Monday, December 22, 2008

The Cocoa Lady

Mrs Margaret Richardson, Avondale Primary School's "Cocoa Lady". Photo courtesy of Mrs Richardson's daughters, Mrs Gagen and Mrs Fleming.

I love this photo. This is the photo of Margaret Richardson, who may have only been noted in Heart of the Whau as the wife of Paul Richardson, former Avondale Borough Councillor from the 1920s.

But Mrs Richardson is much more than that to a generation of former pupils of Avondale Primary -- the ones who went to school during last century's Great Depression.

From out of the Depression Years come stories of community goodwill. One case in point is that of Mrs Margaret Francis Richardson (c.1882-1965), wife of former Avondale Borough Councillor Paul Richardson (c.1882-1961).

It came to her notice that some of the children attending Avondale Primary School were going to school without any lunch to eat. So, Mrs Richardson went around the local businesses, asking for donations of cocoa, sugar and milk, and then asked the School for the use of an old shed on site as a “cocoa shed”.

From there, she set up to provide cocoa drinks for the children, those who could afford it paying 1d a week, while those who couldn’t received cocoa free.

“The Cocoa Lady” became a feature of many childhood memories of the period. According to her daughters, Mrs Lorna Gagen and Mrs Shirley Fleming, Mrs Richardson was known for helping those boys a little late returning to class by hiding them under a shelf in the shed when their teacher came looking for them, then when the coast was clear saying to the boy “All right, go for your life!”

Her daughters told me that a man from Onehunga had written recently praising their mother, saying he was sure she kept him alive during the Depression.

Margaret Richardson (born in Glasgow, Scotland) was also a JP in Avondale.

1 comment:

  1. I just love her expression she is sooo awesome. Great story too Ice