The true story of the late Harold Stone, an Ohoka legend and original Ohoka Rugby club Pukeko.Harold had strong views on the wisdom of building on swamp in the Ohoka area:
Harold Stone grew up in swamp country, on a farm near Ohoka that would normally flood every two or three years.
Eighty acres was a big farm “and you survived on what you could do”.
“We were on very heavy ground, swamp ground and there was still a lot of black pine stumps, driftwood and God knows what. That railway line was built up above that but I can remember my brother Lawrence and I rode in a tin bath from our door, over to the Main Drain, over the top of the railway line and all the fences and never touched them. When we got home we got a hiding because the old man said, what would have happened if the plug had come out?”
One night a Mr Izard came down to our place and said to my father, the flood’s coming, you’d better do something. So father went out a cut a very small hole through the railway line – it washed out the railway line but it saved us. Those floods were terrible.
It’s pretty low lying around here. On our farm at Wilson’s Siding the springs would come and go every day with the tide.
In the early days along the Mill Stream there was four flour mills, a flax mill and a wool scour – all out of the one little stream. But with the underground water in those days there were springs everywhere and those mills just kept going…all with waterwheels.
There was very little crop grown in our area, it was just too wet. Although I have heard the story about my two brothers who put in wheat and Wilson’s Siding and they hand hoed it, to keep the willow weed and stuff down. Fancy hand hoeing a paddock of wheat. So about the only other thing we used to grown was mangles and chowmolia for the cattle – whatever grew really – a few spuds for ourself perhaps. But a lot of time we’d lose them too with the wet; in Ireland they’re nicknamed bog oranges aren’t they?
The Eyre River used to bust its banks and come straight through down Ohoka and into us at Wilson’s Siding- and we were a pond… it couldn’t get out into the Main Drain. They had floodgates onto the Main Drain and they just used to shut off, you couldn’t get the water out.”
“If you think of a house the Williams family built near here, it’s got seven inch concrete walls and they’ve seen seven floods in one February when the water came out through the windows.
“When the last of the Williams boys left there it sold to the judge, Edward Somers, and the first year he was there I had to take his wife out of the house on the tractor one morning at 2am because a flood had come down and he was away in Wellington. So it was very floodable – but it was built in concrete because the Williams’ knew it would flood.”
People are going to build on houses on that sort of land around here now, and I personally think they’re mad. It’ll flood again one day so someone’s going to get a shock one morning when they walk out the door. But people won’t listen to you; I’ve tried to change two houses now where the undercurrent is, but they just wouldn’t go a bit further up the paddock.
There’s a woman living on Mill Rd now where we once put a header in and it took us five days to get it out. It just went down a driftwood hole; well she built a house there right on top of it because she wanted to be beside the river. Well, it will sink or fall one of these days but you couldn’t shift people. No, they’re building in some queer places.”
Unlike more recent Ohoka settlers, the Stones milked cows, just like nearly every other farmer in the district. Until 1891 the patch of land where Harold grew up was all bush.
“Father reared seven of us on 40 cows. Now some places have 10 people working with 1500 cows – it takes 150 cows to keep one now.”
Harold’s mother was Annie, born and bred in Medbury, north of Waikari, and one of 14 children.
“Dad’s father, Sam, came on the Wakefield of Nelson in 1842 as a wheelwright and in 1844 he went bankrupt. But two years later he had enough money to buy land at Woodend and we think he must have come through the goldfields at Pelorous Sound. He had seven children and my father was the oldest – the mother got killed on the Main North Rd here, fell out of a gig.”
He built the big two storey house up the road from here, my father took that farm over from the other brothers and sisters, so that’s how we came to be in there.”
“I was the baby in our family, the last out. I had two brothers and if they took to me I used to hide behind my sisters. They looked after me…it was pretty good but we done pretty hard times. I can just remember the Depression when butterfat was sixpence a pound and the dairy company wrote to us and said we haven’t sold any, we can’t pay you.”
