I was born November 1919, right in Awanui. I am Te Aopouri, we are known outside of North as coming from Te Tai Tokerau. Our People never moved around far from our Home. The tuturu name for Awanui was Kaiwaka. While my father worked in the Gum fields we lived at Kaingaroa, but that wasnt far from Awanui. I grew up with my Parents and my 5 sisters. I had a brother, Tika (Dick), but he was married and he didnt live at home.
Our house was made of tin walls and a roof with no linings. We had a window, it was a hole with no glass. We had sacks over the window, and a timber floor. It was 2 bedrooms and a big kitchen. The kitchen and the sitting room was really one room, and we had a wash outside in the tub, or in the river. It wasn't a flash house, but it wasn't a poor house either, it was an average house in Awanui.
Our Table was a big long table, and we had long forms that were the seats for everyone. We had enamel dishes - plates and mugs were enamel, and our cutlery was bone handled. We had a big cupboard that was like a wardrobe, and everything was kept in there. We had whariki on our floors, and in my Parent's room was a drawer with a mirror, they bought that new. My brother Dick had a piano, and a gramophone. We had a lot of kete hanging in the house, with different things in them.
We had feather mattresses, and beds. We kept our clothes in a wooden box, clothes that needed to be hung up, we hung them on nails on the wall. Our Quilts were made out of clean sacks with material sewn on them. Sheets were made out of the Flour Bags, and for under the sacking. Our pillows were the same as our mattresses, made with feathers.
We never had any sinks in the house, no taps. We had a small tub outside; and a copper for boiling water. Mum had a "piss pot" (Chamber Pot). Our toilet was a long drop, it was about 50 yards away from the house. I just "go" outside.
My Mother cooked on an open fire, it was a separate kauta. We used wax candles and kerosene lamps for our lighting. Our drinking water was collected from rain into a 44 gallon drum. I slept in the kitchen, on a mattress on the floor, and all the 5 girls slept in one room. Some times the girls sleep at Dicks place. We sleep between the 3 homes - my parents, my brother, Dicks and my Grandparents. Mostly May, sleeps over at Dicks.
My sisters were always helping Mum to do the housework. Our whole family works in the gardens. We usually have about 2 acres planted in Kumara, and we had 1/4 acre in Strawberries. I help Dad with the wood, and with the fencing on two farms. As I got older, I worked on other farms. I left home when I was 15.
Mum was involved with the Women's Committee at the Marae. They were always fundraising for the Marae, and we all paid 2 shillings each week into that. My mum spent her other spare time, sewing clothes for us - all by hand. Some times they go to the Pub.
My father worked in the Government scheme - digging drains. He also worked making stop banks for the Awanui River Board. He had 21 acres, which he also farmed. We would spend a lot of time carting wood and selling it, we did this with the wagon and horses. My Father would sell loads of Ti-Tree. After work he come home, and then he go and do work at my other Grandmother's farm. I was with my father every day, I was close to him. He was a hard working man, and never had much to say.
Mum did extra work for Farmer's wives. She would wash clothes; she'd have to walk about 4 miles to their farm. We also sell our strawberries and kumaras. When Mum was around the house, I always see her ironing, and she'd heat these up on the fire. Some times, her and I ride the horses to go and gather peaches from the wild peach trees that grew up the road from where we lived. She was a loving mother to all of us. If any of us get sick; she would fuss over us, and very worried. My mother was a pretty woman and was always well dressed. They were always easy to talk to.
Most Saturdays, we get to go to the Pictures. Some times, my Father and I, and other whanau go fishing at the Kumeu Estuary. I was close to all my sisters, but Raiha mostly. She was a lot older than me, and she do everything for me. One time I got caught pinching something from town; and I was going to get a hiding - and she laid on me, so that she would take the punishment for me. (Goes quiet, as he remembers)
There were other whanau that we were close too. I was close to John's Grandparents, all the Kemps and the Rakenas were one family.
Most of the time our kai was Rewena bread and tea. We hardly have butter, we use hinu for that. Sometimes during the milking we have it; but we mostly have hinu bread and hinu for butter. We hardly take lunch for school. Might take bread, if we have butter. I rather go without that take unbuttered bread. Our mates give us some of their lunch anyway. If we have hinu bread, I'll take that - the Pakehas think they scones (laughs).
On Sundays we have a big dinner. Dad kills a pig on Saturday for Sunday Kai - and we have that, it is Roast Pork and Kumara. We have beef too, or else just tea and bread. Certain time of the year we have tawhara. Me and my sister Milly go on horseback to get Toheroa at 90 mile beach; we get tuatua and karahu as well. Now and then, we set the hinaki in the Awanui River.
