Community Contributed

Phyllis Sewell

Kete Horowhenua2019-10-21T01:12:16+00:00
Her earliest memories are of living in a small square house (one of two) on the Whirokino Road – known to the family as “the little house”.
Date of birth1901
Phyllis, youngest daughter of James Nash Symons and Mary Cook was interviewed in Rotorua in May 1989 before she left to live in Italy with her daughter and son-in-law. She is a sprightly 88 year old, seeming to be at least 30 years younger.

Her earliest memories are of living in a small square house (one of two) on the Whirokino Road – known to the family as “the little house”. Later her father built a house in Harbour Street and she believes “the Shipping Co house” occupied by Hughie Hughes for many years to be that house. Later they moved to the two storied house built for Mrs. Whyte, also in Harbour Street. In those days Harbour Street was a prime situation overlooking all the activity of the wharf and railway.

One of her joys was to ride with her father on their horses to the “Herston” flax mill at the site of the present Whirokino Bridge. There the Chinese cook at the mill, Wong Lee, gave her condensed milk, a treat she did not get at home. Her father would ask her to round up sheep on her horse while he was busy at the mill and she would feel so important. She now realises that he could have done it much quicker with his dogs.

She did not go to school in Foxton but remembers playing with Dr. Mandl’s son Maurice and Mona Gray from the Post Office Hotel.

Phyllis had three sisters, Ava, Elsie and Phoebe. The only boy in the family had died very young. The family enjoyed the river and were often taken rowing especially in the evenings and Ava would play her violin. Ava first had violin lessons from Mr. Mullins who came by train once a week from Palmerston North. He stayed overnight, returning by train the next day. There was great consternation when he did not arrive one week and it was later learnt that he had committed suicide. Ava later went to Miss Swainson’s school in Wellington (now Marsden) and had her violin lessons from Max Hope. Ava went on to be a violinist of international repute. Her mother had also been to school in Wellington and father, James, attended Wellington College.

When Phyllis was eight years old the family moved to Hawke’s Bay where they took up farming.

In due course Phyllis married. Her husband was a surveyor and they spent twenty years in Malaya. During their leave periods they travelled the world. She remembers visiting a Frankland cousin in New York in 1936 and through him visiting another cousin, Claud Hickson and his Canadian wife in Montreal.

Phyllis has lived many years in retirement in New Zealand but has had trips overseas to visit family in Australia and Greece. She now travels to Italy to spend the remainder of her life with her daughter. Wherever she goes she will enjoy herself – she is young in heart and loves the company of young people.