“You buy a suit for 21 shillings so sixpence wasn’t very much. Wages were low… it was tough and we lived on potatoes, hares or pukekos, anything we could find. But being on a farm we were lucky we could make our own butter and meat, I suppose. There were a lot of people who went very hungry and I can remember all the swaggers, the men walking the roads looking for jobs who’d came in asking for a meal in return for work. They’d always be coming by and mum would always give them the crust off the bread or a billy of tea or something. They were pretty days but there no luxuries, no ice creams or anything. But we survived…”
“But I think we were better health-wise in those days as far as food went. Good land and we’d never heard of sprays in those days either. The only spray we had in those days was the hoe. Imagine going out and hoeing a paddock of wheat now. But there didn’t seem to be the same amount of weeds in those days. I can always remember when the first Californian Thistle was seen up in Giles’ paddock, at the top of Jacksons Rd, and everybody went to have a look at this thistle to see what it was.”
Harold got his first pair of boots bought especially for him when he was eight years old, the previous ones being handed down to him. Not that he felt poor however.
We didn’t know any different, of course. We didn’t know what other luxuries there was. In the latter years we might get thru’ pence to go to the pictures on a Saturday afternoon.
“My oldest brother Leslie had very bad eyesight and he stayed on the farm right till his death, but I left Ohoka school on a Friday in 1939, age 14, and I was milking cows opposite the Eyre County Council where the Armstrongs were, for 10 bob a week on the Monday morning. None of us had any secondary schooling in our family, we just all went to work.”
But that wasn’t even slightly unusual.
Around here there were three families, a 16, a 14 and a 12. Forty-two kids in three families, living side-by-side. All barefoot and snotty-nosed, had their own netball and rugby team. The Reubens who were in the middle of Ohoka, they had 21.
The father Sam, he was a real hard-working Maori. He cut big gorse fences, picked spuds, cleaned ditches. The oldest boy and I became friends and when you’d go there to pick him up she’d feed you, didn’t matter what. You’d go in there in the morning to get him and go shooting – and there’d be at least six in a double bed. The sheet would be that tight nobody would get it. How the hell they fed them; they’d just go down to the creek and get another bag of eels and they’d feed them. Then there were the Lintodds – one had 10 and the other had 11. There were some big families…
But they were all good workers. Old George Lintood had a big fowl farm and he used to make oyster grit out of all the oyster shells. But we were all labourers in those days, biked to work or rode a horse.
For education all the older kids used to catch to the train to go the old Papanui Tech, where there was a variety of courses for farm kids.
But apart from farming there were no other jobs. Of course they started the freezing works, but apart from that there just weren’t any jobs. It wasn’t until we got the wool boom in the 1950s that the country picked itself up, but that didn’t really help around here. The only sheep we ran here was a few killers, buy a few lambs at Addington and run ’em round the cow paddock – and kill them when we wanted meat. But they did a pretty good job in looking after us, the educationists, for what they had to put up with.
Ohoka’s bogginess made the railway one of the only ways in and out of the district.
“We had a passenger train that used to go every morning from Horreville to Christchurch and my father, I don’t know why, used to go every Wednesday morning to the sale at Addington.
“I can also remember having a ride in a rail car that went to Christchurch. But mainly it was freight trains, coming through about eight in the morning from Horreville and about five at night from Christchurch. That went for donkey’s years.
The train would toot at Wilson’s Siding and then pull upside our gate outside our gate – and he’d run over a plank across the creek and jump on the train – and I used to go with him as a kid.”
There was no other way to get to Christchurch from here in those days besides walking so to have a passenger train once a day was fantastic.
“There was an old joker used to live here in Sneyd Street who was one of the railway gangers, and he had one of those rail carts where you put the feet on the bottom and push and pull it along. Mr brother Arthur and I used to walk the rail line to go to school and he used to pedal us up to Wetheral in it so we could go to school in Ohoka.”
All the railway workers hoed the shingle on the lines- it wasn’t sprayed or anything – and to lift up a sleeper they’d get a spade each side and shovel the shingle back under it to lift it level. There must have been terrible lot of people working on those railways but it went right through to Sheffield and over the top Waimak bridge – over a rail road bridge – but it was really only built for the mills, for the wheat to be carted in and the flour to be carted out.”
