Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 27, September 1983
By Dana H. Haszard
Tell the Children Grandpa ...... But they probably won't believe you.
They might not either, for the stories he would tell belong to a time when welfare was an individual responsibility and any inability to assume it would have led to a lethal lack of food, clothing or shelter.
Fortunately, Fen Haszard kept detailed and now faded pencil notes of those days in New Zealand. After hours of listening carefully to his own father (Robert) he was able to appreciate, document and pass on to his own family some idea of the struggle faced by their ancestors. While the recollections fill one with admiration for the indomitable spirits of the pioneers they are not evocative of a martyr's tale; life may have been basic but the numerous anecdotes suggest that there were many happy hours enjoyed within the framework of surviving in, coming to grips with, and eventually establishing homes in a new land.
Fen Haszard came to Thames in 1896 with his brother Norman who was a partner in the firm of Haszard & Johnston, Mining Surveyors and Engineers. They had offices in Thames, Paeroa, Te Aroha, Waihi and Waitekauri as well as half a dozen survey parties in the field.
In his own words ... "My first job was chainman to Jack Chisholm, one of Norman's assistants. I met him at Puriri and we tramped over the ranges to the upper reaches of the Tairua. Our camp gear was packed on horses. We were some weeks in this district and made the first survey of the Broken Hill Field. From Tairua we packed back across the ranges and up to the Maratoto and did several weeks work around Maratoto United. While at this camp I had my first introduction to Waitekauri. One day I tramped through the bush and over the range down to the township where I met Norman. Waitekauri then had a population of about 1200, mostly living in camps and whares.
"There were two hotels, two boarding houses, and half a dozen shops and stores. The Waitekauri G. M. Coy.'s battery of forty stamps was to treat the ore from the Golden Cross Mine four miles up the stream. The whole district was dense bush and large parties of contractors were busy on construction of water races, tramways and roads".
"The whole of the country was pegged out in special claims and dozens of small mining companies were operating their claims. The principle distributing centre for the upper goldfields was Paeroa, the head of navigation on the Ohinemuri. A daily steamer connected with Auckland. Paeroa was the starting point for coaches to Te Aroha, Thames, Waitekauri and Waihi and each of these districts was served by two more daily coaches".
"The Wardens Court was held at Paeroa and consequently the township was flooded with lawyers and surveyors. I have seen as many as forty of these staying at the one hotel at a time".
As would be expected, the sight of the coaches coming and going left a lasting impression in Fen's mind .... "It was a great sight to see the coaches (five-horse teams) starting of at 8 a.m. from Crosby's Hotel" ... However, spectacular though it may have appeared, he continues to remind us ... "Travelling was a nightmare in the Winter as none of the roads was metalled. Mud was axle deep everywhere. The road to Waihi and Waitekauri was in the earlier years over the Rahu and later the Karangahake Gorge Road was opened. When I knew it first the road to Waihi was unmetalled and in the winter spread over the plains in places half a mile wide. In Summer the mud was converted into dust which with a westerly blow was raised in dense clouds and enveloped the Waihi township.
As if aware of the havoc it could wreak on poorly built roads, the weather proved itself a particularly strong adversary. ... "In 1898 I had my first experience of snow. I was in a temporary camp in the Jubilee Hill, Waitekauri when it turned very cold with a stiff southerly wind. On getting up in the morning we found the tent fly sagging with the weight of snow on it and the ground all white around. This was the heaviest fall I have ever seen in this district. The whole of the surrounding hills were quite white and even the plains received a slight fall".
This was the backdrop to life for the next two years, most of which were spent in camp and engaged in mining surveys. However, work slackened off somewhat in 1897 and he made his headquarters at Waihi. He shared living quarters with Walter Johnston at the company offices. They ate their meals next door at Mr. McDown's and later at the Sterling Hotel, and finally at Mr. Forster's on Kenny Street. Whether the successions of dining rooms was the result of a quest for culinary improvement is left for us to guess.
In 1901 Fen passed his Surveyor's Exams. By January 1902 work had become so short in the district that he was compelled to go to the King Country. He worked there surveying and cutting out native lands. Working in virgin bush, miles from any settlement he spent six months with only one short trip to Te Kuiti. His work was in defining the Eastern boundaries of the Rangitoto-Tahua block of some 60,000 acres....
"The work was very rough and we had to pack all supplies in to main camps and walk from there. I had a European chainman, (Dick Carnachan), but all the rest of the hands were natives. By the middle of May it got very cold and for some time they were working in snow. There was an old native in the camp as guide who was an intensely interesting old chap. He had been all through the King Country wars as one of the Rebels, or Kingites, and used to entertain us in the evening round the camp fire with tales of the early days".
Later that year Fen returned to Waihi where he took over the business of the Johnston and Haszard firm. His parents and sister Carlotta settled in Waihi at that time and so, with his brother Reggie, he returned to live with his parents.
Three years later Fen purchased a section on which he built the house and established the home of "Tanoa". Its present condition is a credit to his choice of materials and the good workmanship inherent in its construction. The contours of the garden he developed, and the beauty of the trees he planted, remind one of the hours of hard work he no doubt enjoyed in making his dream of the home he wanted become a reality. What he designed remains as a monument to his creative ability and natural sensitivity.
