Back to where it began

House of memories . . . Lorraine Wright spends her 101st birthday with family at her former home in Wendonside. PHOTO: MICHAEL CURREEN

To celebrate her 101st birthday, Lorraine Wright (nee Cameron) went back to where it all began.

Now a resident at Resthaven Village in Gore, she and 12 family members made a trip last Wednesday to the Wendonside farm where she spent most of her life.

It is now owned by her son, Lindsay, four generations on from when her grandfather first established the farm.

“Nearly all my memories would be here,” Mrs Wright said.

“I like being back down here. It’s nice, steady sort of healthy living.”

Apart from a brief stint in Timaru, Wendonside is where she went to school and spent her childhood.

“We had a good crowd of country kids, [and we were] friends with them all.”

She remembered having a “fancy petticoat” and showing it off to the other children.

“It had lace around the edge. You’d put this plain dress over a fancy petticoat and I had to turn up the hem so the little boy that was sitting in the seat opposite on the bus could tell that I had a really fancy petticoat.”

She used to play with a doll named Frank, which was now in the Waikaia museum covered in scratches, she said.

Those scratches were her own doing, Mrs Wright said.

“I ran around the house and I said ‘say hello to me now!’ He didn’t speak, so I put another mark on his face.”

One of her worst memories was of her and her sister, Ruth, getting told off by their father.

“Dad wouldn’t let Ruth or me milk the cows when we went back to the farm to live. Not women’s work carrying heavy buckets of milk.

“Ruth and I went out and milked them one night when the men were harvesting late and Dad growled at us when he came in and said ‘don’t you ever do that again!’

“I hated Dad growling [at] me.”

She attended Gore High School and boarded at the school hostel.

“Sometimes I was good; sometimes I was bad.

“I used to sit up late and read books while everybody else went to bed and [the song] Yellow Bird was on one night and I just sort of always remember it.”

It was at high school she met her future husband, Jim.

The two got married at the end of 1943 and eventually returned to Wendonside and took over the farm, raising six children there.

“We’ve had an easy family really. The kids have been really good.

“We had a peaceful household. We didn’t have arguments at the table. We just lived.”

While her husband ran the farm, she took care of the household.

“It wasn’t anything special – just what everybody does.

“You never thought about it – you just did it. I did enjoy it.”

She remembered hosting “big crowds around the table” when shearers came to the farm to work.

Her son Lindsay eventually took over the farm in 1986.

He was glad to be able to host his mum’s 101st birthday there, Mr Wright said.

“This is just home for her.

“She’s still herself … her character, her sense of humour.”

Some relatives who were overseas and could not make it to the celebration video-called instead.

“Family is very important to her,” Mr Wright said.