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Kids helping - the 1918 influenza pandemic

Audio file

As adults fell to influenza, children were called upon to help with deliveries and other chores.


[Woman speaking] Mother would come home and she would boil up and make the most beautiful vegetable and meat soups, and then I would take them in thermos flasks to people who were too ill to perhaps warm their own food. And I wasn't allowed to enter the house, I just placed it on the doorstep and then went back to my pony. And where people were a little better, I could carry it in a billy in a jelly form, and people were able to get food in that manner. But most of these people were almost unable to more than come to the door and just pick up the container that was left for them.

[Woman speaking] It wasn't safe for men to go out on the farms alone in case they were struck down and no one knew where they were. So one of the children, or someone, they generally went in twos. When we wanted to do our shopping, we had to go into Waverley by a horse and gig, and when we got into the grocer's shop, we rattled a kerosene tin which was hanging from a beam of the verandah. They came out to their door, took our order and then put the things on the pavement, and we collected them and put our money into a mug with disinfectant in it, and they collected it out of the mug.


Radio New Zealand Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. Any re-use of this audio is a breach of copyright. To request a copy of the recording, contact Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero. Reference: clip from The great plague, 1967 radio documentary by Jim Henderson, TCDR562

How to cite this page

Kids helping - the 1918 influenza pandemic, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated