From the Depression to the Ammunition Factory : teenage
years in the 1930s and 1940s
An interview with Dorrie Caitcheon now Dorrie Connelly
HAMILTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
ORAL HISTORY PROGRAMME
YOUTH ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
INTERVIEWEE : Dorrie Connelly
DATE : 5 July 1995
INTERVIEWER : Christene Mauchline
ABSTRACT BY : Christene Mauchline
|Homelife||Homelife during the Depression|
|Entertainment and Socialising||Employment|
|Awareness of Issues|
Click on a speaker icon to hear the interview.
|Tape 1 Side 1
||Tape 1 Side 2
Born 15 December 1923. Had three brothers and two sisters. Father was a Marine Engineer, mother was a housewife. Born in Thames, lived in Tauranga for three years, came to Hamilton just before turning five, lived in Claudelands.
Living in Claudelands was an urban experience, activities centred on Hamilton, went to St Andrews Sunday school and Bible Class, primary school at Hamilton East School, then went to Hamilton West school before going to Hamilton High School, played sports for the different schools over the weekend.
Didn't really have community halls in the Claudelands area, or any other area; which meant most activities were centred on Hamilton Central.
Walked to town, about a mile away. Walked to school, occasionally caught the bus to school when it rained, "But you probably got just as wet getting to the bus because the bus didn't come to our street" Walked to church. Went on holiday by train.
Father had a car which he was always tinkering with, occasionally went on holiday by car but her father rarely went on holiday.
Father away from home a lot, working on boats and dredges, sometimes only home in the weekends - sometimes not even then. Went to places like Raglan once her father was working in Hamilton. Didn't go on holiday every year.
If their father was home he would take them to school on a very wet day. Her mother was the first woman to get a taxi licence in New Zealand so she still drove occasionally, would take them to school if their father was away.
Father had a motor bike as well.
Got a taxi to the station if father was away, "...in those days Hamilton and Frankton
Stations were really busy, and there were masses of trains going to and from Auckland and passing through all the time.
All six children had their tasks to do, could not go out to play until they had finished their tasks; cleaning, vegetables, cleaning silver and brass.
The six children had to play together and got on very well, "There were the odd arguments of course, especially when we were playing cards or something."
Mother was the boss in the family because their father was away so much, there was only eight years between the oldest and the youngest child.
Didn't get to know her father very well, always knew what he was doing and where he was. Was ten or eleven when the family got a telephone, father didn't ring when he was away. Father spoilt the children when he came home.
Father worked for the Roose Shipping Company when Dorrie was in her teens,
Engineer on the Manuwai and Rawhiti, worked on the dredges at Mercer sometimes.
Mother was a Presbyterian and father was a Roman Catholic, father less interested in
religion so the children were brought up Presbyterian. Was important to them, were
expected to attend Sunday School and Bible Class, Mother went to church but does not recall her father attending any church.
Made a lot of friends at church, did a lot of things together.
Most young people went to church, had friends who would have liked to have gone but their parents wouldn't let them.
Church seen as a social thing.
Did not have many holidays, occasionally went to her Grandparents or Aunt's in the
Extended family were not so important because they lived so far away and transport was difficult, kept in touch with grandparents by writing letters, one brother went to
live with them as her mother was ill before she was born, lived with them until he was ten, wrote regularly to him. Aunts and Uncles visited occasionally, not much room in the house for visitors.
Envied a lot of friends because they visited their grandparents quite often, or they lived in the same area.
Always had milk at school, plain foods; bread, jam. Mother was a great gardener so
they always had plenty of vegetables and soups, "We didn't have much money but we didn't starve either", not a lot of meat; two or three times a week during the depression. Mother made a lot of milk puddings, thought to be nourishing.
Icecream was considered a treat, went to the Dolly Varden that made good iceblocks
which were cheaper than icecream "We'd save our money to go and get one of these
Got broken biscuits from the Grocer, a ha'penny's worth, or a penny's worth.
