Jessie HALLAM (5)
13 January 1908 Palmerston North, New Zealand
Wood Road Primary School, Paeroa, New Zealand
Auckland Girls Grammar, Auckland, New Zealand
Before 1931 Ledger Keeper at Milne and Choice, Queen Street, Auckland, New Zealand
30 June 1931 at St Barnabas Church, Mt Eden, Auckland, New Zealand
and another child
2 July 1997 Tauranga, New Zealand
The notes below were contributed by Pat WOOD nee THOMAS
Jessie Hallam was born in Palmerston North. Her father was a surveyor designing Roads. Her mother was a music teacher.
At 4 years of age, Jessie’s family moved to Paeroa, where the family had quite a large home almost opposite the railway station in Taylors Road where there were a lot of large old homesteads in 1912. Jessie started school there at Wood Street where some of her grandchildren later went to school. The family attended the Methodist church in Paeroa and Jessie’s mother took the choir. A few years later the family moved to Auckland where Jessie completed her education at Auckland Girls’s Grammar school.
Jessie was the eldest of four children. She had a brother Claud, another brother Geoff and a young sister Connie. There was a span of eight years between the eldest and youngest as they all grew up in Auckland and Jessie felt proud that she had gone to school at Auckland Girl’s Grammar where she played hockey.
When Jessie was 16 the family was stricken by the sudden death of her father Herbert who died of double pneumonia. Gertie found work as a piano and singing teacher but times were tough. Jessie went out to work. She was fortunate to gain an office job at Milne and Choyce in Queen Street Auckland. This was one of New Zealand’s leading department stores. Jessie was one of four book-keepers, each with their own typist. She had responsibility for Ledger names from H – N. There were about 2000 names on the books at the time, and most customers at the store had a monthly account to which they charged up their purchases.
Jessie was apparently up some nights worrying if she could not balance the books by the end of the day!
Jack and Jessie first met when Jessie was only 12 years old. Jack’s mother who lived in Taranaki, invited Jessie’s mother to take the children by train from Auckland to New Plymouth. The two mothers were sisters who, had been verry close friends and singers – both music teachers. Jessie remembered Jack at that time as ‘just a boy!’
When Jack was in his late teens, he took his mother (by car which was really impressive in those days!) to visit Aunty Agnes. Jessie was by then 18 and the weather was bad. Jack had to bravely drive through fords on his way. Jessie was impressed. Her father had died by this time and a romance started with Jessie. They corrsponded for a number of years and desired to get married but because they were first cousins a marriage was ilegal. It was for this reason that Jack sent his letters to Jessie at her office. They obviously felt that things weren’t OK being cousins. Eventually realizing the romance was serious, Jessie’s mother confided to jack that there had been an illegitimate birth in the family and they were only in fact half cousins. It was never explained as to how or who was illegitimate, and remains to this day a secret.
Jack walked Jessie up Mt Eden one evening, and placed an engagement ring on her finger (which she later sold to make ends meet during the depression). The marriage however, was delayed for a year because they were both earning good money, and it was decided to give Jessie another year at her job in order to have enough finance to set up home. Altogether they corresponded for five and a half years!
Jack and Jessie’s first home was in a dairy factory house close to Jack’s employment in Okato. Having both saved a bit they were able to buy some brand new furniture which included an Oak bedroom suite, a lounge suite, and a treasured tea wagon. Jack’s father later invited him and Jessie to help on his farm at Hurford Road as it needed much work breaking it in from rugged gorse and blacberry country. While working on the farm they lived in a small house next door to Jack’s parents Joe and Lena. their first two children were born while they lived in this house. Hurford Road in Omata was considered real back blocks in those days, though ony eight miles from New Plymouth, it was a very narrow, metal, no exit road. All the neighbours knew each other and worked well together. The town of Omata consisted of a three roomed school, a hall, church, butcher and a general store. Mt Taranaki was visible from the house. The front paddock of the house had a mountain stream running throug it and Jack dammed part of the creek so that the children had a swimming hole.
