The ‘Tin Hut’ pub, so named, because once, after a fire it actually was just a tin hut until being rebuilt, was a few miles up the highway aways, from main street Featherston. In behind the pub, the Tauherinikau race track had been holding racing events since the 1880’s, and every New Year’s Day, a public holiday, they held one of their biggest meetings of the year.
On the day, the noise of cars racing past the shop front, woke us up early. At first, they arrived from over the Rimutaka hill road in a steady stream, but by mid morning they were bumper to bumper, in a backed up line, crawling slowly through our one horse town. Lots of families with picnic baskets in their boots, arrived from far and wide, wanting a little flutter on the horses, and a fun summer’s day out, under the magnificent, old trees, in the race track’s lovely grounds.
Up early, we prepared a lot of food for the expected influx of customers later in the day with the help of a local girl. In the late afternoon the cars began to dribble homeward again, probably the ones who had done all their money, were first, as they never stopped. Then, as soon as the last race was over, our mad rush was all on. The shop was suddenly packed tight, like a tin of sardines, with the takeaways queue stretching out the door and along the footpath.The dining room set a record for meals served, one hundred and twenty, in the space of a couple of hours.
Another of the more stand out events from this time, is the day I was confronted with the sight of swirling smoke and a fire engine, siren shrieking, pulling into our backyard. The children, playing in a storage shed outside, had me suspicious what they were up to when I noticed one of them making heaps of trips to and fro with cups of water. Opening the backdoor, I put my head out to investigate, and saw the smoke, the fire engine crew, and some shocked kids.
Fortunately an alert neighbour, had called for help and the fire was soon doused. Apparently it started when the kids used matches to light candles and accidentally set fire to an old pile of newspapers.
An even bigger drama, was the time we were woken in the middle of the night, by the frightening sound of glass smashing. The eldest boy, now thirteen, in a bad nightmare, had leaped out of his bed and dived straight out of his bedroom window, right through the glass pane. By the time I found him, he was really upset, running all over our back yard screaming that, ‘the moon was chasing him’.
It took ages to calm him and get him back in the house and into bed. The next day, old Doctor Roberts, checked him over but found no problems, surmising it was only a bad dream! However, I did wonder if his strange fit might be connected to his new friend, Simon, whose family were a bit hippie, and rumoured in the town, to be involved with drugs, which not many people at that time had any clue about.
My solicitor sent a letter saying that the court had granted me a decree absolute, the final okay for a divorce. And at the same time, the ‘Truth’ newspaper, using the names in their list of divorces, for titillating news, shamed us by publishing our names in their paper, for the whole world to see.
We went out right away to buy a wedding ring and get married at the Masterton Court house. Having a night alone in a motel to celebrate, the radio was playing the current hit song of the day about ‘Little Arrows’ hitting you and falling in love again. I was hopeful maybe this was it for me.
We all enjoyed going to stay at the new husband’s family home in Pahiatua. The adults and children alike, spent fun weekends of cards or cribbage playing, home cooked meals and entertaining gossipy news from lots of farm rellies, in town to shop, coming and going.
When the father had died, his mother had retired from their remote farm to a town house to care for her elderly father. Because the farm was so far from civilization the children were sent away to be educated as boarders at schools in town. The new husband from the age of six years old spent his years at the Catholic school ‘Star of the Sea’ on the Seatoun Heights, overlooking the Wellington harbour entrance.