Tuesday, 5 February 2013

JOHN ASPINALL - Tokomaru Bay, near Gisborne, Born 1928

My name is John Aspinall, I was born in August 1928 in Tokomaru Bay, and I am Ngati Porou.  I grew up there in Tokomaru Bay as well.  I lived with both of my Parents, and they had five children.  I was the second eldest, but my eldest brother was adopted out, so I was the eldest child in the house.  We lived in a humble home.  It was made from timber with the tin roof.  We had glass windows, and a galvanised water tank.  It was a three bedroom home, with a verandah.  I slept on the verandah.  There were two lounges and one kitchen.  We had the most beautiful gardens -  I thought they made our house look flash.  There were other beautiful homes in Tokomaru Bay, so I'd say ours was an ordinary average house.  Brick houses were the flashest, Pakehas lived in those houses.

We had a big long table, my parents had seats, and we the children sat on a long form that was by the wall.  My Parents had old time sofas; we had a gramophone, and a piano, and a wireless radio that was battery run.  Thats what we had in the lounge. When I was young there were Korowai and old fish hooks that hung in the lounge, but they were given as souvenirs to missionaries who had become firm family friends.

We had spring beds, kapok mattresses and drawyers in all of the rooms.  We had feather pillows, and feather quilts that had all been home made by my mother.  We had candles for our lighting, but I remember when we got gas lanterns.  They ran off white spirits; and they were the things "to have". Much flasher than candles.  The Tilly lamp gave the brightest light.  I think we were more well off than some of the Pakehas - there were some very poor Pakehas living in Tokomaru Bay.

My Mother had dancing dolls, and beautiful old clocks.  She loved her big mirrors and the beautiful old wardrobes.  We did most of our washing in a dish.  We had an outside bath-house next to the wash-house - they were both kept away from the house. That was 'tapu'.  Those places are away from where we slept and ate.  We had a long drop, even further away, those were for the women only.  For Mum and For Nan.

Our house had a coal range, and most of our cooking was done on that. My mother had the steel irons and those were heated on the coal range.  She did a lot of ironing, with or without starch.   Our water came mainly from the rainwater tank, or from the "puna" nearby.  We use the puna if we run out of rainwater.
My Father was a farmer, and he also worked as a roadman for the County Council.  Every now and then he works away from home. Maybe once a month, but not very often.

My Mother was a tailoress, she worked away from Home; she would also do ironing and starching for other people.  My job was to stay home and watch the younger kids.  I had plenty of other jobs I had to do too - chopping the wood, mowing the lawns, polishing the shoes, milking the cows, catching the horses and churning the cream into butter.   And then the next day, I do it all again.  My favourite jobs were mowing lawns and any jobs that I got to do on the horses.  I was never paid for the jobs I do, they're just my jobs; I think we were pretty poor.  Our reward was the pictures, I get a penny for an icecream and plenty of lollies.

My Father didn't really have any hobbies, but he played football.  My Mother did plenty of crotcheting and quilt making, she was always busy, mainly sewing.  We spend most of our time with our Mum, helping her with the chores; except when we're playing of course.  I'd help mum with her pinning, when she is sewing; and I help her stretch the sheets.  My mother was a very good tailoress.  She can make 3 whole suits in a week.  There was a lot of responsibility put on me when she was away working. Anything go wrong, Im the eldest - so I get the hiding, and I get the blame of it.  She worked all the time, and I worked all the time !

My Parents taught me to be honest in all my dealings.  An Honest days work for an honest days pay; and the Church was very important to us.  I found it hard to talk to my parents some times.  It was hard to ask for money if I needed anything for school, or if I wanted something.  Id rather find work to do, than ask my Parents for money.  I was close to my younger brother and my younger sister, because I was the babysitter.

Some times we'd have missionaries staying with us.  The only time we have family outings is when we are visiting relatives or going to Tangis.    My Father was always working too.  When I got older I'd go and do mustering with her; it was during this time that I got close to him.  He was a hardworking man.  Tall, handsome, blue eyed Pakeha ! Ha !  He was very good at fixing things, he was a very clever man.

