Thursday, May 29, 2008


About 5 years ago, while holidaying with our daughter in New Zealand, Bernie and I visited a town called Paeroa, about 45 minutes travel from Matamata. In recent years, Paeroa has become famous for its Antique and Secondhand shops. Because we had other commitments, we only had time to visit a couple of these wonderful stores.

Right at the back of one of the shops, I came upon an old basket with some Needlework bits and pieces, including a couple of balls of old embroidery thread, the sort they used to call "buttonhole twist", in lovely shades of pink and green.

I took these to the counter and the lady serving commented that one of them seemed to be wrapped around "an old crochet pattern or something."

That night, I unwound the balls and discovered that one of them contained an old letter. I will let it speak for itself. I have broken it down into paragraphs - no doubt paper was too precious for such niceties. Otherwise it is as it was written.



Dear Madge

Glad to hear from you. It was your turn to write so wondered what was wrong. I am sorry to hear of poor Colin. What a time you have. So now I hope he goes ahead and gets nothing else. You would all have a nice day the day you brought him home.

I bet Boofy does look nice in her outfit.

We haven't had spuds for a month. Isn't it awful-you feel as if you haven't had a meal. Bread doesn't take there (sic) place.

Well on Monday I had to rush Brian off to Dr. as Joy hit him near the crown of head with axe. It didn't need a stitch but the Blood was every way so couldn't tell how deep it was. Really I think what happened was she was digging a hole in the ground & he was sitting down so he must of brought his head up sharply & caught the axe, otherwise if she meant to hit him it would have split head open. What a life!

Brian hasn't been well for some time. His double teeth must be the trouble.

Well Jack has been called up. So just wonder if he will pass. Boss wants to appeal but Jack won't have it. Where we will get I don't know as no houses to be got & to make things more damnable I am carrying again!!! (double underlined) Missed two months. Got pills but no good. Don't know how it happened as we have used the sheath all the time. So you can tell how rotten Jack feels having to join up.

It's getting somewhere to look after kids is the biggest worry. But if he's overseas by then I will put them in a home for the fortnight. Then I will know they are not ill-treated - or at least I'll no (sic) nothing about it!! Last time when Harry & Rae was with Mrs Sale & have just heard she treated Harry awful & Mrs Floyd knocked hell out of Joy. So am not having that again.

I get into town more now as have new neighbours & (they) have a lorry so go in once a week with them.

Jack got plenty of seed spuds but can't plant anything now. His hand been weak with the missing finger - might pass him as unfit.

Well hope all the colds have left you by now. We have been very free of them. Haven't heard from Mrs Floyd so don't know how her twins are doing.

By Jove I hope Stalingrad can hang on. The Japs are having a lovely time. I guess we are in for more hardships soon - make some of us sit up.

Am pleased you have a nice neighbour. Will say cheerio for now. Best wishes to all



The letter is undated, but the second ball of thread contained a torn piece of newspaper, containing death notices, most of them around January 21st 1944. Just imagine - this precious letter has remained inside this ball of thread for nearly 60 years, only to come to light perhaps when Madge passed on, and her goods ended up in a second-hand shop.

And who was Madge - was she Mary's sister, or perhaps a girlfriend with whom she could share confidences and concerns?

I wonder if Mary is still alive - she would be very old. How did she feel when she looked back on those difficult days. Did her courage and stoicism sustain her through those difficult days? Jack was obviously a farm worker, and their house came with the job. Did he get called up? Did she solve the problem of having the children minded during her confinement with what seems to be her fourth child.

Tuhikaramea is a little distance out of Hamilton, but Mary is somewhat isolated without transport. She doesn't really feel sorry for herself, but her love and concern for her children shows through.

And I cannot help wondering about that thread. Some of it had been used - was it to embroider a doiley, or perhaps an apron? Did it help to put some colour into Madge's life, and help soothe through those hours when she sat listening to the grim war news on her radio?

If ever I feel a little sorry for myself, I need to think about Mary of Tuhikaramea, who was dealing with so many hardships - shortage of food staples, sick children, accidents in the family, an unwanted pregnancy, a husband who may be going off to war, possible eviction, childcare issues, loneliness and isolation.

I do hope she did not have to wait too long before they could enjoy potatoes again!!


Anonymous said...

Mary, I always enjoy reading your blog so much. You always have some interesting things to share. Debbie

crazyQstitcher said...

I love these snippets of history. What hardships the women had back in the 'good old days' What a joke that saying is.
I saw in a Stampcraft shop a sheet of wrapping paper which originally had been a letter such as your find. That too had a sad tale. Makes me appreciate my easy life.
Well done Mary on your find. I wish I could have found Any craft shops in NZ back in '02. I did find 2 quilting shops.

Faye said...

What a wonderful find Mary, We really do have it 'good' today don't we! One would really have to wonder who this person was writing to, to have confided so much in.
Lovely story, great find...
cheers - Faye

Related Posts with Thumbnails