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Part 1

The whole place was paradise for kids: Omokoroa from the late 1940s to the early 1960s.

The Bentons of 15 Harbour View Road: Ralph and Andrea, Barry, Eleanor and Andrea. 

(Part 1 of Barry Benton's memories of beach and bach life in Omokoroa.)

I was very young when we first started going to Omokoroa in the late 40s, 1948 or 49 it would have been and my memory is bit hazy but some things stick out; it was a very small seaside clutch of baches, not even a village. My parents quickly knew most of the bach owners and we certainly knew the names of those we didn't know personally.

The shop hadn't yet been built, Myrtle and Gerald Crap still lived in the old homestead that later burned down, there were no public toilets and no boat club building, the jetty was there and I remember the cream boat coming over from Matakana Island with the cream cans.

The Domain was very low lying and swampy with a few walkways through, it often flooded particularly at high tide and was worse if there was a storm with an on shore wind. Both beaches were lined with  heaps of pine trees that seemed huge to me at the time. The only road in was down Beach Grove and over where the walkway is now to the end of what's now called The Esplanade, which was a sandy track through the scrubby grass to the jetty and there was a track with a few baches a little way along where Omokoroa Rd now joins The Esplanade.

The Benton family first came to camp in Omokoroa in the late 1940s, putting up their tent in front of what is now 18 the Esplanade. They would stay through the long December-January school holidays, and possibly came here in the May and August holidays as well. Cooking was done on a primus on a box, and a large bowl was used for washing/bathing.

“Wetas in the tent were a regular! Mum screeched at first, but eventually got quite good at dealing with them!” laughed eldest child, Barry. “I remember that as 'payment' for the campsite Dad made a kid's scooter. I don't know who this was for, but I would have liked a scooter too and he never made one for me!

Why Omokoroa? “Two Prole brothers, Eric and Bill, had the fish and chip shop in Putaruru. Dad and Grandad's blacksmith shop driveway joined with theirs. They told Dad how nice it was here so we came. Mum and Dad were introduced to Harry and Ina Allen who became good friends. The Allens had two children – Roger was the same age as me and Pat was older. We would go to the back of their farm netting for flounder. We would block the river with the net then go up the river and beat the water to drive the flounder down to the net.

“I remember the Smith's bach, in front of Fiona Guiness's (now owned by daughter Louise Guinness), perhaps over the road from there – surveying hadn't yet happened so it was put there till a section became available. I remember Pam Smith (now Robinson). She was very kind, teaching me to row then letting me use her dinghy. Dad was out fishing once and I rowed right out to him.”

“Dad bought a section from Gerald (Crapp) – Harbour View Road had been surveyed and the sections marked out but the subdivision had not been registered at the time.”

“Coming to Omokoroa was a major trip. It took a full half day from Putaruru. We would stop at Barratt's Store (the old one) for an ice cream, and have our picnic lunch on the grass slope about opposite. It seems crazy now to stop there when it was so close to our destination but we did.

“There was always the trailer to tow, heavily laden, bringing things the first years for camping and then building equipment for the bach. The packing of the trailer and the car took time and made the trip a real expedition for us kids.

“The big pine on the section was milled and the timber filleted in triangles, creosoted and dried several times. Some years after the bach was built Dad decided it needed to be creosoted once again but rather than do this by hand he thought that using a knapsack sprayer would speed up the process. But because he was standing and having to spray upwards to get the higher timbers, and because the bach was unlined as yet … the spray went inside and our clothes hanging on hooks were all ruined. Mum had a new soft white blouse – never to be worn again. She was ropeable! Us kids knew when to disappear …

[First published: Omokoroa Omelette, January 2016]