Bride Flight - by Jack van den Hoven
The film Bride Flight took me back to 1954 as my bride-to-be arrived from Holland on a similar flight. I arrived in Tauranga in 1954 and started work at Reid’s Bacon Factory in Otumoetai as a butcher. I had left my girlfriend behind in Holland and the plan was for her to follow me as soon as I had saved up the fare. As I had arrived with £10 in my pocket I was determined to save like mad. I was lucky to have a good boss, Bill Reid, and my mates at work were friendly and helpful.
Tauranga was a sleepy hollow; life was simple and the climate lovely. I wrote to my girlfriend, “I have found paradise and will never go back.”
Four months after my arrival, good news from Holland. All I had to do was transfer £85 to the emigration service in Holland and my girlfriend could fly to New Zealand. As I was not sure how to go about it I asked my boss for advice.
“I see”, Bill said. “You want to borrow some money. No problem.”
I pointed out that I had saved up the money, but did not know how to transfer it, so with help of my boss the transaction took place.
Finally, the big day arrived. A friend took me to Auckland by car and we waited for the plane. About sixty young Dutchmen were eagerly watching as sixty passengers, mostly girlfriends, fiancées and wives, came down the gangway. Hugs, kisses and tears: it was a very emotional reunion, never to be forgotten.
Back in Tauranga, Nell, my wife-to-be, was fortunate to move in with a nice Dutch couple who made her feel at home. At work there had been lots of speculation about this Dutch girlfriend of mine and now she was proudly introduced. I think they were impressed.
My boss took me aside and said, “She is very pretty.”
Whereupon I replied, “You don’t think I would pay £85 for an ugly one.”
Not long after our happy reunion my boss asked what our plans were. Did we plan to get married and where would we live.
“Well,” I said, “I suppose we will rent something.”
“Rent,” Bill said, “is money down the drain. You should build or buy.”
“And what will I do for money?” I asked.
“You come and see me,” was the reply, “I have a quarter-acre section you can have and pay me later. You apply for a State Advances Loan and instead of paying rent you pay me back and, of course, payments on the loan.”
We could not believe it, but we did our sums and Bill was right.
Nell had found work as a domestic help for different families. We soon learnt there was no class distinction here; she was treated like a daughter, like one of the family.
We decided to get married as we had found a bach we could rent cheaply till the house was ready. The wedding had to be arranged on a shoestring budget. It was three months after Nell’s arrival and we had made quite a few friends. We had a lovely wedding, a simple ceremony followed by coffee and cake at a friend’s place. We had a good time with 40 people, and the cost was one week’s wages. That marriage lasted close to 50 years till death did us part.
After the wedding we moved into the bach, which was no bigger than a single garage with a long-drop toilet outside, happy as Larry. We were both working and the builders were starting to build our house.
We were on top of the world for about three months, then disaster! Nell got sick. Tests showed one kidney was not working, she had to have an operation and they removed it. Weeks later she was allowed to go home but she was far from mobile and our primitive accommodation was not conducive to a speedy recovery.
A few days after Nell’s release from hospital a big American car stopped by. One of the ladies Nell worked for came to see her. She was very concerned to see Nell left alone all day, but as Nell explained one of us had to go to work. This kind lady made up her mind; Nell was to come home with her and would be looked after till the house was ready. She was treated like a daughter. What wonderful people.
Then in September we moved into our brand-new house, a simple two-bedroom place. To us it was a palace. In Holland, Nell’s family of two parents and eight children lived over the shop. Ten people, one cold tap, no bathroom, while I was one of thirteen plus my parents, also living above the shop. And here we moved into a brand new bungalow with hot and cold water in the kitchen and the washhouse, plus bathroom and shower. Utter luxury.
It took quite a while for Nell to recover. We now had a mortgage and owed my boss £400 and we were on a single income. The answer was simple. Income £12, mortgage plus rates £4, repayment to boss £4 – and £4 left for groceries. We did that for two years till my boss was repaid.
By that time our first child had arrived. Our furniture was second-hand: a bed, two chairs and a table. Soon I started woodwork night classes at the Boys’ College. I made a bookcase, coffee table, desk and, when the baby arrived, a commode. It cost next to nothing as we only paid for a few bits of pine.
Gradually things improved. After two years at the bacon factory I started a delicatessen shop in town which ran for fifteen years. We had five healthy children, and this year I will be eighty, still living in the same house we built 55 years ago.
Tauranga has been good to us.Date of Event1954