Motoring in the twenties
This story was related to me several times by my late father. Somehow when he told the story it seemed so much more exciting than I have written. Perhaps it was the inflexions in his voice, climax, etc. However, I have done my best. I have used the pronoun “we” just as my father did when telling the story.
The time was the May school holidays and the parents had decided to travel to the maternal grandparent’s farm at Alfriston, near Manurewa, from Ohaupo (which is midway between Hamilton and Te Awamutu).
The day dawned and it was dreadfully wet and Dad demurred about the trip. However, Mother said “What was the use of a car if it couldn’t drive through a bit of rain”. We set off in the old Ford Model T (tin lizzie). Travelling north we passed through Dead Man’s Gulch where the rain clouds drifted in shreds through the bare poplar trees and the rain dripped from the stark branches.
Through Hamilton to Ngaruawahia where Dad purchased another tin of benzine to go under the back seat and was told the river was rising. Dad kept on. At Taupiri Mountain the clouds hung low over the mountain and hung in drifts in the ravines. The bare willows on the river bank hid the now brown coloured water of the river from sight. At Huntly township a small store sported a sign “Hot Pies” but we knew better than to ask for Dad to stop. We knew full well his views on pies. We had never tasted one, only knew that they smelled great. Years later at a Rugby match in the King Country we were given pies by an Official and ate them with relish. Dad was furious when he found out and forecast we would be ill for days (we weren’t).
In those days it was a slow trip not the 2 hour burst it is today. At Ohinewai we stopped for lunch – Peck’s Anchovette sandwiches and a flask of tea for the parents and a bottle of cordial for the children. The rose hips were orange scarlet in the watery sunshine and the hawthorn berries hung like grapes in clusters from the bushes. The sun disappeared and drizzle commenced.
Just south of Mercer township the road turned very slushy and as we progressed towards the Hotel and Railway Station the road disappeared into a lake of water. You could only see the top of the first few inches of the fenceposts opposite the Station. Dad said “So long as I keep the engine going we should make it”. Mother said nothing , just looked rather white and stricken. The children peered through the rear window to watch the exhaust bubbles. The water was dirty and swirling. Driving towards us a car was driving too fast and caused a surge of water around us which caused Dad to mutter something unintelligible. He shouted at the driver as he went past causing a large wake and the reply was a foreign language to us children brought up in the backblocks. Mother blushed. We were the last car to get through the flood only because the Ford was so high off the ground.
Finally we eased out of the water only to become bogged down in the mud. Dad alighted from the car and cut tea-tree from the side of the road and placed them under the wheels. The wheels spun helplessly, then at last gripped on the tea-tree. Mother had moved slightly nearer the wheel and a huge cutrain of mud flew up and splattered her. She a lady of extreme dress consciousness and her hat bedecked with pheasant plumes had muddy water dripping from it. Eldest child giggled and was met with a clod glare and a quick clip over the ears. This was no time for levity. At a cleared spot Dad managed to affix the chains and on we went until we reached some more gravelled road.
Ahead lay the razorback at Pokeno – something all drivers dreaded – the narrow road and steep winding corners. One corner was especially narrow and quite dangerous and all drivers dreaded meeting an approaching vehicle. Dad always gave a huge sigh of relief once that corner was negoiated. The car ground up the incline round the corners but ahead lay THAT CORNER. Dad's worst fears were realised as he hugged the bank - a laden truck appeared and Dad moved even closer to the cliff. The truck moved over from the edge and there was the sickening rasp of metal to metal. The mudguards had touched. Each vehicle moved by inches and slowly the truck moved past. Dad’s vehicle’s wheels spun in the soft clay pumice but didn’t falter and we moved on around that corner. Dad was a white as a sheet. Up to the top, the view was shrouded in cloud and drizzle and down the other side without incident. No more mishaps.
At Papakura the road was gravel with a spray of tarseal and it was heaven. We turned off to Alfriston and travelled the pumice road to the farm. Both grandparents rushed out to meet us together with the two farm cats Mike and Sam. They were joined by the curious geese who never missed a visitor. Dad alighted from the car followed by Mother and the children. Grandfather looked at his daughter and said “What happened to you?” Mother looked him in the eye and stalked off into the farm house. A slow grin came over her father’s face and both men smiled. Grandmother said “Let’s all go in for a cup of tea” – and gratefully we did just that.
That is the story as told to me by Dad.