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Happy time in 'House on the Hill'

KARINA ABADIA
Last updated 05:00 12/03/2014
Les Andrews

MEMORIES: Sisters Elsie Scanlan and Hilda Aylett remember a different era growing up in an Ellerslie villa.

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Hilda Aylett may have grown up during the Depression but she has happy memories of her childhood in Ellerslie.

Mrs Aylett, 91, returned to the village with her younger sister Elsie Scanlan, 78, last week to reminisce about the old days.

Mrs Aylett was just a toddler when the family migrated to Auckland from England. Their parents, the Yates, ran a dairy in Greenlane for about a year before moving to Ellerslie in 1931.

They lived in a four-bedroom villa in Amy St which the children dubbed "The House on the Hill".

The creek that ran through the property was full of frogs and they had a hen run. The section stretched nearly to the next street and the boys made tree houses in the fruit trees.

"To us kids it was fairyland," Mrs Aylett says.

The house remains but has been converted into flats and the section subdivided.

Mrs Yates gave birth to 16 children over the years, although two of the boys died as children.

Sharing a bedroom with a couple of siblings was the norm, Mrs Scanlan says.

"It was lights' out by nine o'clock every night but . . . I'll always remember lying in bed and playing games like I Spy with my sisters."

"The bath was huge with large claw feet," Mrs Aylett says. "There were always at least four or five of us in there at the same time."

Money was scarce but the children were well fed and there was always plenty of milk in the house because Mr Yates worked as a milkman.

The rules of the house were very strict, she says.

"There was no alcohol in the house and dad never drank. We didn't go out much when we were teenagers and even when we were over 21 we had to be home by 11 at night."

If they wanted to go to the picture theatre they had to earn the money, Mrs Scanlan says.

"We used to pick rhododendron flowers from the tree out the front and go to the neighbours and sell them for six pence a bunch, which was the cost of a movie ticket."

Ellerslie was a working class suburb back then but it was always a nice neighbourhood.

"Mum could send us to the shops when we were very young and not worry about us. All the shopkeepers knew us."

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- East And Bays Courier

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