by R B Olausen
Published by R B Olausen. Price: $35.00 Available from: R. Olausen, Unit 1/149, Chivalry Rd, Glenfield, Auckland
Reviewed by Geoffrey Bentley, February 2004
The book describes itself as “an intimate autobiography of love and adventure” and it is just that. The author relates how his Norwegian grandfather emigrated to New Zealand at the age of 28, married and settled in Wellington’s Holloway Road. They had seven children, one of whom, Robed, was the author’s father.
Reginald Olausen describes his childhood in an immigrant community that would be a microcosm of the working class society of the day. He writes of the tin bath in front of the open fire on bath night, with all the children sharing the same bath water; of home-made trolleys in which youngsters would risk life and limb,, of Guy Fawkes celebrations and the arrival of the first “talkies” at Wellington’s Majestic Theatre.
No schools in the Wellington region had playing fields, he recalls, and the annual school picnic was a highlight of every year.
Readers who are contemporaries of the author will be afforded a nostalgic harkback to their own childhood and younger readers will be treated to a bit of history.
When war came in September 1939 young Reginald Olausen joined up at once “Everyone wanted to be a fighter pilot, and so did I.” But his limited education failed him and he became a soldier in the Army Service Corps. He served in Greece and in a vain attempt at evacuation he and his mates were captured after an horrific strafing by German Stukas.
His description of life as a prisoner-of-war, his liberation and the events that followed are perhaps the most interesting episodes in this rather rambling account of a man in search of a rewarding life while always plagued by personal and domestic problems. But one aspect of his character stands out: Reginald Olausen was a battler.