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Friday night sleepovers at the beach- Summer 1952.

By Jim -Resident of Whitianga.

Jims Tales - ONE.

Jim is a resident of Whitianga. At the time of his beach adventures, he was eleven years of age. On the beach sleepovers and there were many of them - he was accompanied by his brother 13 years, and five other boys aged between 12 and 15. Four of the seven boys were Maori. All the boys attended the same two classroom school.

Let’s do it tonight!. On a hot Friday afternoon when the tide was right during a break at school, it would be decided, “Tonight’s the night for a beach sleepover”!

The journey. Around about 5.00pm, they all met at Jim’s house. Each of them had his own horse with a few provisions in a split hessian sack placed on the horses back, between the neck and the saddle. The ride to the beach from Jim’s farmhouse was about five miles.

Catching their Kai (food). When they arrived at the beach, they set about fishing for their evening meal. It was an easy task. The snapper would come in close to the rocks to feed. Their handlines were baited with mutton. With a whirl and a flick of the wrists, the handlines were sent snaking out over the waters near the rocks. It was never long before a feed of good-sized snapper was caught. To add to their meal of fish, a scamper along the rocks soon yielded a pot full of mussels.

Cooking and Eating. Using driftwood, a fire was set on the beach and some corrugated iron they had hid in the lupins, became the cooking surface. The fish were laid on the hot surface whole - no filleting. When they were cooked the fish just fell open and the flesh was easily accessed. The boys had no condiments or sauces. “The fish and the mussels cooked this way were delicious,” said Jim, salivating as he spoke. When it came to eating the fish, Maori protocol was followed. The fish could not be eaten on the beach. They ate their meal on the bank amongst the lupins. When the meal was over, the corrugated iron was hidden so they could access it on their next sleepover.

After dinner activities. When the meal was over, riding up and down the beach on their horses was always a favourite after-dinner activity. Then followed a swim and a few running around games until finally, exhaustion set in. When tiredness overtook the boys, the thick beds of lupins became their beds. There were no mattresses, no ground sheets and none of them had sleeping bags. There was no grog or cigarettes - horses, the beach, fish and mussels, a campfire and being together - this was fun enough. They had no means of communication, and the nearest adult was four miles away.

Next morning. The next morning the fire was relit, and breakfast was toast (mum had packed some bread), fish and mussels. Then, it was time to go home. They mounted up for the ride home where chores awaited all of them.

Believe it or not. How does that sound? Is it a Tom Sawyer fantasy tale? “No tale, no exaggeration; says Jim. “It happened again and again in the summer months back then from 1952 to 1956. Sleepovers were nothing unusual for me and my brother, and our friends from school, most of whom were Maori.”

Caption: Photo courtesy of Roger Simpson.

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