Topic: Ivan Thomas talks to Mike Harris

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Ivan Thomas' recollections of his upbringing at Te Arai, as recorded by neighbour Mike Harris, of Te Arai Point.

IVAN TOMAS of Wellsford narrates ...
Ivans father was a Dalmatian born in 1893. At the age of 17 he left home and travelled to
New Zealand via the USA where he worked for about three years: 10 hours a day six days
a week on the railways and in the quarries. Arriving in NZ on the ship Maheno out from
Sydney, he initially dug gum in Northland before going to the Waikato digging drains
and constructing roads.While in Auckland one day with his mate Tony Jakich (they were
from the same Dalmatian village) he learnt of a property for sale in this area. They took a
boat to Mangawhai then walked to Te Arai to inspect what was to become the family
farm. For the return journey they walked to Te Hana, but having missed the train
continued to Wellsford where they overnighted before taking the next days train back to
Auckland. They bought the farm about 1913. Ivan thinks it was Lot 33 and was about 196
acres. A lot of effort went into digging drains through the swampy valley and clearing the
waterway right down to the beach. The Moores lived on what is now Paceys flats. Other
neighbours to the north included the Huttons, Chipchases, Conolly and Altringham. To
the South there were the Fishlocks, Jock Grant whose son Dave lives in Wellsford. Jock
was wounded in WW2 in 1942 and Ivan who about 10 at the time and admired Jock
hugely wrote him a letter which Jock kept and subsequently gave back to Ivan. There was
a Roy Heywood and his family who lived about a kilometer along Lake Road close to
Paceys Quarry in a house that was demolished about 1996.The house was originally well
up on the ridge before being pulled to its final site by a bullock team: The Haywards were
dairy farmers and had a milking shed near the foot of the quarry.
Ivan has vivid memories of the large bullock team which pulled the Dorreen house from
its north Slipper Lake site to its final site opposite the Tomas house at the southern end of
the Lake.

By about 1940 the Tomas' had the first telephone in the area. When a message came
through for the Doreens, Mrs Tomas used to put a white sheet on her front fence and one
of the many Doreen children would come and get the news.

Ivans and his siblings lived in the house that stands about 200metres south east of the
Lake Road/Ocean View Road junction. Two English tradesmen by the name of Taggart
and Thompson had apparently not long been in NZ before they. were engaged by Mr
tomas sm father to build the house. These builders had traveled to Te Hana by train, been
met by Mr Tomas and his work partner Mr Jakich, They built the house in the space of
about six weeks, a remarkably quick time considering they had to hand plane each
weatherboard and do other work that is not done today. Ivan's father, ,himself a toiler who
did not believe in sitting or lying around during daylight hours, praised them for their
speed and workmanship. The builders lived with the Tomas family during the construction
 period, in another nearby house which no longer exists. In England
apparently such tradesmen would not have had such closeness with their employer.

Ivans father died at the age of 97 having often stated that nobody dies of hard work. Mr
Tomas snr was a keen gardener who also had a big and varied orchard - peaches, plums,
apples, grapes, nectarines - near the comer of Lake Rd/ Ocean View Road. Only a fig
tree remains. There were gardens in several locations, and what was not used or
preserved was given away. Plenty of poultry. No power to the area until after the Tomas,
moved out. The family moved into Wellsford in the summer of' 46 after the mother died.
The farm was bought the Blyth brothers who were a couple of returned servicemen. Ken
Blyth had married a war bride - Ada from Trieste. The other brother remained a
bachelor. In later years there was a Voss and later a Garry Watt on the property.

Until very recently another house was co-located with the Tomas house. Ivan thinks that
relocated from the Mangawhai Road where it was the home of the Unkovichs
Mr Tomas snr was a dairy farmer and he also had the cream carrier contract for a few
years. He may have sold the carrier business to Mr Tony Conolly whose truck appears in
some historical photos.

Ivan went to school across the road from his house and when it was closed during the war
he went to the Tomorata school which was called the Forest Reserve School. He boarded
with his cousins the Tolich's up there. On Fridays after school he used to walk back to to
Arai, along School Road, Ocean View Road, past Civil Road and the OMalleys who had
brought the Grant property. Sometimes in the company of the Fishlock childen he would
connect with the School bus at the Ocean View Road! School Rd junction. Other times he
would take a variety of cross country detours, including one that led across the Tolich
property from near the Pakiri Block Rd to Civil Road. Ocean view Road only came north
as far as what is now the Red Hills Rd junction. After that it was just a track through the
tea tree. This latter part was government land and was used for a winter farming run-off
Lake Road was the only vehicle access out.

One night there were simultaneous fires on the Lawrence property by the Forestry Camp,
and in Cemetry Road. Suspicions were that they were arson.

Mr. Lewis is buried in the Forest Camp, Ivan’s father helped dig the grave. They had
problems with the water rising and Ivan thinks they might have had to relocate the grave.
Not so sure about Mr. Laurence being buried there.Mr Laurence and subsequently Mr.
Lewis were owners of the Northern end of my farm before Dorreens. Ivans father also
dug the grave of Mr. Connolly, killed in a wagon accident when the hoses bolted, above
Coopers present cowshed. The elder Tomas said the sand flies nearly ate him alive while
he was digging the grave.

Ivan can remember Ivan Dorreen planting maram grass on the dunes before the war.  
The dunes were unproductive shifting sand and could not support even dry stock There were
tracks through the dunes to the beach, but little recreation on the beaches apart from
fishing and collecting mussells. The Tomas also caught and cooked octopus.

Ivan Dorreen was twice MID in WWII but was KIA and was buried in Caserta Cemetry ,
near Florence.

There was no Maori presence locally. The first Maori Ivan saw was Bob Ratana who rode
up one day on his white mottled horse and caused a scared Ivan to run off to his parents
at the cowshed to tell them there was a man who had never had his face washed.
Apparently there was a major battle between warring Maoris in the Black Swamp area
and Ivan understands there has been a tapu on that area as a consequence.

The Te Arai headland used to be a very scenic area before the County established the
quarry operation. Unlike the dunes on either side, most of the Te Arai peninsula was in
pasture and mushrooms were quite prolific. During the war the army established an
observation post on the Point. The Yates family had a home down near the quarry.

The only activity on the lakes was duck shooting. The lakes had no special significance
for the locals.

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Tags: thomas

Ivan Thomas talks to Mike Harris

First Names:Ivan
Last Name:Thomas