GWENDA BEVERLY PETERSEN THOMAS
2 Nov., 1920-4 Dec., 1994
by GWENDA THOMAS
|Gwenda with Toby Thomas, Colin and Jean Peterson|
I first walked at our Foxton Beach home at eleven months old. At twelve months I had a mouth full of ulcers caused by teeth.
The next thing I remember was the death of my brother Wainscott at six weeks old caused by meningitis. I would then be three or four years old.
I remember going off to school on 3 November, 1925, the day after my 5th birthday, only to be sent home again and told not to return until the beginning of the 1926 school year. I cried all the way home.
I found school fairly easy over the years but I didn't do anything spectacular. I asked Dad, "If I came first in the class would he buy me a cycle. I came 1st in Std. 3 in the first term exams, 2nd in the second term and 3rd in the third term. I got my first cycle in May, 1930. As my elder sister, Valerie could not ride a bicycle, I had to double bank with her until she could, which was six months. So then she double banked me for six months. After that we took it in turns until Val went to High School a year before me and got her own cycle.
Mr. Arthur CARETAKER
Mr. A.J. THompson HEADMASTER
Miss O Donnell 1 and 2
Miss Billens 3
Miss Bland Std 1
Miss Matheson 2
Miss Mc Fadden 3
Mr. Schwartz 4
Mrs. Chapman 5 and 6
Mother on Ladies Committee
Father on School Committee
I started High School in 1934 and was there in 1935 and 1936. I was undecided whether to go back in 1937 when we had a very hot Summer and there was an outbreak of Poliomyelitis and school didn't open in 1937 until 1 March. I started work instead as a shorthand/typist with Mr. Mowlem, a land agent, temporarily until June while waiting for a job at the Palmerston North Hospital Board where I stayed until 1940 and only left in 1944 because I was transferred to the X ray Department temporarily for two weeks and was kept there for two years and eight months. The only thing left was to leave the Hospital as World War 2 was on and I had to be in an essential job, so I looked around for something else. I saw an ad in the paper for the position of a Shorthand\Typist in the Traffic Office of Union Airways so I applied for it and was successful. And so I started on a very enjoyable job. There were 12 pilots and four planes, three Electras carrying 10 passengers, one Lodestar carrying 15 passengers plus a dickie seat for 16th in emergencies. We did the paperwork for this Union Airways which traveled the Main Trunk- Auckland/ Palmerston North/ Wellington/ Christ Church/ Duneden only. We also did the paperwork for Straitair which made several trips a day to Wellington/ Blenheim/ Wellington and Wellington Nelson/ Wellington. Over the years these routes were expanded and in 1946 when the pilots from the Air Force came home the pilot numbers expanded as did the numbers of planes, besides this paperwork. The name changed to National Airways. I helped despatch the planes and do that paperwork, take messages over air, ect. Our hours depended on plane times. Our office was at Nelson Airport where we had to cycle. In about 1947 we opened an office in Broadway in the Hooper Building and went with the taxi to despatch the planes- 7 am onwards and holidays.
My sister, Valerie married John Dorn on 26 June, 1945 and we moved house from 5 Alan Street to 23 Havell Street in October 1945, intending to stay there until Dad could build another house for us. There were restrictions as War had just finished and there was a shortage of material. Dad had made all the necessary window frame ect in his workshop. My Father retired in 1936 at the age of 45, he felt he had worked hard all his life as a farmer and a builder and as the depression was still on retired. Just as a hobby, made window frames, ect. for his brothers who were still building. He also played a lot of golf.
My young sister, Bettyrae, born on 12 December, 1928 became ill in 1940 with rheumatic fever. She was admitted to the hospital on 5 July, 1941 where she was put on the Seriously Ill List for six months. We could see she wouldn't improve in the hospital so Dad signed her out, took her home and employed a sister to look after her. Dad sent her packing after a few months as she was insolent to mum. We then looked after her ourselves, taking it in turn to look after her at night. She didn't improve much, her heart was badly affected. The doctor likened it to a hard boiled egg, it just couldn't be softened again. Dad arraigned for a Specialist to come from Wellington to see her. He prescribed capsules for her to take (they had just come into fashion) but they did no good and she died within a week on 13 December, 1943, the day after her 15th birthday. It was sad, but really a relief to us all after having her so sick for 2 1/2 years.
I met my husband to be on 1 February, 1947, it was love at first sight for me and Toby. We met when I went on holiday to Hokitika with Auntie Ethel and family and stayed with Auntie Doris there. I had met her and family before, she was my Uncle John's sister. Her husband was Toby's Uncle George so in a way, although not related, we were connected. We spent a day at Lake Kaniere where Toby and his brothers had a section on which they intended to build a holiday house. It was Sunday, Toby was called away to give blood and we did not see each other again that time, but we started to correspond, wrote to each other every day. As I worked at the Airways, I was able to put my letters in the despatch bag sometimes where Margaret Penman who worked at the Hokitika Airport was able to take them home as she was a neighbor of the Thomas's. In June that year Toby proposed in a letter, we had got to know each other well and I accepted and Toby came up to Palmerston North that Labor Weekend and bought a ring.
LETTER; 20 Camelot St. Christchurch, NZ, 14 March, 1972.
I am a working girl - am a shorthand typist in the Vocational Guidance Sevice of the Department of Education. Toby is the Assistant Sales Manager of Gough, Gough & Hamer, suppliers of large machinery - bulldozers, etc. We lived in Hokitika on the West Coast for the first 12 years of our married life, but came here to give the children a better education etc. and have come to love Christchurch.