|The Mokau Mine|
Let me tell you the story of a mine. Not a gold or coal mine but the Mokau mine a fiendish explosive device laid by the Germans in 1942 and washed ashore when it broke it moorings.
I remember it well as the good townspeople of Mokau, a small town in northern Taranaki, erected the device on a concrete plinth in the centre of town. It sat adjacent to the Mokau General Store and sits there still although the store is now a mere peeling shadow of its former self.
In 1960 when I was a pupil at Waitara Intermediate my best friend was Rodney Warman whose parents owned and operated the Mokau General Store. He invited me back for a holiday at his parents place.
There are things that stick in my mind; one was the smell of dog as Rodney’s parents had a house full. The second was whitebait for which is Mokau’s main claim to fame. The small delicacy makes it way up the rivers at certain times of the year in large shoals.
In the times that I write about these shoals were huge – enough to fill a large kerosene tin with one scoop of a net. Whitebaiting was a main source of income for many and Rodney’s father took us up river to spend a morning chasing the ‘bait. We travelled across by boat to the place where he had a set net, just in time to catch the incoming tide.
I have never eaten so many whitebait, before or since. We got literally buckets full of them and a sizeable sample was put aside for our domestic use, to be turned into the Kiwi classic – whitebait fritters.
The final memory of have of Mokau was go to the ‘pictures’ ion the town’s hall. In those days it was still obligatory to stand for the Queen - when here national anthem was played. Those who dared to buck this tradition got a short, sharp jab in the ribs from the patrons behind, forcing them to stand to attention. The movie ambiance where no the sort I was used to at Waitara’s Theatre Royal, run by a Mr Pizzey. His theatre had a plush curtain, lighting effects and muted sounds that played before the curtain silently opened and the lights were dimmed.
In Mokau the make-shift theatre could best be described as Spartan with hard forms for seats and a cracked slide of the Queen when the anthem was played. For all that we enjoyed the outing tremendously.
So it was a pleasure today to see that the Mokau mine was still in situ. The cafes are still selling whitebait but I very much suspect the days of the ‘big runs’ are long gone.