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Chapter 6

WESTMERE - THE FAMILY YEARS.

After our initial cottage we had our new house but now wanted a place with decent soil, and some space around us, a place with mature trees would be nice we thought. It had to be close to the city and of course within our price range. After almost a year of looking around we found it in the form of a two acre farmlet with an old family home in Waitotara County, just over the border from the city, about the same distance from the centre of the city to Caslecliff I lived before. The place had been a garden nursery for many years. The current owners had a flower and shrub nursery supplying customers direct but mainly florists on a whole sale basis locally and around the country.

There were large mature trees, long established fruit trees in the orchard and long rows of majestic Camellia trees up to 20feet high. It had been a show place for many years. The passenger train which ran between New Plymouth and Wanganui used to stop at the tiny rail yard station in front of the farmlet to pick up freight and the passengers took the opportunity to wander through the garden areas.

Here the children grew up, the boys having been born in Castlecliff; Julie was born at Westmere. She was an afterthough. We had our two boys, we would have preferred our second child to be a girl but were content with the two children until now hankering after a girl. Being so much more mature we enjoyed the process being new parents again and for me it was a pleasure to visit Noeleen in the Hospital and view our latest child. At this point of life we had much enjoyment out of life.

The Westmere years altogether were the best years of my life, this was a period of family life, business culmination, community involvement and development of the property and grounds. Noeleen had restarted the cut flower nursery and developed it into a small business which kept both of us busy, I did most of the growing, rotary hoeing, weed control by way of gassing the soil and spraying. Large plots were involved, at one stage we had 1/8th of an acre in Chrysanthemums. Easter, Mothers day and all the other anniversary days were very busy days. The florists would order large quantities of cut flowers for these events. We grew mostly to order having several florists as our regular customers. Supplying flowers for funerals was a feature; we had large stacks of flat flower trays for funeral flowers. We received many urgent calls at all hours of the day and night to fulfil orders at short notice. Accidents, death notices in the newspapers, particularly of well-known people indicated the likely forthcoming demand for flower heads. Our Camellias were much prized in that respect not the least that we had all the colours available and wide range of types. Florists all had their own preferences for flowers. Jessie Ngang Kee, the largest florist in town had a liking for blossoms of all type with chrysanthemums coming a close second. Another florist was nuts on dahlias.

We borrowed a bit and replaced the Austin Cambridge car with a new Hillman station wagon, replacing that a few years later with a Holden HR station wagon, to carry our flower trays and our two German Shepherd dogs Cindy and Mandie.

We did not have much to do with our neighbours, the closest being a quarter of a mile down the road, the Carrols; in fact we had only two neighbours in our street. Eileen Carroll undertook sewing and was in demand for her work, she also had a large quantity of dolls and was a leading light in that area judging all around the country, her husband was a farm hand and worked for his brotherís farm down the road.

The second neighbour at the beginning of the road was a war casualty, an air pilot who developed a major psychiatric condition, he spent many years in the Lake Alice Mental Hospital but they eventually released him but re was re-admitted time and again. Betty Fellows and the children were frightened to death on many an occasion when he had his attacks, one occasion something upset him and he smashed most of the internal doors in the house to smithereens. When he was sane he was a nice enough bloke, I remember him as small and slender person with a nervous disposition.

We used to have guy folkís day each year and I usually had a bonfire for the kids. On one occasion Betty Fallows was keen for their family to join in, as we were often into one family thing or the other and her children wanted to be part of the fun. Our kids put a tremendous effort in gathering progressively a great heap of branches and other combustible items; the Fallows kids came over from time to time to help them. The night was a success, fortunately all the rockets ended up in the paddocks around us and did not set anything alight but we did get a call from the fire station enquiring wether we had a problem as they had been told that you could see our bon fire for miles.

Betty Fallows was the only person in the area who took an interest in Noeleen after she became ill (in the initial stages) Noeleen's illnessbut confessed that she was at a loss how to help other than doing the odd bit of baking and offering help even if she did not know how.

