Life On The Farm During 1920’s
The evening meal at Gap Road would always be late, normally about 7pm. My grandmother would prepare something which could be cooking, but not spoiling, while she was out helping with the cows. Granddad would sit and read the newspaper at night or play the Jews harp so the girls could dance. His mother had been a highland dancer and had taught him to dance as well as all the Scottish tunes.
“We would watch dancers at the sports days and go home and copy the dance steps. I have no idea why we were attracted to dancing but Nessie, Ina and I always danced. How three girls could fit in the kitchen dancing? Nessie eventually stopped but Ina and I always danced every night before going to bed. Dad wasn’t a singer but he knew all the tunes for us to dance by.” Bess could carry a tune but she rarely sang. She never danced, possibly having been brought up to consider such things un-Christian? When I asked Mum what her brothers would be doing while the girls danced, she couldn’t really remember. She suggested that they were probably sitting on the floor in the corner playing cards. I forgot to ask what kind of cards they might have played.
It was 1927 and Mum was 12 years old when a whole new world opened up and life on the farm must have changed to some degree. My grandparents became the proud owners of a radio. This seems such a small thing today, but I can imagine it being a huge experience, especially to begin with. Instead of their world consisting of only what they knew around them, and what little they learned from the newspaper, now that world had expanded so much. I reckon they would have often huddled around the radio listening intently to whatever might have been broadcast.
Mum describes herself as quiet and shy during her childhood. Being told constantly by sister Minnie (10 years her senior) that she was ugly and stupid has had an enormous impact on her life. She believed her big sister and even to this day she’s not comfortable with large groups or with people she doesn’t know well. Mum learned from Minnie – who was often physically abusive as well – it paid to keep out of sight and to keep her mouth shut.
She can’t have been very old when she was placed “in charge” of her 3 little brothers. While she wasn’t fully responsible for caring for them ie bathing, she was expected to watch them and play with them. As they reached school age, she was tasked with ensuring they were ready for school.
Sports Day in Winton was very much like the Tuatapere Sports that are still held today. The children did participate in some sporting events but not to any great success. This day, along with Show Day were great opportunities to observe the dancing competitions. I suspect the Winton Show was an A&P (Agricultural and Pastoral) show similar to many run today. I know my grandmother would compete by entering sponges and scones and other baking. She often won prizes for her baking. Mum also mentioned her mother did “butter displays” for the autumn show. I’m not sure what this entailed and she was unable to enlighten me. Could they have been similar displays chefs sometimes do today to highlight their restaurants? I guess we’ll never know.