|Dorothy||Well, remembering back to my childhood, when I was perhaps
three and four, we lived in a house (I'm not sure if we owned it or it
was rented), a big old house in Raetihi, and my father was doing a
turn as a land agent, having moved off a farm down the Pipiriki Road.
I'm not sure of all the circumstances of that, but I remember living
in this house.
I had an older brother, Lionel, three years older, who was inclined to play pretty nasty tricks on me, just do things that would frighten me, of not be very good.
I can remember the patch of raspberries growing pretty wild in the yard and how I liked to go eat some of those.
|Trudy||Lionel was jealous?
|Dorothy||I suppose so. He'd been the baby, the only one for three
years. There'd been a miscarriage between, and then a baby coming
about eighteen months after me. David, who I was a very close
playmate with later on, but I suppose at the toddler stage was a rival
I don't remember very nice things about it. Mum had a pony at that stage, called Bounce. A very quiet pony. She used to ride out on the farm. I can remember being lead around on Bounce, that was quite nice. I become very fond of horses later.
|Trudy||How old were you?
|Dorothy||I suppose I was four or five. We moved out onto the middle
road, managing a farm, Carters, and lived out on a cottage on the
I didn't start school until I was 7. I was chesty, and a weed--a weedy little kid, and very chesty. It was a very harsh climate. The school was at Horowhito, four and half miles away, and the transport was on horses. So I was kept at home until I was 7.
But during that time, I seemed to have a rapport with animals. I liked animals, and the horses. I could catch and ride ponies well before I went to school on the horse. And we rode to school with neighbours, who had a big family, neighbours across the road.
|Trudy||Four and a half miles ...
|Dorothy||It was quite a long ride for children. I can remember
icicles hanging down the banks. It was very cold. Stopping to catch
frogs in a pond, or in the summer pick blackberries and eat them.
|Trudy||How big was the school.
|Dorothy||It seemed huge at the time, but I think it was about three
teachers. I started with a very good infant teacher who got me
through the infant program in one year and put me on to Standard One.
A very good teacher.
|Trudy||So you went through all the Primers in one year?
|Dorothy||Yes, but I did wonder why I was so big and the other children
so small. Nobody explained it to me.
|Trudy||What was the house like?
|Dorothy||There was a kind of a sleepout or something at the back.
Lionel, and David too I think, slept out there. I had a young sister
by that time, Grace, and we had a small bedroom at the back of the
cottage. Mum and Dad had the other bedroom, and there was a lounge
and a kitchen. I think the outside washhouse was part of this
building where the boys slept. So it wasn't very big, that house.
|Trudy||How much land?
|Dorothy||It was a farm of about, I'm not sure, a hundred or two
hundred acres, a medium-sized farm. Very rough. There was a nice
river ran through it. Mum used to take us for picnics to the river,
and Dad taught us to swim in the pool. There was a very pretty patch
of bush where we picnicked--I can remember a lot of that.
And then riding about the farm with Dad around to neighbours' places. I had a little pony, a pretty thing.
|Trudy||What did your Dad do?
|Dorothy||Well, he farmed. He farmed this for Carters. But I realize,
looking back, that he wasn't a farmer. He was very impatient. He was
good with people, could talk with anybody. I don't know what his
education had been. He was a bit like Barry, in being able to talk
well with people. Not naturally a farmer--too impatient and hard on
the animals, and uncaring of their sufferings, which used to upset me.
The dogs were chained to kennels that were just a section of hollow log. It was very cold, and if they howled, he'd go out and beat them for howling. Looking back, I feel so sorry for them.
No, he shouldn't have been a farmer. And, of course, financial worries all the time.
|Trudy||So was this the early, mid- to late- 20s?
|Dorothy||Yes, and getting towards '30.
Well, Dad lost that job and we moved to Rangitawa, just past Ohakune. You've been there, Beth used to live there. Rangitawa.
|Trudy||When you say lost the job ...
|Dorothy||I think he was probably sacked. I don't know. I didn't know
at the time, but we were to move, you see.
|Trudy||Lost the farm?
|Dorothy||No, he was managing it for Carters, who were big people in
the district. They had mills, and other interests.
So we moved to friends and stayed for a few months with friends at Rangitawa, and went to school there. I was perhaps 8 or 9 at the time. It was very somewhat humiliating, crowding in with this other family, and we were very short of money.
But some land came up for ballot, between Ohakune and Raetehi. And with the help of Dad's brother-in-law, he won the ballot, and was able to, with the help of his brother-in-law, to put down the 200 pounds deposit, and there was a small yearly rental. We moved out onto that land in 1929, so I was ten, and lived in tents.
It was just a piece of land that was 200 acres. It was covered in milled and burnt over stumps and logs and standing dead trees. It had a fence on two sides, well three virtually, but a long boundary that had to be fenced, the timber had to be split and cut by hand, and fencing wire required somehow. Dad and Lionel worked on this fence, the first job.
