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Noeline of Omokoroa Road

On holidays, retirement and neighbours in Omokoroa.

Slips occurred from time to time on the track from what is now Beach Grove to the Esplanade. In the mid 1950s Omokoroa Road was formed through the Unsworth farm and the land either side was subdivided. And so began a period of quite rapid growth in Omokoroa. At first these were mainly baches, but with the opening up of the Hamurana Road area and the building of Omokoroa Point School and the shopping area, slowly the permanent population grew.

Noelene Ryan, daughter of Gwen and George Brownlee-Smith, reflects on her times in Omokoroa. She holidayed and then retired to 85 Omokoroa Road, which her parents bought soon after the road went through Alan Unsworth's farm.

“My earliest memories are that Omokoroa was all rural, from the Unsworth's and Cooney's farm right out to State Highway 1.

“There were wineberries and it was safe to let my four children wander about and pick the wineberries and find eggs under hedges. Someone nearby must have had chickens!

“My mother bought this section in 1956. The home was moved here across the Wairoa River bridge, quite a major feat. (Mind you, the traffic wasn't nearly as busy then as it is now.) It was a Putaruru transportable home, (PTY) the basic rectangle, which my mother extended over the years, first the carport (now enclosed as a warm suntrap for sitting out in the afternoons) then the back balcony with a large water tank beneath which gave them all the water they needed. Later the balcony was closed in and a room built underneath.”

Noelene remembers the shop by the wharf, run by Myrtle Crapp who she describes as very strict but fair. Mr and Mrs Brownlee-Smith did not put a phone in – they did not want a phone while on holiday. If they needed to ring anyone they would use the pay phone at the shop. There was a petrol pump at the shop and one at the end of the wharf. Barrett's Store (Whakamarama) was a large General Store where they could buy anything they needed.

For her parents this was their holiday home (they lived in Hamilton at this stage). Her mother did not ever want this to be her permanent home.

But why Omokoroa?

Noelene's father was County Clerk at Raglan and her mother was a teacher in Ngaruawahia. They would sometimes go out to Raglan but her mother hated the black sand. (Noelene still finds it amazing how many Aucklanders choose to go there for holidays!)

Noelene thinks her parents had a holiday somewhere near Tauranga and heard about Omokoroa. She thinks Mr Unsworth had returned from World War Two and bought the land perhaps with a rehab loan. Now he was ready to subdivide. (Nell's Dell is named after his wife.)

Noelene (like her mother, a teacher) thinks she first came here for a holiday in 1959. She retired here permanently in late 1992 and had the phone connected in 1993.

Noelene remembers a terrible gale one year blew half the roof off! “The neighbours were wonderful, rallying around and securing a tarpaulin over the roof. The new roof was wired on, the wire secured to the beams below.”

Who else lived nearby?

“Mr John Layzell, school teacher, lived next door to the south. He (a Huguenot) and his wife were from England. His wife's mother Mrs Tompkins was there too. He was very clever with his hands, building the house and a boat. He would go fishing each morning and bring in a snapper for breakfast! He had a wonderful vegetable garden plus fruit trees.”

Beyond them the Lay family from Gate Pa had their holiday bach. (Mrs Margaret Settle lived there till recently (she died mid 2015) and it is rented now.)

To the north, there was a one-room bach owned by a Mrs Brown. “Alan Tylee and his wife Eva built over the top of this and he kept adding to it.”

Another neighbour was Mrs Carr, formerly Mrs Blarrenberg, a Scot from Waipu. After her husband died she married Mr Carr, an old forestry worker. He was so used to early starts that he would be up at 4 am. He had a great vegetable garden.

Mr Ron Wattie (of the Watties cannery company family) and his wife Ruffy were along the road. Also a Mrs Malcolm whose husband had worked on the Ruahihi Power Station. The Jeans of Big Band Pies in Hamilton were another family who owned a house across the road. There was Mr & Mrs Deeming and Mr and Mrs Verity. And that was the sum total of immediate neighbours in those first years of the opening up of this Unsworth subdivision.

So, 21 years ago I retired here. I joined Probus and the Garden group. I have kept busy with my garden: two each of peach, plum, pear and apple trees, a fig, a blood orange, tamarillos and blueberries. The roadside planting came about because it was such a difficult strip to mow – and people love watching the monarch butterflies there.”

The house sold at auction in September 2015. Noelene has moved to Te Puke where one daughter and two adult grand daughters live. Will the kerbside garden survive? And what of the vegetable garden along the front fence?

(If any readers have further memories of the people mentioned in this article or have photos of this subdivsion of Unsworth's farm, contact Chris Wright 5480088.)