When the train went over it was quite uphill to get to Sheffield and so they used to unhook, leave half of the load on that bridge, head to Sheffield and then come back to get the rest. You can still see the railway cutting when you come back across onto the Oxford side; on the right that cutting is still there. Then just as you get to the top of the hill where that house is, the railway used to cross the road and go out towards View Hill.
But that rail should have stayed there. It could have cut Christchurch out with stuff going north to south.
Years ago Harold got hold of a picture of that top Waimak Bridge in 1923 with the river below it totally dry.
“I first sighted it in the Sheffield Hotel, and it belonged to a joker Wally Loe. Any rate, I took someone in there to show them this picture and it was gone, they’d done some alterations and the fellow there said Wally had taken it with him.
When Wally died I caught up with his wife. She had a copy of that and I got it enlarged.
“You wouldn’t want to show that to people who won’t let you take water out of the Waimak would you? How did the fish get on then?”
Ohoka and nearby Kaiapoi continued to be vulnerable to flooding well after roads started to make the railway redundant however.
Harold vividly remembers the Waimak swamping Ohoka and Kaiapoi in 1953. Authorities decided that was preferable to Christchurch taking the brunt.
“They blew the banks up there by Darby Martin’s place, up at the top end of East Eyreton, because otherwise it would have gone into Christchurch. The pipes and the gelignite are still there to do the next one. A lot of people don’t believe that but they are there, I can show them to you. I remember that flood because just beside the Clarkville School on Gregg’s Drain Rd there was a joker Brown who grew pitted spuds, covered in straw and dirt, and after the flood there spuds from Clarkville to Kaiapoi and down the river.
My father in law had cattle and he lived on Jeffs Drain Rd, but had cattle grazing on the dry land over at Spencerville during the winter. After the flood he wanted to go and see what happened to them so I had an old Farmwald tractor, which I took down the Tram Rd, and from Clarkville School down we were up to the top of the axles of the tractor. I got to the old wooden Waimak bridge and I wouldn’t go over; trees were hitting her and she was shaking and buckling…I turned round and went back. Spencerville never got it but Kaiapoi did; the flooding all came out this side.
At that stage of my life I was working on a spud sorter, doing pits of spuds down around Rolleston. I had an Overland car I’d parked down Fuller Street in Kaiapoi and we came home because of the wet, and when I saw it all that was sticking out from above the water was the radiator cap. So I got on a horse, went back down there and hooked the car onto a horse to tow it home. We drained the water out of the oil, put some new petrol in and away we went; I think we went to a dance that night in it.
That flood really attacked Kaiapoi, it didn’t really get up this far, but we’re only four foot six above sea level here so if a tsunami wave comes I’m heading for Lees Valley.
When the three rivers, the Ashley, the Eyre and the Waimak all flood together then look out; and they did use to flood together. Of course now they’ve made new cuttings like the Main Drain and then the Waimak cut, because all the water used to come down this north branch. The Waimak was in two and there was 52,000 acres inside the Kaiapoi Island, and then there was the Ohoka bush and the Tuahiwi bush. All of that was bush, from Whites Rd to the sea. Right up till 1891 it was still bush and we’ve still got all the tree stumps around here now.
An old joker Billy White who had the Ohoka homestead set up the mill and cut all the black pine around here. He was a real gentleman, the one who had a private railway track running through the middle of his farm to the railway station. And when he went to Christchurch they put a carriage on the back for him. He was the big man.
“My first job was a good wage; 10 bob a week and keep. I worked for a widow who used to work you pretty hard and she definitely got you up in the morning. You could buy the top beast in New Zealand for 21 shillings, and I bought a motorcar for 12 pound, 10.
“But I was on horses all my life, I was a teamster. We had a liquorice allsorts – Jim Wright was a horse dealer and he used to bring us two or three a week to break in. We had some good horses but a teamster was one of the hardest lives there was to live…when you finished at night you had to put your horses in to feed them, then at 10 o’clock at night you let them out after they’d had all their chaff and hard feed. Then at about 5 o’clock the next morning you had to go and get them in to feed them, have your breakfast and the chains had to be tied on the horses by 8 o’clock.
The old boys reckoned you had to have those chains tied on the horses to get a full day in. So God knows how many miles I walked up and down.
You could have anything from three to seven horses in front of you but they were trained to be in the furrows with the ploughs so they never moved from there, and the rest went them. But all those things were good lives, milking cows – it was all early.
But when I first went to school we were still milking 40 cows by hand – there were no milking machines – and I used to milk two nice easy ones before I went to school. If you got a good easy cow you could milk one in about quarter of an hour, as long as you didn’t put a foot in the bucket and tip it over, or wrap a dirty tail around your neck.
We reared all our calves, had a shorthorn herd in those days, and all our calves went to the Rakaia Gorge where the same joker bought them every year. We also had some land at Woodend where we used to winter the cows, a heap of broom where the motels are now, and we also had another one here at Kaiapoi… just pure broom on sand, and we used to cart hay down there every day on a horse and dray.
Very slowly all the milking went mechanised. The first milking machine was called a Rudd, it was a terrible old thing – all belt-driven and on a nor-west day all the belts would fly off and as a kid I used to have to tear inside to get the treacle to make it stick, or stand there with a wet cloth so the belt shrunk again. Otherwise the belt would fly off and all the cups would fly off, but at least it milked.
We had bails of pairs, six at a time, but there was one set of cups and you took them off one and put them on the other one. It wasn’t fast but it was a darn sight better than milking.
And the old cream carts used to come out three times a week with the big 20 gallon cans – how the hell the lifted them I don’t know. We’d put them on a stand at the gate and a cart would come and pick them up…There used to be a creamery at the girder bridge just down the road from here, and everybody took their horse and cart down to there and got their cream separated. In our area there was nothing else but dairy farmers so there could be 30 or 40 people heading down there. I always used to have a good horse for that job because you’d always have a race home, who could beat who.”
The cart that took the cream from here had to go around the top Waimak bridge near Kaiapoi- in an old solid tyre Dennis truck which shook that much the cream was already made by the time it got there.
But if you wanted a pound of butter, mum would want a pound on Sunday mornings, then you’d go down to the joker King who lived in the cream separator house down the road and he’d put on the slate in your name – and it would come off the cheque at the end of the month.
During the Depression I can remember mum making butter and selling it, just to make some money to buy bread. But my parents used to make all their own stuff, make their own soap, save the fat in caustic powder, preserved the eggs – so you survived…”
Everyone was the same but some were worse than others and a lot of people lost their farms through mortgages.
My wife Linda’s family just a bit further around from here on Jeffs Rd lost their farm during the Depression – just couldn’t pay the mortgage. The Farmers Corp went bankrupt and that was where the family had all their shares, but they worked hard enough to get the other half back again by the 1950s.
But it was horses those days, even in my time used to go to all the dances in horse and gig – down to the Pines, or up to Fernside. One thing about that, it didn’t get drink in charge, and the horse generally knew it’s way back.”
“We used to have a lot of fun with horse and drays. Those big heavy gates at the Ohoka Domain, well, a joker Ward used to come down there and one night we went down and took the horse out of the gig, put the cart through the gate and put the horse back in it. We turned the horse round and put the gig through the cart so it couldn’t go anywhere. (CHECK)”
The first rail station along the line from Kaiapoi was Waverly, probably named by the first Labour MP in the district, Morgan Williams. Wilson’s Siding was named after Wilson’s Mill, one of five flourmills and a flax mill on the Ohoka Stream. One of those mills was built by a Mr Christmas, after whom the nearby road is named.
“Then the siding was put in to take the flour and bring the wheat in. A joker Threkeld of Threkelds Rd built the other mill at Wetheral, at the corner of Jacksons Rd and Mill Rd, and then the Evans’ took both those mills over, plus they had one at Waikari.”
