Soon Came The Next Phase Of Merville’s Life
It was now 1945 and Merville and Iris continued happily working in Dunedin’s George Street. Mum thinks the place was called The Red Cafe but wasn’t sure. It was a big restaurant open five days a week. Iris was a cook and Mum the kitchen maid, waitressing if required.
“Olive Hicks used to work one day a week in the kitchen so Iris and I became good friends with her. She used to ask us to her place for a meal sometimes.
“Iris had met a man in Wanaka and after some months working in Dunedin, she left to work in Timaru. I didn’t consider going with her as she was going to be closer to Neville. (They married shortly afterwards). I stayed on at the restaurant and got a room in a flat near where Ollie lived. We became very good friends and I often went to her place for a weekend meal.
“That was how I met Edward (Snow) Ashby who was her brother and not long home from the war. One weekend he was up from Mataura staying with Ollie when she invited me for dinner. I didn’t know he was going to be there. He walked me home and stayed for a while, asking if he could call and see me again. He started coming up each fortnight, up on the train Saturday morning and back to Mataura on Sunday. I never saw him on a Sunday, I’m not sure if that was because of the train timetable. After three or four months we got engaged then married on 30 October 1945.
“Not long before the wedding Dorrie (Snow’s sister) and Lance put on an engagement party for us at their home. It was the first time I met the rest of the family. I was worried about meeting them all but they were very nice and welcoming. Snow’s mother seemed very nice. I discovered the Ashbys are always getting together at weekends and having parties. Kids and everyone went, played piano, lots of music and singing.
“Snow already had a property a mile and a half from Mataura on Waimumu Road (road has now been renamed Glendhu Road), ten acres and had fifty sheep.
“The place had cost 450 pound but the house was falling down. It needed work done to the back and after we met, Snow got his nephew Colin (builder) working on it adding a pantry, wash house and toilet and coal shed with veranda. Although I went to Mataura twice before the wedding, and stayed with Snow’s sister Annie, I had no input into the house, it was already half done. There was a flush toilet and a copper in the wash house.
“I used old broken records, soaked in mentholated spirits (and maybe some other liquid) to paint the wooden floors. The liquid would turn brown after a while so could be used to stain woodwork. I’d bought an old Singer sewing machine and made curtains out of georgette, even put frills around them. Bedspreads I made from print material.
“Snow worked at the Mataura Paper Mill and his wage was 11 pound a week. He used to get up at 5 o’clock and go to work early and get some overtime but always came home at four in the afternoon. We managed to save 100 pound each year for seven years and paid cash for a Vauxhall car. I had to get my drivers licence and Mrs Hewlett (neighbour) taught me.
“We were very lucky with our neighours there and although older they were very good to us. The Hewletts had five cows and sent the milk to the factory with Mr Orr (neighbour). Sometimes at the weekends Snow would get up at five o’clock and go over and milk the cows and then tap on their bedroom window and tell them the milk was out on the road. That was about the time they would get up normally. They were wonderful neighbours. Mrs Hewlett kept Janet when I had a gall stone operation and was in hospital for three weeks. Kevin stayed with (niece) Pearl Hardie. I had to stay in bed the whole time, and had to drink oil three times a day. I still shudder at the thought of that oil. Snow would come up and visit me on Saturdays.” (Hospital was in Gore, 13 km away and Dad did not drive. I guess he caught a train up and back.)
“When Kevin was five months old we went to Telfers at Brydone for Christmas dinner and when we got home that night Hewletts had a ring on the phone to let us know (sister Ina’s son) Allan Malcolm had been killed on Christmas Eve. Allan and Ken were biking home after being at the pictures and a car crossed over the road, hit them both and then carried on. Someone else found Ken wandering around, he didnt know what had happened and spent several days in hospital. Mr Webb (neighbour) took us over to Winton and I stayed with Ina for a time. Allison was the same age as Janet (2 years) and Trevor was about the same as Kevin so Ina had two small children to look after.
Amidst this page of journal Mum had written what appeared to be a random piece of information, but one I cannot let go unrecorded.
“June Ashby and Arch Gillies were both Dux of the Mataura School.” This is a niece and nephew of my father’s.
As with so many things, it appears no-one in the family thought to take photos of our house in Mataura before it was demolished. Perhaps I’ll find one sometime but for now all that remains is our memories.