy dress ball. People walked but always changed their shoes at the dressing room.

The Chemist Shop: Here a great change. No bottles of medicine like it used to be; now mostly pills and not made by the chemist, as he did in the past while one waited for them. So much is already on the shelves.

The Vet Shops: Unheard of for many years but very popular today, where one can take a cat or dog, horse or cow. The Vet is as important as the doctor.

Employment: Where did most folk work in small towns? Telephone Exchange staff, school teachers, office work, clothing factories, butter factories, Post Office (both inside and outside staff), railway (at the station and maintaining the railway track), and Power Board. Pay day was mostly Thursdays. For farmers too, work was different, hand throwing manure, and some milked by hand until machines came. Children often milked before and after school. Milk taken by cans to factories by a certain time then milk collected by lorries but today the milk tanker needs a wide drive into the farm to turn; power coming into the shed - wonderful. The farmer's wife also enjoyed having the power. Fridge, washing machine, dish washer, wireless and now T.V. and computers, even automatic shed doors.

Confectioners' Shops: Electric power made such a difference to the old ice box to keep ice cream firm and milk sweet. Ice was delivered by the carrier wrapped in a sugar bag covered in salt and not easy to handle. Then came the fridge. Milk shakes were "the drink" but milk must be cold. Remember half time at the pictures? Everyone rushed out to get a milk shake and have a smoke.

The Farm: Hay making on the farm when large hay stacks were built. The wife had to cook a large midday meal mostly on a coal range, suffering the heat, and arrange for drinks to be taken to the fields before and after lunch. Most farmers worked together during the hay making season, lending farm machinery. So different today with tractor and lorry or perhaps a contracting firm to do the work.

Sale Days: Cattle driven to sale yards by a drover- early start, then the waggon with sheep or pigs and later lorries, and now two decker lorries. In some places the stock was sent by rail to and from sales. Hard work for men and dogs especially if the train was late in arriving and a beast was down in a truck. On Show days horses were also sent on the trains.

Life was certainly different but enjoyable. Almost forgotten are the old standards of measurement; pounds, shillings and pence; pounds and ounces; yards, feet and inches.