Life seemed much more simple back in the 1950s. At school everyone seemed the same, regardless of their ethnic origin, home circumstances or anything else that may label someone as being different. We were all just kids, learning and playing together. Life was good.
When I was about eight I had a friend called Shirley, a Chinese girl, who lived on the edge of town in a market garden. Whenever I went to play with Shirley we’d sneak along the other side of the hedge, so the old wrinkled Chinese man sitting on the front verandah of the house smoking, her grandfather, didn’t see us. I don’t think he liked kids much.
Shirley and her family moved to another town the following year and a brand new tavern was built on the site of the garden. I often think of Shirley whenever driving past the tavern, now well within the city boundaries. The sight that met my eyes the other day came as a surprise. The now old tavern, closed a few years ago, had been knocked down, demolished, reduced to nothing but memories.
Quite by coincidence, this coincided with a short visit to Wellington, where I’d listened to some exquisite Chinese street music played on an erhu, a traditional Chinese two stringed fiddle.
Once again I thought of Shirley and wondered where she is now. I did have contact with her brother many years ago, but they weren’t a technology minded family and so we lost contact again.
How simple life seemed back then. In today’s world I would never have been allowed to go and play at a Chinese market garden on the outskirts of town, with a family my parents didn’t know. No harm came to us back then, but we can’t be quite so trusting now.
That’s sad, isn’t it?