NORMAN AND CLAIRE HOOPER
Norman George Hooper was born in Dannevirke, New Zealand on the 1st October 1925 to parents Walter and Evelyn Hooper. Norm was the sixth of sixteen children born to Wally and Evelyn. He was the fourth born son. He admired is mother and once said that he considered her to be a 'true lady' in his eyes. He told his children of his early years in the Carterton district and stories of how the family lived and made ends meet. His father and some of his Uncles and Aunties were diabetic. Often he and his siblings would be required to assist their father in the garden and said his father would suddenly become ill and one of the children would have to race back to his mother to fetch the insulin injections so that their 'Dad' could inject himself. As a child Norm was a 'prankster' and would play tricks on his siblings and, in his later years, on his children and grandchildren. Something he never tired of and in many ways he remained the eternal boy and was remembered as being the life and soul of any family gathering. Norm was not musically inclined but liked to invent games for adults and children alike. These games would become the entertainment at weddings and family get togethers. Many a family member has been a victim to one or more of Norms pranks or his so called magic tricks. Charity nights for local organizations could rely on Norm to raise addition revenue by his inventing new games. A small participants fee was charged and was donated to the Charity. Claire would often make (sew or knit) the prizes to be awarded to the winners and runners up.
Left to Right (Back Row) Joy, Robert, Stan, Valerie (Front Row) Henry, Norm, Evelyn, Ernie and Hazel
Norm and his brothers started their school day with a race. There were not enough pairs of boots for all the boys to wear. Never was the saying 'first up best dressed' more true than in the Hooper household. The first boys up got to wear the boots for the day. The rest went barefoot but this was not an uncommon occurrence in 1930's as it was an age of bare-foot children. More often than not those with shoes did not wear them except for a 'special' outing. There was another reason that the children would want to be first out of bed and ready for school. The first three or at times four, depending on the ages, would be allowed to ride the horse to school. The horse was left in a paddock at the end of the road and the children first back to the paddock, when school let out, got to ride it home. The children lived miles from the school and had no other means of getting to school, other than to walk. This made being one of the first three to get to the horse first a much sort after 'good start' to the day. Clothes got past down from the oldest to the next in line in and it was said that by the time the youngest got to wear them there was nothing left that had not been patched up or darned. Socks with holes in were never thrown out but simply sewn up with, hopefully but usually not, matching thread. This was known as darning. Luckily there was generally not much time between the right sex being born for the clothes progression through the family. As was the custom, and remained so up until the late 60's, boys wore shorts until they reached the age of thirteen and braces were worn by Walter and several of his sons. Norm can be seen in the photograph above wearing his braces. Cardigans and jumpers were all hand knitted and dresses were all homemade. If clothes were too large for the next in line to wear they were cut down to size and eventually thrown out when there was no child left small enough to wear them. Recycling was definitely practiced in Walter Hooper's house many years before the word 'recycle' ever became popular and trendy. For Evelyn and Walter is was a necessity to make ends meet.
Brother in-law, David Winter (Right) being visited at his bushman's hut by father Alex (Middle) and brother in-law, Norm
Norm married Clara Evelyn Winter (Claire) daughter of Alexander Herbert Winter and Edith Evelyn Maude Yarker. Edith died at the age of thirty nine and Alexander was unable to care for his young family. They were placed into the Miramar Children's Home and from there eventually placed into foster care or transfered to other Children's Homes. Claire was eventually moved to the Cecilia Whatman home in Masterton's Ngaumutawa Road and sent out daily to work on farms or in neighboring homes. She described the work as hard but a relief from the daily hell within the walls of Whatman Home. Arthur Edward Powys Whatman commissioned the building of eleven simple cottages to be built on his land in Upper Plain Road to be used as accommodation for returning servicemen. On the land between his home and the cottages he later built a residential home for 65 children and their caregivers. He then presented the home to the Salvation Army. Arthur provided the Salvation Army with a substantial endowment to help with the day to day running of the home. Arthur asked that the facility be named after his sister,Cecilia Whatman, who had died in 1908. The home housed children between the ages of five and fifteen. In 2001 a class action was launched by several people against practices at the home. One woman, not taking part in the class action, described her upbringing in the home from 1928-1945 as 'brutal'. She tells of being locked in a cupboard for hours, being beaten 'black and blue' and forced to stick her fingers in a light socket. Claire told of a time when she heard her younger brother, David, crying and went to give him a cuddle. Her punishment for doing this was being stripped naked and made to lie in a cold bath for several hours. She also told of beatings with a spoon used by the cook. At times she would attempt to run away from the home and was placed in borstal for doing so on one occasion. Having been removed from a home in which she was sexually abuse and place in an institution that gained a reputation for inflicting the same treatment upon some of the unfortunate inmates there was no escape for Claire. Her time in Whatman Home was described as miserable, inhumane, degrading and cruel. The building was declared an earthquake risk and demolished in 1985. Claire's life was exstinguished in 1984 but her will to live had long since left her. Lives shaped by time spent in Whatman Home have ended as ungraciously as the home itself.....troubled and plaqued by the past.....in ruin and then demolished.
An article in the Wairarapa Times. (Insert) Claire and her siblings and the Homes 1925 grand opening.
Norm and Claire's home in Ngaumatawa Road, Masterton
Norms work in the forestry meant moving from town to town. It was a somewhat unsettled life with there never being time to set down roots in any given place. Norm was working with Alexander Winter and meet Claire. Claire was at home by this stage helping to care for the young twins of her father's second marriage. The twins were to be taken into the care of their mothers family after her death and a further two children from Alex's third marriage were adopted out after their mother's death. Claire was never to know she had further siblings after the twins. Norm and Claire married and for a time lived with her father and his new wife.