We attended church every week. We are LDS - Mormons/ Momona. We ride four miles on horseback to Church, and we were always the first ones there.  Our Branch President was always a Maori, and Sacrament meeting was held in both Maori and English.  I don't remember any Pakeha in our branch, only visitors.  We were strong in the church, and it was very important to us, I was born into the Church.   We pray daily, and the church doctrine is always in our life everyday. My Favourite stories were about "Samson", and all the miracles of Christ.  I loved all of them.

We always celebrate Christmas if its not on a Sunday.  As a Family; we get presents, we have a tree and a big kai.  We never had birthdays though; Guy Fawkes we watch the Pakeha's fireworks display.  We go down to the Marae for tangi, whanau meetings, weddings, dances, concerts and birthdays; we have big hakari there.  The young people are not allowed on the Marae in the front part.  No children playing there, just for the Kaumatua.  The kids stay home and theres no drinking.  Not like today when the kids run in and out.  We all knew where we had to be.  My Grandfather was a "rangatira".  "Te Kaihanga o te Wharenui" (the builder of the Marae), we had an awareness of his mana and who he was. One time we were playing up and my Grandfather sent us home. Our culture was very important, and I felt more Maori than anything else, even though my Father was Pakeha.  "Our Pakehas spoke Maori", and they visit the Marae, really we're all like one family and everyone was related.  Some of the Pakeha had married into our family.  The only difference that I noticed between Maori and Pakeha was the skin colour.

I spent a lot of time with my Grandparents - my Mother's Parents.  I never met my Father's Parents.  We go over there after school and they always have a kai ready for us.  My Grandfather was a great gardener, I remember acres and acres of kumara, water melons and all sorts of veges.  He was a quiet man, and a deep thinker.  My Grandmother was a very fit woman and "full of life".  She'd take us with her on horse back to "kohi kai moana" (gather seafood).  She was a good horse-rider, bare back no saddle.  Most of what I know about gardening I learnt from my Grandparents.  I loved spending time with them, it was sometimes by choice, sometimes by necessity.  They couldn't much English, more like broken English.  Their home was a kauri building with a kauta at the end.  Where the kauta was, was a dirt floor.  It was wooden floor boards everywhere else.  They had glass windows.

In Tokomaru Bay, the whole place is related.  We had a large communal garden, we called it a "Pakoro".  We all worked there as well, along with my cousins, my aunties and uncles.  No one starved.  I didn't like helping down there, because everyone wanted to be the boss, and everyone boss us kids around.  We knew the rangatiratanga of my Grandfather and our family status in the settlement.  I learnt waiata at school, and I learnt whakapapa at church.  Everyone spoke Te Reo Maori in my childhood.  My Grandmother use to tell us stories about the different kaitiaki, and teach us about rongoa.

I knew about Pakeha history too.  Captain Cook, Queen Victoria, Samuel Marsden and George Grey - knew who they all were.  The Treaty of Waitangi was talked about at school I think.  I definitely knew that the Pakeha had conquered the Maori; and I knew about Kupe.  I knew Pakeha came from England, and I knew that we came from Hawaiiki.  I was proud of both of my sides.

We had Pakeha living in the district, and we play with their kids.  They sleep over our house, on the verandah with us.  All of us running around with no pants on, and we cheeky to each other just like how kids are. I started school when I was 5, but I was kept home alot to look after my younger brother.  I wasn't very good at school - Id say I was a "block-head" (he laughs).  I went to a Native School; the books were free.  There were both Maori and Pakeha teachers, and the headmaster takes the Seniors.  His children went to the Public School a mile down the road.  Pakehas went to the Public School, and they're scared to mix with the Maori kids at the Native School because of "kutus".  Pakehas were scared of Maoris; but I had mates of all races.   There were some cheeky Pakehas though.  Sometimes they call us Niggars or Black Mongrel, it wasn't often though.  I got plenty of corporal punishment everyday.  I couldn't spell, or write; and I wouldn't read in class because I stuttered.  I'd rather get the strap than read in front of the class.  There were plenty of times that I wore the "Dunce Cap", standing in the corner - and facing the wall; so that I can't distract the others in the class.

