Kids helping - the 1918 influenza pandemic

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.

Community contributions

1 comment has been posted about Kids helping - the 1918 influenza pandemic

What do you know?

Jocelyn Fraemohs

Posted: 08 Oct 2010

My mother's family lived in Coromandel Street in Wellington at the time of the epidemic. She told me how there was a seemingly endless procession of hearses going past their house from the hospital at the end of the street. They could not travel fast out of respect for the dead and the slow-moving vehicles seemed to take forever to go past. Her family also got the flu with the exception of her father. She and her younger sister, having recovered, were sent by their father to buy a shilling's worth of stewing steak so he could make beef tea for her older sister, little brother and mother who were still sick. She said that one minute she was standing in the queue at the butcher's shop, and the next she was sitting on the footpath with her feet in the gutter and a kind lady was getting her to put her head between her knees. Her sister was crying. The same lady bought the steak and handed her the parcel, not letting the girls move of until mum was sure she could walk home. All the family survived.