Interview with Miss's Phyllis and Evelyn Cone.
Interviewer: Mary Hutching; Date: 10 January, 1980. Source: Papanui Library

Frederick William Cone Helen Bowie Cone nee WilsonRobert Wilson, father of Helen Cone

Miss Cone and her sister were members of a fairly large Papanui family - there were eight girls in the family. Evelyn was born in 1897 and her sister Phyllis in 1900. The other girls were Leonie, the eldest; the Isabel, Florrie; Evelyn was next; Myrtle; Agnes; Phyllis; and the youngest Frieda. Miss Cone's father came from Kaiapoi and the Mother came from Rangiora. Mr Cone's father* was the first mayor of Kaiapoi and the Cones great-uncle was the first mayor of Christchurch. He was a Mr Wilson and was called "Cabbage-tree Wilson" because he was the first man to wear a cabbage tree hat. He was a heavy drinker and many times was found the worse for wear.
The Cones shifted into their Langdons Rd property in 1911. There property was where Firestone's factory is now**. At the time they shifted in there were very few trees on the property but Mr Cone built up their orchard quite successfully. They had five acres of apples, pears and also a few plum trees. All the girls in the family had to help in the orchard with the pruning and the thinning. They had a few pickers to help them but the majority of the work was done by the girls. Miss Phyllis Cone remembers how she hated working in the orchard and often told her father so. Their father got a diploma from Lincoln College and sometimes went to give lectures out there.
Garden of Eden, painted 1937 by Miss Scott The property had a beautiful plum tree which was situated alongside the house. Every year when it came into blossom, a photo would appear in the Christchurch paper. Passers-by would comment on the tree and how lovely it looked. Unfortunately this tree had to come down when Firestone bought the property. A friend of the family, Mr Bullard, A Commissioner of Crown Property, joked that the orchard was just like the Garden of Eden. Mr Cone decided he liked this description and called the orchard by this name. The girls in the family were terribly embarrassed by this name and by comments that people made about it. Once Phyllis answered the phone and the person asked was Adam at home. When she said "No" then caller asked was Eve there, whereupon she replied that everyone was out and only the servant was at home. The fruit that the orchard produced was good enough to export and some of the apples were exported to America at 1 a case.
Langdons Rd at the time was a dead end road. One of the Sissons used to have an orchard at the other end. The house the Cones lived in used to be owned by a family called Langdon, for whom the road was named. The building the Cones used as a wash-house, used to be the original house. The house was a big two-story house with two staircases inside. The house had no electricity for a long time and when they did get electricity in, only the downstairs had it. The family thought this was very mean of their father, disregarding the cost of electricity, and asked him for an electric light in the bedrooms. As a Christmas present he gave them an electric candle to take upstairs. This was not exactly what the girls had been looking for. In the garden there was a well which brought up artesian water ad this was very popular with all their neighbours as the water was lovely to drink.
The girls went to Papanui School at the time Pat Birke was the headmaster. He was very unpopular with the school. If one child made a mistake, he would then strap the whole class. When he went out of the classroom he would throw a stone at anyone who talked. It was rumoured that his family were scared of him. One day he kept Phyllis and her friend Geraldine Smith in. After a time Mr Birke gave them a choice - either they stayed half an hour longer or had the strap. Gwen chose to have the strap but Miss Cone said that she thought they had been kept in long enough and should be allowed to go home. Surprisingly enough he let them go.
1913c: Standing: Myrtle, Florrie, Isabel, Phyllis; Seated: Leonie, Agnes, Fred, Freda, Helen and Evelyn The Cones had plenty of friends in the district. On Sundays they would bring their friends home for tea and it wasn't unusual to have 15 children sitting at the table. But their mother couldn't understand why they always brought girls home for tea. She was always encouraging them to bring boys but the girls weren't interested. As the girls got older they sometimes used to go for rides on the back of boy's motorbikes. They were usually walked home from Church on Sunday nights by a group of boys and one night they had to follow the night cart all the way up Langdons Road. It wasn't the pleasantest trip they'd had. Sometimes the girls went to pictures in the Papanui Town Hall but Phyllis usually took a rug with her to escape the drafts. When they were younger they used to attend Bible classes at the Presbyterian Church - St Giles. The teacher, Mrs Rogers, would make the class read out loud from the bible. Phyllis Cone remembers Mrs Sybil Davidson being in the class and the way she used to liven it up. When she couldn't pronounce a word she was reading she would just say "wheelbarrow" which infuriated Mrs Rodgers who was very particular. Mrs Cone liked to keep to old traditions so on New Year's Eve she would ask a man to come into the house. To make it work, the man had to be dark or carry a piece of coal to make up for the fact.
During the first World War, there were a great many concerts for the war; there were also many Church socials. Debates were sometimes held - Miss Evelyn Cone often used to take part in these. One topic she remembers was "Should women be allowed to sit in Parliament?" Miss Cone took the affirmative but predictably lost. The Band of Hope used to hold concerts in the Papanui hall. Once on the way to one of these functions, some of their neighbours in a horse and buggy asked them if they wanted a lift and the girls replied "No Thanks" and that they were in a hurry. Horse transport was notoriously slow. The Cone got around the district mainly by walking. A good deal of their time was spent in walking. A friend of theirs had the theory that when you got the "blues" it was good to walk to a cemetery, the idea being that all those dead would make you glad you were alive.
After Mr Cone died, the orchard was run by a manager but this was not a satisfactory arrangement. Miss Evelyn for several years used to travel up to Kaiapoi on the train to housekeep for her grandfather. After that, she started a job at Ingolds drapery. This was supposed to last for a fortnight but she was there for seven years.
The Langdons Road property was sole in 1946 and the sisters moved to Fairfield Avenue.

* Grand father of the Cone sister's father, Fred Cone was George Cone. He was mayor of Rangiora in 1891-1892 - however the first mayor was Henry Blackett 1878-1880.

** The Firestone factory closed in 2009.

Florrie, Evelyn, Myrtle, Phyllis, Agnes, Isabel, Leonie and Freda
Florrie, Evelyn, Myrtle, Phyllis, Agnes, Isabel, Leonie and Freda


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