Memories of growing up in wartime Britain
Matamata’s Dan Arbuckle spent his school years dodging bombs. It was the beginning of World War II in Midlands, Britain.
Mr Arbuckle was just six years old. Planes roared overhead, bombs blasted and air raid shelters lined the roads.
‘‘One night a land mine landed on the road right behind our house. Our entire roof blew off and landed in our garden. Every single window and door was blown out,’’ Mr Arbuckle said.
‘‘On another day when I was coming home from school, I stood and watched this plane coming across, then Dad’s Home Guard army sent rockets out and the plane just vanished.’’ This was life as he knew it. ‘‘When I was a boy, the war and the bombs didn’t seem to bother us too much,’’ he said.
Mr Arbuckle attended 12 different schools when he was young – each one was bombed out not long after he started there, forcing him and his three siblings to find yet another new school.
‘‘I would go to one school and be top of the class because I had already studied the topics at another school but then I would go to one and be bottom of the class because the school before hadn’t yet studied that,’’ he laughed.
Mr Arbuckle, now 78, lives in Matamata with his wife Noelene.
They were married in 1960 and celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last year.
Since arriving in New Zealand in 1949, Mr Arbuckle and his wife have been back to England twice to visit the house he lived in during the war and one of the primary schools he went to, King Henry Eight Grammar School.
He trained as a pastry chef in Auckland and worked at a bakery where on top of his wage he earned one shilling for each rat he caught.
‘‘Some weeks I got more money from catching rats than I made from working in the bakery,’’ he said.
He then moved to Matamata, took a job as chef at Totara Springs, met Noelene and was married.
They bought a business together and started the Coffee Lounge in the shop which now houses The Horseman cafe.
Mrs Arbuckle said they loved living in Matamata and would not want to live anywhere else.
‘‘If you’re happy, have a good marriage and have hobbies, then life is really great,’’ she said.
Their hobbies can be seen throughout their Matamata home.
Mrs Arbuckle’s cross stitch works are hung proudly on the wall. Mr Arbuckle’s wooden bowls, jars and ornaments are displayed in each room, each one carefully hand crafted on his wood lathe.
Mr Arbuckle also decorates cakes for weddings and birthdays – a hobby he has enjoyed for more than 60 years and plans to keep doing for the rest of his life.
Together forever: Noelene and Dan Arbuckle, who have been married for 51 years, share their stories.