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Pam’s early memories of life in the Thomas Family

The first thing I remember as a child is that secure feeling.  If Mum was rattling around the kitchen I always felt that all was well with the world.  It’s a feeling I can remember quite strongly and Dad was always there too.  He would often pick us up from the bus or on a wet day from school.  He took us to rugby games as part of our “education”.

I remember Mum always being there when we came home from school.  She always had lovely afternoon teas ready.  I can still see them laden on the table.

I remember tea trolleys laden with food when we had visitors for afternoon tea.  Six or seven plates for when the ladies came.  Buttered things on top, sponges underneath.

Mum or Dad would nearly always take a car to our school sports fixtures.  And I remember Mum with a car full of Standard Six basket ball girls racing Das Singh, with a car full of rugby boys, to Manawaru School.  Girls against the boys.

I loved all the country things that we did like blackberrying, picking mushrooms, and lots of picnics.

Nan and Aunty Doris were always a part of our childhood.  We spent quite a bit of time at Islip, they always spent Christmas with us, and Nan would take us to Rotorua for holidays.

We had great birthday parties: treasure hunts, games and heaps of food.  Mum always feeding someone is one of my memories.  George Mosen and Dad coming in for elaborate morning and afternoon teas.  And carting food and drink down to the hay makers.  And the shearers needing feeding from early in the morning until late afternoon.  I often helped Mum with the cooking.  I didn’t go to Karitane straight away when I left school.

The old coal range was nearly always going.  I remember sitting around it having stories read to us, all squashed into the little kitchen.  If the coal range wasn’t cooking food, it was airing off the washing hanging from the pulley system drying rack, or warming up half dead lambs in the oven or on the rack above the stove.  The coal range was the only thing Mum had to cook on for years.

I remember churning the butter by hand, it seemed to take forever.  After all that you ended up with butter that didn’t quite look or taste like the butter that you buy!

We always had pets – kittens, lambs etc.  I loved feeding the pet lambs; I had a black one called Topsy.  I used to enjoy milking the old house cow and feeding the dogs (never quite so keen on feeding the chooks which was always Shirley and Terry’s job).

We spent a lot of time playing games at home.  In the evenings or on wet days we played a lot of card games or board games and we’d often sit by the fire at night and make up stories and play consequences.  We played hopscotch and skipping, and played a lot of basketball, rounds and tennis at home with the neighbours, particularly the Mosens and the Coopers.  Our place seemed to be the place to gather.

We went to half past one church at Eastport Road after a big lunch, when we felt more like an afternoon snooze.  We always got there early because Dad liked the back seat and with seven of us it was a squash.  If one of us got the giggles we all got them; especially when we heard the Qualtroughs arrive.  We’d all be waiting for the four car doors to slam.  Then you’d look to see if it was the Qualtroughs.  Someone would give you a dig in the ribs and we’d all be giggling again.

We went to Sunday School in the morning at Waihou, with the Coopers.

During the polio scare I remember doing school work by correspondence, when I was about six.  At morning tea time I remember it was a treat to pick our own morning tea, picking nectarines off the huge tree at the back door. We weren’t allowed to go into public places but we were allowed on the beach.  We spent some of that time at Waihi Beach where Mum wrote our school work in the sand.  We could do our answers in the sand.  That was much more fun.

Waihi Beach holidays were always special.  We lived in the water during the summer and at Easter Mum would give us all a present, usually colouring books and crayons as it was often cold or wet and we would sit in front of the old coal range to colour in and knit.  There was a tank for cold water, but no washing facilities.  The tank always ran out in summer so we would walk down to the creek in the camping ground and collect buckets of water.  Imagine having three babies!  It must have been quite hard for Mum but she loved beach holidays.

We used to wake up during the night to listen to the rugby on the wireless.  When we were a bit older we got a deep freeze and we kept Topsies in there, which we were allowed to eat while we listened to the rugby.

I loved feeding out in the weekends and holidays.  Dad didn’t seem to mind how many kids we had sitting on top of the hay bales, Thomas’ and Mosens’.