World Wide Depression

Dear Peg and Family,
Many years ago we experienced and lived through  a world wide depression. We were badly effected as a Nation, we had slowly been getting to our feet again after fighting World War One. Our country we had borrowed a lot of money, and were endeavouring to repay same. At this time the money supply in circulation was short, and kept that way deliberately by the Government, which added to our misery. Returning Servicemen were slowly finding employment again, reinstating themselves in various jobs, some were starting up businesses again. The signs were all good, and it looked that this situation would continue to improve. Then with out warning the stock market in America crashed. The results of this was felt world wide, and catastrophic to all nations. All trade stopped, unemployment returned again to haunt us. Shipping which had been the lifeline between Nations, was being tied up because of the lack of cargo, crews were paid off.
My father at the time had a Movie business. He owned the plant, which consisted of a couple of heavy German Projectors, and a generator to turn the local electrical supply into D/C current, suppling the right kind of current to operate the arc lights. It was onerous set up, but he carted this around to the various Halls that he rented from the Council, and Friendly Societies to exhibit his movies. But unfortunately he had no secure tenancy, and before the American crash, he had decided that the time was right to build a ‘purpose built’ movie theatre. This would be in the late twenties, and the movies at this time were all ‘Silent’, but mood music to suit the movie was being played on the piano by several local players. My mother being one. Patronage at the theatre was dropping because now, not many people were in employment. When things had reached a point that for us they couldn’t get any worse, they did just that. ‘Talkies’ had arrived onto the scene. This meant that we now had to buy new plant, to screen this innovative technical advance, or get out of the business. One of the problems as I saw it, was the lack of confidence by all concerned. Farmers couldn’t sell their stock, people didn’t have the money to buy their meat from the butcher.
Our family borrowed $2,000 by debentures to buy the new plant with misgivings, unfortunately only a year later, we found that we were unable even to service this small loan, and the business was placed in receivership. From then on it would seem the receiver ran the business for his own benefit, as we found out later. He had no intention selling up the business, or ever of returning it back to the family. The economy was showing signs of recovery. My father got by, picking up casual work as a ‘seagull’ on the wharf, or later as a watchman. The act of  applying for the Dole, for him he found very degrading. He took the loss of face personally and very much to heart.
World War Two broke out at this time, so he re-enlisted into the Services again. This time as a leading airman into the Air Force. I don’t know whether he did this out of patriotism, or just to get a job, and a regular pay cheque. Money was still tight, and to make ends meet and to put food on the table, my mother went out as a cook for the Navy Patrol. Rising at 5-00am every morning making her way to the Yacht Club to prepare breakfasts for the crews of the harbour launches who had been on patrol all night. These were all privately owned launches generally crewed by their owners as an anti submarine deterrent. We kids never really knew, or perhaps comprehended what a struggle our parents were having to keep a roof over our heads, and to put food on our table.
The War ended, and we all returned to civilian life again. All the male members of our family had been in the Services. One we were demobbed it was now time to look again at getting the Theatre Business returned to the family, as we still owned all the shares. I had saved $2,000, what with my flight pay, and the inability to spend it on anything. I gave this to my father and he repaid the Debentures. We were solvent again, and at this stage, the receiver should have handed the business back to the family. But the receivers had another agenda. They had no intention of doing just that. They clung to the licence given to the theatre by the local authority, citing this as ownership. The Supreme Court saw it in a different light. After our day in court it handed control back to the family. However before we could take over the theatre, it went on fire and destroyed existing Plant. Accident? Who knows with their track record, it wasn’t unexpected. We replaced the plant and enjoyed a dozen or so trouble free years, until another threat arrived onto the scene. ‘Television’. It took time for the full effect of it’s arrival to be felt, but it spelt out the end of the Suburban Theatres, of which we were one. The City theatres survived, only by closing, ‘Stand Alone Theatres’, their day had finished too. Their future now depended on building ‘Muliflex’ units. We should have known, that nothing stays the same.
Another opportunity presented itself about this time Jimmy Miller who had operated a milk bar, green Grocer business in all of my living memory. He had decided to sell, and offered it to my parents which they accepted. Dad loved it, and they introduced many innovations. They even made their own icecream, and they had a soda stream, both of which were very popular. I can remember one episode, when Dad returned from the Sale Rooms, to declare he had picked up a bargain. Forty cases of apples for a couple of shillings a case. (Normally we could only sell about 4 cases a week). I can still hear my mother’s shout of rage. ‘How were we going to shift all that lot’? Well she did, Toffee apples to queues of kids, who had been starved of such goodies during the War rationing, special bulk and Case lots. She was the same if she got stuck with trays of strawberries that didn’t sell before a long weekend. They became jam. The only problem was the constant visits from Govt Inspectors. You can’t do this! You are not a commercial kitchen.
I can remember once someone came to me to ask, How would they know if their business was profitable? I said that’s simple, just go around the back of your shop and look into your rubbish bins. They will tell you, ‘Are you selling, or just throwing away your profit.’
With the education and confidence, the Services gave me, I switched to a commercial career but I never forgot all the lessons I got from growing up with my parents.
Love from Christchurch,
Wally

Many years ago we experienced and lived through  a world wide depression. We were badly effected as a Nation, we had slowly been getting to our feet again after fighting World War One. Our country we had borrowed a lot of money, and were endeavouring to repay same. At this time the money supply in circulation was short, and kept that way deliberately by the Government, which added to our misery. Returning Servicemen were slowly finding employment again, reinstating themselves in various jobs, some were starting up businesses again. The signs were all good, and it looked that this situation would continue to improve. Then with out warning the stock market in America crashed. The results of this was felt world wide, and catastrophic to all nations. All trade stopped, unemployment returned again to haunt us. Shipping which had been the lifeline between Nations, was being tied up because of the lack of cargo, crews were paid off.

