Topic: My father the hunter-gatherer by Patricia Boyle Simpson

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Patricia Boyle Simpson's entry in the 2012 Memoir and Local History Competition.

Paternal GrandmotherArchived version here.

I will always remember the episode of the piglet in the kitchen!

My father had just arrived back from a hunting trip with a friend. He came into the kitchen carrying a grubby sack and with a great big grin on his face.  Much to my mother’s horror as he put down the sack out popped a piglet.

A lot of squealing then ensued – the piglet squealed in fright as he tried to gain traction on the highly polished linoleum, I squealed with delight at the prospect of a pet pig and my mother – well, her squeal was more of a reprimand that went something like, “Get that pig out of my kitchen!”

She was a house-proud woman and the insult of having a pig in her kitchen was just too much.

The piglet was promptly rebagged and my father’s friend plus piglet made a rapid retreat. 

At the tender age of four or five years old, I was blissfully unaware that piglet and I would meet again at some future date. On that occasion he would appear heavily disguised with a dressing of gravy and apple sauce and accompanied by roast vegetables from my father’s garden.

My father’s garden was impressive. Our section, bought in Tauranga for £90 in the late 1930s was approximately a quarter acre, half of which was devoted to vegetable growing and contained a henhouse in one corner. The hens provided us with a surplus of eggs and I can recall applying a preservative called ‘Ovaline’ to the eggs which were then wrapped and boxed until required.

Under the care of my father the garden flourished and my mother worked hard preserving the surplus fruit and vegetables. This task required a labour of love plus help from the children, peeling, podding and chopping – thank goodness the home freezer has made life easier.

My father was a builder and had built a modest house for the family which in the late 1930s consisted of three children. By the mid-1940s my sister and I had joined the family and more space became necessary. A dining room was added and an extra bedroom tacked onto the garage for the two boys of the family. The house remains to this day although the road is now a main thoroughfare rather than the stock route I remember.

My father’s work as a builder kept him busy during the week but the weekends were spent exploring Tauranga and its environs in our Ford Model A. He had moved from Auckland to Tauranga to find work about 1936 and my mother followed soon after with the two eldest children.

My father had been brought up in a family of nine children and lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s. He was obviously very aware of the responsibility of providing for his family of five children. He would take us on jaunts up dusty metal roads to places he had found which provided produce for the taking. One such place was located on the Pyes Pa Road and had once been a Halfway House providing accommodation for coach travellers on the journey between Rotorua and Tauranga.

A chimney was all that remained of the house, but the section was overgrown with fruit trees and nearby was an abundance of blackberry bushes. Here we would gather apples, peaches, plums and blackberries. Dad’s builders’ planks providing easy access among the thorny bushes.  My father could often be heard declaring that we could ‘live off the fat of the land’ and indeed I think we did.

Mushrooms were plentiful in the paddocks around Welcome Bay. I have no idea whether or not we had permission from the local farmers at the time, but we would gather mushrooms by the bucketful returning home happy with our bounty. I became quite proficient at peeling mushrooms and podding peas from the garden.

There were also other hunting expeditions from which he would bring back the occasional deer and rabbits were also a frequent addition to the menu. Braised rabbit was a favourite dish of mine.  It amazes me now to think how the rabbit made it to the pot on Mum’s coal range without me ever seeing it in its cuddly fluffy state! I would certainly never have eaten it had I ever seen its whiskers twitching!

I may have been completely distracted from what was happening on the stove by my habit of sitting on my father’s knee while dinner cooked, being entertained by his songs from Ireland and the rousing wartime songs he sang so well.

My father’s hunting friend owned a farm and I can only suppose everything was ‘processed’ there before being transported to our kitchen. We were also lucky enough on occasion to get comb honey from this farm, which might have somewhat alleviated my sister’s pain after being the victim of multiple bee stings on one of our visits there. After this visit, back at home, she would forcefully push me first through the gateway in our front hedge as the hedge was a Mecca for bees and my sister understandably harboured a fear of bees for some time.