I liked Christmas the best. We go out to the Awanui Pub and the Publican throws lollies in a lolly scramble. Sometimes theres a money scramble as well. Mum made cakes and plum puddings with threepence and sixpence coins in it.
My clothing was tweed shorts, shirt and a jersey - no shoes. All my clothes were bought from the shop, so they had to last for years. Boys clothes were too hard to sew, it was easier for Mum to sew girls clothes. Mum would buy me two pairs of shorts at a time. I had clothes just for sunday - that was a white shirt, and a pants. The girls all had white dresses. I remember my sisters play knuckle bones with karahu shells. My Cousins, Heta and John and I would climb the oak tree and play in there. I had to be careful not to rip my clothes, or I get in trouble.
The Oak tree still stands there. After I finish my jobs, cutting the kindling, Im free to go off with my cousins. Sometimes we play in town on the way home from school. I liked horse riding, and I liked helping Dad with the cattle mustering, cause its an easy job. Easy cause its just riding a horse. My other friends come with us too, that was Maori Marsden and his brothers. I had other friends too, the dalmatians; occassionally we get to go to their house. We go there, and listen to their records, or the records at Dicks.
I never had any toys. None of us did. I had a home made spinning top, and sometimes we carve the centre out of the flax sticks and make canoes. We all did this, and at the same time we can take the hinaki down to the river. I pinched something from the wharf one time, they were shop supplies. It was very serious - thats why I was going to get a hiding - that was the one and only time that I got a hiding, but my sister Raiha protected me. Some times when we're in a group we go and pinch the pears off other peoples trees. We do that in a group, then we can blame the next one. Other games we play are mixed relays. Most of the time, the Girls play on their own ground. They play hopscotch and basketball and girls games. Boys are too rough for them.
Once a week we can go to the Pictures. I play football. We go to watch the motor bike races after that. Some times the side show comes to Awanui, and when we're really young we ride the merry-go-rides. Now and again, they have basket socials, and the men auction for baskets. Kids go too. The Grown ups drink outside, they have a band. We use to call it an orchestra - the main instruments was the piano and a violin, its called a band now.
We were pretty healthy back then, get the odd cold or flu. The old people had their own ways. They boil up the leaves of the Blue Gum tree, they know when to take it off. They use the steam and they get us to inhale it with a blanket over you. I don't remember ever having to see a doctor. Only Mihi - They took her to the Kaitaia Hospital, and she died there. (Goes quiet - remembering). The Nurse would come to check for head lice (kutu) at school, especially for the girls. Other rongoa was to boil the roots of the flax, you drink it for diarrhea. Its "very sour", I dont know if it went off by itself or that cured it. You get "that" hungry, you soon get better. We didnt have tooth brushes, we just use our finger at the tap. They have a teeth inspection at school, every one has to queue up. You see all the Maori boys, queuing up at the tap first - telling the fulla at the front "hurry up boy" !
I cant remember how old I was when I started school. My first school was Kaingaroa; I wasn't there for long, it was only while Dad was "gum-digging", and then I went to Awanui School. There were no Native Schools up north - not that I knew of. They were all Pakeha schools. We all got on alright. Some times we fight with the Pakeha boys, I dont get picked on because I was the biggest in the class. We dont fight with the dalmatians, cause they're too big, and we never fight among our own. If we get caught fighting we get the strap. After the strap you stand in the corner. Maori, Pakeha, Tarara - we all get the same. If your late, you get in trouble. If your untidy in class, they keep you in after school. You have to write on the blackboard 100 times - "I must not do ... ". We don't tell our parents if we get the strap at school. They might hear it from someone else, and they say - "Na ! Tarapungia ! Ka Pai ! to mate koinei, e kore nou e whakarongo". (Take that, the strap, Good - thats your trouble, you don't listen). I don't get in much trouble though, the rules were simple, never be late, be tidy, keep my teeth and hair clean. We just followed the rules, because we had too.
Some teachers were pretty good. Mr Watson - the Headmaster, he was into Maoritanga, any tangi going on and hes there. He liked to hang around the Marsden boys. When my Aunty died, Mr Watson came to the tangi, I remember him sitting outside with the men as they sat around the open fire. I liked most of my teachers, maybe not on the day when I get the strap, otherwise I thought they were good people. I was in primer 3 for more than one year, I think they pushed me up to Standard 1 because Im too big (He laughs). I left school after that. Both my cousins, John and Heta passed standard 6, but you had to have money to go to Boarding School. I remember learning some Pakeha history at school, when I was in standard 1. There was talk about King George, 5th or 6th.
