My Mum’s memories of the 1942 Earthquake, as told to my Dad.
Jackie well remembers where she grew up on a sheep farm in the Wairarapa. You travel 40 kilometres north from Masterton to Eketahuna. Leave the main road there and go eastwards for twenty km to Alfredton. It has a shop, a school, a post office, a church, and a hall. Then drive another eleven km, over several one-lane bridges, up into the hills, and there near Castle Hill is the land that her parents farmed. One thousand sheep, one hundred cattle beasts, and twenty dairy cows, which Jackie helped to milk.
One time when Jackie had arrived home from school, her father was late home from town, so Jackie mustered the dairy cows, and milked all twenty, by hand. Her dad was so pleased because he did not have to muster and milk in the dark. Also she rode her horse, Lecky, around the sheep, because her dad still had problems from fighting on Gallipoli and at the Somme. He teased her and called her the slowest thing on six legs. Jackie didn’t mind; she adored her father. In the evening her dad would play the piano.
On Wednesday 24 June, in 1942, when Jackie was ten years old, just after 8 pm, they had a small earthquake, which rattled their house that her father had built. Well, they often had small quakes so everyone just went to bed. But at quarter past eleven that night they had a massive earthquake, 7·2 on the Richter scale. It lasted a whole minute and was felt throughout New Zealand.
The quake brought down brick shops in Eketahuna. But it was nearly midnight so no-one was injured by falling bricks. Jackie says their own weatherboard house stood up well, and the chimney did not fall down. But all the one-lane bridges were down. The school bus could not get through to take children to school. A few children down the valley went to school by horse and left their horses in the church paddock during the day. Of course children all say “Whoopee, no school”. But soon they wanted to talk to their school mates.
The farmers up the valley got organised. One parent furthest up the road drove those kids down to the wrecked bridge, where the children clambered over the ruins, to another parent who drove them on to the next broken bridge, the children again climbed over, and so on. The farmers used the same method to get newspapers, mail, groceries, petrol, up the road.
It was wartime so it took months before the bridges were replaced. Some brick buildings were never repaired.
Interesting links on the earthquake: Te Ara Encyclopedia and Wairarapa Past blog.