The War Years in Katikati from a child's perspective

Ellen McCormack

I was 4 years old when the war started in 1939 and lived on a dairy farm at the end of Beach Road, with my parents- two older brothers (six and nine years older) and a sister twelve years older than I.

One of my first memories of the war is the black blinds that every house had to have so as no light could be seen should enemy planes fly overhead.

Rationing was another memory-tea - sugar, butter, meat, clothing - everyone received a ration book and you could only buy to the value of how ever many coupons you had. Each week my mother put into separate dishes in the cupboard each person's ration of sugar and butter and when you had eaten your share; that was it till the next serve out.

We swapped our excess coupons (if any) with other neighbours - also fruit, vegetables and so on. I would walk about a mile across the paddocks climbing fences with two huge baskets of excess produce to our neighbours then exchange the coupons etc and they would refill the baskets with their excess produce and I would repeat the journey home again. Then next weekend I would walk to the other neighbours and so life went on.

My mother spent every evening knitting socks (yes socks), scarves and other garments for the soldiers overseas. She baked also and food parcels were always being sent to the soldiers.

My mother milked cows, worked on the farm, sewed our clothes, baked, held card evenings to raise funds for the Red Cross, Plunket and other worthy causes and still had time to smile and laugh. Washing was done in the copper. Boiled first - and then into the tub through the wringer - then into the final rinse with the "blue". Saturday all the beds were changed - just the bottom sheet and the top sheet then went to the bottom - undies etc changed ready for the big wash on Monday, rain, hail, or shine.

above: Flag bearers waiting to enter the Memorial Hall on ANZAC Day.
Baths were twice a week. Wednesday and Saturday - youngest female first - me fortunately, then my sister - then mother - then the boys and father last. (poor man the water must have been like pea soup by then).

To have a bath you did not just turn on the bath - oh no - there was a cold tap over the bath but no hot tap. Water was boiled in the copper then transferred by kerosene tin to the bath - each person refilled the kerosene tin so as the next person could add more hot water per a dipper as required.

Looking back to those years life was very regimental - it had to be - for all that had to be achieved.

School life during the war years was also very severe. The school field was dug up for the trenches and regular emergency evacuations of the school were held. The school was very overcrowded due to the new classrooms not being built - so several classes were held over in the Parish Hall. Heating of the school rooms was just a little pot belly stove in the corner of the room - each child was monitored for duties. Wood for the fire, dusting, sweeping, emptying the rubbish bins etc. The Parish Hall had no heating so we were allowed to wear mittens - only high windows - so no sunlight - it was really cold.

Every Sunday morning at 9 am we all gathered around the radio as the lists of the wounded and dead were read over the radio. It was a pretty awful time as this was the first communication to know that loved ones had been killed or injured.

above: Veterans and service personnel line up at the Uretara Domain prior to the ANZAC Day Parade.
below: Vpjtech Zverina, a backpacking tourist from the Czech Republic, records the ANZAC Day Parade on video.