Time To Leave The Farm

It Was Soon Time To Leave The Farm

Although I’ve always thought my mother’s early life was interesting in comparison to my own, I acknowledge it was also filled with far more work and hardship than I ever faced. But her varied experiences then made her into the strong person I have been so fortunate have as a mother.

Even at an early age Mum loved to read, devouring any books she might be able to get her hands on and reading them numerous times because it was such a treat to have a book. I asked her if she got books from a library or from school, I got a clear ‘no’ in response. I know they had no money to spare to buy books but I never got a clear response as to how she came upon any. Again I was told they were too tired at night after school and milking cows to think of anything but falling into bed. And yet I know she’s talked about reading some of the classics again and again.

I think deep inside my mother must also have been an imaginative, farsighted dreamer, and an adventurer to boot. She would probably deny this fervently but I’m sticking to my guns. When I think of the things she did as a young woman, well, in my eyes she definitely became a trailblazer for the era in which she grew up.

Did she always have a thirst to travel? When I’ve asked her questions like this her response has always been something along the lines of “we never had the time or energy to worry about things like that”. While she lived at home, occasionally working for others, it was always within central Southland. She never had jobs that took her further afield until 1938.

“In 1938 Nessie, who had married and lived in Rotorua, was expecting her first child in May. Our mother wouldn’t go on a boat so there being no other way to cross Cook Strait she wouldn’t go north so they decided I was to go to Rotorua. I went and Dad sold a bullock and gave me fifteen pounds. Allan Richards was born in May but I stayed on in Rotorua and helped Nessie in the house as she rented rooms. Then I got a job in the Blue Bath Tearooms and was there about one year. It was an interesting place as it was upstairs above the baths and we could see what was going on down below. By the time war was declared I decided I would go back south but by this time Dad wasn’t very well and Eric had taken over the farm so I couldn’t stay at home too long.”

“I went to Dunedin and worked at Bells in Maori Hill. He was a specialist and quite an important doctor. They had four children. I did a lot of housework and the cooking but they were very nice people. While I was there I got a phone call from Mrs May who was our neighbour at Gap Road to tell me our father had died. He had been in hospital for about a fortnight. I had written to him but was not able to go to see him. Ivy had been down from Moa Creek in Central Otago to see him and she was on her way back home and was spending the night at Sinclairs (cousins) in South Dunedin. Minnie was working for the Myers somewhere near the Octagon. It was mealtime and I had to go into the dining room to use the phone but they let me go right away as I was to tell the other two as soon as possible. I took a bus down to the Octagon and found Minnie and we got a tram out to Forbury Corner and got to the Sinclairs. We stayed a while there and then had to go back and it was only when I got out of the bus at Maori Hill that I could shed a few tears. We went south to the funeral but I don’t remember much about it as I had to go back to Dunedin to my job.”

Robertson Family July 1940

Robertson Family July 1940 L-R Jim, Bill (Arthur), Merville, Eric, John
L-R Ivy, Bessina, Ina, Minnie (Absent Nessie)

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