And we were living in three tents, which was a horrible climate to be in tents in. We built a cook house that had an open side that let the wind blow through. It was very uncomfortable. Put an old wood stove at the end of it with some clay around it.
Well, he split up some timber and built this three-sided thing. A bench and table made that we used to sit at to eat our meals. You had to wrap up and then you were cold. Mum had to cook on this thing with a makeshift setup.
So it was very hard. It must have been very hard for Mum. And being 1929, it was the crash of the finance world. And New Zealand. Stocks and shares went down. People lost jobs, and couldn't borrow money, and it was the start of the Depression which was very terrible.
So here they were, and Dad couldn't get money for fencing or stock or a house or whatever. The stock and station firms pretty well stopped lending. However, he managed to buy an old mill house that was taken into sections and somehow it was moved onto our land and put together again into a house of sorts, with the help of a neighbour.
And we lived there in poor circumstances.
|Trudy||We'd got up to circumstances and you'd got a house and moved.
|Dorothy||Yes, another brother, Russell, had been born while we were
still in Raetihi. He'd been born prematurely and thrived. He was
about five, six, .... I suppose he was about six when we were out on
this land that Dad had acquired.
We were living in tents when the next baby was coming, so Mum had by then five children and Evan was on the way. And, as with a lot of families, it was very very hard because there was so little money and people were out of their jobs and everything. To have another baby coming ... there were a lot of abortions and tragedies.
But Evan was born. He was about five years younger than Russell. And I remember his bed was the bottom drawer of Mum and Dad's dressing table. And Mum sewing and sewing from other garments, making little things for the baby.
So that wasn't very easy, all these children. Yes, I think we were in the house by the time the baby was born, so there were six of us to feed and look after.
|Trudy||Did she have any other help or was there just her?
|Dorothy||She had no help, so she worked very very hard. She did
things outside, to help Dad as well as washing outside by hand and
carrying water from the well in summer. And generally a pretty hard
We gradually acquired a few animals, built up some cows to milk, a few sheep. They managed to clear the heavy timber from two or three paddocks with a great deal of work.
At least we were all sent through school and secondary school. We had our education. It must have been very hard for Mum and Dad.
|Trudy||Did you pay for it?
|Dorothy||No, school was free, but there were books, and food--get
something to give us for our lunches, and porridge for breakfast.
There'd be sheep that could be killed, and we'd have a sheep killed every little while. And what couldn't be used while it was fresh was salted, salt mutton.
|Trudy||So what sorts of things did you eat?
|Dorothy||For a while, it was hard to get enough to eat, even. I
remember a neighbour leaving a parcel of groceries, of food, on the
fencepost at the gate. Mum and Dad, Dad insisted it go back. You
couldn't take charity. It would have been so nice. And the
neighbours would have been dying to help. There were other, more
established farmers, who weren't having such a hard time.
So they were poverty-stricken, yes. I remember Lionel going to secondary, to high school. The uniform was navy shorts and shorts. They had navy socks, just woolen socks so they used to wear into holes. They were black, and mum had no black wool to darn them with, and couldn't buy any, so she darned them with blue. How awful it looked, and that he was teased for it--I think by a teacher. It was very hard. They were bitterly hard times.
We had things like sores that wouldn't heal, and heavy colds from not having fruit because very little fruit would grow there and we couldn't afford to buy it. And fresh vegetables, I suppose. Dad was a gardener, and after a while he got a good garden. But no, at first it was very difficult.
Cows were milked by hand, and the cream sent away. That paid for just a basic living. We seemed to always be in debt to the store. It was very very hard.
|Trudy||Where was the store?
|Dorothy||In Raetihi. They had little dairy companies everywhere in
those days. The Raetihi one had the store. So you bought all your
groceries at the store and the cream was supposed to pay the bill.
To get to Raetihi we walked or rode a horse. Or if there was a gig, you could go in the gig.
|Trudy||What was the gig?
|Dorothy||Well, everyone had a gig in those days. Pulled by one horse,
and harnessed into the shafts. Yes, little buggy. Seat across and
room to put some groceries in the back. Mum was good at driving the
We had some social life, we had some friends down what we called down the valley. I remember Mum---. We had ponies after a while, we older children. We used to ride, have a great big picnic together with some friends by the river. Or go and visit Auntie Dot and Uncle Able, who were our close friends. We still, even today, keep touch with that family.
|Trudy||They were related?
|Dorothy||No, they weren't related. We called them Auntie and Uncle
but they weren't, just good friends of Mum and Dad's. Dad loved
playing chess, and used to play with anyone he could find. Uncle Able
was one of Dad's chess partners.
|Trudy||So what did they do when they needed
|Dorothy||Dad had a big correspondence chess going for a while. You'd
make your move on paper and send it to your opponent. He had several
of those going at once. He was very keen on his chess. And he loved
fishing--whenever he could, he would get into one of the rivers with
his rod and fly, and fish.