My father at the time had a Movie business. He owned the plant, which consisted of a couple of heavy German Projectors, and a generator to turn the local electrical supply into D/C current, suppling the right kind of current to operate the arc lights. It was onerous set up, but he carted this around to the various Halls that he rented from the Council, and Friendly Societies to exhibit his movies. But unfortunately he had no secure tenancy, and before the American crash, he had decided that the time was right to build a ‘purpose built’ movie theatre. This would be in the late twenties, and the movies at this time were all ‘Silent’, but mood music to suit the movie was being played on the piano by several local players. My mother being one. Patronage at the theatre was dropping because now, not many people were in employment. When things had reached a point that for us they couldn’t get any worse, they did just that. ‘Talkies’ had arrived onto the scene. This meant that we now had to buy new plant, to screen this innovative technical advance, or get out of the business. One of the problems as I saw it, was the lack of confidence by all concerned. Farmers couldn’t sell their stock, people didn’t have the money to buy their meat from the butcher.

Our family borrowed $2,000 by debentures to buy the new plant with misgivings, unfortunately only a year later, we found that we were unable even to service this small loan, and the business was placed in receivership. From then on it would seem the receiver ran the business for his own benefit, as we found out later. He had no intention selling up the business, or ever of returning it back to the family. The economy was showing signs of recovery. My father got by, picking up casual work as a ‘seagull’ on the wharf, or later as a watchman. The act of  applying for the Dole, for him he found very degrading. He took the loss of face personally and very much to heart.

World War Two broke out at this time, so he re-enlisted into the Services again. This time as a leading airman into the Air Force. I don’t know whether he did this out of patriotism, or just to get a job, and a regular pay cheque. Money was still tight, and to make ends meet and to put food on the table, my mother went out as a cook for the Navy Patrol. Rising at 5-00am every morning making her way to the Yacht Club to prepare breakfasts for the crews of the harbour launches who had been on patrol all night. These were all privately owned launches generally crewed by their owners as an anti submarine deterrent. We kids never really knew, or perhaps comprehended what a struggle our parents were having to keep a roof over our heads, and to put food on our table.

The War ended, and we all returned to civilian life again. All the male members of our family had been in the Services. One we were demobbed it was now time to look again at getting the Theatre Business returned to the family, as we still owned all the shares. I had saved $2,000, what with my flight pay, and the inability to spend it on anything. I gave this to my father and he repaid the Debentures. We were solvent again, and at this stage, the receiver should have handed the business back to the family. But the receivers had another agenda. They had no intention of doing just that. They clung to the licence given to the theatre by the local authority, citing this as ownership. The Supreme Court saw it in a different light. After our day in court it handed control back to the family. However before we could take over the theatre, it went on fire and destroyed existing Plant. Accident? Who knows with their track record, it wasn’t unexpected. We replaced the plant and enjoyed a dozen or so trouble free years, until another threat arrived onto the scene. ‘Television’. It took time for the full effect of it’s arrival to be felt, but it spelt out the end of the Suburban Theatres, of which we were one. The City theatres survived, only by closing, ‘Stand Alone Theatres’, their day had finished too. Their future now depended on building ‘Muliflex’ units. We should have known, that nothing stays the same.

Another opportunity presented itself about this time Jimmy Miller who had operated a milk bar, green Grocer business in all of my living memory. He had decided to sell, and offered it to my parents which they accepted. Dad loved it, and they introduced many innovations. They even made their own icecream, and they had a soda stream, both of which were very popular. I can remember one episode, when Dad returned from the Sale Rooms, to declare he had picked up a bargain. Forty cases of apples for a couple of shillings a case. (Normally we could only sell about 4 cases a week). I can still hear my mother’s shout of rage. ‘How were we going to shift all that lot’? Well she did, Toffee apples to queues of kids, who had been starved of such goodies during the War rationing, special bulk and Case lots. She was the same if she got stuck with trays of strawberries that didn’t sell before a long weekend. They became jam. The only problem was the constant visits from Govt Inspectors. You can’t do this! You are not a commercial kitchen.

I can remember once someone came to me to ask, How would they know if their business was profitable? I said that’s simple, just go around the back of your shop and look into your rubbish bins. They will tell you, ‘Are you selling, or just throwing away your profit.’

With the education and confidence, the Services gave me, I switched to a commercial career but I never forgot all the lessons I got from growing up with my parents.

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