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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 40, September 1996

EARLY MEMORIES OF MY LIFE IN KARANGAHAKE

By Fred Pool

In 1907, my father, Hugh Frederick Pool, and Jim Brown, one of my mother's brothers, came to New Zealand from Australia, looking for work. Uncle Jim got a job, no trouble, as he had an Engineer's Ticket, but my father had to work in the mine. He went back to Australia and married my mother, Hiramena Brown. After packing their wedding presents and other belongings they came to New Zealand to live and settled in Karangahake.

They bought a house high on White Rocks Hill. There were three houses in this group, set well apart and well above Butler's Track and the bush came almost to the back door. The other two families were, Fitzgeralds, who were Irish, and McLeods, who were Scottish and we were English. This group of houses was always referred to as the "British Isles".

I was born in 1908, and later I had two sisters, Dotty and Elsie. As kids we would go up the Rocks and play. Every kid had a pocket knife, a tomahawk and a piece of string. Sometimes we would go into the bush looking for king ferns and when we got hungry we cut down a nikau and got out the white inside. After the bush was burned, cape gooseberries came up and we ate them as well as blackberries. Us small kids would follow the biggest boy around.

We had chooks and a cow. In winter when the grass was short we went up in the bush and the cow would follow us. We would cut down small trees and the cow would eat the leaves and we took the rest of the tree home for firewood.

Working in the mine was no good for my father. He spent three years in and out of Waihi Hospital. Each time he had to go to hospital we had to have a horse to get him to the station. When he was well enough we went to live in the King Country, but because of continued ill heath we returned to Karangahake and bought a house on Crown Hill. It was here that my sister, Marjorie, was born in 1918, and my father died later the same year.

Uncle Jim, who lived nearby, had two cows. I would milk them and deliver the milk on the way to school. I went to two families in Scotchman's Gully and they had the table standing in four tins of water to keep the ants out. There was a boarding house built out on a point. I think it was called Kemp's.

When I was 15 I got a job with Mr Ingley, the butcher. I had to learn to ride a horse and hold a big basket on my knee and ride around the hills of Karangahake. My mother said that if she heard of me having anything to do with sly grog she would send me back to school. Sly grog was all the "go" at that time. I went up to one place in Scotchman's Gully where an old man was badly crippled with rheumatism. He would come out to get his meat. He had a large copper in one corner of the garden, full of slimy water and he would get out a bottle of grog and I would hide it under the meat and take it to his cobbers higher up the hill. I often wonder what would have happened to me if I had been caught. The police never found where he hid his grog.

I worked for Mr Ingley for several months. Then he sold out to Wells, butchers in Paeroa. The father, Mr Wells, his three sons and one daughter all worked in the shop. I went to Paeroa to work for them. I got 3/6 (35 cents) a week and had to buy a bike and ride into Paeroa every day.