I had a bad attack of the flue (I was seldom ill), in fact to the extend that I took the day of work, a rare event for me, Noeleen called the Doctor (Dr.Stone) to come and have a look at me. He confirmed that it was a bad dose of the flue bordering on bronchitis. He sat down on the edge on the bed and asked if I smoked which was the case then. He appealed to my intellect and asked me to explain to him in detail the benefits I received of smoking and wether I thought the benefits outweighed the negative aspects, he hasten to say that my current problem was not caused by my smoking habit but it was a contributing factor as smoking had a depressing effect on the immunity system. I had been thinking of giving up smoking for some time and this was the trigger I needed to think about it and subsequently deciding to give up smoking not having smoked cigarettes ever since.

Gradually I became aware of the smell and the taste of food to an increasing degree. This was the good part, however I piled on the weight rather rapidly but having discovered that if I could give up smoking after having thought about this for years (at the back of my mind) I should be able to tackle my new weight problem. Giving this some thought I came to the conclusion that some form of exercise program would be then answer, but what? I took a rather formal approach and decided that I needed a sport which was interesting, did not take up a great deal of time and was energy intensive. Thus I discovered Judo and this proved to be exactly that, the strict discipline to get fit prior to commencing play, concentrated exercise and regular attendance (several times a week) rapidly reduced my weight and got me very fit in a short period of time. More-ever it also reduced stress at work and I liked the new sport even starting to take a bit of interest in competition. With a bit of encouragement I went along to a competition and re-grading of the Hawera club members where I was matched (I was a yellow belt then) against a the senior judoka there, blue belt, and immediately after the competition started in only a few moves downed and pinned their local champion to the mat to the great consternation of the local club members, I was the hero that night for my club.

I had my injuries too, a very large, very heavy Maori, same grade as I had our usual tussle, he was more keen on the wrestling part of Judo than I was, I was more into throws and technical aspects, but one day he pinned me to the floor and as I subsequently discovered caused me a cauliflower ear. This took a long to heal and I had a head bandage around my head for many months with having my ear syringed at regular intervals by Dr Richard Stone, not with much success.

This did not stop me from attending the National Building Society annual conference, head bandaged and all. I had to see Dr Stone on another occasion having telescoped one of my toes from three digits into one. He suggested that I was to old to indulge in a contact sport like Judo and should try something like squash, this was like a red rag in front of a bull to me thus not taking any notice.

I took an interest in teaching juniors and found this a very enjoyable experience, mostly boys but several girls as well, rather a large class but the regular gradings were fun seeing all the parents present. We had regular visits to the emergency Department of the Wanganui Hospital with one child or other and the odd senior Judoka as well. The more senior Judokas, third and fourth grade black belts, were fully trained in dealing with unconscious people but as a precaution took them to the Hospital for a check up.

I had the good fortune to train a couple of youngsters; one of them was Wayne, who was so good in competition in due course winning the New Zealand and Pacific basin championships. I must have made an impact on the club as at Noeleen's funeral not only were all the juniors I taught were there with their parents but the whole of the club taking of time from work.

We became keen to have a swimming pool and as we could not afford to have one build I decided to build one myself. I was able to locate a "how to build a swimming pool" book and started off. It took a whole season to dig the hole in the ground with a spade and wheelbarrow and a heavy plank to wheel the dirt out of the ever-deeper hole. The following season saw the laying of the re-enforced foundations and concrete floor. By then I had bought a second hand concrete mixer for the purpose. I used concrete blocks for the walls, which I finished with several coats of plaster. It was a lot of trial and error and it took several visits to the library to get the plastering right but it all worked out.

Years later the pool was as sound as ever without a crack in it despite the odd earthquake which had put cracks in other people's pools in the area and in one case the whole pool popped out of the ground. I had installed the pipes for a filter system but we got by without a filter for a couple of years until my oldest son, Tony, welded a sand filter together which worked ok. In those days plastic pipes and fittings were seldom used thus all the pipes were galvanised iron which in time rusted and had to be replaced. Fittings where less of a problem being copper and brass. Although it took over two years to build we had great use out of it, the only maintenance being cleaning from time to time and repainting. Looking back all those years I must have had tons of energy and being a little weak in the head to have carried out this project all by myself.