Homelife during the Depression
During the Depression she had a friend who was an only child whose father was in
regular work, family was not short of money, she saw the things she got and the way
she lived, always felt envious of her and ashamed of her own situation. Her friend always had nice clothes, she had handed down clothes.
Always took healthy lunches to school, saw others who could buy a doughnut or
If a clown or juggler or musical item came to school she and her brothers and sisters
could not go, "To me it had been quite important that I could never go to them."
Father was out of work, worked on relief work; cleaning up river banks, worked on roads. Was a hard time for the family, even when he found work it was low wages,
"We didn't get any extras in those days"
Mother was a good manager, made sure her children were always clean and tidy.
Mother had a book called Vitalogy, "That was her bible more or less and she always
relied on that and referred to that when any of us got sick", occasionally got a doctor.
Mother had a good sense of how serious an illness was, was not a nurse but nursed her sisters through the 1918 influenza epidemic.
Mostly home remedies rather than a doctor.
All three of her brothers eventually joined up for war.
Mother got Waikato Times and the Auckland star, "The moment it arrived the first
page we looked at was the casualty list...you'd automatically scan to see who you
Felt the seriousness of war through it effecting older members of the family, also some excitement because of all the men in uniform, "There was a certain amount of
excitement to see these men in uniform because when you're a teenager you fall in love and out of love so quickly." As she got older it got even more serious for her.
Remembers rationing during the war; wool, stockings, butter, sugar. Coupons.
Worked in H.& J. Courts but still had to take her turn getting rationed goods.
"If you were offered wool or stockings you took them whether you needed them or
not because you knew that you'd be several months before you got any again."
Did own knitting and sewing.
Rationing did not effect her mother too much, still managed to send food parcels overseas, [discusses sending food parcels overseas].
Attended Hamilton High School; took the academic course, French, Latin, English, history, geography, maths. Other option was a Commercial course. Science was more indepth for boys.
Loved school, got sick in fourth form, doctor made her leave school, had wanted to be a school teacher.
Made a lot of friends, one or two close friends who she had gone to primary school with, did most things with a large group of girls.
School friends were only part of her social circle because church friends also contributed to it.
Involved in drama, basketball, tennis, rounders, swimming.
Entertainment and Socialising
Did not have much spare time, came home from school and did homework then chores around the home. Didn't go and play with friends a lot because her mother maintained they had each other for companions.
If it was wet played cards or Snakes and Ladders, otherwise they went outside.
In the summer after dinner they had more freedom; no girls in the neighbourhood so she had to join her brother and his friends; played cricket, "I was expected just to conform to whatever they were doing." Tree climbing.
Sisters married farmers; at fifteen learned to dance in Matangi Hall, as she got older she was allowed to go to the Frankton Town Hall and the Regent for dances, always went with a brother or sister,
"I had quite a lot of freedom as far as dancing was concerned providing I was with another member of the family until I was over eighteen"
Played the piano and mandolin.
Went to the pictures more once she started dating boys, when younger went with a member of the family.
Remembers the Ngaruawhahia Regatta, went every year because of her father's occupation,
"The big treat to go up there was to go and watch the Maoris in their canoes and eat watermelon"
A big Hamilton social event.
Remembers going to town on a Friday night, mother took them when they were younger, went with boyfriends, girlfriends or siblings when older. Felt safe walking home.
Fashions conformed more, most teenagers dressed the same. Dresses were just above the knee. At work had to wear hats, shoes, stockings, black dress. Wore hats to social events in the day time but not in the evening. Would have liked to have worn high heels but didn't suit her feet.
Mother didn't approve of makeup so she didn't wear it until older, "It just wasn't the thing to do, especially lipstick."
Teen idols; Clark Gable, head prefect at her school, Greer Garson, Robert Newman, Cary Grant, "All the handsome ones."