To add a new dimension to our diet Dad would take us on camping trips to the Thames coast where he was born and to Kikowhakarere Bay in the Coromandel where we would gather cockles. The cockles were plentiful and it took no time at all to gather enough for the family. I remember one occasion when my father was, for some unknown reason, not working on a weekday and he gave me permission to take a day off school in order to accompany him to Coromandel for a day of cockle gathering.

I was delighted with this idea as it was sewing day at school, a craft I did not enjoy. Because the journey was slow on the winding metal roads in our old car, my father roused me at 4am that day. I don’t remember what time we returned home after our long, tiring trip, but that’s a day I still treasure in my memory.

Pipis were readily available at local beaches and flounder from the estuary near our home, so these delicacies were also added to the menu.

One vegetable my father didn’t bother growing was kumara as these were available from local Maori. I remember hiding behind my mother’s skirts when the black-garbed Maori women would come to our door with woven flax baskets containing kumara. These women with their moko appeared scary to me as a young child. The kumara were offered on a barter basis with the Maori women accepting perhaps other vegetables or outgrown clothing.

In saying that I doubt there was much clothing handed over as I, being the youngest of five, and by virtue of necessity, inherited most of the hand-me-downs!

It never seemed important that as a family we did not have expensive toys or entertainment because the weekends were usually busy. If there was no need for ‘hunter-gathering’ my father would indulge himself with a bit of relaxation at the beach where he enjoyed trying out his surfboard. This was not much more than a shaped wooden plank but provided him with much enjoyment.

We would picnic under the pine trees at Papamoa Beach where there were plenty of twigs with which to light the Thermette for a cuppa. While we were there he couldn’t resist gathering pine cones for our home fire! 

Visits to Mount Maunganui were another weekend treat with 6d for a donkey ride on the beach being a necessity. At home my brothers would use a home-made trolley for a downward run of the steep hill near our house, which provided them with great entertainment plus a few spills into the gorse bushes that lined the road.

On the occasions when our Auckland cousins came to stay, they too would be treated to expeditions on dusty metal roads much to the chagrin of my uncle whose prized possession was the family car. I was often a passenger in their car and would hear much grumbling from the driver about ‘Joe Boyle roads’ as we followed along behind Dad’s Model A. 

Upon arrival back home Uncle Percy could be found with the cleaning equipment diligently restoring his ‘city car’ to its former glory!

Return visits to our Auckland cousins I remember with pleasure. Seeing the Auckland city lights by night was magic and staying with our paternal grandparents on their beautiful orchard property was always enjoyable. It fascinated me to watch my grandmother make her own soap. Bread was also home-made and trips to the local shops were few. However, when necessary she would travel to the shops on a three-wheeled tricycle as she had never learned to ride a bicycle and they did not own a car.

Our pleasures were simple ones but to this day are still remembered with great nostalgia.


About the author

I was born in Tauranga in 1943 in the house mentioned in my story which was located in 15th Avenue. 15th Avenue was then called Hunter Street and 14th Avenue (Robert Street) was the main route out of town - along Turret Rd. I attended Tauranga Primary School and was a Foundation Pupil at Tauranga Girls' College in 1957 with the rest of the female pupils from Tauranga Boys' College joining us at Girls' College in 1958. Due to family circumstances at the time I left College earlier than expected and started a job at the BOP Times at the end of 1959 and was employed there in various capacities (and with some time at home when my 3 children were young,) until Sept 1986. I then spent 18 years as a Medical Receptionist at Tauranga Hospital. My husband and I are now retired. Both our daughters and their families live in Tauranga. We lost our son in a car accident when he was a student at Waikato University in 1988. Having always lived in Tauranga I have many memories of Tauranga from the late 1940's to the present day. I have always enjoyed writing for my own interest but a lot of it over the years has been in the form of what I would call "silly poems" mostly poking fun at friends and family!




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My father the hunter-gatherer by Patricia Boyle Simpson

Year:c.1930 and c.1940
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License
My father the hunter-gatherer by Patricia Boyle Simpson by Tauranga City Libraries Staff - HC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 New Zealand License