Karangahake School and District 70th Jubilee 1889-1959

My Uncle, Bill Sorensen, used to tell us many tales of the early days. He was born in 1876, in a four-roomed cottage at the foot of Turner's Hill, but later his father built a six-roomed house which was pit-sawn from one large kauri tree. It was roofed with split wooden shingles. He and Bill Marsh went to the first Mackaytown School and Mr Sullivan, who later went to Paeroa as Headmaster, taught there. Daldy Williams ran a store and Post Office in an old hotel near the school.

In those days the present road from Paeroa did not go beyond Doherty's Creek. But one could cross the river there by means of a ferry, which was just a small boat pulled across by a heavy wire. Further down the river opposite Mackaytown there was a much used ford which was the access to the opposite flat of Wairere, where houses were built and also to a road which gradually climbed the hill above the present railway line until it reached the Crown Hill, passing the house where I live now. Mrs Ritchie says that when she lived above the Railway Station she and Mr Ritchie used this road when they drove to Paeroa in their gig. However, it continued further through the bush, over the hill and then down Scotch-man's Gully to the Tramway Hotel, which was on our side of the river. All the early cartage for the mines went that way and my Uncle used to take butter (6d a pound) and eggs (6d a dozen), to sell at the camps. His father was the manager of the "Ivanhoe," the first Battery. The first bridge was built across the river from the Tramway Hotel to what became the shopping side.

One of the greatest days in Mackaytown was the celebration of the Carters' Picnic, when Brass Bands would he in attendance. In the late 90's when Woodward was the proprietor of the Mackaytown Hotel, outdoor concerts were held in the adjoining sections and coach loads of people would be there.

At that time Karangahake was a great little town. My uncle remembered once returning from Waitekauri with a football team in a big drag [dray? - E] driven by George Smith, who was a wonderful driver. That night they had a narrow escape coming down a steep hill. There were about 25 passengers on hoard and it became evident that the brakes would not hold. However, although they tore along at a terrific pace, George kept the team on the road. Shaken by this experience they crept through the Gorge and he said he would never forget their approach to Karangahake. Out of the inky blackness of the gorge the lights of the town seemed to burst suddenly upon them — lights of batteries, hotels and houses, like glow-worm lights all round the hills. It was a sight never to be forgotten.

Another of his memories was of hearing the beat of horses' hooves on the road at night as men went on or off shift. One began to recognise the various rhythms. And always the roads were in need of repair. Every mile or so there would be heaps of boulders to which the "stone-nappers" plied their hammers. In the 80's there were horse-race meetings at Mackaytown, the steeplechase causing great interest.

Another poignant memory was of the Maori Tangis held across the river from where the Sorensen's lived. The wailing could be heard from a great distance and would go on right into the night.

Some of the early aerial trams were erected by my uncle's father. One crossed the Waitawheta River at Hauraki Camp at an angle of 45 degrees. The two wires provided for a shuttle service for quartz cages, which were turned on a turn-table when they came back for refilling.

— Bill Whelan.