Topic: Apata in the 1950s
My memories of Apata in the 1950’s, the trains and bus trip to Katikati
District High School. In May 1952 our family moved from a farm at Mangateparu, Morrinsville to a farm at Apata that had an entrance right at the top of the old turntable hill which was the main road in those days. The railway line and Apata Station were at the bottom of the farm. I was 12 years old. My mother, 2 brothers, a sister and I arrived by goods train from Morrinsville, got off at Apata Station, climbed over a fence beside a railways high padlocked wooden gate and walked to the house. My father drove his tractor, trailer and gear by road from Morrinsville. The tractor was a rubber tyred Fordson Major and had a big six cylinder Perkins Diesel motor with lots more road speed than the slow old petrol ones.
Although our house was 300 to 400 metres from the railway line it used to shake when a train went by. Every goods train had a passenger carriage at the back just in front of the guards van. If we wanted to travel by train to Tauranga or the other way to Hamilton we would stand on the platform at the station and raise a hand. The train would stop for us, no problem. The guard would come through and we would buy a ticket which he would clip and collect again as if we had bought the ticket elsewhere. I remember going to the pictures in Tauranga getting on the train at Apata and going past stations at Pahoia, Omokoroa, Te Puna, Bethlehem, Otumoetai (by the Levers Road overbridge) and finally stopping at the main station down by Marsh Street. From there a walk up Cliff Road through the remains of the Monmouth Redoubt with its lovely old trees, trenches, and rusty old canons then down a track to No 1 The Strand where Guiness Brothers had a shop with dinghies, outboard motors, other machinery etc for sale. The outboards were 4 ½ HP Seagull motors that were very popular and seemed the only motor available for dinghies in those days. The matinee movies were shown at the old Town Hall where the Tauranga Library is now. Known as the bug house, it showed cowboy movies etc and had wooden trestles for seating. The flash theatre was the Regent in Spring Street but I cant remember it being open on a Saturday afternoon.
Fertiliser for the farm came down by train from Auckland. The Apata station as shown in the map over the page had a second shunting track behind the Goods Shed at the station. The train would stop, remove the wagon with our fertiliser and park it behind the goods shed on the side line. We had I think two or three days to empty the wagon and either take the fertiliser away or store it in the railway goods shed before being charged demurrage. When the train stopped to pick the empty wagon up from the side line it would have to unhitch the engine and shunt once again. If you were a passenger in the passenger carriage you just had to wait. The train trip from Morrinsville to Apata used to take most of the day. Paeroa was a junction to Thames so the train shunted waggons around there for about an hour. We left Morrinsville mid morning and arrived at Apata mid afternoon. There were only steam engines in those days fired with coal and going through the tunnel in the Karangahake Gorge coal smoke would get in as the windows were not really air tight.
In the old survey map below I have shaded our farm in yellow and Uncle Mervyn Scott’s farm in green. I have drawn the old road as a Red line and the approx. position of the existing road as a Green Line. The existing highway built about 1955 passes to seaward of the Pahoia School at the Pahoia Point Road intersection. The old road passed to the Kaimai side of the Pahoia School and wound up turntable hill past our farm (shaded yellow). Our cream stand was at the very top of the hill and the last farm on the main road cream run to supply the Katikati Factory. The road was metal, very dusty, and with very little traffic. Vehicles only travelled slowly because of the bends and incline and our dog would chase and bark at every vehicle. Then Uncle Mervyn’s dog would have another go as well.
I have shaded the Apata Station in pink, the long shaded area at the bottom of the farms. It had a second length of line for shunting and had four railway houses for staff. I suppose the staff did track maintenance in the Area. George Floyd was in charge and I believe called the Station Master. Another family were the Timutimu’s who used to come and buy fresh warm milk from our cow shed.
I had a choice of going to Tauranga District High School (Co-ed in those days) or to the Katikati District High School. To go to Tauranga I would have had to walk to the Pahoia School to catch a bus which left approx. 15 minutes earlier than the Katikati bus which passed our cream stand at the top of Turntable hill. The Katikati bus operated by Bert Fenn who owned the garage in Katikati had an old petrol Ford V8 motor and a 2 speed Ruckstell rear axel. The Ruckstell axel was developed by the Ford Motor company originally for their Model T vehicles to give them 2 speeds. It was a real dog of a thing and the driver had lots of trouble getting it to engage. Sometimes the vehicle would come to a complete stop before the driver could engage it. The Ruckstell was later developed as an Eaton 2 speed diff. The bus used to come from Katikati, go up the Wainui South Road to pick up children and come back down Esdailes Road to the Pahoia School. From there it would travel towards Katikati up the winding turntable hill. (so named because it had a sharp U bend with a sudden drop down a steep grade and lots of loose metal. A low gear job). I caught the bus by our cream stand. The road to Katikati was all metal except for a short strip outside the old Dairy Factory sealed to keep the dust down. The bridges were mainly one way wooden structures with right angle approaches and departures requiring a low speed in a lower gear.
The District High School had a newly built secondary department separated from the primary classes on the opposite side of the road. The school taught three classes, Forms 3, 4 and 5. Anyone wanting to sit University Entrance in a sixth form had to move away to a larger school. I remember four teachers, the head John Victor Nagle (JV) , Mr Hill who taught English, Ruth Emerton who taught Maths and took us for singing, and lastly Bert Potter who took us for Horticulture. Bert went on to be a founder of the Centrepoint Commune in Albany and later jailed for drug and sexual offences. Bert was a very friendly man and called us by our first names which was very unusual back then. He liked to be called Bert rather than Mr Potter. Bert had a 2 cylinder Bradford van and I remember him taking a van load of students out to Noble’s onion farm at Kauri Point.
The school achieved a high level of passes in the national School Certificate examination. John Nagle would determine after half year internal exams who would be allowed to enter and exclude pupils who he didn’t think would pass. I suppose for the school and his personal rating.
The Apata hall was built with volunteer labour from local farmers. It was completed in 1952 as I remember my father Craig Scott helping after we had just moved there. I think his brother Mervyn Scott was in charge of the building. Merv had retrained as a cabinet maker after World War 2, built his own house then bought his farm at Apata on the Katikati side of Turntable hill.
Robert Craig Scott, born 1939
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