The way things were in the 1930s

Recalled by Margaret Howard (nee Gilchrist).

Our houses had coal ranges in the kitchen, fires under the copper in wash house, fire places in all other rooms including bedrooms – I remember that my mother would, on a freezing cold morning, bring a shovel full of hot coals through to the bedroom for a fire for us to get dressed by. No other heating methods.

All roads were unsealed till the advent of buses, etc, and there was a horse water trough just below Highgate on Taieri Road. The widening of Taieri Road was in 1959.

The Coal Range – King of the Kitchen. Today we need a variety of electrical appliances to take their place.   They heated the room, heated the water, boiled the kettle, and had room for a lot more pots and pans on their top than todays electric or gas stoves.   The oven was always hot and ready for baking or roasting, or, even for just sitting in front of to warm cold hands and feet when coming in from the cold.   They made the toast, heated the irons for ironing the clothes, burned rubbish and even heated ‘the brick’ used as a hot water bottle after being wrapped up safely… and aired the clothes.   The coal man delivered the coal in bags to a bin at the back of the house.

The Ash Man/Dust Man
He called once a week with his horse and cart. He collected ashes only – there was no other rubbish collected, everything else was either composted, buried or burned. Plastic had not yet been invented. Goods were purchased in bulk mostly – in hessian sacks, cloth sacks and bags.

There was very little packaging like today to get rid of – flour, oatmeal, sugar, salt and other dry goods came in sacks or bags. Sacks were used for aprons, oven cloths, peg bags & shelter like todays shade and shelter cloths. The white cloth bags used for pillow cases, handkerchiefs & children skirt bodices, etc, etc, lining for boys’ shorts. Re fires in other rooms, I remember that my mother would on a freezing cold morning bring a shovel full of hot coals through to the bedroom for a fire for us to get dressed by. I also note that there was a race for the horse manure.

In his horse and cart the milkman delivered milk to our billies at the back door! He carried the milk in a small milk can – ladled out the required amount, lovely creamy milk. No milk bottles in those days – no waste.

The postie delivered letters to the gate, parcels to the door. The letter was dropped in the box and the postie blew his whistle to let the householder know. Most housewives were at home. There was a dog across the road from us – he objected to the whistle and barked loudly – so we got a double warning.

Hunt Club
On some Saturdays we had the excitement of men in red jackets on horseback with a pack of hounds riding up Taieri Road for their days activity in the country.

Cable Cars
These ran from 7am weekdays but we had to be up and down to the Public Baths in Lower Moray Place at 6am for swimming training. We were able to ride home.
On Saturday morning we and lots of other children would walk down to Hudsons factory in Castle Street with our pillowcases and sixpence or 1 shilling to purchase ‘broken biscuits‘. A real kindness of Hudsons. We walked back up the hill nibbling the tastiest bits from the bag.
On Sundays the trams didn’t start till Noon. When I was nursing I used to walk up the hill to Bible Class and Church.

Walks up Frasers Gully collecting Ergot off of Cocksfoot grass. It was sold as it was in short supply because of the war. [For information on Ergot visit ]. A most necessary medication in Obstetrics among other things.

Rose Hips
A lot of people collected these from the wild briar roses growing at the countryside. This was a high source of vitamin C – made into Rose Hip Syrup for babies – another wartime need.

Margaret Howard

(Original Article by Allan Gilchrist)


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