Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 6, October 1966


Comparing conditions in Waihi around 1920 with the present time, town life as I knew it then was made up of a considerable lot of noise, caused by the large number of vehicles in general use every day. Business firms, general carriers, farmers, contractors and private people all relied on horse-drawn vehicles as a means of transport and the iron-rimmed wheels coming in contact with rough metal road surface gave forth quite a din, especially so if moving at a brisk trot. The resulting racket had to be accepted, being typical that period.

As a lad filling in weekends at my father's stables it was sometimes my duty to go on fairly long sulky trips, the term gig being more often used for this light conveyance. One trip of interest was to return a lady School Teacher to a hill top destination above Mataora Bay where Maori people would arrive with a sledge drawn by two ponies to complete her journey to this isolated village.

Another run to this coast which provided notable scenery of bush and blue ocean views occurred when the Inspector of Mines, Mr. Paul, had to be taken to Whiritoa, our destination being the Ross Homestead which was a welcome sight when it came into view. Here we received much hospitality and a rest was enjoyed before my return trip alone. Near the house was a large vegetable garden, so very necessary in those days when the sometimes shocking state of the road prevented travel for many weeks at a time to get provisions from town.

On another occasion I enjoyed a trip to the Franklin farm at Waitawheta and remember the large house flanked by beautiful Macrocarpa trees, a flock of turkeys on a green paddock, an ideal picture of success accomplished by hardy pioneers who battled on through the trials of breaking in new country.

All the drives varied and some bad ones came my way. One Winters day I went as companion to the driver to convey a lady to Hospital. It was wet and cold when we started off to a farm some 3 miles out. We duly got our passenger on board the handsome cab, a first-class conveyance under the conditions, cosy and sound inside, but the driver sat out in front fully exposed to the storm which now lashed us with hard cold driving rain and wind of some force. Coming to a ford one horse faltered and stopped, which under the trying conditions it was not surprising. After a short rest and some coaxing the team moved on and completed the last 1½ miles. What a relief it was to arrive back to the shelter of the stables and get the horses dried, fed and covered.

My worst experience happened on a sunny Winter day when I left a little late to deliver some survey gear to a point at Athenree. Ready to return I was happy enough standing in the light spring cart and had progressed a mile when I realised the day was fast drawing in. Then quite suddenly the whole atmosphere started to get really cold. I was not equipped for an emergency and being lightly clad, the torment of the cold air on body and fingers became very trying. Exercises did not help and I could not drive fast with uphill going. Once out of the gorge it was better but all in all a nasty experience. On alighting I discovered that my fingers were so stiff with the cold drive I just could not unbuckle the harness to get the horse out, but fortunately help was near at hand and matters were soon made right. An experience such as this shows how important it is to have spare clothes. An overcoat and gloves would have avoided what turned out to be a very miserable return journey.