Pitchforks and Oranges
Arnold G. Osborne
In 1945 my family moved to Raumati South. My parents had been farmers in Bunnythorpe and Bulls, but moved to Palmerston North a few years earlier due to my father’s poor health. The reason for the shift south is unclear, but maybe my parents did not enjoy city life, or was it the climate?
The first three months must have been quite a challenge. I contracted mumps just before the shift and I remember the trip down in our V8 Ford pick-up, wrapped in blankets with a scarf around my head with no one very sympathetic or pleased with me. Even less pleased they were when all the family, including Dad, came down with mumps in a nice tidy order.
Our first home was at 39 The Esplanade. The main floor level was quite elevated, sited on a section of sand dunes with flax bushes instead of lawns, my bedroom was a sun porch off the lounge and I recall the noise of the sea and some wicked windstorms with sand flying. That first July was a month of magnificent weather. My father began working for Hooker and Ritchie as a builder’s labourer and they made major alterations to the house by digging out the sand underneath and building a full double storey. I convalesced banished to the balcony by my bedroom to watch the huge piles of sand being excavated and foundations going in. When completed, a self-contained flat had been built under our house and on the south side a small bedsit. Both were rented out: an airline pilot and his family in the flat, and an ex-Wellington taxi driver, Bert Hoult, had the bedsit.
The Esplanade was a quiet stretch of road extending only as far as No 66 (Rainey’s house on the hill beachside), with few permanent residents, but plenty of baches filled from Friday night to Sunday night by weekenders. There was a track to the beach through sand dunes and flax at the end of Tainui Street (later changed to Kainui St) – the distance was approximately 10 metres from the edge of the road to the high waterline. While the road position is similar today, the present beach has encroached over the sand dune area and seems to be at least two metres lower than in 1945. In one huge storm the waves came up through the track and over the road splashing down into the lower properties on the corner of Tainui Street. At that time they were owned by the Grimes family (builders and joiners in the Hutt Valley) and Mrs Nesbit, who operated a very busy dairy downstairs in the corner property. Vanilla milkshakes and Pixie Caramel bars were our favourites.
Next door, to the south of our house, lived Mrs Fitzgerald. She was the retired founding principal of Chilton St James School, a stooped lady who strode off daily exercising her black and white spaniels. One of my jobs was to deliver her groceries and chop wood for her. The Logan family lived further south and then a Mr Carter and his daughter. Mr Carter looked like an old seaman and his daughter, who was very bronzed, fit and wiry, was often seen taking to the ocean in a small dinghy to set fishing lines.
I well remember the occasion of a drowning tragedy opposite our house. Miss Carter tried in vain to get her dinghy out through the waves to save a swimmer, but the seas were monstrous and every one marvelled at her attempt. Two girls (weekenders) had gone swimming in totally unsuitable conditions and got into difficulties. The father of one (a Wellington doctor) charged into the water to rescue them. He saved both the girls but the effort was too much and he perished. Our house was taken over as search headquarters and emergency services, including Paekakariki Surf club people, did all they could. Our family and a team of helpers provided many cups of soup and refreshments. Following this tragedy a special surf reel was installed in our garage, but I cannot ever record it being put to use.
The beach was our play area. Hours were spent on it playing beach tennis, cricket, racing each other and perfecting our accuracy at firing shells at designated fence posts, which were at the foot of the sand dunes. Dad also organised us to drag loads of seaweed from the beach into specially made trenches to add to the compost for his vegetable garden.
In the late 1940s Raumati South was a small community. The hub of the area was the hollow where the shops are now located. The existing Valhallah building was the main general store, first owned by Stan Cummins, then Gog and Yolande Mark, and later Kneale and Pat Mark. A smaller shop up Poplar Avenue (opposite the current shops) was a grocery shop operated by Ron and Alec Wakelin and their wives, Berryl and Eileen, who were sisters.