When work in the forestry slowed or came to a halt Norm would readily find work doing fencing or odd jobs on farms. This usually required relocation and the family would be on the move again. Some forestry work took Norm to places that were somewhat remote and accommodation could be in the form of unused shearing quarters or tumble down old homes. Claire did her best to turn the houses into 'livable' places but no sooner had work started than it was time to move again. Claire would often tell of their early days together and how furniture consisted of orange packing boxes turned up side down as chairs and draws for cradles for the baby of the family, at that time. One of Norms' sisters recalls a time when Norm would turn up in his truck, with family in tow and need a place to stop for a few weeks until the next job came along.
One of the farm houses Norm and Claire lived in
Being a jack of all trades meant he was never out of work for long. The way he acquired his truck has also come with questionable explanations. The story is that he had tried to get his brother, Ernie to chop his finger off with an Axe. The workers compensation payout was going to be used to buy a truck because an Axe was a forestry workers tool of trade. Ernie declined the 'invitation' but Norm did somehow get his truck and was minus a finger too. Around this same period in time, he and his sister, June, bought their mother her first washing machine. In the 1940's this new contraption would have cost an arm or a leg.......Or perhaps just a finger! With sixteen children to wash for naturally the washing machine was very appreciated. The truck was apparently able to get from a-b but Norm would fill the tires with straw, as a cost cutting measure when money run short, to save having to buy new ones. Norm was known to be very good at cutting costs and another example of his ingenuity was the time he wanted wanted parts for his tractor. He decided the tractor in the children's play area of Masterton's Queen Elizabeth Park was better than the one he had. A swap was arranged and a newly painted blue tractor was placed in the Park by Norm. After the sale of their home in Gordon Street ,Masterton , Claire and Norm moved to a house in Ngaumutawa Road and Whatman Home could be seen from the front yard. One wonders what those years living back in Ngaumutawa Road were like for Claire living so close to a place that held dreadful childhood memories for her.
Claire and Norm sitting on the Truck bought from his 'workers compensation'
Norm and Claire raised six children. Each of these children have a different place registered as the residence of Norm and Claire at the time of their birth. Each child attended countless schools in their lifetime and each child will have, in 2005, a different recollection of the place they call 'home' back in New Zealand. For the youngest two it is Masterton. Perhaps this offered a more settled time with a home being built in Gordon Street and then a house being purchased in Ngaumutawa Road. Norm built a 'Mill', in the later property, in a paddock at the rear of the house. Here he was joined by his brothers and they set about building a Saw Mill to work from. Norm had a narrow escape when his apron worn to protect his clothing got caught in the huge saw and pulled his body into the running blade. He was rushed to Masterton Hospital where a gapping cut was stitched on his thigh and buttock.
(left rare-Norm's young brother) Peter Hooper with Norm, Claire and (their children) Danny, Lynda, Jenny and Sue
Norm and Claire drifted from the Wairarapa district and went further up north. Norm got work in the Topuni Saw Mill and they became 'cooks' living in the Saw Mills Cook-house. They were soon on the move again and moved from town to town taking on various jobs at Saw Mills and farms. A new career direction was stumbled upon when living on a farm at Albany and plans were made for Norm and Claire to become the owners-operators of a Restaurant in New Zealand's gold mining district of Thames. Both were keen 'rock-hunters' and Thames offered the perfect place to pursue this hobby and many free hours were spent scrambling up the rivers looking for gem stones. The Lucky Strike Restaurant was opened. Norm and Claire had furnished a new shop in the heart of the main street of Thames and with the aid of their daughters opened the doors to the public. Claire and Norm decided to open a bakery in Thames to cater for the increasing number of 'outside' functions they had been asked to do the catering for. The Golden Nugget Bakery was opened and this was situated on the opposite side of the road to the Lucky Strike but still within the heart of the main shopping strip. Today the Lucky Strike is still in operating but trading under a different name but the Golden Nugget has become a Craft Shop.
In May 1972 Norm, Claire and daughters Lois and Joanne immigrated to Australia. Their eldest daughter, Jenny, was already living in Sydney with her husband Allan Clark so the decission was made to live in Sydney too. Danny, Sue and Lynda eventually came to Australia to live. Only Danny has ever returned to live permanently in New Zealand. In Australia Norm's career path took a further change. Norm and Allan worked as security guards and patrolled the site of Warringah Mall in Brookvale, Sydney whilst it was under construction. When the contract finished Allan and Jenny moved to Melbourne and Norm and Claire followed soon after. Daughters Joanne and Lois remained living in Sydney. Norm worked as a maintanence man for the Glen Waverly Shopping center which was, at this time, a small local suburban complex. Norm used his love of wood work to built a merry-go-round and Claire operated it's running in 'The Glen'.
The merry-go-round built by Norm in the Glen Waverly Shopping Center
Claire had TB when she was younger and this had left permanent scaring on her lungs. Her continued smoking further weakened her lungs and she died on 17th June 1984 after a long battle with Emphsemia. Norm, at this time was a caretaker at a school in Yarraville. Norm retired to his Dereel bush block and spent his time building a mini golf course for his children and grandchildren to enjoy. He was never still and could be found using his tractor to build paths, dams and roads through the bush. He married Margaret Kidd at the Dereel bush block and he became a father for a seventh time. William Hooper (Bill) was born at Ballarat.
After the collapse of her marriage of 26 years,daughter, Jenny took her own life on 18th April 1993 and two years later on the 17th March 1995 Norman George Hooper was found dead on 17th March 1995 having commited suicide also.
THE FAMILY TREE OF NORM AND CLAIRE HOOPER
NORMAN GEORGE HOOPER (Norm) (1925-1995) married a) CLARA EVELYN WINTER (Claire)
NORMAN GEORGE HOOPER (Norm) (1925-1995) married b) MARGARET KIDD