We must pay a tribute to the housewives of the countryside, who in many cases, were not used to ordinary housework. The better class, if you may use the word class, were used to their maids in England or Scotland; had to take over and run their new houses with conditions nowhere comparable to the conditions they were used to in the old country. They also had to help outdoors. The garden being their main interest. With a shortage of manpower they had to help their husbands with certain chores on the farm; they had their children to look after, in some cases there was a nursemaid, a daughter probably of one of the neighbouring farmers who was on the lookout for a job, would be asked to come to the family to look after the children whilst the wife got on with the cooking and various household chores. These girls were really invaluable and nine times out of ten they were snapped up as they grew older as a housewife for a working farmer. They would know the full ins and outs of running a home by that time.
The housewife had her cooking and chores indoors and in many cases she had men to cook for as well as her husband and children. There would be men employed on the farm and they would be fed at the house. In some cases they fed themselves at the whares outside, but nine times out of ten they mealed at the house. So that was extra w6rk for the housewife. One can but take ones hat off to the older generation of Mothers. They did a wonderful job to help foster things in the country. My Aunt at Broadmeadows with five or six men to cater for had a girl and sometimes two girls to help her in the house and every morning they had to cut lunches for the men who were working about the farm, some distance away, and it meant that when they took their lunch out they would be away for the rest of the day. There would be food that had to be cut morning and afternoon tea would go out to the woolsheds and to the harvesters, and in the case of harvesters they may be some distance away and the horse would have to be rounded up, harnessed and put in the buggy and tea and food put in and taken across the fields to the harvesters and if there were any children they would be taken too. A wonderful treat for children, they enjoyed nothing better than to go down to the harvest. It would be a harvest of hay or oat's and if it was oat's the children would spend most of their time while morning tea was being served running up and down the paddock through the stooks and out the other end; and probably a dog chasing them at the same time.
Another job would be to cut up the meat, all home killed meat, mutton and the beef cuts probably would be shared with the next door neighbour and it would be the housewives job to process the bacon and pork after the slaughter of pigs and some of those pork pies were the most delectible bits for a meal that one could even think of. She would have eggs to take to the market and the fowls had to be attended to and eggs collected, being a chore for the children. She would make butter and if there was excess butter that would be taken to town and sold. Prior to that there would be one or two cows, there may be a cowman/gardener, if not the chore fell upon the womenfolk to attend to the cows and following that,the butter. In the early days the milk would be set in pans and the cream skimmed off into a bucket until there was enough cream to make the butter. Butter was a hard proposition sometimes during the process of churning it would come quickly and sometimes it would be a morning job. Depending on temperature and texture to a certain extent. That again if the children were at home would be their chore to turn the churn until the butter arrived. It would be washed and battered until all the moisture was out. Salt would be added and it would be made up into pound pats ready for sale or the table.
The separator gradually found its way in and the milk would arrive from the shed in buckets being strained and would go into the separator where the cream would be separated off from the milk. There again, that was a chore for the younger generation. The cream would be held until it was ready to be made into butter and later years it went into the milk cans and found its way to the factory. The skimmed milk would be used to feed the dogs and if there were any calves they would get their morning ration of skimmed milk and pigs would get the remainder. Pigs were the usual adjunct to a household fulfilling a purpose particularly in the winter time when the hams were hung up for the use of the housewife in the kitchen. The separator became the most useful adjunct in the cowshed at a later date.
But there were quite a number of small separators which helped out when three or four cows were milked at the house. In the evenings there were always a certain number of chores.
Following Mondays wash, that was a big operation, everything that required washing, plus things that didn't possibly require washing found their way into the copper, the copper was a ten gallon boiler out in the yard supported by legs or by a brick frame and the clothes were all boiled up, washed out and hung on the line to dry.