“That flour mill at Wilson’s Siding got burnt down in the 1940s and they shifted up to the Wetheral one. There’s still one half of the grinding mill beside the road there at Wilson’s Mill, and the other half is still in the creek somewhere. Then later on the Wetheral one went, and that had been the main thing for the rail, all that cropping up towards Oxford – it was all wheat there in those days.”
There was also a wool scour just up the road here, it polluted the river pretty badly, and then we had the freezing works polluting it on that side and the big woollen mill too. I can remember as a kid whitebaiting there and then it became that polluted the whitebaited stopped – and it’s only the last five or six years they’ve come back now those factories are gone.”
Every year in September Harold would head off to the West Coast for about 70 days of solid whitebaiting.
“The first whitebaiting I can remember, there used to be a road down to the ford there and we used to take hay across to cattle. Mother said to us one day, make a whitebait net and go and catch us a feed. The wire in the old railway fences in those days was No. 10, about as thick as your little finger, so went and cut a hunk of wire out of the railway fence, made a loop and put a pole through the middle of it. She then made us a net out of the curtain and we went down there and caught a feed of whitebait, so that’s really where I started whitebaiting.”
Harold was also a keen hunter and spent a lot of time in the hills around Kaikoura and Parnassus. Every Sunday or every other Sunday he would go somewhere with the dogs.
“So that kept you fit; it was as good as rugby practice anyhow. We’d never heard of pulling hamstrings; you were fit from carting hay. Before the start of the season I used to make certain I’d done two or three trips up the hills. I played lock those were the muscles used in a scrum… I never ever hurt a muscle.”
Rugby did occupy a bit of Harold’s spare time too though.
“The first record we’ve got of rugby in Ohoka here is 1927 and it shut down again in 1939 because of the war, then re-opened again in 1947. It was definitely Ohoka in 1927 but the earliest records they’ve got on Ohoka are in 1883 when the Ohoka School played Kaiapoi.
In 1943 we started a youth club, all the youth getting together and it later became the sports club. We held dances, took trips ice skating, just to keep the youth going. I was 17 and I was the first president of it…and I’ve been tied up in things ever since.
But we had gymkana meetings where we had horse races or human races or anything we thought would be funny, just to make money for the Red Cross and they’d send parcels overseas.”
Poor health meant none of Harold’s family went to war.
“Two of my brothers had very bad eyesight and my other brother and a sister had asthma very bad. I was the last one to be fit and that was only a joke because three of us decided half boozed that we’d go and join up for the J Force that went to occupy Japan after the war; we went down and I was the only silly bugger that passed.
We went away on active service and there were English, Australian, Indian troops all in there together with us, and the Yanks of course. The main experience of it all was you learned to live with people and do as you’re told. If you don’t say yes then you paid for it.
It was pretty hard though. They gave us a lot of bullring and all that rubbish, turning to march and so forth but it was good for us and I’d do it again today. You talk about people today having their OE, well I reckon that was ours.
We sailed out of Lyttelton and it took us 18 days to get to Japan; there was 1400 on that boat, it was crowded I can tell you. We slept in hammocks three high and as for the food, we had English cooks and we chucked them out in the first two days because we had maggots in the porridge. The English were only going to feed us twice a day so we put our own cooks in.
We landed in Kure, which is near the bottom of Japan. Each country had their own area and we were in a place called Yamaguchi but I was only over there 10 days when I went to a sports meeting, went into a high jump and put my knee out; busted the ligaments.
So I was sent first to the hospital by the sea, which is where I stayed for the 2 1/2 years, I served there. It was actually the surgeon who allowed me to stay in the hospital because he’d said he wanted me to stay there so he could look after me so he got me a good cushy job and away I went.
New Zealand engineers had completely rebuilt the hospital
In their hospitals if you go in there the family come in and look after you, do all the cooking and clean the passages. So we pulled all that down and when we went back in 1982 they’d just pulled all our work down and rebuilt theirs.”
Harold was in charge of the hospital’s Japanese labour force.
“They’d suffered a lot with the war but they were very polite people, very honest. Our old colonel said I’d leave a basket in front of them all day but I wouldn’t leave it in front of you buggers for half an hour.
