It was good to be back in the peaceful countryside. It seemed so sane after the jittery city. My husband’s cousin Eunice and I had just settled into a good routine and prided ourselves on the shelves of bottled fruit in the pantry, made with our precious sugar ration, when the Wairarapa earthquake of 1942 struck at about 11.15 p.m. one night. Eunice and I yanked the babies out of their cots and spent the night huddled in the front hall, which seemed the safest place, hoping there weren’t cracks opening up around the house into which we might topple.
Next morning when light came, we found bricks all over the floors which had fallen down inside the chimneys, and our precious bottled fruit was in a pile of splintered glass. Our landlord arrived to see if we were all right. With true pioneering forethought he got clay from the water race, to attach the metal flue of the kitchen chimney on to what was left of the brick stump so we could cook.
This was fortunate, for with no power on for a week, Uncle Jack and the neighbouring farmers were struggling to keep their herds milked, and we at least could feed the men. Troops from the nearby training camp were sent round to make things safe by pulling down damaged chimneys, and military rule was set up to stop looting in the nearby towns.
The aftershocks went on for weeks, and in the end Eunice could stand no more. She went home to Seatoun saying she would rather face the Japanese than one more quake.
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