One memorable holiday was spent camping up at Lake Taupo, by ... by the Tukano river, is that the name of it? A big fishing river. We camped on the riverbank with friends, and had a very lovely holiday.
|Trudy||How old were you then?
|Dorothy||I think I was about .... Where were we? Raetihi, I think?
I was about five. Five or six. I can remember that quite well.
There were a few photos taken.
|Trudy||What about your Mum? Did she have any other friends?
|Dorothy||Yes, she had friends who were neighbours, and we used to
visit. Walk across the paddocks and visit friends. And then there
was Aunty Dot was a very particular friend.
She joined the Women's Institute, no the Women's Division of Federated Farmers, which was a great outlet for country women. Once a month she would meet and have a bit of a social life there.
It was very hard for Mum to provide clothes for us through the depression. But we had an Auntie, her sister-in-law, living in Canterbury, who was better off and had six children too. We were steps and stairs together. Much of an age, at least one of this family. They were our cousins, and clothing parcels used to come from Auntie Mary, which really kept us going. They were school uniforms, which were the same at every school in those days. Gym tunic and white blouse.
|Trudy||Were they Woodfields?
|Dorothy||No, they were Hamiltons, descended from Woodfields.
So that really saved the day. And there'd be a suit or something that Mum could wear, sometimes shoes, or stockings. And she had her Singer treadle machine, and if garments didn't fit somebody they'd were made over into something, pants for the boys or something.
|Trudy||She was quite a good sewer?
She was quite a good sewer. Had to be. You couldn't buy things.
And we went to school across a neighbouring farm to a little school on the valley road. When I started there, how old was I? I'd been to Horopito school for two or three years anyway, so I suppose I was 8 to 10 years. Going to that Makatuku school.
They had a really harsh young woman teacher, it was really horrible. One of the things we had to do was get up and sing a song to the class, and I couldn't sing. What a horrible thing to do to a new child in a class!
|Trudy||First day or something?
|Dorothy||Yes, to introduce you to the class or something, but it was
horrible. I didn't enjoy that school one bit.
|Trudy||How long were you there?
|Dorothy||Until I was in Standard Five, I think, so it must have been
three or four years. I was so unhappy there, that I told Mum and Dad
I didn't want to go back there, and they said well I could ride my
horse into Ohakune, and I could go to school there. That was quite a
|Trudy||Much bigger school?
|Dorothy||Yes, quite a lot bigger, and it had a district high school,
so when I'd done two years I went onto the district high school. Kept
riding the horse until a bus started. So this must have been the
Labour Government came in--they put on busses. A lot of children
couldn't attend any secondary school in the depression days unless
their parents could afford to board them somewhere. We had Aunty
Dot's children one by one so they could get some high school, because
they couldn't have gone, they were twenty miles away. They would have
We went right through. I got matriculation there at Ohakune, after four years high school.
|Trudy||What did your parents vote?
|Dorothy||Oh, Conservative. Tories. "We've always been Tories", you
know. Because their families had been something in the world. My
dad's father was a member of parliament. Mum's father was headmaster
of a Maori girl's school. Descended from people who were well off.
They could never bring themselves to vote Labour.
And in 1935 when Labour won a sweeping victory, because things were so bad people just rebelled and voted in huge numbers for Labour. Oh, I remember the long faces when they came out in the morning. "Oh, we're ruined! They'll take all our land!"
|Dorothy||Yes, and that was the start of their better times because
within a short time, the Labour Government brought in guaranteed
prices for wool and dairy products--butter fat. They began to get
some money for the first time.
And the Labour Government started providing houses for farm workers. And when the man came to see about it, to our place, Dad had said "oh, they won't give us one". And really they weren't entitled to one, it's just they were living in this terrible old makeshift house. The man came, and Mum gave him a cup of tea. And he looked around and he said, "well, it isn't quite in your category, but you need a house, Mrs Guthrie." And they had a house provided, I suppose on mortgage, I can't remember that part of it, but they lived on a nice new house on the farm until they retired off it.
|Trudy||Who built it?
|Dorothy||Well, they had contractors. The Labour Government let the
contracts to builders. They were very good houses. The early state
houses were built at the start. Money was just provided from the
Reserve Bank to get them up, get them built. They did a lot of very
|Trudy||This would be 1937 or something like that?
|Dorothy||Yes, 36 or 37. Yes, that's right, because I went away to
training college in Wellington, I think, in 37, and I hadn't lived in
that house. So it was about that time.
And they were made very comfortable by that first labour government, but they never acknowledged it. They never voted Labour. "Oh no, we're Tories." Rather bad when you look back on it.