Later there was a wash house built and everything was done under cover. In the evening the ironing took place, first of all by the old potts iron which was heated by the side of the fire or on the top of the stove, also an iron in which charcoal was placed, the potts iron served its purpose for many years, until the electric iron put in an appearance. There was sewing to be done in the evening; where children are concerned there is always sewing to be done and in some cases there was extra special sewing to be done by the sewing machine. Sewing machines made an appearance very early in the piece, the good old singer sewing machine at which the housewife sat with on the table, held the article being sewn with her left hand and turned the handle with her right, it was very remarkable the wonderful bits of fabric that she ran up with that machine. The singer sewing machine had a wonderful name and is still looked upon as one of the machines of the world. Following that particular machine there was the treadle machine which was very similar to the old machine but instead of using the right hand both hands were how available to handle the material being sewn and the propulsion was given by the feet on a bracket on the floor which your feet wiggled up and down and turned the flywheel which kept the machine going. Then we had darning, the darning of work pants, the darning of childrens clothes, darning of socks, all these took time and in any time left over there would be knitting. Most housewives were all keen knitters and it was remarkable what they did in that direction. There were workingmens socks, socks for the children and pullovers and that sort of thing for the children going to school.
The cooking first of, would be done over open fires and one can but realise what an exercise that would be. The food would be cooked in great big pots hanging from a rod across the fireplace, an iron kettle would be hanging from the rod and if the meat was to be roasted, in quite a number of cases it would be roasted on a spit which meant that that had to be turned so that all sides were being cooked evenly. There were camp ovens which were used quite frequently, particularly if one had a roast and the housewife wished to put everything in together, rather like the Maoris copper Maori, which had the effect of steaming the meal, and quite good meals were turned out that ...................................
Mrs Henry Paton had an out of door brick oven. There weren't many brick ovens about but I presume this particular oven would be used for baking bread. Which was usual but probably she used it too for her other baking propositions.
After the open bar we now have the Shacklock Orion which had the water tank on one side alongside the firebox with a tap to it and at mealtimes when the washing up took place or when water was required there was sufficient water to be able to draw off from that tap for the washing for that particular meal. If anyone was wanting a bath this was a somewhat different proposition, it meant there would not be sufficient water in that tank to cover a bath so a kerosene bucket would have to be put upon the stove and that water heated there, probably two kerosene buckets; from there it would be carted to the bath, plus what was held in the kettle as well. On the stove the old iron kettle would be boiling the whole time the fire was going and would invariably be ready for a visitor who might turn up. "Would you like a cup of tea", and the tea would be made immediately. The water for the kettle, and for the tank would have to be drawn from outside which would be a chore for some of the younger members of the family, if there were any. They would go outside with a pitcher or a jug to fill from the well, either with a bucket and windlass or later a pump which stood over the well, and they would have to pump their fill from that. Another source was the storage tank; a galvanised tank would usually be at the back door to take the runoff from the house. Wells were always a source of danger and one must note the fact that drownings took place from time to time. My grandmother lost one child in a well and Mr Newell rescued his daughter from drowning, by tossing a rope in, sliding down, grabbing her by his teeth, enabling him to use both hands to draw them both out safely.
In sickness all had to have a knowledge of medicine, and in every case they were most willing to help one another with a sick patient or an accident. The patient had to be made comfortable if an accident occured in some shape or form until the doctor arrived. There was no such thing as a telephone, it meant that similar to childbirth, a doctor would have to be contacted and brought to the scene. There again there was no such thing as an ambulance which meant if it was a bad break the patient would have to be taken to hospital by wagon, or if the break was not too bad by buggy. Some of the buggies were a wagonette and it meant that the patient could lie flat out in the back behind the seat.
Telephones did come in at a later date round about 1914, the Waikato Telephone Company, with an arrangement with the P. and T.Department, strung a series of single wires across the countryside which connected the more distant subscribers to the Hamilton exchange. Invariably there were five, sometimes six or seven subscribers on the one line and they all had their own particular code signal. It was like everything else a source of gossip, as everyone had a chance to listen into the other mans conversation, which in some cases caused a little bit of friction between certain neighbours.
The early homes were lit by kerosene lamps, table and hanging lamps, usually Miller, excellent lamps giving a good light and they were hung from the middle of the room or on the centre·of a round table. All members of the family would then arrange their work, be it lessons or reading or handwork around the table and from there they would endeavour to do their evening occupations. Candles were used as a lighting from room to room. The kitchen would have several candles on the mantlepiece, the same in the sitting room. Each bedroom would have a candle and the children would go off to bed with one, warned by their mother to hold the candle straight ..............................
That grease took quite a lot of getting out of the carpet, or off the table. It worked into the carpet, and the only way to get it out was a hot iron and brown paper to heat it and draw it out.
