After the big Depression Dad
finally got a job saved money
married the girl of his dreams.
She played the piano at recitals
accompanied singers including Dad.
She expected to continued to play
in public he expected her to stay
home produce children that was
how he thought couples lived, for
discussions of expectations
did not always occur back them.
Two years after the wedding at
the outbreak of war he went
to sea. she went home to Mum
stayed there but spent her share
of his naval serviceman’s pay.
Wartime Pacific tours of duty
extended drawn out divorce
proceedings as she spent his pay.
As his ship with the fleet monitored
Japan’s coast after surrender his
divorce came through. He remarried
…. and started married life anew
with no savings from previous years.
As the world settled down after
World War II our family attended
church on Sundays as did other
families except Dad stayed home
like many other Dads who had
been away to war. He said he had
too much church in his childhood.
At our school down the road
children asked why we did not
go to the nearby Anglican church
or the nearer Presbyterian church
instead of a Presbyterian church
still further away where Dad had
to drive us there and back.
Mum grew up Anglican, said the
wife went to her husband’s church.
But why the one so far away ?
On my twenty first birthday I
learned Dad had divorced his
first wife during world War II.
My conventional correct mother
could not take communion in her
childhood Anglican church.
The strict nearest Presbyterian
church frowned on divorce.
At our Presbyterian church Dad’s
uncle was an elder, the minister
Dad’s naval chaplain in the war.
So our church was not chosen
for beliefs and teachings but
for its acceptance of divorcees.
In the mid 1950’s Grandpa’s
childless brother died. Dad’s
share of his estate brought
huge relief after supporting his
ex- wife until her recent death.
She had already spent her major
share of his naval pay after
leaving him early in World War II.
Dad and his carpenter mate
renovated our house as Dad
wished. The old back porch
with its bare board unlined
toilet (Brr !) was torn down
replaced with a bathroom with
shower box and smooth clean
painted hard board alongside
a lined draught free toilet..
When Dad got the plumber’s
bill he said it would have to be
Mum’s Christmas present so
she pinned as enormous red
cellophane bow to its door.
The kitchen moved to the corner
of the house with new cupboards
stove and lino. In other rooms
elderly lino was taken up, new
lino, carpet put down, wallpaper
replaced, ceilings painted.
Best of all a telephone was
installed beside the front door.
The Education Act of 1944
ordered that all children of
all races in this country start
school by age six, attend until
age fourteen attendance officers
now enforced this. Bursaries
ensured tertiary education
for more children further financed
by plentiful summer employment.
Servicemen returning from war
in 1945, married, produced
children, moved to cities for
work, both European and Maori.
In a post war world of changing
outward looking attitudes young
educated Maori reached adulthood
in the 1970’s, sought their rights
their land, their language, their
culture, artistic expression, seats
in parliament, compensation for
Treaty rights long being ignored.
A hidden people surged forth.
An anniversary day for what
should never have happened.
Forty years ago 500 police
surrounded 200 protesters
after 500 days occupying their
own land in tents, in makeshift huts.
Television news showed this thick
blue line surrounding 200 Maori
indigenous New Zealanders young
middle aged elderly then dragging
then away to a line of waiting buses.
Their crime was to own land claimed
by the government, land on the point
with harbour views, craved by
developers for millionaire homes
for billionaire sales. They convinced
the Prime Minister it should be sold
in return for their election support.
Forty years later at the indigenous
meeting house a commemorative
breakfast was held, attended
by Maori, by non Maori, and
by members of the police for
Maori had kept their land.
A retired policeman remembered
it all as a new young recruit.
To this day he remembers 200
protesters sitting together singing
with guitars playing as
500 police arrested them.
It should never have happened, he said.
In 1975 New Zealand indigenous
Maori were blocked by government
legal trickery over Maori land
ownership, by a solid high
stonewall reaching out devouring
their land ownership taking their
land to itself. Court legal processes
were spinning tyres in a quagmire.
Maori from around the country
gathered in the far north under
Dame Whina’s leadership, marched
south down the highway flags
flying. On over the Auckland
harbour bridge through Auckland
south through farmland, smaller
cities, forest covered national parks
to the capital city in the south.
Young people middle aged elderly
altogether – car rides where
needed for elderly between cities.
And white people bringing out
cups of tea and food to sustain
them on their way for many
white people did not like wealthy
business folk buying government
support with their riches.
In time legal trickeries were
repealed, Maori land retained.
Thai the young elephant came to
live with old Ma Shwe who taught
her what a girl needs to know
at the big city zoo. She followed
Ma Shwe on daily walks past
other enclosures though not
the lions, that was scary. They
climbed through the bush up the
hill at the back of the zoo, dragged
down boughs and branches when
trees were pruned. Playtime in
their pool was great fun too.
A twist of events saw temporary
fencing at the end of their space
early one morning. Young Thai
walked over it on out the back
down a long driveway on to a
road jammed with rush hour
traffic – was quite nonplussed.
Luckily drivers rang the zoo
keepers came to guide her home
to much trunk touching and
squeaking with Ma Shwe.
When Ma Shwe passed away the
keepers spent nights with a
grief stricken Thai, sleeping in
her service area taking to
her at bedtime and sunrise.
To the relief of all and the joy
of Thai a new friendly young
elephant finally arrived to live
with her bringing elephant
happiness into her life.