A family reflects


By Grant Robertson

Te Horo Hall has been a part of our families’ lives and ‘landscape’ since 1949, when Ivan and Beryl Robertson arrived to take up their farm on Settlement Road. Te Horo Hall was already 35 years old, then as now, a solid community existed around the hub of School, Church and Hall.

In turn, all 8 of us Robertson children walked, cycled, and occasionally rode our horses the 2.5km to Te Horo School, past Bill Larsen’s blacksmith shop, St Margaret’s Church and Te Horo Hall, more often than not a few minutes late!

Each of us in turn performed in the annual school production at Te Horo Hall, I was the little lame boy in the Pied Piper of Hamlin, studiously maintaining my limp throughout the play until I delivered my final monologue, then strode off the stage miraculously cured! Brother Alistair was Prince Charming, doing a fine job of “Somewhere over the rainbow” despite his laryngitis, when younger brother Dean, playing a Rat, fell off the stage and ran bawling out of the Hall! Completely upstaged.

Dean does not have fond memories of the Hall. Another time he was playing up on stage when he released the catch on the ‘wings’, they fell down almost severing his toes. Aunty Rina Connolly rushed him up to Dr Barry Bayston who stitched him together again!

Our neighbour, Mavis Sutton, had quite an input into productions at Te Horo Hall in the late 50’s, once writing a lengthy and ribald version of ‘the quarter masters store’ with a verse about most local characters! Mavis taught sister Lesley and Kathleen Arnold a Dutch tap dance to perform at a concert: Lesley was horrified, she had to dance the male part.

Around 1958, teacher Colin ‘Slug’ Smith started a school orchestra – Lesley played the double bass (a tea chest with broom handle and string) Denise a chimebar, Grant the triangle, while later all the rest of the Family learned the recorder. We performed at a concert at Te Horo Hall, and later an EP 45rpm record was made at a studio in Wellington with 4 tracks, one of which was Tom Dooley. Who can remember the rest?

We all recall a particular concert, perhaps around 1960 when a large sheet was backlit, and a ‘surgeon’ removed vital organs from a patient on the table. An axe and a large sword made incisions, and out came a heart, a liver, a string of sausages as intestines, all the time a banal conversation between Dr and assistant ‘wondered’ what the complaint might be!

The ‘whistling pygmies’ were another item, half a dozen men with top hats over their heads, and ‘full’ tummies painted as faces, writhing in and out as they whistled a tune. Hilarious!

Table tennis and badminton were popular sports held at Te Horo Hall. We attended Bowls and Housie nights as well, $5 a line and $30 a house! I always associate Friday night table tennis at Te Horo Hall with ‘witches britches’, popular among the girls at the time.

We remember also an early Otaki ‘Kapa Haka’ group performance, the pubescent girls smitten by the fine physiques and good looks of the Hohipua’s, Nicholls, Riaka’s and Carkeeks!

Memories of playing Bowls with Stu and Norma Clifford, Stu as blind as a bat in later years, and splaying more than the occasional bowl around the floor!

We remember the early ‘Paddys Markets’ held in the Hall, possibly started by ‘Paddy’ Patrick an early Headmaster, and particular friend of our family. We all learned to drive in his Bradford van, Denise and I at 12 and 13, driving up and down the unsealed Settlement Road.

Our most precious memory is of Beryl, mother of 8, milking cows before breakfast, growing wonderful vegetables, creating the most amazing healthy salads and meals for us, and never a bad word to say about anyone, coming runner up (and clearly the winner to us) in a “Mrs Te Horo” Plunket fundraiser event, probably about 1966, her wonderful placid nature shining through.

Like so many before us, Joanne and I had our wedding at St Margarets, and our wedding dance at Te Horo Hall. Just family alone came to over 100 guests! The muffler fell off our V6 Transit van as we drove back to the Railway Hotel ‘honeymoon suite’, sometime between midnight and dawn, sounding like a raucous train.

So it has been very nice for the Robertson Family to be part of the Te Horo Hall 100 year celebrations, after all the Hall has been a constant and good friend in our lives for 65 of those 100 years.

Grandparents, parents, and the 8 Robertson children, te Horo 1964