Janet Wild - A Patea Kid 1914-26

Janet (Grainger) Wild lived in Patea until the age of 9 and recalled life there with relish. Her grandparents owned the town's posh store selling fine imported goods. The Grainger kids were twins Janet & John + twins Derek & Dorothy, with two years between. Janet was ring-leader!

“John and I went to Patea School. Classes lined up each morning outside their classroom. Assembly was held in the yard. We sang “God save the King”. The headmaster announced the names of those who had been good or naughty. He gave the naughty ones the strap. When we were only about 5 years old, my twin John’s name was called and he had to walk across the bleak centre in front of all the children. The headmaster took his strap and you held out your hand for a whack. When John’s turn came, just as the headmaster was about to strap him, I roared across the yard and rushed at his leg. I grasped it with arms and legs and started to bite. Not for long – he bashed me off. Dad had news of this while he was still at work. When he got home, he said “Someone told me that you bit the headmaster.” I said “Yes I did, he was going to hurt Johnny. But he had his pants on”. The next day Dad made me go and apologise, but I think he was proud of me.”

The story went far and wide, because the Gibson family was well-known.
“The timber yard was across the road from our house. They stacked the timber in a log cabin square pattern, so that it would dry out. There was a hole down the middle of the stack. We climbed down into it – very dangerous, we could have dropped about 10 feet. We got into the hole and were stuck. We took turns at calling out for help. Eventually when the owner heard us, he was so cross that he left us there for another long time to teach us a lesson. I was the leader, getting us all into trouble.”

The back fence was shared with the house behind that faced on to a back alley. Their loo was at the end of the garden, with the door facing our house. There was an old man who used to sit in there for hours reading the newspaper, with the morning sun shining in on him.

Patea had a concrete water tower that rose high above the town, with a mushroom top. There was a ladder up the side and a path round the rim. As a small child of maybe 5 years, I climbed up the ladder to the rim. I didn’t feel at all frightened, but after some time the alert went out and a large crowd gathered below, looking up at me. My parents were very angry and gave me jobs to do at home for a while after.

I suppose the worst thing I ever did was when I was riding a horse. My friend had a horse too, she came from a farm. We rode along the beach on our horses. I rode the horse into the river, hit it with a stick and made it swim right across the river. The river was very dangerous and we nearly got swept out to sea. The horse had trouble getting up the bank on the far side and only just made it.

The Gibson family had a hut on Mount Egmont. We loved going up there. In the hut we used all the Royal Doulton seconds and chipped china. The road up to the hut was narrow, only one way. At the bottom was a little hut where you paid half a crown (2/6). The man used to salute us kids. He had a great joke, playing with the half crown piece, pretending to hide it in his mouth or ear and asking us to hunt for it. We couldn’t find it, then he’ld magic it into his hand.”

Back to stories