Chapter 6: A Tooth Fairy Called Wonder

Mr Allen would say "Hell's Bells and Buggy-Wheels" when something really bad happened, like the film broke or the projector stopped in the middle of a film about lions or giraffes or cheetahs. One film was about two children in Australia whose mother was killed by a snake while she was hanging out the washing. The two children wandered the desert on their own after that, like Hansel and Gretal. I can see the mother lying dead under the clothes line. And the music played because it was serious, and the snake slithered off. I never knew that parents died, and for a few days checked our clothes line after school just in case.

The first real film I saw was The Dam Busters and Douglas Badar got muddled with Gibson and bombed a dam with no legs. It was at the Onga Picture Theatre. Uncle Bert took us with the cousins to see The Lady and the Tramp. That was at Waipawa. You'd stand for God Save the Queen at the start of the pictures and the Queen and Prince Phillip and Prince Charles and Princess Anne would wave against a red backdrop. I thought that was The Lady and the Tramp at first, but it wasn't. We don't stand anymore at the start of pictures.

Earlier than going to see a film, we went to Waipawa to see a pantomime and the horrible lady was really funny and a man, and I laughed and laughed. And we went to see a ballet because Francie learnt ballet but I couldn't even sit properly on the floor with having too chunky knees. And at the ballet the ballerinas were made of porcelain, and one of them broke.

Francie and Sue
Francie and Sue

Dad took us kids to Onga Onga to see a magician. We had planned this for weeks. The man at the door said "One pound please" and Dad said he wasn't going to pay one pound just to see a magician. Besides, he didn't have that much on him.

"Please, Dad, please!" we pleaded.

"You could borrow it from the hotel," suggested Sue who was older and had more authority.

"Yes, Dad!" we chimed. But no, Dad would not budge. The next day at school, they could not stop talking about the magician and the dove from the sleeve and the knotted hanky that undid itself.

It was natural that Sue's thoughts had turned to the hotel at Onga Onga, for the whole family was very familiar with it. If there is a building in the whole world that could be described from the outside, it would be the Onga Onga Pub. I'm not going to describe it because I've already spent half my life sitting in the car looking at it, waiting for Dad. Mrs Polly - she ran the pub and had a parrot - would appear at half time with a tray of glasses filled with raspberry drink.

I make it sound as if it happened every day, but it didn't. It was the price we paid for going with Dad to the Yard Sales or the A & P Show. Once, after the Onga Pub stop, Sue said: "Dad, you're driving too fast." But Dad was busy singing.

"Slow down a bit on the corners, Dad," said Sue and we all went quiet in the back. But Dad went on singing, and as we neared home the corners and Dad's confidence got bigger. Swish! went the car around the corner of the gravel road. Swish! Swish! the car went across the one way bridge. And Dad sang until Clunk! the car went off the road and into the fence. Dad was suddenly sober and stopped singing.

Sue walked home in the dark. An hour later Mum appeared with the tractor loaded down with ropes.


There were a few other close calls too - especially in our old farm house. Dad was giving us rides on his back in front of the fireplace when an earthquake struck. He suddenly rolled and we stood under the door. Mum had been in the Napier earthquake and knew the dangers of falling chimneys.

That chimney could be dangerous in other ways. Sometimes it caught on fire. "Mum! Mum! The chimney's on fire!" and Mum would get a blanket off the bed and run it wet in the bath and hold it over the fireplace to stop all air while Ricky climbed the roof with a hose.


In front of the fire was THE mat. Under it, in the still of night, the Tooth Fairy would come for a tooth. In the morning the tooth was gone, and a shiny sixpence took its place. Once Francie left a tooth under the corner of the mat and in the morning there was a sixpence in another corner and her tooth remained in the other.

"The Tooth Fairy mustn't have been able to find it," said Mum. So Francie tried again that night and got two sixpences for the price of one.

Who needs to pay a pound to see a silly magician at Onga Onga when such wonder happens in your own home?

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