We had about 400 permanent Japanese staff; cleaners or laundry workers and we used to bring in about another 300 each day to clean workers or cut grass and the like. All these people were civilians; there was an area picked out each day and somebody out of that house had to come, so you might get a 10-year old and you might get a 90-year-old.
It was my job in the morning to sort them out; put the old dears cleaning windows and the young ones cutting grass.
In 1946 he visited the Hiroshima nuclear bombsite.
We were in there trying to bulldoze tracks so they could rebuild because it was just a piece of rubble, 40 square miles of rubbles. But they came in with the giga (spelling) counters and we were gone in 20 minutes because the reading was too high. The only thing left standing was its concrete buildings; it just blew the rest away.
I always felt it was like a 110 tonne steam engine coming out of a tunnel, from 40 feet up a hill – that’s how far it sprayed the city. I talked to people who survived it, but most of the people died the next week going back in there with all the radiation. That’s what killed the millions.”
By comparison life back home after the war was relatively innocent.
“When I came back from the J Force we played rugby at Cottle Park out in a joker’s cow paddock – and we used to get a hose to hose ourselves down with after the game, or boil the copper for a cup of tea. And about the furthest we’d travel to a game would probably be Sefton.
But there was always an Ohoka team and it was a good team; we won the North Canterbury Open Junior grade after the war and we won that in 1952. Then they graded nine us out of there because we were too good for juniors and they put us into seniors – well we’ve been seniors ever since, and I don’t think we’ve won anything since.
A local joker had a bus to get the team around. You’d play your game, have a cup of tea, come home and have a bath and then go to a dance somewhere. It was six o’clock closing so you’d come home and then be back in the pub by 8 when they opened again. Stay there till nine and then go to a dance somewhere. I’m still tied up with drinking but the biggest thing was having a motor vehicle; I remember it was one and sixpence a gallon for petrol the same amount to fill a two gallon jar of beer and the hardest thing was to work out how you wanted to spend, whether you wanted to get to the dance or wanted to get drunk.
For rugby you had to buy your own jerseys, all your own clothes, but to keep the club going we used to run a hard drive once a week or run a raffle. Don’t ask me what raffles all were but I certainly remember running them.
With the hare drives 40 jokers would turn up in the morning with three trucks and we’d just ask permission to go from farm to farm doing a block until lunchtime, back to Ohoka for lunch and just work different blocks all day. We’ve had 300 hares shot in the day; they all used to be exported to Germany so they could pour the wine into them and make jugged hare. But some of those Germans must have been eating lead because some of those hares had a lot of shots in them.
I used to do a lot of Sunday shooting in my young days, go shooting pigs and deer too…used to keep fit that way.”
But Harold’s bread and butter was farm contracting, with hay-baling the mainstay.
“Oh no, I’d do it again – it was a good life. But I’d hate to be buying machinery and doing it today. The first tractor I bought when I came back from overseas was brand new for 321 pounds, a Ford. But I’ve been through seven different models of baler since then. The first one I had did a million bales from Ohoka to Oxford, end to hand. But they were all hand sledged in those days, no machinery.
You used to sledge and a joker on the back would put them in 12s or 16s and they were covered in heaps, and then all carted by hand – there was no lifters or machinery at all. The students from university used to come out and work for me during the holidays, but then all of a sudden the dole came along and they wouldn’t come out so I had to with automation then…had to put is skidders and lifters and all sorts of things. But like all machinery it’s made to break down…and it never breaks down in the shed. But it was a good life, seen a lot of people come and go and met a lot of good people.”
Harold and Lynda were married in 1952 and their first-born was Harold, followed by Rosemary, Kathy, Gwyneth, and Deric. There was 10 years between them.”
Harold had a couple of close shaves with his health but somehow, to that point, he made it through.