In 1935 Jack’s mother died suddenly. Jack was only 29 years old. His father Joe went away not able to deal with the loss. Jessie at this time received a surprise inheritance from an Aunt (Emily Hallam) who she had never met. As Jack’s father never returned, the money helped to do up the big house so Jack and Jessie took over the farm that had many debts. They remained there during depression years and Jack grew a large vegetable garden during wartime when food was rationed and also had a few fruit trees. He worked hard on the farm through the years of the Second World War and accompanying depression. He improved the farm considerably, and became the first in the district to make concrete fence posts on which he engraved his initials and date. These fence posts were still there in 2000. Jack worked with horse and sledge to feed out, raised pigs fed on separated milk. He also raised ducks in a pond near the coow shed. the front paddock was the first to be cleared and neatly fenced. There was a long bush track entrance into the farm property which his fatehr Joe had enhanced with rhododendrons, laurels, honeysuckles and various plants of interest.
During the depression years there was busy farm work and like all New Zealand mothers, Jessie stood in long queues with ration tickets to purchase her sugar, butter, and other rationed food during the war. Once a week she joined other ladies in the district at the local hall, and wrapped parcels of gifts for the soldiers who were overseas. It was a friendly neighbourhood and there were weekly dances that included the children and card playing evenings which all helped cope with the hard times of the war.
In 1946 Jack and Jessie bought a farm at Ngatea. Jessie became an active member of St Paul’s Anglican church which became an important part of her life. She also joined the Women’s division of Federated Farmers which she enjoyed for many years, and at one time was President. She and Jack also became keen and active members of the National party and usually were scrutineers on election day. She took a keen interest in the local Garden Circle, and grew a very commendable garden around which she enjoyed giving her guests a tour. She regularly won best bloom at the garden meetings and annual competitions, particularly enjoying her roses.
Jessie was a good cook, though worried as to what to cook. She made beautiful sponges which were her own favourite. She filled them with a layer of Jelly as well as cream, which was done in those days and is now a lost art. Her early practice at this was in Taranaki using duck eggs.
Jack and Jessie’s son Bryan had been in boarding school and when he returned to the new farm at Ngatea he encouraged Jack to raise pedigree animals which were given the name ‘Crescent Jerseys.’ The farm is now owned by Jack’s great grandson who still raises ‘Crescent Jerseys.’
Family holidays did not exist throughout the years of raising their family but Jack and Jessie sometimes had a short while away by themselves in winter leaving Jessie’s mother with the children.
Running a farm is hard work but there was family time as well and Jack encouraged the family to play cards with him in the evenings. He also enjoyed a game of chess or a race at the crossword puzzle.
When son Bryan had to leave the farm due to ill health Jack built a worker’s cottage and hired a dutch immigrant by th name of Jon Van Noodt.
When Jack and Jessie sold the farm to Daughter Marie and her husband Gray Townsend in 1959 it was a Crescent Jersey Stud. They retired to Willoughby Street, Paeroa, New Zealand. By this time Jack was heavily involved with Education Board responsibilities, and Jessie spent many small periods (2-3 days) alone while Jack was in Wellington with the Minister of Education or on some other education responsibiliyt. She handled this quite well, and thrived on the end of year prize-givings when day after day Jack spoke at schools, presented the prizes, and Jessie sat on the platform with a new bouquet each day. These were real honorary years for them both, and a far cry from their early beginnings in Taranaki.
Jack enjoyed fishing so they moved to Whitianga where Jack built his own retirement cottage. they liked the small community where everybody knew everybody and all pulled together. Jessie maintained her garden and church interests and joined various craft groups, as was necessary in Whitianga in order to build friendship. She tried basket-making, did knitting, made beads, and a variety of handwork and crochet. They both also enjoyed games of cards, mainly 500, which they had always played, and together formed quite an imposing team.
However in 1972 after a few years the isolation accompanied by a few very bad storms saw them move to Tauranga where there were more attractions. Their last home was 161B Lever’s Road, Matua.
