Interview with Miss's Phyllis and Evelyn Cone.
Interviewer: Mary Hutching; Date: 10 January, 1980.
Source: Papanui Library
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Myrtle, Phyllis, Agnes, Isabel, Leonie and Freda
Website address -