Nancy Ella Hall Rutgers
"Welcome to the home of my parents, James Norman Hall and Sarah Teraireia WinchesterHall. It is a place to reflect on the life and works of a famous author, JamesNorman Hall, they lived their entire married lives in these very rooms.
I had a wonderful childhood and wonderful parents. I had always wanted to do something as a testimonial to their lives, to this beautiful house, one of the few ofthat time that had been well preserved, and to the Tahiti of their days.
One day after mother died, my husband Nick and I were going through some old papers and found the orignal manuscript of "Flying with Chaucer", in which was included a letter he had written to his family. We knew then and there we had to open the house to the public. I don't have my father's talent for writing but I have his passion to give back to the country he loved so much, to leave to this community where he and Charles Nordhoff wrote, the memory of him and my mother and their friends in Tahiti from the 1920s to 1950s.
Please, enjoy the tour of my childhood home. Note the breadfruit tree, the cause of all the Bounty troubles, seen from the terrace window and the original period furniture made of solid local woods. Glimpse through my father's voluminous library. If you were here, you would hear the roosters crowing in the garden, and the waves crashing against the beach. You would smell the frangipanier and other flowers in the garden, and coffee brewing from Mama Lala's kitchen. You would sit out in the shade of the mango trees and feel as if in a dream, slowly transported to another time in the not too distant past.
Manava to'outou ta'e ra' a mai. Welcome to my home. "
Nancy Ella Hall Rutgers
The breadfruit tree, the cause of all the Bounty troubles
Photoby Nicholas Rutgers
(Click on picture to enlarge)
GROWING UP IN TAHITI
Life in the early thirties was an oasis of calm beauty and a children's paradise. My parents were loving, interesting and always ready to take a bicycle ride on our main road, the one and only around the island. I used to ride my tricycle with no fear of traffic, as there was none. Tahiti, in those days, had maybe ten automobiles and they rarely came as far as Arue. Once a day "Le Truck" would pass by and deliver some adventurous passengers who would get to town early in the morning and return late in the afternoon. There, they would sell their wares at the big Papeete market or stop by Quin's for a beer and catch up on the "parau api" (news) of the day.
Our house was one of the nicest in the district. But just down the road was a beautiful two-story house, built by a very wealthy French plantation owner, which has since become the Mairie of Arue. It is very well maintained and enjoyed by us all. We have to remember the past and honor those who left us a heritage to cherish.
My memories of our house in Arue are clouded, as my childhood was so joyous, I have a difficult time remembering all of my very early years. I do know that my Grandmother Winchester and her mother Mama Ruau Rose were a large part of my early youth. I adored those two very Victorianesque grandmothers who taught me how to care for my nine grandchildren.
My life was spent in good part around my mother's kitchen. It was a large room with many windows, looking out to ourgarden. Fruit trees filled our yard: kava, mango, avocado breadfruit trees as well as Vi Tahiti, an exotic and now rare fruit. We had quenette and mountain apple trees all in our little back yard. It was enough to give any child a good stomach ache, as we were always nibbling on those fruits. My Dad and I were in charge of cutting and splitting wood for mother's wood burning stove. In the late forties and fifties, she then acquired a General Electric stove, but nothing ever tasted as good as when it was cooked on her wood burning stove.
We also had a beach house on the other side of the road, where Dad had his wind up Victrola. After dinner we would often play Souza's Marchesand I would march along with my Dad to the music. There, he would play a German song he learned when he was imprisoned during the war. I learned the words and we would sing Adieu Mein Klein a grande officier, adieu, adieu. Dad would take me outside on moonlit nights and tell me stories of fairies swinging on the stamens of coral hibiscus and dancing on the coconut fronds in the moonlight. What magic he created with his creative mind. We didn't have television or even a radio so my imagination had to work overtime to capture Dad's stories of his Iowa childhood.
When the Second World War started with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, we finally got a radio and listened everynight at seven P.M. for news of the war. Chet Huntley was our favorite newscaster, but we also listened to other programs like the Prudential Family Home with LawrenceTibbet, a famous singer of that time. He would open with a song"A garden sweet, a garden small, a garden just the size for NancyElla Hall ". My dad substituted my name and to this day I shed atear when I hear that music.
I hope the people visiting my family home will retain a feeling of the love I was lucky to have and I hope they share my memories of the lovely home of James Norman and Lala Hall. Lala is my mother and a great lady and she took such good care of her Jimmy and her children.
I only spent thirteen years in this house before going to the United States in 1943. I did not return until 1951 when my father passed away. We arrived in Tahiti ten days after his death. He was buried on our hill where Nick and I built our house and have lived on and off for the past fifty-four years. My mother, Sarah Hall and Grandma Winchester also rest in peace there.
My father's grave bears his self-written epitaph describing the view he had in Iowa at the age of eleven, "Look to the Northward stranger, just over the hillside (barn roof) there. Have you in your travels seen a land more passing fair?"
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