Discussed the stars at school, tried to model themselves on the female stars, Bette Davis. Was called Deanna Durbin as a girl because people thought they looked alike so she liked to dress the same as her.
Film was quite important for teenagers, church, YMCA and dances were the only other activities for teenagers.
Didn't have a radio, one person was selected from each school to recite over the radio and Dorrie was chosen from her school.
Mother had to go next door to listen to her, after that the family agitated for one and they eventually got one, became more important as she got older; listening to pop music, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, though her mother didn't like them.
Read books such as Anne of Green Gables , The Snow Queen [Hans Christian Anderson?], enjoyed travel books in later teens.
Didn't get comics regularly, usually gifts. Not many magazines.
Did quite a lot of dating, had a boyfriend who went to war and became a prisoner of
war, dated while he was away but broke relationships off once the boy became too
serious. When he came back they were both different so it didn't work out.
Was not allowed out with boys alone until age eighteen, allowed to go to dances before age eighteen with boys but had to be chaperoned by a sister. [talks about rebelling when she was about seventeen over a boy].
"I think you almost felt guilty if you went out with someone who wasn't in uniform."
Did go out with a few boys not in uniform; felt people wondered why they weren't.
Remembers seeing a few Americans in Hamilton, no contact with them.
Public was a bit `anti' with the Americans, "There definitely was a stigma to a girl
going out with an American at that time."
Belonged to the Women's Auxiliary Army Voluntary Corps, looked after soldiers
coming into Garden Place; meals, cards, dancing.
Went nursing during the war so was not available for much voluntary work.
First full time job was at H.& J. Courts; enjoyed the work; independence, new people.
Manpowered to the Ammunition factory; filled the tops of bullets with lead, filled
hoppers with parts of bullets. Then promoted to the examining room, didn't enjoy the new position, after a few weeks asked to go back where she had been. Examining involved checking the bullets had no cracks or flaws, worked under fluorescent lights.
Enjoyed working at the munitions factory and made lots of friends.
Many workers from Auckland.
Went nursing from the munitions factory which she enjoyed apart from suffering problems with her feet.
Because of war married women entered the workforce, "prior to that there were very
few married women working anywhere."
Awareness of Issues
Remembers the Winter Show; a special event, schools used to go as it was partly
Ngaruawhahia Regatta was something that was looked forward to.
"During the War of course there weren't a lot of things going on because most of the men were away"
Remembers Garden Place Hill being removed and the controversy, became a carpark.
Remembers with sadness the changes made to Hamilton West School.
Remembers Hilda Ross; mother knew her personally and she gave Dorrie a reference
when she went nursing.
Remembers the principals of the schools; Mr Fraser "Who everyone called Womp" who was principal of the Technical School. Remembers Hamilton High School
Principals Mr.Tate and Mr.Wilson.
Remembers Mr.Caro as Mayor. Was a treat to go to Caro's Bargain Store around
Christmas time to see the store as it had been decorated like a fairy land.
Always learnt the names of the prime ministers, weren't encouraged to read the newspaper and with no radio they didn't know much about them, as they got into their teens they learned more about them and had more interest.
During the war knew about international figures; Chamberlain, Churchill, Hitler, Mussolini.
A lot of rivalry between schools, used to sing rhymes "One we used to sing when we went to Hamilton East School `one two three West up a tree, four five six Catholics
in a fix, seven eight nine East every time', and of course when you change schools you change the rhyme too." A lot of sporting rivalry.
Politics was more important to older teenagers, due to the war. Younger children not encouraged to study current affairs.
Not many Maori families living in the area, went to school with Maori children, "We
never thought of them as being any different from us, they were just our friends."
Interested in them more than anything.
Had Maori people come every year with kumara and blackberries to exchange for clothes, became like friends. They came from the pas out of town, different from the
Maoris who lived in town who integrated well.
A few Maoris were involved in their church and social activities.