Alec and Jessie Loveridge later owned this store. Near the Glen Road entrance stood the Post Office, and between it and Marks’ store was a butchery owned by the Haswell family. The church on the south side of the road was active; we attended Sunday School and a Bible class. I remember Mrs Wakelin Senior taking the singing and suggesting nicely that I was not destined for a vocal career. Dr Marshall’s surgery was in the little white cottage next to the church. The hollow west of the surgery and behind the existing shops was a swampy hole; no shops existed where the current shops now stand. Down the lane beside the current fish and chip shop lived Miss Cook, an early identity. In the first house at the start of the lane lived the Lynch twins, Michael and Stead, who had Shetland ponies, which we used to ride around the shopping area. They were cousins of the Lynch family who lived at Emerald Glen.
Later a group of shops was built along Renown Road close to Marks’ General Store. Haswells’ butchery and delicatessen moved there but it was not successful and the buildings have since been demolished. A shoe repairer moved into the original butcher’s shop some years later.
Apart from the main shops there were other smaller stores. A grocer’s shop, Ivan’s Store, operated on Rosetta Road where the café is now. Earlier there was also Page’s Store on the corner of Renown and Tiromoana Roads. The section of Tiromoana Road between Renown Road and Rosetta Road was called Hyde’s Cutting and was just a narrow track. Green Gables tearooms opened for a few years on the corner of Rosetta Road and Poplar Avenue.
In those days Tenniscourt Road finished at No 68 with a car width track through lupins to a motor camp close to Rainbow Court. Forest Road was not formed. McKenzies owned a large area of land at the south end of the Esplanade. Their house still stands today at the end of McKenzies Avenue, but earlier this house was accessed by a long driveway.
The two main farms in the area belonged to Harry Shaw and Bill Eatwell. Bill Eatwell’s farm covered the area around Menin Road between Rosetta, and Matai Road where Dale Road, Hillcrest Road South and Matthews Park are now situated. Harry Shaw farmed the land east of Matai Road in the area from Poplar Avenue to the Raumati Estate. Harry was the local milkman and a local identity. Each evening he came jingling down The Esplanade with his horse and a two-wheeled cart standing on the back with reins a-flying calling out “Milk Ahoy!” I would race out to see him coming down the street, he allowed me to jump onto the cart and he would take me on the downward run and drop me off on the way back – a highlight of the day. Harry was a wonderful character, rough and ready, rowdy with a twinkle in his eye. He played a large part in early district life, especially anything Scottish.
Primary school in those days was at Paraparaumu Primary School, over the railway line. It was not an easy task getting there. We biked along Rosetta Road, Raumati Road and up the Main Road. Later by arrangement with Harry Shaw and Bill Eatwell, we went down a track (later Menin Road) to Matai Road. This was quicker, but with gates to open and shut – plus avoiding cows – I was not happy. We were pleased when finally a bus was provided which we caught on the corner of Poplar Avenue and Rosetta Road. Early bus drivers were Stan Richardson, Bill Newby and Mr Buckley.
Due to overcrowding at Paraparaumu School the old Paekakariki School (which was on the Main Road just north of the Railway Station) was reopened as a side school. We were bussed there for Standard Four in 1946. Not a good year, as our teacher Miss Maggie McGrath had very little control, so there was a good deal of chaos. Many times Pop Casey (Principal of Paraparaumu School) came down and threatened us with a wagging finger and a red blustery face. The whole class went on strike a few times and refused to go into the classroom – we just sunbathed. Sometimes kids would miss the bus home on purpose, which meant walking home or demanding other transport. Parents got in the act and there was a great ‘ to do’. My sister Alma and I were rarely involved in anything untoward as we were used to a strict upbringing: any misbehaviour at school meant you were in deeper trouble at home.
A couple of incidents remain in my mind. I was too accurate when throwing an orange out the bus window at a passing car; it went through an open side window and hit the driver in the face. No damage, but what a shock next morning at the bus stop when Mrs Price stood there demanding to know the culprit. I also remember tossing a few stones on Bill Peart’s roof as we walked home from the bus stop. He lived in a garage on the south side of Poplar Avenue near the corner of The Esplanade. We tossed the stones then ran down around the corner. If pursued we ran down onto the beach. It had to happen. One day Bill, a bent old fisherman, was waiting for us. He was two metres behind us with a pitch fork in hand – we gained a good distance and cunningly hid in flax bushes. He found us, threatened to shoot us and then prodded us with the fork – the marks are still visible to this day.