Tony had build himself a heavy-duty welder. It was a heath Robinson affair but worked ok, the only problem was that he blew the pole street fuse down the road on many occasions which not only cut our power off but the whole street as well. He was drawing to much power despite the fact that we were on three-phase power. The Electric Power board technicians could not work out what the problem was (fortunately). It was handy to get our welding done on the premises although other than the large sand filter much of it was play for Tony.

Noeleen had been subject to obscene phone calls for a period, we had a trace placed on the line for a period, converted to a silent number and ultimately changed the number but the problem persisted. The police were unable to help despite their investigations. It was thought that the person who did it parked his car somewhere down the road just sitting there but I was never able to pinpoint anybody.

We decided to get a German Shepherd dog for Noeleen called Bonny, this was a lovely dog and her shadow, it used to lie on the rear doorstep and followed every move Noeleen made in the kitchen or thereabouts moving to investigate only if out of eyesight. You could see it lying stretched out hardly moving its head but its eyes following her every move. Buying the dog from the breeder had been on an undertaking to obedience train the dog but we were not keen to show it as they wanted. Although Noeleen took it regularly to dog obedience classes the dog was not getting trained and I was persuaded to take it. I ended up as a dog obedience instructor, and liking dog obedience, purchased my own German Shepherd bitch pup, Mandy, which I trained to enter in various obedience trials all over the country being successful in the various grades. She obtained her CDX degree but working for the UDX degree (tracking) was the most interesting stage of training. Mandy went mad with pleasure working with scent work.

I also did a period in ribbon trial judging and regularly was asked to take the dog to special events for the club or the AMP agricultural shows for demonstration shows, long jumps, scaling a seven foot board fence and jumping through a burning hoop and other tricks. Both dogs loved the swimming pool and went crazy when we were in it running around it as demented fools. The trouble with Mandy was that ultimately she got so exited that she took an almighty leap and jump in the middle of it, once in she kept swimming around and it was hard to persuade to get her out. This was difficult, as you had to give her an almighty push from the rear to get her out. We ended up locking her up if we went into the pool.

We had a very large vegetable garden. We had bought an extra 24 cubic feet freezer to store all our peas, broad beans, in fact every type of bean and vegetable you can think of. We tried most vegetables, not all did that well stored that way, but most did, we went to the trouble of blanching them and that seemed to help We also used to buy half a cow, sides of pigs and hogget. Later I ran half a dozen hoggets, which I used to shear by hand, crutch and dag and when they were ready to eat slaughter them for the freezer. I had to haunt the library shelves for "how to do books on slaughtering farm animals but I coped. We got a very good prize for the wool on a couple of occasions to our great surprise but when the prize of wool dropped I used the wool for insulation in the roof of the house, which seemed to work well. At a later stage when the prize shot up again and I recovered it from the roof for sale.

I cured many a sheepskin and we had rugs all over the place even my German Shepherd, Mandy, had her own rug. We also grew cockerels for the freezer buying 3 dozen or so chicks and rearing them under infra red lights. It was always a major exercise to do them in for the freezer. Noeleen did not want to have anything to do with the killing process and retired into the house, Richard hovered around the edge and Tony tried to give me a hand. This was difficult as I chopped of their heads with an axe one by one and we had all these cockerels running around with their heads cut of which we then had to hunt down to put in the boiling water in the 40gallon drum in order to pluck their feathers off and then the gutting and dressing for the freezer. We got tired of cockerels and tried Turkeys, much the same exercise except that there were fewer of them but they were much larger, they were also harder to rear.

We also bottled a lot of fruit but a fair bit was converted into home made wine, very experimental this process was, and of varied quality. We had a large plum tree, which used to yield large volumes of juicy red plums making a deep red wine. In the latter stages of wine making I was into blending, buying bulk dry red commercial wine. It was a reasonable wine, the main problem being the variable level of alcohol content which I was never able to entirely figure out. I tried my hand in making wine out of every variety of fruit I could lay my hand on and most vegetables. However the best wine I made was a light rose having bought several cases of grapes from the local winery for this purpose.

