Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 43, September 1999

By Alfred Lawry (1989)

A photograph of how the settlement of Karangahake looked during the gold boom and a mention of the Walkway, which opened in March 1985, what memories it all brings back. March and Karangahake form an important link in my lifetime as it was on the 5th of March 1912, that I first saw the light of day in "Hake".

From our old Home upon the hillside we used to look down on the settlement, across the Ohinemuri River and up to the hills dominating the scene, the hills which made such an impression on the little chap; one of the youngest citizens of the mining town's population which exceeded 1000 in those days.

It was a typical mining town, with the usual characters and hard cases - gold seekers from many parts of the world. There were the remittance men, rather colourful characters, the so called "black sheep" of some well to do family in faraway England. The "R" men received a regular allowance from home, accompanied by a polite note suggesting that it would be better for all concerned if they would remain out in the Colonies. We often wondered about the facts of the case and the reason for their "banishment" - most likely trivial by today's standards. They were rather silent men, well educated, always courteous to our women folk and kind to the youngsters who almost worshipped them and who, evidently had more feeling and sympathy than did their folks back home.

Successes and failures were the order of the time with Karangahake township rivalling Waihi in size during the boom period. As was inevitable, the mining operations gradually ceased until the wonderful old Talisman was the last to close down during World War I.

I last visited Hake in March 1975, and found it hard trying to convince my fellow travellers of how things really were in the "Golden and wonderful days" that were once Karangahake. But the ex-resident, 1912 vintage, had no trouble in, once again, remembering it all. As I stood up there on the hillside on the exact site of our old home and looked down at the now bare area of the once busy little gold town, across the Ohinemuri River and up to the towering hills it all came back and other things as well.

How often did I look out the window at night to watch the flames of a house afire? Was the supply of gold dwindling at last and the population gradually decreasing - the cause of some of the fires rather suspect? After the death of my father in a mine accident, we too left our home up there on the hillside and shifted to Thames - more gold country!

A treasured photo which I possess, portrays a street scene in the early 1900's. A busy scene of a two storeyed building opposite to the NZ Graphic Office, horse drawn buggies drawn up, a heavily laden wagon passing along the street heading for the entrance to the gorge and many pedestrians passing along the shopping area, I cannot look at the photograph without experiencing a feeling of great nostalgia.