“I was at bowls down at Mandeville when we had Twizel up here for the weekend. I got a hell of a pain, tried to eat some meat and was sick, so I took off for home. At any rate, Mike Wilkinson followed me because he reckoned I wasn’t right – and it turned out I’d got appendicitis. When I was 78 years old. So they took me to hospital and operated on me at night and how they did it I don’t know but the fluid out of my stomach got into my lungs and glued my lungs together, so I couldn’t breathe. So they put me onto this machine in intensive care and then two days later they brought in this new machine worth a million dollars and hooked me up to it. On the third day all the family came over from Australia and pretty soon they had to make the decision whether they were going to turn the switch off. On the Thursday morning I said bugger you and started to breathe on my own.
Those nurses there are on intensive care are on 12 hours a shift and I had a very nice German girl, but they’d put a tube down my neck that was annoying me so I remember getting hold of it, pulling it out and throwing the bloody thing away. This nurse said to me you old bugger we’ll get another one and put it down, and they did too…
I was in there for 14 days longer but I was a bit lucky because they all thought I’d gone. At one stage my heart apparently had four 100% dead blocks. There was nothing going through all.
Then two years later I went to put a spray pump on the tractor out here, was just getting it on the power shunt and knew it was going to fall so I stepped back and tripped over the hoses behind me – donged my head on a big wide board with a pump on it. I lay there for four hours before I came round. I can remember trying to get up but I couldn’t. Any rate, I eventually managed to get up and come inside. I gradually came round but they took me to hospital; one old joker reckoned I’d had a stroke but another one said nah, just bloody concussion. But ever since that I haven’t been able to chew, can’t swallow meat at all. Anything I chew that’s the end of it; but that’s part of my life…and I’ve bluffed my way through this far….”
In 2004 he had a stent put into his stomach because there wasn’t enough blood going there. That’s made life much easier lately too, he says.
With operations to his heart, knee, hip and stomach behind him Harold says he’s probably got enough mechanical parts inside him to make a robot.
There have been tragedies along the way, however, including the death of his wife Lynda in a traffic accident in 1989.
She was matron of the old people’s home here in Kaiapoi and she’d come down to the chemist to get some medicine, going back across the pedestrian crossing when a great big Land Rover hit her. That was at 11.50 and they found me three hours later, and we just got there five minutes before she died. The Main North Rd hasn’t been very good history for us; my grandmother, Sam’s first wife, fell out of a gig here and killed herself – and my son Derek here hit a joker in a little car. He’d come out of the fish shop, hopped into his car and done a u-turn – and then he whopped into this fellow, threw him through a window on the other side and killed him. Then my wife was killed there.
Two years ago [around 2006] Harold “was shifted” out of the house he and Lynda bought when they got married in 1952 – and into a cottage shifted there especially from Springs Rd. He still plays bowls at Mandeville and follows Ohoka rugby whenever he can.
“I still like to support the club; go there every Friday night for one. Haven’t chased the rugby as much as I should have this year, went out one night and watched but oh that night rugby, it gets too cold when you’re old. You get too soft.”
Harold isn’t the sort of bloke who really sees himself as old or soft though.
He continues farming and hay carting as ever.
“I’ve still got a farm up at Jeffs Drain Rd, running a flock of Coopworths, just to keep me out of mischief. Fattening lambs and mucking round.
No, but I’m getting slower slower though, I know that. But oh no, life goes on…we can only go on as long as we can, I suppose. Thank God we don’t know which day we’ve going to go. We just plug on till we do.”
The family’s land on the edge of Kaiapoi has recently been reclassed suburban but if Harold has a say they won’t be going anywhere.
“They can’t push us out, but they can revalue us out. The joker next door wanted to put 12 houses in this area but seven us around here said no. We’re going to stay as we are for another 20 years. Whether he beats us or not I don’t know but he’s got to get the resource consent first.”
- “The first time I got caught with drink was at Sefton. I had a HUP car, and there was about eight of us went up there for a dance. Of course we took drink. We all went out for a drink outside the hall, because drinking within a dance hall was prohibited in those days, and the cop from Amberley walked around the corner. He said this car belongs to you doesn’t it? I said yes and he said ‘I thought so because you’re the only bugger left standing here.’ The rest had buggered off and the cop asked me what I was going to do with the beer in my hand. I said I’d tip it out; the cop said good idea, drink it on the way home won’t you.”