Our water supply was by way of deep water well with a pressurised automatic water system housed in a small hut build for this purpose in the middle of the property. We also had a couple of large rainwater tanks, its water we mainly used for washing clothes and the like. I used the shed for the wine cellar so to speak. There I stored a large collection of flagons, Quart bottles and smaller tasting bottles. Inside the house in the laundry in a walk in cupboard I did all the fermentation. At any one time I had a couple of large plastic rubbish bins in action for the initial fermentation process and a dozen or more two gallon jars going through their secondary fermentation process. Even to this day I can hear the gurgling, popping and bubbling of the many bottles.

Associated with the many barbecues we used to have wine tasting barbecue sessions near our swimming pool. On red-letter days we also stoked up the large rainwater tanks with tea tree branches and smoked whole snappers. We got this fresh from the fishing boats at Castle cliff wharf. Coated with brown sugar and smoked until tender these were very popular. On one occasion we had the company of an ex employee from work, Vic Vaughan, then our personnel officer at the Building Society, before that a chief Postmaster. An elder and pillar of the Presbyterian Church. Vic and his wife took a long and careful appraisal of almost every variety of wine in production, which were many at that stage, a much talked event for many years by all concerned. The possums had their share also. One night in the wee hours we heard a terrific commotion.

We used to have problem with possums that ate the rosebuds as soon as they appeared from the long row of standard roses all the way up the front drive. They attacked the fruit on the trees in the orchard and their route included the roof of the house and garden sheds but on this occasion the din was out of this world. I took the 202 rifle with telescopic scope and torch and investigated to find that the possums, a couple of parents with their teenage offspring, had been having a party in the pump house (wine storage area). They knocked a couple of bottles over and broke these and liking the taste knocked many of the shelves drinking a fair bit of the wines. They were rolling drunk and when able to get on some of the low branches fell off them, some of them were walking backwards others staggered along the ground and I am sure that they must have had a hell of a headache the next day. The mess they created was out of this world. Although it was my practice to kill them off when I came across them on this occasion my heart was not in it despite the fact that they were sitting targets.

Many projects took our fancy, inside the house building the new bathroom; we travelled all the way to Hastings to purchase the plastic bath, hand basin and shower fittings from the factory there at wholesale prices. We relined the walls throughout the house with gibraltar board, retiled the kitchen floor, repapered, recarpeted and redecorated throughout. Outside we repainted the weatherboards. I erected a large wooden deck and french doors by cutting a large hole in the wall.

We removed the 100 meter long front hedge, which was over twenty feet high and replaced it with a wooden range fence. Removing the stumps proved to be a big problem, Tony persuaded me to buy a supply of dynamite which we used over a period of several weeks to blow out the stumps, no one came to check up what we were up to although we were told that you could hear the explosions miles away. I pulled down the very old decrepit garage at the front and created a long circular drive. We replaced the pulled down garage with a new building much further back containing a roomy double garage and an extra bedroom (rumpus room according to the city council plan) Doing all these thing required that I had to get up very early spending an hour or two on various tasks an get ready to be at work by 8 o'clock, usually home by 6 o'clock. If I had the evening free and the weekends spending more time around the place. If it got dark and I was not finished I erected floodlights to see by.

Having bought a better camera, duty free, a Minolta, during our Australia holiday, I took a keen interest in photography building myself a dark room in order to develop and enlarge my 35mm films which I bought in bulk on 100 meter spools, cut them up and inserted them in the usual canisters for 36 shots. I took a lot of positive prints for slides but never got into colour work, at that stage no amateur supplies were available. I was able to track down the formulae to make up the chemicals from the USA but never got beyond that.

The lawns were extensive but a picture to look at and in total added up to a quarter of an acre in lawns which took a lot of time to keep under control. At any one time I had two to three movers in use and maintained them all myself. In later years I used a large commercial mover which cut down the time somewhat, nevertheless if I did all the lawn in one hit it took me over six hours going flat out. As time went on the boys did some of the chores (with reluctance).

We had two wood or coal burning space heaters, one in the large lounge and one in the family kitchen which required a lot of wood to keep them burning in the winter, we used some coal but mainly relied on wood. I had bought a Canadien chainsaw for cutting up fallen limbs and dead trees all over the place. To supplement the wood supply and hopefully locate longer burning wood I used to take the trailer to the Caslecliff beach and cut up a trailer load up there from time to time with the help of the kids and dogs.

