Topic: The First of the Intruders by Christine Wright

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A 2013 Memoir and Local History Competition entry.

Archived version here.

(Taken from an interview in 2009 with Ella Coulston, who, with her husband Dick, was one of the first if not the first permanent residents in Omokoroa apart from the farming families along the peninsula. Ella moved to Arcadia in 2011 when she was in her mid-nineties and is now in the Bob Owens Retirement Village in Bethlehem.)

Ella sat there, her back to the warming sun, fingering a small pile of photos on the dining table. It was where I'd seen her sitting many times when I was out for a walk before I had finally introduced myself and explained my plan to interview people about beach and bach life in Omokoroa in the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s.

'You look well organised!' I said, as I settled my papers. Like most people I had approached so far, Ella seemed only too happy to become involved. Beside her pack of large-sized playing cards, she had a small pile of photos.

Why Omokoroa? Before we married, my husband was in Tauranga and he came to Omokoroa on the ferry (I think it was Jerry Williams’ boat) and he loved it so much that after we married (June 1936) we used to come here camping. We camped till we could afford a section.

We would put up our tent among the trees opposite where Y-Worry is. For water I used to carry a bucket across the swampy area that is now the Domain to a spring. I cooked on a primus. There was always plenty of fish – just ten minutes out in a dinghy would bring us enough for breakfast! This photo shows Ira Thomas holding one end of a pole – my husband would have been holding the other end – with the results of one morning’s fishing!

I still have the old aluminium billy that we used for milk. Barrett’s Store was already there (at Whakamarama) and we could order bread and whatever we needed. Barrett would then deliver. I don’t remember where we got any fruit or vegetables from.

We had no such thing as a camp shower – we just swam! And for a toilet – I suppose a long drop.

In the evenings we just ate and went to bed – the kids were still young then.

This photo shows me with Barry when he was 13 months – he is now 69 (2009).

This photo is a group of family and friends. Barry and Margaret, a niece and my youngest brother.

We were still camping then and living in Hamilton where my husband was a joiner for Ellis & Bernand. However he disliked working inside so became a builder.

Dick returned from WW11 with disabilities. When we could afford it we bought a section from Ira Thomas (a local farmer) and built a 20x12 foot bach, just a single room. We added lean-tos for bedrooms and lived in this for two years while we built our house.

This photo shows our house under construction, in1952.

(While interviewing Mrs Ella Coulston she was showing me photos that might be of interest, I took particular note of the photos and her memories of ‘the big one’, the flood of 1951.)

That winter there was a big storm with waves right over the foreshore. Water came right up to the front steps of our home, still under construction. Yes, I suppose we were a bit fearful, but more interested in this big event.

This shows my daughter, Margaret, rowing, with Myrtle Crapp standing.

There used to be regatta days with sailing and motor boat races. These photos are of the 1959 Regatta Day, one of a sail boat race, the other of the large crowd.

Dick also helped Fred Luckman build his home at 18 Harbourview Road (what became Dr and Mrs Bernard’s home and has since sold again) and the Unsworth’s place.

The photo looking down the Esplanade still clearly shows all the trees that grew along the foreshore.

I call myself the oldest of the intruders!

“The First of the Intruders” would make a good title for a book, I commented.

 Yes, people tell me I should write a book of my memories …

Would you mind if I came back next week to continue this? I asked. I'd love to find out more about the social activities and way of life after you settled into your new home.

And so I found myself back with Ella once again. And once again she had a small pile of photos ready for me. Although suffering from failing sight, she had obviously given my return some thought. Perhaps a daughter visiting in the previous weekend had helped her sort through her photos?

The Country Women's Institute building was shifted on to the Domain or really the foreshore. (What is now the Domain was just a swamp). We held meetings there, had parties and dances. I taught younger ones how to dance.

Yes, I said, other people have told me about events there. Abel Gane mentioned that he went for cards nights in the CWI building.

We had all sorts of social functions back then, most of them organised by Mrs Betty Francis. Even a mock debutante ball with the men all dressed up beautifully. This was held at the Settlers' Hall. Eddie Adams did a great job as MC, introducing each 'deb' as he/she arrived! We took this to Katikati where it was a howling success.

The CWI put on short dramas. I particularly remember one called ‘The Thing’ with Mrs Crapp dressed up as a skeleton! Again Betty Francis organised this and coached us all. Joyce Pauling, Freda Barrett, May Smith with a walking stick, Molly Layzell, etc. Betty Francis was behind most activities. She was one who died well before her time.

Oldest of the Intruders. At 95 Ella's memory of these events was clear. She clearly enjoyed talking of these social times after World War Two. First of the Intruders – an apt title indeed.


This page archived at Perma CC in October of 2016:

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