Generations of Genes Copyright © Phyllis Jeans 2000
All rights reserved ISBN 0 473 03868 4
PEMM Publishing Cambridge, New Zealand
[p10] [The Jeans Line]
Whitehall was a close-knit community in those years. Socials were still held in the school or a local barn, and these buildings, decorated with greenery and flowers, made a pleasant setting. However, the residents cherished a dream; to build their own hall. Characteristically they set about to help themselves. They raised money by holding socials and dances, sports days, card evenings, and stock drives. The local Women’s Institute made contributions. Jim undertook to seek donations from outside the district. It took some years for the required money to be accumulated but in time the dream came true. The present Whitehall Hall is a memorial to that band of hard-working hard-pressed residents, who in difficult economic times put their minds and energy to attaining an asset for their district. The hall was built with one paid, experienced carpenter, Charlie Potts, Dorrie’s brother, who with his daughter Beryl lived with the Jeans family. Charlie took leave from his employer (the Whitehall Rabbit Board) and with the help of voluntary labour the hall was built in five weeks. The opening on 2 September 1936 was a grand affair. There were many visitors from surrounding districts as well as the local member of Parliament. This gentleman (as politicians are wont to do) took the opportunity to explain to the captive audience how recent legislation affected farmers. A dance was held in the evening to celebrate this important milestone in the district’s development with the unlined hall decorated with ponga ferns, red rhododendrons and bows and streamers. The female dancers added colour. . . frocks of pink suede crepe, red satin, lemon voile, shell pink taffeta, apricot velvet, buttercup windswept satin, pale green moroccain, scarlet crepe, pink chiffon, blue georgette, floral rayon and black lace swirled about the dance floor. Jim was a member of the Hall committee, served as chairman for some years, and was often spokesman at functions.
Jim’s first venture into public life appears to have been in 1923 when he became a trustee of the Whitehall Rabbit Board and served some thirteen years, including four years as chairman. He was on the Whitehall School committee from 1925 until 1942; for the last eight years as chairman-secretary. Meetings, working bees, the betterment of the school and the well-being of the scholars and teachers became his concern. In the 1930s he was on the committee of the Cambridge Dental Clinic that provided dental care for primary school children at five shillings yearly per family. Later in life he was a committee-member of both the Cambridge Golf Club and the Cambridge Trotting Club.
In 1930, after many people had been unable to gain admittance to the Town Hall for the annual Anzac Day ceremony, the local paper reported Jim as saying he ‘saw no reason it should not be held round the cenotaph’. Jim became a committee member of the Cambridge Returned Services Association the following year (1931). In 1940 he moved ‘on Anzac Day and all future occasions the Association’s wreath be a Laurel Wreath with Poppies’. He was a member of the RSA picnic committee and from its beginning (1936) was a collector for funds and acted as assembly steward.
Jim was vice-president in 1939 and president in the difficult war years of 1943-45. The war dragged on longer than people had anticipated. Welcome-home functions were being held but the farewells continued. At one of these later farewells Jim offered this advice to the departing servicemen “Say little, think lots and keep your heads down.” Sometimes Jim would remind the departing men to write home regularly. He remembered his own years as a soldier, and after the death of his mother while he was overseas, realised he had not always been as diligent as he might have been with letters home.
Resettlement was an important issue and the ‘old digs’ concerned themselves with this question. Jim presided at a meeting where various aspects of the Rehabilitation Scheme were discussed and a resolution proposed by him was passed unanimously. Some of the old soldiers were keenly aware of the limitations of the earlier scheme that had applied to their own rehabilitation. They were determined their younger counterparts should have every opportunity to rebuild their lives in the best possible way. The editorial in the Waikato Independent of 24 April 1944 was strongly supportive. ‘The tenor and the atmosphere of that meeting left no doubt in our minds that the men of the last war are not going to quietly sit still and let rehabilitation of the new generation of Diggers drift to an even worse condition than that which applied to many men, who to-morrow will quietly take their places in the Dawn Parade’. On that Anzac morning, as president, Jim laid the green laurel wreath on the cenotaph, perhaps with thoughts in his mind of comrades he had served with and who had died for their country.
Jim was a member of various ad hoc committees and delegations. Early in the war he was part of the Cambridge District Campaign committee, raising funds for the fighting services. In 1942 it was the Awake New Zealand committee and in March 1944 the Patriotic committee. He was on the House committee during the early days of the formation of the Cambridge Returned Services Club. In September 1944 he was part of the Cambridge Armistice committee seriously discussing how Victory should be celebrated. An open-air carnival with dancing in the streets and bon-fires were among the suggestions. Jim expressed his opinion Cambridge should be ready, but it was to be many more months before peace was proclaimed. In May 1945 Victory in Europe finally came. Jim, on behalf of the RSA