One householder Mr Gabriel Day, had the unfortunate experience of losing his house, started by a candle. He was farming a portion of Pencarrow adjacent to· Mr A. Main, and one morning left his wife in bed when he went out to milk. She had lit the candle by her bed and was reading but unfortunately the candle was too close to the curtains, which caught fire, running up to the ceiling and setting the building alight. This is the only case of a fire caused by a candle in the locality.
Later there were gas lamps, supplied by pipes from a container outside the house. The copper tube would be taken to various points; sitting room, dining room and kitchen. The generator would produce a light very similar to the gas lights in the bigger cities.
This system served well, until the introduction of electricity in 1920.
In 1920 electricity was supplied by the Cambridge Electric Power Board, who drew their supply from the now defunct Horahora Station. Many rows of trees standing alongside the road had to be cut down to allow the wire to be strung out. Most of the trees were pines ending up at the local millers and in one case dropped into the river and rafted down the river to Roose's mill at Mercer.
With the coming of electricity the housewives chores were greatly relieved with all the appliances that could be used - particularly in automation.
Mr Howard Hammond represented the district during the first years of the Board and Mr Alfred Main retired recently after 28 years Board representative.
STOVES - HOT WATER:
The old stoves went out and a new type was added, in which could be inserted pipes and a hot water cylinder was built in the cupboard alongside; which meant we had a circulation of water heating from the stove through the wall into the hot water cylinder, which meant that there was an availability of water to a sink which had been added to the kitchen.
Hot and cold water to the sink, also hot and cold water to the bathroom, to which a basin would now be added and the old galvanised iron bath thrown out and a porcelain bath put in instead. It was a luxury with running hot and cold water to the bathroom. These stoves were coal and wood and in some cases the housewives would have to weild an axe or a saw to ensure that they had sufficient wood to keep those fires burning. Husbands were too busy or possibly too lazy to help with the kitchen chore. In one case I know a lady who had a husband who fell under that category, decided she was fed up with having to go out to the heap and fossick for wood so one day she dished up the dinner all nicely set upon the table and not a thing had been cooked. When her husband and son arrived home they sat down and prepared to eat their meal and when they found that nothing had been cooked they realised that they had fallen down on their job. Needless to say the lady from henceforth never had to worry about firewood for the kitchen. Coal was used at a later date but that only appeared after the mines at Huntly were opened and the railway to Cambridge was in operation. Needless to say it would be too hard to send wagons to Huntly for coal. So it meant that once the railway wagons were in use it was quite in order to order a truck of coal to Tamahere or Hautapu and that would keep the household going for quite a long time.
For heating the house would probably have the kitchen fire going most of the morning. The drawing room, if visitors were along, the fire would be lit, and if the drawing room was to be used in the evening the fire would be going too. Sometimes there would be a fire in the bedroom which would depend upon sickness or if anyone was in bed for a period of time. The beds would be warm at night, particularly in the winter time by the old copper warming pans. These pans would be filled with hot ashes from the fire. The lid clamped down, and the pan would be slid backwards and forwards in the bed, thus warming the sheets and making the bed comfortable. That was followed later by the old flat sided stone jar which was especially made for the purpose. Children had these and in quite a number of cases the bottle found itself on the floor by morning which meant it was invariably cracked and was of no further use. The next in line was the rubber hot water bottle, which after a period unless it was looked after, invariably leaked and out went the bedclothes the next morning onto the line to be dried out. Later the electric blanket,which was a godsend to the community. All bedrooms had the inevitable wash stand which consisted of a porcelain basin, water jug and soap holder. All washing would be done in the bedroom. The big jug would be full of cold water and it would mean a trip to the kitchen to beg off the housewife a kettle to temper the water.
The general toilet, the W.C. would be down the garden path. Some yards away from the house, usually an earth closet, and on a cold stormy night not pleasant to find ones way, and on a cold and frosty morning would be just as onerous. In the twenties when the hot water system came in, with running water, and a continuous supply, the patent W.C. came into general use with the septic tank system. The earlier systems were those in which you pulled a chain to flush causing a tremendous roar, and if you weren't used to the particular method of pulling the chain, you pulled, and you pulled, and went out swearing you couldn't make the thing work. Those have now been superceeded by low level tanks and a quiet flush system.