And by then, Betty Volkner, my girlfriend out of this family we were so friendly with, she was listening to, well, the ZB station, I suppose, where the Labour broadcasts were coming from. The clergyman called Scrim who was doing very stirring political broadcasts, she said "He's right! He's right!" But Uncle Able was a Tory too, he used to say, "The unemployed don't want to work. They're just lazy." But there were no jobs, you couldn't get a job.
|Trudy||The parallels between here and ...
|Dorothy||I know, and we very much need a government like that first
Labour government. They did all the right things, an immense amount
Yes, the Depression was a terrible time. There was very high unemployment, wages were lowered, and people were put out of work. All Government work was cut back or cut down. There was relief work, it was just for a pittance, and fairly useless a lot of it. Training colleges were shut, infant education was cut back, so there was actual hunger and cold and suffering amongst the people, large numbers of people, and you can see a parallel to the present time, the way things are going.
|Trudy||Getting back to something quite unrelated, how affected were
you by the first World War.
|Dorothy||Well, I was born in 1919. The stories about it were very
terrible, from the men who came back.
|Trudy||You saw people injured, or old soldiers?
|Dorothy||Yes, well I didn't see a lot of it because we lived out in
the country, but I realized that it had been a very dreadful time.
Such large numbers of people killed or wounded, and the suffering they
My father's only sister, Aunty Grace, was a nurse, and she was a nurse in the war theatre during the war, in France where the fighting was. A front-line nurse, so she had gone through very terrible times seeing so many people die, blown up, hopelessly injured. So yes, it was bad, and I was pretty close to it, but yet for the first five years I don't suppose I was taking much notice. That would be 1924.
But my father had taken up land that was allocated for returned servicemen, although he was actually in the block before the men came back from the war. He wasn't able to go away for some medical reason. My parents were married in 1916 or 17, no about 1916, and lived really away in an inaccessible valley. It was all in bush and had to be felled and burned and grassed. They were living in tents when Mum married Dad. Her sister was living out there, as well, and she had gone to stay, met Dad, and they married. But when the first baby was coming, Dad moved out from there, and sold the block. He said it was too far out to be bringing children up.
|Trudy||Whereabouts was it?
|Dorothy||It was called the Mangaparua. It was quite a few miles from
Raetehi and down the valley, not from the Wanganui river.
|Dorothy||Yes, the Mangaparua. They were in the Mangatiti, a parallel
valley, but it was very remote. Roads were very unreliable, the
country used to slip once the bush was cut, and the people were all
moved out from there afterwards. And they came to live in Raetihi,
and Dad became a land agent for some firm. My memories go back to
there, being in Raetihi.
|Trudy||So skipping forward again, to the late 1930s, 37, when you're
going off to training college. The world political situation was
hotting up again. Were you aware of it?
|Dorothy||1937? Yes, rather. I was very exultant when the first
Labour government was voted in, in 1935. We'd been very involved in,
not actual working, but hoping they would win. Because things were so
bad, very bad.
|Trudy||And how old were you then?
|Dorothy||In my teens, I was I think 18 when I went away to training
college. Yes, that'd be right, 17 or 18. Went straight from school,
and was very inexperienced and shy, and moved to Wellington. But in
those days, you didn't have to pay to get training, you were paid. We
had an allowance, a small allowance, but we could just live on it. We
were poor students, but we managed on the allowance.
|Trudy||Where did you live in Wellington?
|Dorothy||Boarding first with friends up in Brooklyn, people Mum knew.
Then in the hostel later on, up on The Terrace. Walked up, or went on
the cable car, up to training college.
|Trudy||Was that where the University is now?
|Dorothy||Not far away, past the university. It was up in Kelburn. We
got off the cable car and walked around the street.
|Dorothy||Yes, sort of around there. Used to come down through the
gardens, the beautiful municipal gardens. It was nice. I enjoyed
Wellington, living in Wellington.
|Trudy||How long did it take you to get through training college?
|Dorothy||It was a two year course. It's now three, but it was a two
year course. So we came out somewhat unprepared. We had been in
schools on section, with a class, doing a little bit of solo teaching,
but in front of the teacher.
No, I wasn't very suited to it. I was too shy, and didn't know enough about how to teach. I'd been taught of subject matter--English, geography, history, and all the rest of the subjects, and some physical education, music which I wasn't very good at anyway. So I came out as a not-very-good teacher.
|Trudy||Didn't like it?
|Dorothy||I didn't like it because I wasn't good at it. Taught for two
or three years, then gave it up.
|Dorothy||I taught in Taihape first, that was not too far from
Ohakune. And then Ohakune, and then up north when I moved up north of
|Trudy||How old were you then?
|Dorothy||Well, into my twenties. Yes, early twenties.
[END OF FIRST SESSION]