In Standard 5 and 6 we were back at Paraparaumu School. Pop Casey and then Fred Groves were our teachers and in our class were Bill Brazier, John Lusted, John Cotterill, Harry Jackson, Pudge and Peggy Woodman, Dave Thomson, Dave Waldron, Dennis Scaife, Vernon Darke, Jean Jobe, Enid Maclean and Valerie Potts. We played cricket with a pick handle, Dave Thomson and Dave Waldron were the big hitters, and finally Dave Waldron put a ball through a pre-fab window after months of trying. Marbles featured as a popular pastime, but a real treat for me was the daily school milk. I always tried to be milk monitor and often managed to secure more than one bottle. Once a week we went to manual training at Otaki near the Maori Church, we made various wooden projects with Mr Boyce the tutor. We enjoyed these lessons and learned to behave as miscreants were whacked with a flexy piece of half-inch dowelling.
After school was a busy time. My after-school work was varied. I worked in the Post Office from 3.45 to 5.15pm each day. Miss McIver was the postmistress, a lovely lady who reminds me of Nurse Gladys Emmanuel from “Open All Hours” with Ronnie Barker. I was paid 1 shilling and 2 pence per hour and loved to test my speed when hand stamping the mail. I also did odd jobs and shopping for her and felt especially important when she occasionally went to Wellington at 5pm, leaving me to manage everything, lock up and deflect any phone calls as to her absence. Once a month I was given the serious job of transferring money from the Raumati South Post Office to the Main Post Office at Paraparaumu. A special bag was strapped to my body under my coat before setting off on my bike. My instructions were “You will not stop or talk to anyone”.
At 5.20pm I went to work at Marks’ General Store where I filled the vegetable shelves, did general duties and cut the firewood and kindling for the Marks’ home which joined on to the shop. Between 5.30 and 5.45 the rail bus arrived from Paekakariki bringing the Evening Post from Wellington. I took delivery of the papers for both Marks’ and Wakelins’ stores. These had to be rolled and secured with a sleeve made from cigarette packets before loading onto my bike. Paper numbers were from 50 in winter to 150 in summer and holiday times. My round was from just north of Menin Road to the end of The Esplanade and all the area east out to the Main Road. On fine days the papers were just tossed and I rarely missed my target, wet nights were terrible – papers had to go in letterboxes which made the journey long, cold and wet. On really bad nights the Wakelins came to my rescue, driving me in their van and helping with the deliveries. Yolande Mark let me roll the papers in front of her lounge fire on very cold nights. I finished the delivery about 6.45pm, for this I received 5 shillings per week from each store. Christmas was a highlight as I received many gifts and goodies.
This may seem a huge workload for a lad after school but I loved it, and I guess it was good training for my future. I learned to take responsibility at an early age and seemed to gain the trust of those I worked for.
College education was a problem for Paraparaumu students. The options were to travel to Wellington by train or Levin by bus. For us the lesser of the two evils was the one-hour bus to Horowhenua College. Our daily journey began at 7.15am with a bike ride to Braziers’ Store, Paraparaumu. After six months a special bus was supplied; old square seats back to back with a raised level at the rear. This bus was garaged at Ted Gatchell’s house at the end of Rimu Road near Fiesta Grove corner. During the winter this rattler often refused to start, causing delays. The pain was eased by Mrs Collins (Ann and Jim’s mother), a neighbour of the Gatchells, who supplied toast and honey, a real treat. Occasionally, with my mates John Winstanley and Jackie Campbell, we would purposely miss the bus ride from Braziers’ Store and hitch a ride to college. Imagine the waves as we passed the bus on the way. A recent reunion of the “bus kids”, 1949 – 1953 was a great success.
About the time I started college Hooker and Ritchie built us a new home just in from the corner of Renown and Menin Roads on the southeast corner. This had a garage under, with a patterned concrete block foundation. Later Dr Bowers purchased this house for his home and medical surgery. On the northern corner of Renown and Menin Roads, diagonally opposite our house, my father built a shop; my mother operated a dairy and cake shop from there for several years.
