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Life in Early Poverty Bay

Trips Up the Rivers

Trips Up the Rivers.

“Another of our favorite amusements was to go for picnics up the river. As usual, everybody joined in and we had splendid times. There were always plenty of small boats for hire and quite a fleet often used to set out from about opposite the Wi Pere Memorial early in the morning. Impromptu concerts were all the rage on these trips, too. Whenever anyone wanted a change, it was always a trip up the river that was suggested.

“Of course,” commented Mrs. Townley, “we had only the rivers. Roads were too bad to go far on, and there was nowhere to go to anyway. On one occasion a man set out from town to drive to Ormond and reached there two days later. Travelling by the roads was not at all enjoyable in wet weather! Of horses we had only a few, and fewer still of traps and carts—so it was always the river.

“There were no bridges at that time,” proceeded Mrs. Townley, “and so little row-boats were absolutely necessary. And the river was far more attractive in those days and was far more navigable, too. Some of the smaller visiting craft, the ‘Pretty Jane,’ for instance, from Auckland, came right up the river, but others stayed in the roadstead. A pilot boat went out to these and landed cargo and passengers, when the bar was in good order, in the vicinity of the present Post Office. When the bar was bad, however, the pilot boat berthed near the Cook Memorial.

Late Mr. J. Townley.

Late Mr. J. Townley.

“Mail-days were naturally our great days,” Mrs. Townley remarked. “Everyone gathered about the Post Office and waited anxiously while the letters were being sorted. The Post Office, by the way, was then in a chemist's shop, owned by a Mr. Stubbs, on the present site of Mr. E. D. Smith's shop. Later, the authorities put up a tin shed about where the Post Office now is—just a tiny place with only room enough for a single bed, a small table, an oil heater, a few mail-bags and a chair. The man in charge slept there and when anyone wanted to inquire about the mail, a tap at a small window and the calling of the inquirer's name brought either a gruff ‘No’ or a hand containing letters or papers. They seemed to have very taciturn officials in the Post Office then.”