Karangahake School and District 70th Jubilee 1889-1959
These few lines are penned in appreciation of the fact that I was one of the fortunates who were privileged to spend part of their boyhood in the Karangahake-Mackaytown District. It would be difficult to find a place with more genuine appeal to a boy. It just seemed to have everything.
What a great day the official opening of the railway was. I think an excursion train got stuck in the tunnel. However, we soon found that a lot of the colourful life of the Goldfields went with the passing of the coaches and other horse-drawn transport. No more "Whip Behind."
What a great crowd of fellows the miners were! Real miners in every sense of the term in those days before the coming of machines. I have often heard my father claim that he could pick a team of 100 Karangahake miners that would lick allcomers from any part of the world in every phase of underground work. These same miners used to take a great interest in the sporting activities of the kids and encouraged us in all our efforts. They always seemed to be full of high spirits and played endless practical jokes on their mates and sometimes on the smaller fry as well. They had my younger brother doing endless laps of the old "Rec." to see if he could run a minute in 59 seconds. With shouts of "He'll do it" and "No, he won't," from the onlookers, he tore round like a jet plane till he collapsed.
What memories the old "Rec." calls up! Terrific football battles and some of them were battles! Sports meetings with bookmakers laying the odds. The never to be forgotten year when Mackaytown won the competition. (I did not regain full use of my vocal powers for a fortnight). And the very sad day when 15 "Little Blackbirds" were beaten.
My "cobbers," the Rusden boys across the river, had what I think was the only boat in the district and what fun we had in it. I remember our many exploits on Te Moananui's Hill. There was the day we found the tree laden with luscious peaches after we had gorged on nikau pith. (Early settlers had planted peach trees along the river bank). Also the day when engaged in a search for old Maori weapons, a crowd of mounted Maoris caught us (on forbidden ground). I do not know what Murray Halberg's time for a mile through scrub and bush would be, but I feel sure we would have "left him for dead."
Flood time was a grand time for the boys also, if not for the people affected. I remember an "Old Timer" (no names, no pack drill) complaining that the place was getting too civilised. He told me that when he first came to the district, the only lights at night were those outside the hotels and that was where all the fights took place. He claimed that whilst one bout was in progress there would be three or four couples waiting their turn to have a "lash." What a lot of fun the famous "Kelly Gang" of Irish Town used to have even if they put themselves offside with some of the residents at times. I would have liked to have been present the night Bob Odgers shot them out of the pine tree with blank cartridges after they had "knick knocked" William Searle's.
I am sure that all the "Old Timers" join me in wishing that some day in the near future payable ore will again be discovered at Karangahake and if there are any prospectors fossicking in the hills now, I wish them all the luck in world and hope they strike a lode richer than anything dug out of the old Talisman.