Heni George and Myree – mother and daughter interview

Tom and Heni share a funny story
Tom and Heni share a funny story

Now in her 80’s, Heni George used to farm on Alfred Road adjacent to the Waiwhakaiho River

My parents share milked. In 1935 they bought a farm corner of Peter Road/Egmont Road (Alfred Road). The Waiwhakaiho River was their back boundary. We had 28 cows on the farm. There was a Rudd Milking Machine with great big milking cups… they sold cream. As a little kid I was taken on a horse and cart up the back of the farm to feed out to the cows. I was always taken everywhere with Mum and Dad. On sunny days I was taken by my mother down to the river for a paddle in the water and play in the sand. The water was always freezing; it never seemed to get warm.

I went to Kaimiro Primary School. The Head Teacher, Charlie Morton, who was a great man, was quite keen on nature and on native trees, so we often went to the river. We knew every tree in the bush and we jolly well had to! We used to do projects and walk up the river. We would pick pieces of trees and take them home and press them.

Dad was called up (WW2) so he sold the farm to do his bit. Us kids and Mum lived in Inglewood. When he returned he bought a Returned Solder Ballot Farm, which was 1.5 miles down the river from where the first farm was. He milked about 60 cows there.

As a teenager, my brother and I used to eeling in the weekends. A neighbour used to give us a shilling for any silver belly eels we caught. We thought we were made.

What does the river mean to me? The Waiwhakaiho River represents the early years of my life, we did everything there. There were supple jacks along the edge of the river we used as swings, eeling, and paddling. Sometimes my Mum would make sandwiches and we would spend all day at the river – very happy memories.

I got married to the son of the chap who bought Dad’s first farm – we had 220 acres and milked 160 cows, but we started with 30, we worked hard to build numbers. We didn’t have electricity for the first 12 months.

Myree – Heni’s daughter
So many childhood memories – we lived on the farm beside the river at the top of Alfred Road, we were the last house before the mountain. Growing up as kids was fun; you could go eeling and swimming. We had one big swimming hole we liked swimming in. We always had to check it out after every flood to make sure the stones and boulders hadn’t moved when the river flooded. You would lie in bed at night and hear the boulders rolling down the river. It sounded like thunder, continuous thunder, but it was the stones moving in the river. When there was heavy rain, you’d have to see how far the river came up, but we knew depending on how long the thunder noise continued. We ended up giving up our favourite swimming hole when my 10 yr old younger brother caught an eel, that was taller than he was when you held it up!

When we were late primary school age we would camp and had the novelty of taking our dishes down to the river to wash them. When I was at secondary school I would take my homework and sit on the boulders with my feet in the water – I found it relaxing but I could concentrate.

I went camping with a girlfriend on what we called ‘The Island,’ we pitched our tent in the bush, cooked our tea and washed our dishes. We got scared when we heard the possums.

There used to be a footbridge on Peters Road and we used to have to cross it to get to the school bus if the river flooded.

How do you I regard the river now? It is sacred… the river and the mountain. I find both very therapeutic and calming. I don’t need to see pictures. I’ve always got it in my mind.

I left the farm to get married when I was 21yrs old. My husband also grew up by a river too and he had memories of camping out – so we have both encouraged our children to do the same on our current farm.

Looking through memorabilia during the interview
Looking through memorabilia during the interview