Topic: Our Idyllic Holiday by Julie Green

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A 2013 Memoir and Local History Competition entry.

Archived version here.

Milking cows on our farm was a hard life for all of us, but especially for Mother, who had to go to the yard and use the hand pump for every drop of water needed for cooking, washing and the cleaning of our little home. Father had built the house before they married, but could not afford proper timber on the outside and often the draughts found their way inside. We lived near Mount Egmont and in winter the wind off the snow was like ice on our cheeks and hands as we helped with the chores.

It was 1910 and now that the main trunk railway line from Wellington to Auckland was finished, Father and Mother decided to send my brother and me for a six-month holiday to his family, way up north in Tauranga. Much excitement and nervous anticipation by Grant and myself, who were then ten and seven.

We were somewhat used to the coach trip into New Plymouth, but had never stayed in a private hotel before. Boarding the mail train to Wellington the following morning was the first part of our big adventure, I kept my distance from the monstrous black steam engine which glowed red and hissed steam as we made our way along the rail platform. Heavy trunks were difficult to manage, as Mother and Father were no longer young, so the assistance of the porters was much needed.

The bell clanged, the guard blew his whistle and with a loud toot we were off! Green fields and trees raced past the windows and after a while the clickety-clack of the wheels and the rocking of the carriage lulled me to sleep. Mother woke me when it was time to change trains at Marton for the trip north.

By the time we pulled in to Taihape darkness had fallen, we were all glad of a meal and comfy beds at the Railway Hotel. The next day’s travel was shorter as we broke the trip at Taumaranui because Father wished to see a big sawmill nearby. He was interested in forestry as well as dairy farming and had a number of gum and pine trees back home on the farm.

Aunts Alice and Edith at the pump after a session with the bees.The third day of rail travel was to Frankton and then down to Rotorua. Father showed me where we had been on a map. No wonder we were all weary after such a distance!

At last we were able to take a break from so much travelling and our holiday could begin. The accommodation house at Waimangu was large, and only half full. Next day we saw Frying Pan Flat, boiling mud, geysers and a big lake. I didn’t like the rotten egg smell and the steam everywhere. A couple of days later we travelled back to Rotorua itself and took in all the usual popular sights there as well.

Mother had a good rest every afternoon and I think she enjoyed taking a break from all her work at home.

The trip to Tauranga by coach started at six on a wet winter’s morning. We were all up early for a good cooked breakfast- a ‘real binder’ as Mother called it. We waited in the lobby of the hotel until someone called, “Here comes the coach.”

I couldn’t see a thing as there was a large bright gas light hanging above the door, but I could certainly hear the metallic sound of the wheels and the horses’ shoes and smell the leather harness. Four strong horses and a wooden coach were waiting to take us on the final 42 -mile leg of our journey.

Tearing ourselves away from our parents at last, we scrambled up on either side of the driver and the team of horses set off along the metal road. Small lamps glowed beside us and the sun slowly rose. As we approached the hills, the road worsened and by and by everyone was out of the coach, either turning the wheels hand over hand in pairs or pushing from behind - even my brother!

They did not bother about me as I was too small to be of use. My tummy was rumbling long before we reached the half way house, it was so nice to stop and be served a lovely hot dinner. The tired and sweaty horses were rubbed down, fed and rested.

We resumed the ride about an hour later with a team of greys. The journey was easier now, being mostly downhill, but the wheels still got bogged a few times in the thick mud. As we approached Tauranga the carbide lamps had to be relit to make us visible to other travellers as darkness was once again falling. Thinking back, I realise neither the horses nor the coachman needed the lights to see by as they knew the road so well.

Grannie and our two aunts were so pleased to see us. We had not met them before so were a little shy at first. However, we soon found that staying in the expansive, well-built house with acres and acres in which to roam was like living in the Garden of Eden. No schoolwork was required of us and we spent our days bird nesting and picking and eating fruit to our hearts’ content.

Grannie Maxwell in her phaeton.

Sundays were different as the horse was caught, groomed and harnessed to the phaeton and we all drove along the road to church in style. In the afternoon we were not allowed to play any games such as cards, dominoes or checkers. Grannie was firm about this as her husband had been a Presbyterian minister before he died many years before. We also had prayers after breakfast every day and I can picture that in my mind even now - our chairs turned the other way and us all kneeling beside them.

That time in my life had a big influence on me and helped make me the person I am today. I am very grateful for the marvellous holiday we were given.




This page archived at Perma CC in october of 2016:




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Our Idyllic Holiday by Julie Green

Note:About the author: Julie is in her 50s and was brought up by her grandparents, Duff and Gertrude Maxwell, at The Elms Mission House in Tauranga. She wrote this story from two sources: her memories of her Grand-dad’s anecdotes and a video interview done in the 1980s by archivist Jinty Rorke. Julie and her husband John have researched several other family stories and to date three have been published in the Historical Review (Bay of Plenty Journal of History), Volumes 60 and 61.