Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 18, June 1974
By GRACE MORRON (nee Milroy)
How happy we were, Jean and Jack and I when we knew we were to return to Mackaytown to live after an absence of 5 years. I was 10 at the time, Jean 12 and Jack 9. We bought Daunton's house on Albert Road, opposite our original cottage. What a delightful home it was! Well-made concrete paths and backyard, two fern houses covered outside with creepers, a rose garden and a magnificent grape vine trained over a neat framework making a summerhouse underneath. In one corner stood a large tub in which water lilies grew. A creeper-covered archway led into the rose garden. To add to our interest there was a cellar underneath the house. By moving a platform, steps were revealed which led to a small door. The previous owners had stored their grape wine there. (The house stood for many years but has been pulled down).
The Mackaytown school was closed at this time and the nearby children would gather in the school ground in the evenings to play. Families I remember on our stretch of road, were Whites, Wattie Smiths, Ernie Smiths, Sullings, Ludwigs, Ryalls (down the side road) and Littlejohns. Rickards were in the Talisman house then and they were followed by Duttons and then Ritchies. Few families escaped the influenza epidemic of 1918. Every day at a certain time we reported to the Waiting Room at the Karangahake Railway Station, the door was shut, and we were fumigated.
Some residents had a cow and when feed was short the cows were run on the road (the long paddock). It was one child's job after school to "find the cow" and bring her home to be milked. This often took a long time, sometime's because she had strayed and sometimes because children met mates and became so engrossed playing that cows were forgotten. Mrs. White had the only telephone in Mackaytown and her son Joe who was postman in Paeroa for many years always knew what was going on, even to when the poundkeeper was coming to Mackaytown following a complaint. (Some cows knew how to open gates!) Joe would ring his mother and she would hurry down the road to tell us. We would round up her cows and ours and anyone else's we found, and all was well.
The district was, and still is, a wonderland for children growing up. So much to do - so many places to go. We had picnics up the Trig, and went over the hills to Rotokahu [Rotokohu – E] and bought oranges from the Browns. The Rahu Road, nearer home, provided access to bush and creek and it was fully explored. The Waitawheta Gorge never failed to lure and fascinate us with its grandeur. One day we walked through the Rahu Road to where it met the main Paeroa/Waihi Road the other side of the tunnel and as it was Sunday we decided to take a shortcut through the tunnel. The further we went the more alarming it became especially when the youngest one panicked and started screaming, but we thought it was better to go on than to go back, so two of us took her hands and we ran as if pursued. We emerged safely but breathless and sooty, and were justly reprimanded as there was an occasional Sunday Train.
As smaller children we swam in the Rahu creek using various ponds. The one below Kulmars was popular for a long time. The boys had worked hard and dammed the creek most efficiently and it was larger than any other pool. Quite often the Smith children would come up with us: Marjorie, Doris and Norma and their cousins, Bill and Mildred. Later we swam in a smaller but deeper pool just above the Cutting. When we were older we went round the Waitawheta Gorge where the bigger ponds were more eerie. Our favourite pool was by the entrance to the Crown Mine. The bridge was used as a diving board. The old buildings were still there - very shaky and ricketty, but we explored them all.
The butcher and baker called three times a week and "John" the Chinaman came with vegetables and fruit on Friday. One day when my mother asked for cooking apples and John started weighing out what were obviously eating apples she remonstrated with him but his reply was simple as he continued to weigh them, "If you want to cook 'em, you cook 'em; and if you want to eat 'em, you eat 'em". Occasionally it was necessary to go into Paeroa for other messages and we would walk. Later when we had acquired a small second-hand bike we would "ride and tie". It made the journey more interesting and took half the time. One would start off walking and the other one ride to a pre-arranged spot, leave the bike and continue on foot, the other one picked up the bike and rode for the next spell, left the bike and continued walking.
On our way to the Karangahake School we took milk to Mrs. Ritchie who then lived in a dear little cottage above the railway station. We crossed the swing bridge to the bowling green, turned right to cross the railway line and followed the road up the hill, left the milk and continued down the steps to the railway station, and over the train bridge and on to school. There were three swing bridges in the area but the one by the bowling green was the best. It was a real "swing bridge". The other two were rather stiff and quite a lot of effort was needed to get them moving. But this one swung freely and gave us a lot of pleasure. Another one led to the Mackaytown Station, beyond the Recreation Ground.
Once a fortnight Stds. 5 and 6 travelled by train to Waihi to attend Tech. Going uphill through the tunnel the Guard made sure the windows were all shut firmly, and even then smoke filtered in, but on the return journey downhill the windows were left open and we hung head and shoulders out and watched the far gleam of light become larger and enjoyed the wind in our faces and the roar and thunder of the train until we emerged on to the bridge, and glided into the station. Miss Gibb (Mrs. Brocket) and Miss White (Mrs. Littlejohn) were Teachers remembered with affection and girls in my class were, Violet Robinson, Marjorie Hamilton, Kitty Fitzgerald, Normee McLeod, Mabel Bell, Marjorie Tierney, Florence Wigmore and Ivy Johnston. I remember also Ivy Sullings, Hilda Shand, Mavis Vuglar and the Smith family.
There came a time when we felt the need for more recreational facilities so decided to have a tennis court on the M. Schoolground. Laurie Smith (connected with the laying out of the new Paeroa Courts) gave us the correct measurements and Ernie Smith and Jack did most of the work. Two posts supported a piece of wire-netting which served as a net and the worst "humps" were removed but the ground was still uneven. We learned to "watch the ball", there being no fences to stop it. Lines were marked with a white clay found in the Cutting. We played every evening and during week-ends and if our style was all wrong our game improved. Constant players were: Ernie and Millie Smith, Hazel Kulmar and we Milroys but many others joined us, even Mrs. Ritchie.
I recall that whenever someone new took the local Church Service he invariably chose for his reading Psalm 121, "I will lift up mine eyes to the hills from whence cometh my help - -". Many changes have taken place in this lovely valley since those days but the beauty of bush and hills and streams remains. Where else could one find, in such a small area, so much variety.