Growing up in Remuera

Remuera School war memorial gates and archway for WW2. Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

I grew up in Burwood Crescent during the early days of the 2nd World War and I went to Remuera Primary School.

On the first day, we were all given a bottle of milk, which at the beginning of February had been sitting out in the sun long enough for it to be warm.  We were told to shake it up and then put our finger in the round hole in the cardboard.  I put the hole in the cardboard top and then shook it and of course, the milk ran out all over me and the floor.  Miss Bell was the infant teacher and was not best pleased.  So, after a good telling-off, I had to mop the floor.  A simply terrible way to start school.  We had air raid drill and marched to the trenches in the school playground, in order that we should know exactly what to do in an air raid. We also wore a little bag around our neck and in case of an air raid, there was a rubber in to bite on if we were scared, and a whistle in case it was dark, and we could let people know where we were. All pupils had to have a bracelet or necklace with an identification plate on it with our names.  Our father thought his precious daughters should have something better and ours were made from a silver chain belonging to my grandmother.  Real silver too.

Opening the new Remuera School 1909 NZ Graphic 20 Oct 1909 Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

My mother went to Glovers Store in Remuera, and they had broken biscuits which came out of a tin and sometimes they would give them to us.  The owner of the shop would phone during the week and ask our mother for a list of the groceries which she wanted.  Then a van brought the groceries to us and would bring a full cardboard box which our mother emptied and then he took the box home.

My grandmother was born in Ireland and was a bit fey.  We all had trenches in our gardens.  When my parents wanted to take her to see the trench, she thought that the trench was her grave, and would not even look at it.  My parents put the wheelbarrow by the side steps in order to wheel her there. Eventually after labouring with the said trench, it rained, all the trenches filled up with water and then the Japanese left our shores and we did not have the expected air raids. We also had to practice walking home, on account of the transport not working, so my sister Gay remembers when walking down Victoria Ave., a group of American servicemen passed them by in a jeep, and threw out sweets for them. I do not recall us ever having seen a jeep before.  I expect that they were told to be nice to the locals. The day peace was declared, I was staggered to see some of the boys standing on their desk cheering.   I was so surprised as we treated our desks as if they were antiques. We used to take polish for them and took pride in the shiny surface.  Of course, we were all pleased, but I suppose I did not really realise the significance of this momentous day.  I did receive an excellent education from Remuera Primary School, especially my teacher in the last two years of school, Miss Hollis who was an extremely good bridge player and a brilliant teacher.     We went to school on the tram and one morning when we went to catch it, saw that it had come off the rails and rolled across the road into a field.  Such excitement until my father drove round in his car and took us to school. The driver of the tram was named Jack and he used to bring pompom dahlias for me to give to my teacher.  I shall never forget this lovely man.

Fundraising brochure to buy a park for the children behind the Remuera School. Remuera Primary School 1923

I went to Epsom Girls Grammar School and again, also received an excellent education.  On wet days we had ballroom dancing in the school hall.  My partner was named Judith Bell and she learnt ballet and was an excellent dancer and we both had a good sense of rhythm.  Later in my 20’s I journeyed on the maiden voyage of the SS Southern Cross and we had ballroom dancing 6 nights a week and I was never short of a partner.  Blissful time in my life.

Like many young people at the time, I went to Johnnies Dancing Class in Omahu Road and they taught us excellently.   Sadly, now our children do not know how to ballroom dance.  They do not know what they miss.

Robyn Bridgman