Our New Beginning At Colac Bay
Obviously our lives changed at the end of 1955. I was 2 years old, Kevin 7 and Janet had just turned 9. Mum had three little kids, and a bunch of sheep and hens to deal with. Thankfully she had an enormous support network of Dad’s family rallying around her.
“I continued to look after the sheep but found I needed a lot of help from the neighbours. When someone asked me if I’d think about selling, I began thinking about Colac Bay again. I didnt want to bring my family up in a city and knew just what we could share at Colac Bay so decided to build there, which I did in late 1959. I built a three bedroom brick house for 3300 pounds and sold the place in Mataura for 3500 pounds. We shifted down there when school finished for the year.”
“We all enjoyed swimming and went floundering and collecting shellfish almost every new or full moon, getting pauas (an unique species of abalone found only in New Zealand), cockles and mussels.
We soon became friends with all the local people. Kevin and Anne went to Colac Bay school which had two teachers but Janet wanted to go to Southland Girls High School so she had to board in Invercargill, coming home each weekend.”
“One neighbour up the road had a dairy herd and we took a billy up to get our milk. He was very good with the local kids and had some of the boys help him a lot on the farm. They enjoyed riding on the trailer behind the tractor so I felt Kevin didn’t miss out of male company.”
“One neighbour was Mrs Belsham. She was a Maori lady, the chief’s daughter and was very clever and a Justice of the Peace. I learned a lot about the Maoris from her. She had married an Englishman who had passed away. When she cooked pauas she scrubbed them until they were white.”
My most vivid memory of Mrs Belsham was seeing her down at the rocks eating kina (a sea urchin endemic to New Zealand). I remember her laughing as she encouraged me to try some too, but I’m afraid her appreciation of this delicacy was lost on me. I have never tried eating kina and I’m pretty sure I never will.
“When the white bait were in season we used to take our lunch and go to Wakaputu for the day. We would fish the incoming tide and then go up the river and wait for the next incoming tide before going home. Most of the boys Kevin’s age would be there, too, and a lot of the locals.”
That last piece is all Mum wrote about whitebaiting but there are so many stories to tell about our times at Wakaputu I’ll have to expand on those adventures some time myself.