During the mid eighties it became apparent that Jack had terminal cancer. Jessie did not come to grips easily with the fact that he ws going to die before her however she battled through his death with some counselling and on 27 Feb 1986 Jack died in their lounge at 3am while Jessie had fallen asleep beside his bed with her head resting on his hand. They had a fond marriage of 55 years and had a peaceful home.
After Jack’s death Jessie coped better than her family expected. She battled bravely, took up typing, and even undertook a Writer’s course. But her loneliness never waned. She had a small stroke, and six months later a major stroke that brought her the need for rest home care. She was admitted to Aspen Retirement Home run by the Salvation Army and was given exceptional care and counselling there for the next five and half years. Very gradually over that period she lost the use of her legs and became wheel-chair bound. She was not able to do her previous crafts, but enjoyed reading romantic novels and lived for her visitors, always procaliming ‘that she had not lost her marbles!” Marie visited her most faithfully and regularly throughout this time, though Bryan died suddenly of a heart attack in January 1993. Jessie handled her son’s death with amazing strength, though she talked little about it. She liked going to visit Pat at her home close by.
Transcribed by a Eulogy given by Mark TOWNSHEND at Jessie’s funeral
Family, friends, acquaintences of Jessie Thomas. It’s my privilege to say a few ords on behalf of the grandchildren.
What made Grandma Grandma?
Grandma was a loving grandmother and enjoyed the company of her grandchildren. Some of the fondest memories of my life were my teenage holiday years at Whitianga when they lived there. And as recently Sunday 12 days ago both Gary and Barbara and Dianne and I visited Grandma at Tauranga. She was in good spirits and very pleased to see us.
Grandma was in many ways an unpractical person and I can remember her in her elderly 60s trying to learn to drive a car. she never managed it. It was just one of those things she couldn’t cope with.
We wondered when Grampy died, how she would cope but she coped and she coped well.
Grandma was concerned for her grandchildren and very rearely when I visited her over the last 10 years did I not get a lecture on religion. She was genuinely concerned for my sake not for hers that my spiritual faith was not as strong as hers.
Grandma was always going to die and when our eldest daughter Michelle was born September, Grandma knitted some slothes for a doll and gave those chothes and the doll to Marie because Grandma wasn’t going to make it to christmas time. That was 24 years ago.
Grandma was supportive to her grandchildren and Dianne and I got married very young and I still clearly remember and appreciate the support from Grandma.
Grandma was in some ways naieve and on the second to lst visit to Grandma this year we were talking about of all things – sex and she told me that when her and Grampy were courting she was afraid of kissing Grampy for fear of getting pregnant.
Grandma enjoyed the odd smutty joke and Grandma was proud and in later years in the rest home where many of the residents were restricted in some ways physically or mentally Grandma was very proud of the fact and always reminded us that “I Still have my marbles’s”.
Grandma like all of us was sometimes a little bit naughty and Mum or Aunty Pat would sometimes visit Grandma and she was maybe a little demanding, maybe a little grumpy, maybe a little bit unreasonable and if any of her grandchildren were there she would turn off like a tap. It was perfect.
But Grandman was always there and all of the granchildren stayed with her at various times – maybe a day and on one occasion up to two months. But those weere some of th things that make Grandma, Grandma.
So I’m sorry Grandma’s gone and the memories are fond but I wouldn’t wish her back because life’s never been quite the same since Grampy died and since she hasn’t been able to live in her own home.
I too would like to acknowledge the care she’s been given at Aspen home and I think all of our family appreciate that but I consider myself very lucky to be brought up in a time when medical advancements meant that I reached adulthood and had supportive parents but also two sets of supportive Grandparents and it was nice to have two sets of Grandparents who were always interested in your family, in your education and your career and your business. Those two sets of Grandparents were very good friends and shared the same values. And I think the challenge for our children and their grandchildren to carry on those values that our grandparents had – honesty, integrity, respect, manners, sportsmanship.
So on closing I would like to acknowledge not only Grandma but Jack and Jessie Thomas, Charles and Margaret Townsend, Harold and Rose Wood because they were such good friends who enjoyed the same values.
It was Grandma’s wish that her ashes be put under the oak tree outside our house by Grampy and we’ll do that.