Long time resident of Paekakariki
I arrived in Paekakariki, July 1917, with my parents. Dad was on the railways, not then he joined the railways latter on. In the old days when they used to pull the old jiggers. He came from Otaki, he used to be a bushman. I was born in Waikanae, and came down from there when I was about 2 to Paraparaumu. We lived on the corner opposite where the orchard used to be, by the school, right next door to there. The orchard was on the seaward side of Himemoa Street, you can still see the house there, its got the concrete wall right around the corner. The orchard used to go down further, there’s houses where the orchard used to be now.
I was about 4 when we arrived at Paekakariki. I can remember running around in the back of the truck at the end of the First World War, 1918. We lived right behind St Peters Hall. We also lived in other houses, Corrigan’s house just behind it and we also lived in another one straight across in Ames Street. When we first came to Paekakariki the first place we went to was 33 Ames Street. It belonged to old Ann Smith.
Dad used to look after the tennis court and the bowling greens and all that. He was the caretaker of the hall for god knows how many years. They used to all come out for the weekend and we would collect the dough on the tennis courts. Arthur Law and his crowd. Dad was working at the Railways until he got put off and they all got put off in 1930 odd. Then he took the cows on. When they had that depression they put all the single blokes into camps and married men got one or two days at 10 bob a day. Dad stayed in Paekakariki. When he applied for these one or two days a week he had to sell his cows before he could get a job. He had 10 or 12 of them. I used to run around on the bike delivering milk, a billy in each hand. Two pints here, and three pints there.
Where the overhead bridge is, that was our place, right down to where the Fishermans Table is now. That was all our cow paddocks. Ames street finished at the creek, just past Smiths old house. I worked on that bridge. Dad was working on the wall for a while, the seawall. My brother worked on there too.
I went to work in town for a while. I worked at Vance Vivians and when I finished there I came back and just did odd jobs around the place during the Depression., picking spuds all sorts of things. Then I got some work on that quarry down there by the rocks, the Railway Quarry. I worked on there, all we were doing was getting the big rocks for the track foundation. We went to work one morning and the whole lot had come down, you can still see the big slip. It was lucky it came at night, all we lost were crow bars, drills and hammers. So they were very lucky. They shut the quarry down. It has not been in use for years and years.
When they decided to put the wall in we used to have to go up the hill and blast the rocks out of the hillside and get all the stones. It was originally the old Bluestone Quarry. Dad worked there for a while too. But that was shut down donkey’s years ago. A good place for rabbits there. I joined a bridge gang on the railways and went onto building the railway overbridge at Paekakariki. That was before I was married, suppose it was 1936-38. We used to do all the railway bridges, Otaki, Paremata and all those new bridges. I left and joined the military service and went right through the war. They wouldn’t let us come off, we couldn’t shift away because of the tunnels.
When the war finished in 1946 I joined the Post Office. I was a postie in Paekakariki for 30 years. I retired in 1974. I’m 74 on the 18th of this month.
Being Postman the worst thing that happened was the bloody dogs. I had run-ins with people over their dogs, I even had a magpie have a go for me one day. He used to sit by the gate, they had a lattice gate, and this damn magpie, he’d sit and wait for me. They had wirenetting over so he couldn’t get through and he used to sit there and wait. One day he was outside and he came straight at me. I slapped my bag on my shoulder, I was walking up Ames Street, let my bag go and I caught him and lifted him right over the fence and put him in the porch. I never saw him again. I was good cobbers with all the public. They were all good except the owners of the dogs.
The best tip I ever had was a 10 pound note from one chap, that was Arthur Law the old bookmaker. You used to make half your salary at Christmas time in the old days. I used to get hundreds of packets of cigarettes. In the early part of it, there were probably only about 300-400 householders there in Paekakariki. You were lucky to get home on Christmas eve sober. There was Ike Green, he was the Postmaster I started with. He used to make home brew. When he retired he bought a place right around the end of the Parade where the new surf club is, somewhere near Henare Street. Every Saturday morning when I finished, that was the end of my run, I stopped there for about an hour having his home brew. He was a character, used to make it in a copper, he made a good brew. He died of course quite a few years ago.
Tell us about the crushing of the shells….well the Oyster shells used to come out from Wellington from all the restaurants in bags. They came out by rail. We used to have to empty them, they did pong. We would take them right down where the new surf club is, by the first creek, the north end. We used to have to empty these oyster shells onto our lorry, take them right down across the creek, by the new surf club, that was our drying ground. I was talking to Ken Miers at the Surf Club the other night, and he wondered why you find oyster shells there., I said well it was a drying ground. When they were dry we’d bring them back and crush them. We would gather up the local shells and crush those too. We would sieve them on the beach mostly, pipi shells that was all. We did it ourselves, about three of us – Frank Holden, Harold Holden ( Daddy Holden we called him ). Myself and Paul. It was a good business, we used to send the stuff all over the country. Oyster shell / pipi grit. We would keep it separate. We also used to crush charcoal. With the pipi shells we’d bag it on the beach, bring it up, tip it out to dry and then put it through the sieve to get all the dirt and mush out. I used to get the burnt wood from Jack Clunie in Paraparaumu, I think he burnt it on the ground, Might have been from the old swamp when they set fire to it. It went through the same process as the grit, but we crushed it in the dark, you couldn’t see at night time it was so black. The dust was flying for miles. We did it at night time so no one could see what was going on.
Charcoal was pretty dear, it was as light as a feather too. You would get the bags and throw it up in the air, and stack it up the top. The pipis were all 100lb bags. I think the oyster grit was 4 pound a ton. Even 4 pound a ton in those days didn’t seem a lot. There was an awful lot of work in it. I don’t know what he used to pay for his oyster shells with the freight and all it must have been pretty cheap. The pipi grit was really heavy stuff. We’d crush 30 bags an hour, it used to pour out. That’s one every two minutes. We used to even pay people to get it off the beach for us, but oysters you’d be lucky to crush 15 bags an hour. That’s when the rings were used to crush with. When they were new they were alright but once they get a bit bald, the bottom used to filter as it came through, it wouldn’t crush them properly, you had to tip rejects back up the top and they’d go through again. In the oysters, we used to get bolts and all sorts of things, they’d smash the lugs off the rings.
My brother – Ken had a carrying business. He had an old ford for a start. We had an old Ford too, for the crusher. Holden built a truck himself, part Chev, part Ford and part all sorts. That’s a Chev in the photo. That would be probably 1924/25 when he had that new truck, that was the last one he had. Then he went on to the public works. He had about 14 trucks on the public works. His headquarters was here. He used to be away most of the time. I think that’s what upset their marriage. His wife lived just around the road here. That’s one of his sons Bill Bly, who lives just down the road here, works in the telephone exchange.
For social activities we used to go all over the place to dances at night time. We’d hire taxis to go to the dances. We used to have a taxi here in Paekakariki. Sometimes we’d go to the billiard room, the building opposite the pub used to be a billiard room. When that finished, I helped put the floor down there, he made an indoor bowling place out of it.
My wife worked in the Railway tearooms. The Sunday business was the busiest time for the girls there. You can see how spick and span the place was, look how shiny it is. The girl Conray, she’s Mrs Shaw now. They lived at 11 Ames Street, Pritchards. They have been in Paekakariki a long time. There’s quite a lot in Paekakariki now that I wouldn’t even know. I knew everybody then, og course the place has changed a lot. Not much new building, they’re all the same that was when I finished. I lived right down next to Queen Elizabeth Park, our old house is a two storey place now its been added to.