I first realised I had writing ability when I was in Form 2 at Otaki School, because of the encouragement of a good teacher, Mr McSweeny. He gave us essays to write and often read mine to the class. The essay to be written for the end of year English examination was on My Last Day of Primary Education. I began it – “With joy and yet with sorrow I crossed the well-worn school threshold for my last day at school”. The headmaster, Mr Adams sent it to the local paper, which printed it in full.

I first tried my hand at writing for publication when I was sole teacher at a little country school. One evening I typed a play for the School Journal called White men aren’t for Eating. It was a comedy about some boys from a mission school in Africa playing a trick on an explorer and his assistant whom they had overheard making derogatory remarks about natives.

They ‘captured’ the two men and pretended to get things ready for a cannibal feast. The play had catchy jingles in it. When, for instance, the scientist proclaimed that he ‘liked natives,’ the boys responded,
“We like you, too. Yum! Yum! Yum!
Like you in a pot of stew,
Yum! Yum! Yum!”
The play got its name from the last jingle when the boys, having let the two white men ‘escape’, marched back to the mission school chanting:
“Cook ’em with some ‘taters,
Grind ’em with our teeth.
White men aren’t for eating,
So we’ve got to have beef!”
The play was published in the School Journal, and widely used and enjoyed.

In 1981 I wrote a true anecdotal story for the New Zealand Listener about a wartime incident when Mr Adams chose me to be the Otaki school air raid warden, and everything went wrong. To do my job I had to take the red frying-pan air raid alarm from Mr Adams and run around the school bashing it, but I was late getting it from him. As I took it from him he shouted down at me, “Campbell, the school by now is bombed to bits – and everybody in it! And it’s your fault, Don Campbell. IT’S YOUR FAULT!”

The Listener published it with a photo I had sent them of the school children lined up in their “trench uniforms” made of sacks. It was called by The Listener, “MR ADAMS’ ARMY The Day I got Blamed for the Bombing of Otaki School!”
In 2012, over thirty years later, I sent this story to New Zealand Memories with an explanation about it having been published in The Listener, and it was accepted. This publication has since accepted four other humorous anecdotal stories about my early years, including my childhood in a children’s home. In 2004 I joined “Poet’s Parlour” which was a branch of Tauranga Writers. I took part in all the activities set and have published some of my poems in a little book called “After Cave Creek and Other Poems.” My favourite poem is a love poem I wrote to my wife Ruth, who has since died. It was written for an activity where we had to choose three favourite words and write short poems including each. One of my words was “serendipity” and for this I wrote:

Was finding you just chance
like the random dance
of lotto balls in their perspex dome
on a Saturday night?
Was finding you
an accident of fate
which left its victim, me
beyond recovery?
(And glad of it!)
Or was the blooming of our love
in that sweet youthful season
Meant, from above?
Or destined by the Trinity?
I still affirm the latter.
But does it really matter
While I until eternity
Have you.

Apart from the N.Z. Memories stories, a short autobiography and a little poetry book, (many of the poems arising from Poets Parlour), I haven’t written much in recent years, I regret. Thank you Tauranga Writers, for this opportunity to tell about my writing.