He may have had a vision of the home he wanted but the words he used to describe the effect upon him of meeting the woman who was to become his wife suggest that he had no knowledge at that time of the extreme happiness that was in store for him. He considered the time to be a turning point of his life and it is perhaps a fitting tribute to both Fen and his wife to use his own words as he reflects upon the significance to him of the day he proposed to and was accepted by Muriel Frances Swears. ... "Never once since that fateful day have I had cause to question the wisdom of my choice. In all the vicissitudes of life, in times of stress and times of ease, she has never been other than a loving and devoted helpmate. She has never in all these years thought of self but has always put her children and husband first. Had I other than such as she, I dread to think of what my position might be."
Times of stress there were in abundance; growth of the population and development of the means to sustain it led to the rise of social problems. The notorious Waihi Miners' Strike of 1912 looms large in the nation's history as a reminder of the expediency of avoiding such confrontations. Not surprisingly, the Strike is mentioned in Fen's notes. However, it is essentially a human rather than a political observer who describes the following: "In 1912 occurred the Waihi Miners' Strike and for several months the town was in a state of siege. Towards the end of the strike when it was known that the company was to start work with free labour, the position became critical. A large force of police both mounted and on foot stationed in the town and it was made known that those desiring to start work would be given police protection. There was a poor response at first but by the end of the week there was quite a formidable sway.
The procedure was to collect the men and marshal them into a column of fours in the main street and march them up to the mine. This was not done without some protest by the strikers, their wives and sympathisers who collected in the main street every morning to the number of 3 or 4 hundred and lining the street hurled invective at the strike-breakers and police as they marched along. As is often the case, the ladies surpassed the men in their choice of language and some of the epithets used would bring a blush of shame to the cheeks of a London bargee."
"As the ranks of the workers swelled and they began to feel by their numbers that they could hold their own and smarting under the abuse that they had for so long endured, they at last broke loose. One morning after falling in on the main street and when just opposite the Miners' Union office, they suddenly broke ranks and with a concerted rush stormed the headquarters of the Union. At once pandemonium broke loose. The strikers believing in the old adage of 'He who runs away may live to fight another day' thought only of personal safety and ran for their lives in all directions with the workers chasing them and thrashing them whenever they could overtake them."
"As the workers stormed the hall the inmates, mostly executive members of the Union, rushed out the back. As they did this one of them who had a loaded revolver turned and fired, the ball lodging in the stomach of a policeman. The man was instantly struck down and later conveyed to the lock-up where he died. The policeman recovered during the day. One man in a desperate effort to hide, crawled up a wooden culvert but was caught before he disappeared and got a sound beating on his nethermost parts which were still protruding. Some of the escapers in fear of their lives took to the bush and did not emerge for days."
"A new union was formed but it was many years before the effect of the strike disappeared from the town". Perhaps Fen underestimated human nature, as fairly recent articles in a leading publication suggest that old memories and implicitly old loyalties, never die - with time perhaps they will fade away.
The next milestone transcends the nation to be one of global significance: "In August 1914 the world was plunged into the Great War and the lives of millions turned from their even course".
"Waihi was not lacking in patriotism and at the first call for volunteers there was a ready response and a large contingent of her young men left with the First Expeditionary Force and later took part in the Gallipoli Landing".
"We elders had to content ourselves by doing what we could at home and for the four years of the war I think I can safely say that our principal aim was to give, and to give to our utmost, and do all we possibly could to further the interests of the boys at the front".
"During the progress of the war we old buffers at home joined the 'National Reserve' and every week we took our turn in the drill hall, being put through the rudiments of drill by the local sergeant major".
The end of the war was not to herald the arrival of the much hoped for and well deserved better times. The Depression years which followed held their own almost unbearable tragedies. Many people, as they abandoned their farms and lost what had become steady jobs, had to endure the agony of turning from the results of the toil of frequently, the best years of their lives. The situation they turned to face, was almost more soul-destroying by way of its hopelessness than that faced by many of the enthusiastic but sometimes ill-prepared first settlers when they arrived with their families in the colony.
Fen was acutely aware of this struggle which began with breaking in the land and returned in its intensity during the Depression. In particular he sees it as it affected his own family and his thoughts as he reflects upon the influence and inspiration his Mother's personality had upon him might provide a gentle reminder of the importance of the role that many seem to be objecting to these days. "My Mother was a wonderful woman: brought up in a sheltered and strict mid-Victorian Presbyterian family, she was at an early age brought into contact with the rough and primitive life of an early colonist. For years she suffered from ill-health and unbelievable hardships but she never lost courage and always had a cheerful exterior and in whatever conditions she happened to be, for her children she had a real home. The great restraining influence in my younger days was not the right or wrong of a line of conduct but 'What will Mother say'".
Beyond this reminder of the potential of the Mother to affect her children's attitudes is a further comment which is obvious and simple but seems forgotten by those who look for other reasons to explain or justify bad behaviour of children. "It is my firm conviction that the Mother has far more influence upon the life of her children than their father.
In the great majority of families the father is engaged in work that takes him from home from early morning to evening. The very young ones probably not yet up when he leaves for work and are either in or just going to bed, when he returns in the evening. The care of and attention of the children at this age falls entirely on the Mother. During the School years the same applies though to a somewhat lesser degree. All the ills and troubles of childhood are taken to Mother. In later years as far as the sons are concerned, perhaps the Father may have more influence but the early dependence on Mother very frequently lasts through life".
Fen lived to be over seventy. He had the satisfaction of watching his six sons grow up in Waihi. One of the six, Noel, died tragically in Australia in his early twenties. Of the other five, three established their new homes in Waihi and two in Auckland. Fen had no concerns about the continuation of the Name: the following generation produced 13 male Haszards and one girl. (The succeeding one has fitted into the more conventional pattern of girls numbering boys nearly on a one-to-one basis.)