Neither of my parents could speak pakeha, So they make sure that we go to school - "no wagging". I didn't really like going to school, but I still had to go. I use to stutter a lot, took me a long time to get a word out, when I was reading a journal. I hated to have to read in front of the class. I was very good at mental arithmetic either - always failed. But i was "tops" at sports, I win every running race, and was good at Rugby. The relay team always count on me, I beat John and Heta at that. I was a good runner for my age, so they tried me in the Adult's sport racing 200 yards. I was standing there, lined up, I thought to myself, 'I'll beat these fullas" - then I laugh cause I came 2nd to last.
Christmas was a big time for our family, and my grandmother pull out all her preserves. All sorts of puddings and cakes, cupcakes; they all get cooked in the Umu. We'd go down to the "lolly scramble" at the pub, and George Fleming - the publican stands there and makes sure no grown-ups go in the scramble. I didn't know the Christmas story, I just wanted the feed, oh and I remember thats when we have a long time off school at the end of each year.
I remember Easter, but we didnt have easter eggs. We didn't have Guy Fawkes either, but sometimes if we got money, we kids buy some crackers. It was only threepence a Packet, that was cheap. Sometimes we have money, cause the ole people "feel sorry for us".
Every Sunday we go to church. Church of England, Anglican also called Mihinare. These were held at the Kareponia Church. We often have a different Minita, as they alternated. It was only Maori, our whanau that attended our church services. It was a "must" to attend church - I had to go. I attended church every Sunday right up until the time that I left home. After church, I go over to my cousins place to play tennis. Church started at 10 am, it gave us a chance to walk there. It took an hour and a half to walk to church. I never took much notice of what was being said, I was just "raring" to get outa there.
I saw plenty of Pakeha in my childhood. Pakeha and Maori got on pretty well. All the shopkeeper were Pakeha, except the billiard saloon was owned by the Dalmatians. Besides, you got to be good to the Pakeha - or you wont get a job. They were friendly and helpful people though. Dalmatians are hardworking good people and not classed as Pakeha. We called them "Square Heads" or in Maori "Tarara". I knew the Dalmatians were from another country, but when I was young, I thought the Pakeha were from here. I knew my marae, Kareponia and Mahimaru; and I knew who my Grandparents were.
My Grandfather was "Hehi Kepa" - the pakeha call him "Jesse", some called him "Sugary". He had a long white beard, that came down to his puku. He couldn't speak English. He takes his wheelbarrow down to the shop, and points to what he wants; then he loads it onto his wheelbarrow and he wheels it home. Sometimes I stay over their house, it was only 100 yards from our place. He was a very independant man, and he never asked anyone for help. He goes and sits under his fruit trees. As soon as he go inside, us kids go and pinch it. My Grandmother was "Karani Miria". My time is spent with her if they babysitting us, when my Parents are away working.
We had plenty of freedom. I go where I want. Not many rules, just "no loitering" down at the shops, not allowed to play at the church grounds; and to keep right away from the old Urupa. That was at Mangatakawere, long way from Awanui. Its a very tapu cemetery, we always told by our parents not to go there. Only people who are ministers can go there. It was a very old cemetery; I dont go in there, but not far from there is a very clear spring - right in the bush, with the cleanest water, straight from the ground.
Most of what I know is from observing. They don't teach us like a teacher, we just watch and learn by doing it. My Father taught me how to make the Kumara pits, with the dried ferns and the bullrushes put upside down help drain the water off. I see the old people making hangi, I see Mum mashing the rotten corn (she takes it off the cob, and mash it with a mug, then they cook it. My grandmother prepares berries, she shows us which ones to pick, and how to boil them. They cook up the Taraire and Mingimingi. And about the spring tides, because the tide goes out further than normal. We went eeling occassionally up home, but I didn't do it regularly until I moved to Waikato. This is the place of eeling.
Our Marae up north, was just a hall and a big kauta. I never saw carvings until I came to Waikato. I didn't go to the marae much, I dont remember hearing the women karanga either, not like down here. There was plenty of Whaikorero though. All I know is I'm a Maori ... and that's it. I wasn't really interested, I was more interested in making money, which meant I got to keep on working. There were things that Pakeha knew, that we didn't know. Like running a farm, and different ways to stack hay, and ways to built roofs. Pakeha had superior knowledge than Maori. Maori always saying "Yes", and always doing the Manuel work, while the Pakeha doing all the headwork. I never thought much about it, we all just accepted that that was the way it was.
workers stopping the banks of the Awanui River.