While local men donned uniforms and trained in the Home Guard, women too were marching. The Women’s War Service Auxiliary drilled in the hall on the corner of Edinburgh and Harris Streets once a week and were instructed on how to handle and fire a gun. They marched with the Home Guard around Pukekohe and took a major role in organising the social events held for the troops stationed in the district.
Barbara Massey (nee Bish) was a hairdresser when the war was declared. Hairdressing was considered an essential service (to keep up morale), so Barbara wasn’t man-powered into working at the dehydration plant, though she volunteered there after work and on Sundays. She joined the WWSA to help with the war effort.
“We trained in emergency procedures, learning first aid and organised dances and socials, with transport to and from the services camps at the racecourse and at Schlaefers in Helvetia. Dances were held in the old Masonic Hall in Hall Street and socials at Karaka. I loved the social whirl. We also worked in the canteens at the American and New Zealand camps,” recalls Barbara.
Barbara especially remembers the huge The Women’s War Marching for morale amount of work done by Betty Thomas, who was in charge of most of the organising for WWSA activities, and taking ‘New Zealand tank boys’ and Americans home for home cooked meals with the Bish family. As well as welcoming in homesick troops, the mothers of the district and the Country Women’s Institute kept busy baking for and packing Red Cross parcels, gratefully received by those serving overseas. Everyone contributed their ‘bit’ – and the girls at Pukekohe High School knitted items and so did the Franklin Zone of the Women’s Patriotic Committee. Several Queen Carnivals were held to raise money for the committee.
The arrival of the Americans in the district made a huge impression on the local way of life. They were not rationed and their generosity was legendary. A hamburger shop opened on King Street by two enterprising couples, the Hockenhulls and the Stoupes, who did a roaring trade with the ‘Yanks’ and introduced a whole new cuisine to bemused locals.
It was not only troops who stayed over in Franklin. In 1942, nurses for the American 39th General Hospital were billeted at Wesley College while Cornwall Hospital was being built.