Housing For Ten Pound Poms

The transition from one boat to another followed by a long train ride to a short bus trip doesn’t appear to have left me with any lasting memories. I can only assume that as my parents and sister were close by I had nothing to worry about! It’s only as an adult I realise that an unknown destination that was referred to as a “Transit Camp” was anything but encouraging.

A poster printed in earyl 1950's encouraging min and women to come to New Zealand where good jobs, good pay and good living wait.
The Power Of Advertising

Ten Pound Poms In Parliament

In 1953 “The Old Chinese Gardens” were acquired and building began without a hitch. Both the council and the locals all saw the project as a positive one for the small town. Who would have thought that a parliamentary debate would soon centre on 34 houses. Transcripts from that time raised the issue of housing standards and polite accusations moved from one side of the house to the other (nothing changes)!

Copy of text from a parliamentary debate (1953) on the suitability of the housing being provided for the Ten Pound Poms.
Housing For Ten Pound Poms

Recently I was in contact via Facebook with some Milton locals who remember the camp getting built. They too thought the houses may have been a bit basic but hadn’t realised that a bathroom, laundry and inside toilet was a step up from where we had come from!

A photograph of a small child in an old tin bath. Child holding soap.
Never Al Fresco!

My bathing ritual was weekly (at best) and consisted of a tin bath that was regularly topped up by my mother or sister. Adults however, had to walk to the local public baths and what happened there I haven’t the faintest idea! I never asked my sister what it was like, how much it cost or how often she went. Perhaps you have had “public baths” in your history and could leave the answers to these questions in the comments below!

The Town Welcomes Ten Pound Poms

In the weeks before the 34 families arrived the homes were completed. The buildings had coal ranges, hot and cold running water and so much more. Everything you could think of was provided. From an outside “rotary” clothes line (very modern) to cutlery, dishes, curtains, blankets and pillow. I can still remember the smell of everything. It would have been the first time I experienced the smell of “new”!

The Lady Mayoress was personally responsible for arranging the “Hostesses” for each family. The tables were laden with food and the cupboards held staples and food for breakfast the next morning. My mother had not long left rationing behind and the sight of butter and cream on the table created a lasting memory. In the middle of the table was a vase of flowers. There was no doubt in any ones mind that we were truly welcome.

After a 6 hour journey we arrived at the railway station and were bused the short distance to the camp. Subsequent Ten Pound Poms were let off closer to the camp at a crossing and avoided the extra bus trip. I don’t know why, but their bags still had to be taken of at the railway station and bused to the camp! I guess they didn’t want the train parked across the road any longer than necessary!

A local resident, Moira Hastie, recalls her memories of the arrival of the first Ten Pound Poms.

” It was great excitement the first night the people arrived. Nearly every child and adult from the surrounding area was out to watch. (This was a big thing for Milton)”

The first morning the “hostesses” were back with reinforcements and we walked into town where we were introduced to the butcher, grocer, chemist and local Doctor.

The local newspaper (the Bruce Herald) Reported that:

“The first impression of the new arrivals varied considerably. Local residents were impressed, not only by the fine type of immigrant, but also by the sturdy physique of the children who were showing the affects of the long train trip”

 Photograph by Jock Phillips showing the bill board for the Alliance Mills and a winding machine.
http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/photograph/22780/miltons-mill (accessed 13 May 2019)
Photograph: Jock Phillips

One of the stipulations of being a Ten Pound Pom was that of employment. My father was an electrician and worked at the local power company and my mother got a job at the local Alliance Textile Mill. Many of the other men were carpenters, plasterers, builders etc. Rates of pay were higher in New Zealand and many adults reported that there was less antagonism between “boss and worker

Children of Ten Pound Poms

I have always understood that children are very adaptable to changes in lifestyle and environment providing their basic needs are being met. My family carried on their lives as usual. Going to work, cooking meals and washing clothes were the unchanged routines I observed. My life on the other hand was one of uncomplicated freedom. My school encouraged children to sit outside for reading. At playtime we were allowed to take off our shoes with boys and girls sharing the same playground.

A Child of a Ten Pound Pom standing with a group of four other children.
Child Of A Ten Pound Pom

Back in the “camp” our new house was surrounded by tall grass and no fences or gates separated us from our neighbours. My world was so far removed from my previous life that it was as if I had become a female version of Robinson Crusoe. I roamed the grasses looking for wild animals and convinced someone to craft me a wooden dagger in case I met any! One of the only photos I have of the camp shows me with dagger in hand ready for any eventualities. Unfortunately, there was a time limit on this idyll and two years later we moved out of the camp to a new town where new adventures waited but never surpassed those of the Milton Transit Camp.

If you are the child of a Ten Pound Pom then I hope this post has stirred some memories from your early days”.

2 thoughts on “Housing For Ten Pound Poms

Add yours

    1. Thanks Alan. I have to thank my parents for taking such a big step! It’s only when I had children of my own that I realised just how big it was!

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