I thoroughly enjoyed college studies so I was dismayed when, at the age of 15 years, my parents decided I was to begin an apprenticeship in carpentry with J. A. (Arnold) Moller. Arnold Moller’s workshop and house were in Tiromoana Road. He was a very good tradesperson, hardworking and organised, and he operated a very successful small building company. Residential houses and alterations were his specialty. I was fortunate to work for him for six years, completing my apprenticeship and getting an excellent grounding for my future career. The recognized builders of the day were Garth Rigg, Geoff McChesney, Arnold Moller and Murphy and Woon. I was foreman for George Murphy and Eric Woon until I started my own business in 1961.
Arnold Moller was always involved in community projects. While working for him we were involved with the Raumati South Plunket rooms, and Raumati South Memorial Hall. These brought lots of tradespeople together, which was great fun.
Through my building I met some real characters amongst the contractors. Bill Dobson was a plasterer, bricklayer and cartoonist who lived on the hill corner of Glen Road and Poplar Avenue. (This house is still there with imitation beams and bolts showing). His job was to build the hearth, firebox, and fire surround. When finished he would draw a large cartoon above the mantlepiece on the wallboard. He picked the subject from an incident on that job site, sometimes positive, sometimes a dig at someone, but always funny and clever. Later Clarry Davidson took over this brickwork – he was a great whistler. Sid Neale the plumber was a huge man and did all Arnold’s plumbing work. Both men had an abrasive nature and many sparks flew on the site. When we nailed the floor down before Sid had completed the underfloor pipes, all hell broke loose. Arnold also had a memorable altercation with a cartage contractor over the parking of his truck, which nearly came to fisticuffs. This argument was finished by the cartage contractor driving a heavy truck with a bulldozer on the trailer right across Arnold’s beautiful lawn on the corner of Tiromoana Road and Glen Road.
During the 1950s life in Raumati South was wonderful. Outside work there was sport, the beach, dances and a picture theatre, making life full and enjoyable. There was a variety of sports clubs: table tennis, tennis and badminton. These sports became an important part of my life and I played at local and representative level. The Raumati South Table Tennis Club was based at Arnold Moller’s workshop. Tenniscourt Road with its courts, the park and later the Raumati South Memorial Hall were also centres of sport and recreation.
The beach was still a haven for activities such as swimming, surfing on wooden surf boards, and picnics. The picture theatre, situated along Marine Parade, burnt down and moved to Maurie Moeller’s garage site along Kapiti Road near the Golf Club entrance, then later moved again to the corner of Kapiti Road and Maclean Street. We went at least once a week.
In 1953 I took private ballroom dancing lessons with Mrs Jonet Lopez at a small hall at Kawatiri Guesthouse. Jonet was a member of the Eatwell family and had spent time in America. Later I joined a group of pupils who went to various halls in the district to help her with dancing lessons. The Blue Moon Ballroom in Kapiti Road was in full swing, well attended dances every weekend and packed out in the holidays. No drink, no problems, just wonderful fun with Charlie Bax and his band. Paekakariki Surf Club dances were also very popular.
Life was busy, enjoyable and rewarding growing up in Raumati South. These notes cover a period of years after 1945 and are jottings of memory rather than historical fact. I hope they paint a small picture of the environment I grew up in at that time. With the natural boundaries of the sea, Queen Elizabeth II Park and the highway, we have a real opportunity to keep and continue to develop a village boutique atmosphere for this area.
Written by Arnold Osborne
Edited by Jacqueline Elliott
My friend’s father Dr McKay drowned out here off the coast, probably around the summer of 1946–1947. His daughter and a friend had been caught on a sandbar offshore and he swam out to rescue them.
There was quite a wide beach that day with low tide, and all the families came and watched what was going on. They found his body three days later at Paekakariki. Soon after the Raumati South Surf Life Saving Club was set up and did their training at the small hall on the dune above the beach at Hydes Road. The hall was later used for many years as a base for the Raumati South Sea Scout Unit, and was demolished in about 2002, leaving a lovely wide open grassed picnic space for beach users.
From an interview with Mrs Anne Bennett