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A Young Lad's Life in the1920s

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

My first time into the big world was going to school - this was not for me but when told the sandpit was mine, that made a big difference.

Birkdale in those days was fruit and strawberry growing. Bales of straw were used for mulching. These were stacked in big heaps and us kids would play King of the Castle on the top. When I reached the top to be 'king' I was knocked off - landing on a wattle stump, hence a lot of yelling. My dad came over, took me by the arm which made me yell all the more - only then did he realise my arm was broken.

Out with the horse and cart and down to Dr Meikle to have it set. As if it was yesterday, I remember the Dr asking Dad to hold my elbow while he had my hand, a few pulls and pushes and he had my arm in place - no pain killers in those days, then into a wooden splint. I wasn't allowed to run and play games at school that upset me.

About 18 months later, Dad used to keep his horse over in Bentley's place down by the Lagoon and this day my Sister and I wanted to ride back when he picked it up. Passing under some ti-tree we bent down only to fall off. Yes you guessed it, my sister on top of me and that arm broken again - this time to Auckland Hospital. Terrible food and I had to go to school there.

Dad grew many things: Loganberries, Apples, Strawberries, Tomatoes, Peaches, Grapes and many different flowers and of course us young ones had to help in the summertime. I would be up early to chase birds off the strawberries and the same in the afternoon after school. Tomato cases had to be made, tomatoes had to be picked, wiped and graded after dinner out in the shed nailing down and branding cases. Then about 9 o'clock Dad would say 'Time for bed.' Any spare time in the summer would be down to the Lagoon or bird nesting.

The roads around Birkdale were of sugar works ash - great for stubbing ones toes - having the skin peeled back - very few footpaths - no water tables only gutters. One time down Salisbury Road there were glow-worms under a bank. Sometimes we were allowed to go to Lantern Slides at the Methodist Church that has long gone - that cost 3d.

We had the YMCA in the Church Hall - a short service then Physical Drill - mat work - rings - parallel bars - horizontal bars - springboard and horse. Vault. Coming home in the dark we would throw stones into the bamboo hedge by the school house just to hear the sparrows fluttering about and when they settled down we would do it again.

Time came when it was my job to milk the cow. Stupid things when they put their feet in the bucket. After milking there was the separating - when enough cream was ready then came the churning to make butter - then weighing it out into 1lb pats.

On Mondays Dick Freegard from R.E.Walker's grocery would collect our order on horseback and deliver on Tuesday in horse and cart. Bread delivered on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday - Thursday's order delivered on Saturday and so on. It is now late 20's and a house is being built - first one for 20 years making six in Salisbury Road - getting over crowded.

I wonder what the 30's will bring? More work I suppose.

- Glad Durham 1996


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