When the Manawatu Railway Company approached the Government for assistance in building the line they were granted, instead of cash, large land endowments along and adjacent to the proposed line. Some of these endowments were purchased from time to time by Francis Smith, and the property eventually extended from White Pine Gully at Tunapo to the Weraroa Stream with the hill country at the back to Mackays on the north. The undulating sandhill country between the road and the sea was acquired from the Maoris.
The Big Bend at one time had a native bush and in later years was purchased by a Mr A. Clarke from Francis Smith, to preserve the bush for all time. He spent much time and money in planting the area with bulbs and trees, but sheep and vandals destroyed or stole his plantings.
I stayed with Jack Smith for some weeks at Tunapo before he was married. The personnel was Bill Fossit, cook and rouseabout, Horace Ames, and Jack Ames, cadet.
At that time rebuilding of the wool shed and other buildings was contemplated The rough timber was all pit sawn from a bush on the west side of the road just south of Tunapo. The sawyers, in pairs, were Fossit and H.Ames, Jack Smith and J.Ames. To speed up the work Jack instituted a system of races through the log. Jack sharpened the saws after a few cuts and always had the latest sharpened for himself and J. Ames. Needless to say they always won and Fossit and his mate could not account for it.
In helping to pull in a net with Thomson, Clarke, Saunders and others, we were wildly excited to find a large shark, some nine feet long, wound up in the net. Thomson got it by the tail to get it further up the beach. It gave a flick of its tail and sent him spinning on his back. The shark was jumping about, snapping its jaws at nothing in particular, and Thomson in his fright could not get up as he kept slipping in the sand. Dormers arrived with an axe and despatched it. This was at 10.30 am on a Sunday morning.
The sections at Paekak. Were just on the market advertising safe bathing etc and the complete absence of sharks. If our shark became known sections would be at a discount. It was hurriedly decided to get rid of it before prospective buyers arrived on the 11 am train and came on the beach to inspect sections. The shark was cut in pieces and we all carried up chunks and buried them in Dormer’s garden.
There were ten railway cottages at Paekak. and two private houses for many years. Other buildings were the Old Hotel and Cameron’s Stables and a shop owned by Greville, where the present hotel stands. A long gabled-end building, put up later for railway construction workmen. A house at the back of the stables was owned by Adams, a constant visitor from Wellington. The other house was near the creek south of Paekak. and was owned by Maurice Ames, a foreman carpenter with the Railway Company, where he brought up a large family. This house was later occupied by Len Smith when he married. A fairly early house was erected by George Robertson, and this was followed by the subdivision of the land from the present hall to the creek, and erection of Tilley’s large home. About this time the hotel and seventy acres of land were sold to a syndicate who roaded the property and disposed of sections outside the hotel limits. This subdivision extended as far north as Sir Charles Norwood’s property.