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Part 2

(This is the second of Barry Benton's memories of beach and bach life in Omokoroa. With his parents, Ralph and Andrea, and sisters Eleanor and Andrea, Barry holidayed here from the late 1940s, first in a tent along the Esplanade then in their bach at 15 Harbour View Road.)

“The main bach was a simple square space then it had two additions. Ken, a builder from Putaruru put the bathroom on, about 1960 - until then we had a long drop toilet.

“For water we had a well drilled, with a pump handle. When that ran dry, they drilled in a new spot, deeper and bigger. Then the toilet was moved to over the old well – it is only recently that I have thought about this, and the consequences of it!

“The front part that looks like a lean-to made the bach larger, but it was still a single room. The fire was taken out and an electric oven put in. Later my parents put in a bigger fireplace.

Gerald (Crapp) told George (Wright) and my father about the potential for slips on the hillside, and taught them how to prevent these when digging out for house foundations, etc. So George and my father would warn others of the problem.

“I remember the shop and some kids used to take the empty bottles from the back of the shop and re-sell these to Myrtle (Crapp). I didn't ever do this, but whether this was because I was too good or whether this was because I knew that one day they would get caught I cannot say. We would wander into the shop and through to the house part. My sisters helped in the shop and got paid for this.

“The road over the hill (now the walking track from Beach Grove to the Esplanade) would slip, so Dad would ring ahead to check and would also ask about the weather. He was always told that it was 'magnificent', though we worked out later that this was because they wanted folk to come to buy things from the shop!

“I remember being taken to Dr Hiskins with a cut knee. Mum had insisted we go swimming (I can't remember why she was so insistent – or why, for once, I wasn't keen) but I gashed my knee while swimming when I didn't want to but Mum had insisted. Dr Hiskins just pushed the skin together and put a plaster on it. I had problems with that knee for years till a doctor in Putaruru opened it and stitched it up.

“Gerald (Crapp) paid me one shilling a bucket for picking up walnuts. These were spread out on the floor in the old house to dry, and lay there inches thick.

“I remember the crossed swords in the hallway – the place seemed huge to me, imposing and quite terrifying to a young boy. There was a humungous stove in the kitchen and I seem to remember a scullery with a dirt floor.

“I was devastated when I heard that the old place had burned down as it seemed such a significant part of the place.” (This was the fire in 1958 that burnt down the Gellibrand/Crapp home and led eventually to the formation of the Omokoroa Volunteer Fire brigade. CW)

“One funny story that I remember was when a chap from a little bach further along Harbour View Road (John Cooper?) used to take beer when he went out in his boat plus extra fuel in beer bottles. He tipped beer by mistake into his outboard motor and had to be towed home!”

(Pam Robinson has since corrected this tale. It was ginger beer, not beer, and it was Pam who made the mistake … The boat owner was John Edward Cooper, then apprenticed to her uncle.)

“I remember piper fishing with a broom-handled net. The piper were prolific. I wasn't really keen on fishing – I just wanted to swim as soon as we got here. And later to sail, just to drift around the place.”

Did you get involved in the regattas? “Yes, I remember “Miss Omokoroa” which could do about 40mph. All the 'big boys' had sailing dinghies so I asked my parents for a P class and was told I would have to get an after school job. I did so, saved my money and bought Keith West's P 2. It was kauri plank, not ply, so a heavy-weather boat rather than a fast boat and I don't think I ever won a race in that class. However with Blair Francis as my for'd hand, we did win the Wanganui class once. That would have been in the early 1960s.

“I remember all the Ps were tied together and towed (like a row of ducklings!) to Pahoia then we would race back. The first time the water came up the centreboard hole while being towed so the next time we knew to stuff it with a rag.

“Tauranga Yacht Club came down occasionally. But I was just sailing for the fun of it, whereas others were into tips on how to start, etc. I learnt by watching others. It must have taken me a year to learn the difference between going-about and gybing.

“There was a Mr Collins, a plumber, who would watch us from his bach up on Omokoroa Road then come down to the beach to give us tips about sailing.

“Dad didn't encourage us to ski behind his boat – he considered it would be too hard on the motor, Dad had saved up for it and treated it well. I remember him saying he didn't want to strain the motor.

“I remember an airboat – with a VW engine up high and a propeller. It was dashing up and down then it tipped and hit the shallows and the owner got a seriously gashed arm. I remember helping to drag the boat up and thinking that as I now had my licence perhaps I should drive the chap to the hospital. My parents weren't around and my licence was new. In the end I didn't need to as someone had rung for an ambulance.

“The owner was very appreciative of the help we had given him. He came back and gave us all a ski, but with the big wash that came off the propellor, disturbed and boiling, this was not pleasant.

“My parents (Ralph and Andrea Benton) retired here in the early 1970s (1974?) They also had a section with caravan at Kinloch.”

[First published: Omokoroa Omelette, February 2016]

(If you have photos, etc of early days in Omokoroa and/or memories of beach and bach life prior to the 1970s please ring Chris Wright 5480088 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)