Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 48, September 2004
The Editor thanks Mrs Hazel Bourne for making the following article available for publication in the Journal. The article was written by her late husband, Mr H G (Pat) Bourne, and printed in a publication entitled "KOPURAHI SCHOOL and DISTRICT 1910 - 1987", and published by the Kopurahi Jubilee Committee, March 1988. Pat Bourne passed away one month after contributing this article.
I was employed at the Kopu Calcined Lime Co Ltd works from 1934 to 1939, with Mr Jim Mearns as manager. My job was to drive one of the two trucks which carried the lime to Kopu Station. In addition to working through the week, we also carted lime on Saturday mornings and much of Sunday was spent in maintenance of the trucks.
The works was built on the shellbank land owned by Mr Bill Smeed and managed by Mr Roy Smeed. The land is now owned by Mr Colin James. The shell depth varied in depth from three feet to thirteen feet, but the water level prevented the lowest few feet from being excavated.
It usually occupied about eight men in the pit to keep the works supplied with the shell which was shovelled by hand into rail trucks and horse drawn to the hoppers. Here it was shovelled on to a conveyor belt and into the revolving rotary furnace. After drying it passed to the bagging hopper where it was bagged, hand-sewn and loaded on to trucks bound for Kopu Station about 6½ miles (10km) distant. From here it was consigned all over the North Island.
The lime company was the first on the Hauraki Plains to own articulator trucks. Two Commer trucks started operating in 1936 and I drove one for three years - quite funny for a start, nice to drive, but not so good when it came to backing! - and nobody could tell you how.
At about twenty-two bags to the ton, each truck carried about 120 bags, which we drivers loaded, and unloaded at the railway. Each truck did eight trips a day, totalling an average of ninety tons.
Dust was the greatest problem. As well as the dusty lime bags to contend with, we often brought back coal for the furnaces as well as cement for any rebuilding. All of this was transported over metalled roads. The only respite from the dust was the rocky and sometimes interesting crossing of the Kopu Bridge before the advent of traffic lights. Imagine what it was like, negotiating a meeting with other traffic in one of the "passing bays" and with "iffy" brakes!
Across the paddock, about 500 yards from the works on Mr Smeed's property, the men had access to a beautiful swimming bath, with nice warm bore water, good after a day's work in the dust. Dressing sheds were nearby. Everything was lovely until one of our city slicker workmates dropped a pipe down the bore and that was the end of our baths.
After working all the shell off the Smeed property, the company moved across the road to Mr Johnnie Miller's property, which also had a good deposit of shell. The farm was then farmed by his son, Bun.
Bun and his wife, Edna, ran the cookhouse and had a busy time cooking for the men and making lunches for the night-shift men. They certainly did a great job as nobody ever went hungry, thanks to Bun and Edna.