Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 56, September 2012
(By Thelma Vowles (nee Wentworth), Papamoa.)
The article "Early days of Kerepehi Easter Sports" published in the Ohinemuri Regional History Journal No. 55, September, 2011, certainly stirred my memories [see Journal 55: Early Days of Kerepehi Sports Meeting - E].
In 2005 I visited the National Archives in Wellington and had the front page of the 1944 Official Programme photo-copied. This meeting was held at the Paeroa race course.
The Easter Monday Sports in 1948 was held at the Kerepehi Domain for the first time. Many working bees were held to dig out rushes and construct the horse track. The sports club erected the "tote" house where they stored all their equipment.
My sister, Doris, and I can remember going to the 'tote' to collect tickets on the races for the ladies who were working in the refreshment tent. We can also remember going up to the Kerepehi store helping with making sandwiches from I do not know how many loaves of bread. Barbara Bekx (nee Hayes) can remember her mother making heaps of scones.
From the "Hauraki Plains Story" by Rufus Tye on page 126 Mrs V. M. Strong remembers being taken to the Kerepehi sports in 1910. Her aunt and uncle brought her by horse and gig from Hikutaia, crossing over the Waihou River on the Wharepoa ferry and so on through the bush track to Kerepehi.
About 1918 the wood chopping events were incorporated at the Kerepehi sports meetings. In the days of the big timber on the Plains, the Fisher Brothers will be remembered by the "Old Timers" with "Poly" Fisher, perhaps, the best known. There is photo in the "Hauraki Plains Story" on page 182 of Poly Fisher about to win the 12-inch standing at Hikutaia in the 1930s. There is also a photo on page 183 of Fred Patterson commencing the 14in open standing chop at Kerepehi, which he won.
Some of the other Hauraki Plains axemen who graced the chopping ring in those days would be Jim Finlay, Bert Herkt, Mick Griffin, Sydney Kawhia, and others.
Lorraine Sweny (nee Paterson) recalls her mother winning a Ladies' Cup and that her father coached her. Barabara Bekx can remember a Swiss lady, a Mrs Gisler from Turua, used to chop against Poly Fisher.
Barbara can also remember the side show people trying to talk her brother into having a go at knocking these moving things over, then when he was winning prizes wanting to stop him. "Oh no. I've got all these sisters and mum to win prizes for," was his reply.
In 1948 the Kerepehi Boys Brass Band played at the sports for the first time and have played at every sports day since then. Mr Vivian was the conductor and I think Alan Whitehead was on the drums. I believe Rowan Garret is still in the Kerepehi Boys Brass Band.
There was highland dancing, side shows and stalls with water melon and grapes.
From the Ohinemuri Gazette in 1918: "The first annual sports meeting under the auspices of the Kerepehi Patriotic Sports Association was held on the Kerepehi race course yesterday and was a decided success. There were about 3500 people present and a large number of these were from Thames. They were conveyed to the Plains by launches owned by Messrs Kerby, McCarthy and private owners.
"The sports were held with the object of placing before the people the proposal to form an agricultural and pastoral association on the Plains and the suggestion that such a show could be held on the Kerepehi race course.
"At present there are 11 acres 36 perches reserved for show and recreation purposes but it is proposed to petition Government for a further area and especially the hill portion overlooking the race course. The official caterers, Aro and Thompson, were a decided asset to the sports.
"The band of the Sixth Hauraki Regiment was in attendance. Mr J. Miller was Clerk of the Course. The president was W. K. McLean, the secretary J. Leonard and treasurer J. Salisbury."
The site of these sports gatherings from 1918 to 1942 was on land known to most people today as "Tom Jordan's farm". Several men leased the ground from Father Dignan and by 1936 Tom Jordan was the owner of the land. A seven furlong track was made through the rushes and the high ground was used as a grandstand.
In 1918 Billy Kidd was a young teenager and he was still riding at the sports in 1979. Wood chopping was not introduced until 1921, but motor car events were on the programme from 1918 to 1924.
The first Easter Monday dance after the sports was held in 1922 in Witika's Hall. This hall stood at the corner of the road leading to the wharf, opposite what is now the old casein factory. In March, 1923, the hall was sold to Messrs Innis and Herkt and was shifted on a bullock wagon to a new site near what is now Te Moananui's residence in Rimu Street. The hall was burned down in 1928.
The four-race programme for the sports meeting held on Easter Monday, April 11, 1955, was (to get the dollar equivalent multiple by 2):
Introductory Scurry: About 3 furlongs: 1st, £10; 2nd, £4; 3rd, £2. Entry, 12 shillings.
Turua Handicap: About 6 furlongs: 1st, £5 and saddle valued at £17; 2nd, £4; 3rd, £2. Entry fee, 15 shillings.
Kerepehi Cup Handicap, about 9 furlongs: 1st, £14 and cup valued at £20 to be won three times in succession or four times at intervals, also miniature; 2nd, £4; 3rd, £2. Entry fee 15 shillings.
C. F. Peace Memorial Cup Handicap: About 6 furlongs: 1st, £10 and cup values at £6; 2nd, £6; 3rd, £2. Entry fee 15 shillings.
Minimum weight in all races 10 stone (63.5kgs.).
The Rules and Regulations for the 1955 meeting were:
1. All events are for horses which must be owned, trained and ridden by persons other than licensed trainers, jockeys, apprentice jockeys, stablemen or person employed in or about management, training, riding or care of horses registered under the Rules of Racing.
2. All disputes, claims and protests shall be decided by a majority of the Protest Committee.
3. No horse allowed to compete that has raced on a registered totalisator course within one month immediately prior to the date of the meeting.
4. Three entries or no race; five entries or no second prize; six entries or no third prize.
5. The Committee reserves the right to give trophies equal in value in lieu of cash prizes, for all events.
6. Winners are liable to be re-handicapped.
7. In galloping and trotting events male riders only.
8. No rider allowed under the age of fourteen.
9. While every care will be taken to ensure their safety, the Committee will not be responsible to spectators or competitors against accident.
10. Starters must get weigh-out ticket at least 40 minutes before time advertised to start the event.
11. Each protest to be lodged with the Secretary, accompanied by fee, £2, and must be lodged not later than 5 minutes after last of placed horse is weighed in. If protest is upheld, fee will be returned.
12. All prizes and trophies to be claimed within 14 days of meeting.
13. Competitor entering for any event for which he is ineligible shall forfeit his entry fee.