I was born Mary Isobel Cone in Ashburton on 27th October 1918 and was one of eight children. I married at the age of 21 to Arthur Houghton on the 24th August 1940 at the Methodist Church in Ashburton.
Getting married in the depression, life was not easy and we worked in fish shops until the family started to arrive. We then looked for work as a married couple on different farms like sheep stations and town supply. You only got paid once a month so I had to budget extremely well, going to town twice a month when the children needed clothing - what an outing. Food was bought for weeks at a time. We always had a milking cow, and had sheep to kill for meat, hens for poultry and this was a huge help for the food staples. The children came along pretty quickly and after having five boys, I am not quite sure where the years went, came our first daughter. All the boys had whooping cough and then the first daughter only three months old also got this disease - what a bad and very anxious time for us all. At this time we were living and working at the Flax Mills in Methven, the housing was very primitive. After approximately twelve months, the factory was burnt to the ground. Once again we had to find employment and at this stage we had six children, oh what to do. We made a move to Hinds to the Public Works Camp and the housing was very poor, only being of a hut standard. With the support of my dad and family, time went by and my seventh child was born - another daughter. One day we meet a gentleman called Jack Petrie, an evangelist, who helped us greatly and told us of a home belonging to a Mr Harry Banks. This house was at Coutts Island in Christchurch, and the welcome we received was wonderful. We moved into a lovely big house and set out to make this our home. The children had a great area to play in and we once again we were able to have our cow, hens and grow plenty of vegetables.
By this time number eight arrived which was a lovely daughter of eleven pounds and now having eight children I was really kept very busy, my sister Leah came to Christchurch to work and with her frequent help assisted me in keeping my sanity, what a time.
The family spent many an hour fishing and catching whitebait in the Waimak and to my delight! the boys often bought home eels which ended up being cooked for the hens, and what a smell.
Our next move was to a dairy farm in Tai Tapu - once again, this was a lovely large house and after a small period of time to my delight, another daughter was born. She was named by the children from a song called "Wake up a little Suzie" so this is how she got her name. I was very ill after she was born and once again I was grateful for the help of family at this time as some of the children had to go and be looked after by my sisters.
In this move to Tai Tapu I had been given my first washing machine, oh how wonderful with all the children and the men working out doors - this was a huge help.
On this farm we milked every day for town supply and had approx two hundred cows to milk morning and night. Life here was pretty good, we enjoyed many things one being the schooling with the school bus at the farm gate. The two eldest boys worked outside of the farm but there was plenty of work for the rest of the family and with the help of the owner. One aspect of this farm the children were old enough to have pets. These were often taken to the country school fair which was a lovely time for them. Then came a tragedy, Arthur got blood poisoning through working with the cows and we had to make a huge decision where to go and what to do having such a large family. After talking to a close friend of many years, he advised us to look into capitalising on the family benefit for a deposit on a new home. We did this and with the help of my dear sisters and family, split the children up and spent about six months waiting for the house to be finished. We found it hard to be parted for such a long period of time. We found there were two homes being built in Sockburn, and we were lucky enough to get one of these. Meanwhile, Arthur looked for work and got a job at Wigram very near Sockburn, making concrete posts. Finally we got the keys to number 13 Buchanans Road- Sockburn, and the deposit was nine hundred and ninety nine pounds, and on the 2nd December 1959, we moved in our first new home. It was built in red brick and it was not long before we had it landscaped and looking very pretty. Although we had finally got our home, it was very hard to meet the payments for the house, which then led me to find work. My next step was to ring the Christchurch Hospital enquiring if there was any work cleaning. To my surprise, they asked me when could I start. At first I worked only on the weekends and they would send a taxi for me in the morning because of the early start. Later they offered me work Monday to Friday from 7am to 2-30 pm which worked out very well. By this time the children were at school or working, and the hours were a godsend and I continued there for about twelve years.
At this time Leah had obtained work at the Bush Inn Hotel not far from us in a catering position and without fail, on her two hours off in the afternoon she would ride her bike to our place and bring with her the afternoon tea, usually a boston bun and meat for the cats.
Meanwhile we built a room in the back of the garage so the boys decided they would like to come back home to live; good cooking and to be well-cared for was too good a temptation to turn down after they had been flatting. The boys got married in a few years of one another and then the grandchildren arrived, so life became very hectic indeed.
Arthur became ill with cancer and was in and out of hospital for about three years. He was not the best patient as he had always kept pretty good health, some say because of the good life and hard work. He died on January 28th 1985 and from there I decided to make a new start and this was to be in Woodend. With the help of family I bought a small cottage from a farm and put it on a section, I then went about making my beautiful garden which looking back was a very big job. As the vegetable garden was very big, I helped family and neighbours with vegetables. By now I am seventy years old.
. I sold this property and bought a home in Christchurch to help out my youngest daughter and her family, and this was to house them and myself but the cost was too great and a decision was made to try and get alternative housing for them and myself. I obtained a council flat and till this day I live in my little unit No 13, which was the same number as our first family home which we owned, so it is quite nice to think I am back to number 13.
Life here is very busy and my children often say that they need to make an appointment a week ahead to get to see me. We have great fun with all the outings and with little cost, good friendships are formed as we are of the same age group and have lots of tales of our years gone bye, which is a great source of laughter. At the age of 82, I love the independence here and as long as my health remains good, I will stay as long as possible, I will now conclude with saying these are a few memories on a life's long journey with its ups and downs, and as a Christian I believe I have been blessed in many ways.
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