I never told my Parents about me getting the strap, because I'll get another hiding.  The School didn't bother to tell them, because everybody gets the strap.  We weren't allowed to speak the reo, because they think that we might  be swearing at them, or talking about them.  I just obeyed the rules, I wanted to do good.  I was a good artist, good at drawing and pretty good at sports.  I didn't like most of my teachers.  I liked Mr Minogue helped me jump a class so that I could catch up.  I turned 18 in form 3.

I remember that every Wednesday, Apirana Ngata used to come to our school and teach Maori Culture.  We saw Apirana Ngata as being a man from the Government.  We had our own rangatira in Tokomaru Bay, and that was my Grandfather.  At school there was English history taught; especially about the first sovereigns.  We learned about the Maori Wars - I didn't remember much of it, they seemed to make sure that we knew that we had been conquered.  That was drummed into us.  I think I did a bit better at High School,  I went to Gisborne High.  One of the teachers at the Native School use to make fun of me.  They'll get my younger brother to come and answer questions that I couldn't.

The District Nurse would come to the school and give injections for the Maoris.  "Tough Maoris" get the needles.  Oooh I hate that needle.  I try hard not to get sick.  There was always flu around, and measles, mumps and kutus.  We'd inhale the "Blue Gum" for flu, and my toothbrush was a finger and salt.  We had a dental nurse at school as well, and I had a few teeth pulled out.  I got appendicitis when I was young, and one time I had a really sore puku after eating Green Apples.  They took me to the hospital, it was exciting and everything was lovely and white; I wanted to stay there. But they just gave me an Enema and sent me home (he laughs as he recounts this).

We always had plenty of milk and cream; so breakfast each morning was either kororirori, roroti or kangawai.  All of us took Maori bread to school for lunch, but we'd try to swap if someone had something better.  Meat and Potatoes and Puha boil up for most nights, other nights might be a roast mutton and vegetables.  We have rice pudding on Sunday, or bread pudding, or Apple Pie.  We always had plenty of kai-moana as well, everything - kina, paua, parengo. I couldn't stand koura mara - rotten cray !

The clothes we wore were dungaree pants, and shirts - all made by my Mother.  I always wore a straw hat too.  Always dungarees ! When I was 13, I got my first pair of long pants; I got my first pair of boots at the same time.  My sister had fancy clothes, that my mother made her.  Girls never wore pants in those days - only tomboys.  My Sunday Best clothes was an off white silk shirt, some black pants and a tie.

The Best part of my childhood was playing.  It seemed like I worked most of the time, but I had time to play too.  Cowboys and Indians was our main game - we had real bows and real arrows.  I hung a boy up in the tree once, I got him down later - I nearly forgot him !  I played Rugby, Hockey, marbles and Tennis.  We played "tene koeta" - rounders.  I spent time hiking up the mountain as well, us boys play tarzan with the supple jacks; there were even a few pig hunting trips on a Saturday.  When I mowed the lawns, I'd push my brother around on the mower, and race.  Sometimes I visit my friends, Maori and Pakeha - thinking back now, a lot of them were half-caste.

We'd make bikes out of broken bike parts, go to the Pakeha's dump and take it home and fix it.  Got toys for Christmas twice I think - Bow and Arrows and a shanghai.  I always wanted a brand new bike !  I started saving stamps.  My Grandfather had stamps that he'd save for me.  We had horses, pet lambs, cats and the farm dogs.  I played the koauau, mouth organ and a juice harp.  When I was 12 I tried to rob a bank.  I only got so far, and then I couldn't get through the bars.  I got a real good hiding from Mum for that.

The best time though was when I got to go to the Pictures; and I got to go quite often.  I loved the westerns, and the tough guy.  50/50 crook was another one.  My heros were the Lone Ranger, "Rin Tin Tin", "Deadwood Dick", and "Tailspin Tommy".  It was time away from the hard work and chores, and away from School.  The highlight for me though was when the Serial Circus game to town - and I performed in the Circus as a Clown !  It started the idea for me that when i grew up I might be some type of Performer.

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