We bought a small boat with a seagull outboard motor which we used on the Wanganui river travelling up and down but the main reason we bought it was to take it to lake Taupo from time to time (mainly X-Mass holidays) where we had been camping for a number of years. We had no boat trailer but used our ordinary trailer. We did a lot of fishing, deep trawling mainly, but never caught much although never returning home without fish given to us. After selling the boat, as we did not use it much, on weekends we went surf casting from Castlecliff beach and sometimes the wharf. We used to catch mainly large herrings but also the odd flounder, cod when they were running and barracouta, little sharks, eels and other odds and sods which were all uneatable. Surprisingly fishing from the beach was successful from time to time. Further up the coast was another good fishing spot, past Kaiwi across the paddocks for several miles. Being relatively secluded it was a favourite spot for families, winter and summer. After we bough our new Holden HR station wagon we had many a trip around the district with the family, dogs and all. We liked going to Mount Egmond in summer and winter and had many a walk there along the tracks. As popular were our trips to Mt Ruapehu, the dogs particularly liked the snow after they got used to it, the first time was hilarious to see the reaction of them you could almost see them think.

The grounds were fairly well developed by then and apart from the two large vegetable gardens and orchard and a couple of paddocks the rest was in lawns but I had been planting trees for some years having the ambition to plant at least one tree of each variety I could lay my hand on and the place was developing like a large park. I even hounded the City Council parks for tree cuttings and had a good deal of success with striking those having a variety of different hormones to treat the cuttings with. The soil was so good you could stick almost anything in the ground and it grew. I bought several garden books to help me and they were of help. We ended up with a great selection of ornamental and fruit trees these included oranges, tangelos, limes, figs (from Kaitai), macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, maidenhair fern (I always liked the name of this tree), liquid ambers, golden maples, firs and many others.

The Department of Agriculture was keen to establish grape-growing trials in our district as apparently we had the best soil type in the whole of New Zealand. The monetary grand available for the purpose looked attractive but

I just did not have the time to start another major project. We bought a caravan, a solid thing it was too, less for travelling with but more as an extra room. The idea was to put Richard in it, we felt that we could keep him under control in that but he was totally opposed to the idea, on the other hand Tony was very keen on the idea but Noeleen was flatly against it feeling that she would loose control of him altogether, he was an untidy beggar and I had a constant battle to keep the workshop out of his bedroom.

We made may a trip up to Te Puke where Noeleen's family lived, an odd lot they were. The oldest son of the Te Puke family had obtained a lease of crown land way back up in the hills and with the help of DFC finance, the DFC was a Government agency who supported entrepreneurial activities, developed the area into a quarry and build all the large machinery needed to operate the quarry. This took many years and many additional loans only supplied because the DFC had poured so much money into the activity that they hoped the quarry would ultimately become operational. The place never became viable and years later closed down to be restarted up again some years later. Being so far inland there was no electricity, water or phones. He had bulldozed a road to create access but in heavy rain the road collapsed and shut them off from civilisation for weeks at the time. Having bought several Ministry of Works Cottages thus creating a small village, on holidays we stayed in one of them once but without all of the normal facilities, toilet, water, electricity, carpets, curtains or blinds, we used our own caravan. In addition to water collected when it rained in rainwater tanks there was (usually) water in a deep creek further up the property, which he pumped to the main house where they lived but it was a complicated system, which not always worked. Electricity was by way of a generator, which they shut down straight after dinner to save fuel, every one went to bed, then. Staying there was an experience.

I bought Noeleen a second hand little Renault car which I had to constantly repair, with the help of Tony if it was anything electrical, and we ended up to completely renovate it, engine, the interior and spray painting the outside. I used the vacuum cleaner sprayer and it turned out ok. When the wiring played up we pulled the lot out and did a total rewire job. This was Noeleen's first car ever and having her own transport was a big thing and she beetled all over the place with Julie in tow. She had reached that point of life with the two boys old enough not needing much looking after, having Julie, our girl we both had wanted, her little business and now her car, she told me time and again that she was very happy then.

Hennie van Dyk

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