Nostalgia aint what it used to be

For someone who grew up with a bakelite windy-handle party line and “Number please?” at the other end this put Apollo 11 technology within grasp.

We had a 1200baud modem one of the first in the district, on a party line! - probably 100baud allowing for the electric fences and other users giving the phone a Razz… but the world was (oh, so nearly) at my fingertips, albeit at 2am to avoid interference

Of course, it couldn’t replace the good old networking - “177M please”, “Oh, Brett’s down at the gamefish club tonight, I’ll put you through to there…” or, “Where’s Janice tonight?”, “Oh, she’s at so-and-so’s. I’ll put you through”. And always the ever present “TickTock”. So named as the resident eavesdropper on this line had a very loud mantle or grandfather clock near the phone. Usually sorted with a “Piss Off!”… followed by ‘click’ and psuedo-privacy. Only for ‘ticktock’, ‘ticktock’,‘ticktock’ to return after a few minutes :laughing: Poor sod was probably lonely.


My grandmothers number was 171 Waikouaiti. I remember when l lived with my grandparents, my grandmother telling me to go to the phone and ring my mother to tell her how school was and how things were going.
This involved lifting the receiver and winding the handle to alert the exchange. The lady at the other end was an eye opener to me…she must have known the phone number l was phoning from.
She was supposed to ask me what number l wanted to call…but none of that.
“Oh its wee Graemie. Do you like living with your grandma and granddad? what did your grandmother do today? What did your grandfather do today? Oh your grandfather went out fishing in the boat with Mr Williamson. Did he catch any fish? Do you like Miss Green your teacher? How is your grandmothers brother? Do you go to visit him? I heard that you like going to visit Mr and Mrs Farmer, did you know that Mr Farmer was a prisoner of war with the Japanese?”…and so on. Well for a wee guy it was all overwhelming… what was a Prisoner of War? Who were the Japanese? Back then l had no idea. I had to ask my grandparents whose opinion of the telephone operator was far from complimentary. “Dont listen to her, tell her nothing. Shes the local gossip” - “What’s a gossip nana?”
“Its a person who should mind her own business and talks too much”.
A full ten minutes of quizzing me up…and in country communities the local grapevine always centered around the local telephone exchange where everyones business became public knowledge thanks to the local gossip who was always the local telephone exchange operator.


This reminds me of a small occurrence, that occurred in Reefton back in the mid 1950"s. Course I and my mates were only little fella’s then, well more like rascals is more appropriate. One of our favorite haunts was out at the Reefton Saddle. We had built a hut in the bush, outa small birch tree’s. All we used was a bow saw, and a pile of four inch nails. Proud of our hut we were. It was the Rascals Headquarters, where we could plan lots of expedition’s, like borrowing the old Draft Horse up the Soldiers Road, four of us climbing aboard, after putting a binding twine halter on it. Then riding it up the Globe Hill, so we could chuck rocks down the old Globe Shaft.

Anyway this was the time when the German Wasp had started invading NZ, And being of German origins, we declared war on it. One day we discovered that the Germans had managed to invade our Saddle haunts and we had located their main head quarters. It was cunningly concealed in a pile of pig fern, which being mid summer, was rather dry. A plan was made to burn them out and destroy their head quarters We had an extensive supply of Vesta Wax matches, as the snipped of heads came in handy for making various bombs and other incendiary device’s. A tennis ball had a hole drilled in it, and it was then filled with match heads, A full match served as a wick.

Sneaking up on the Germans head quarters, the device was lit, and with great skill chucked into the pig fern surrounding the nest. Boof, of she went in a ball of flame, far better than napalm. Instantly the dry pig fern burst into flame, the enemy emerged and staged a counter attack, but we were to fast for them, and scarpered to a safe distance. Where we watched with glee, as the hillside became a raging inferno. We were wiping out their entire headquarters area.

But there was a slight problem, the flames were rapidly moving towards a Pinus Radiata plantation at breakneck speed. Course that was kinda dry too. Well next minute, the inevitable happened. And bugga we had set that alight too. Time for a quick discussion as to what action to take. Scarper and say nothing, or alert the authorities. We chose to ring the fire brigade, so all ran to the nearest farm house which was about half a mile away. Mrs. Cutbush was home. And allowed us to use her phone. So we cranked the handle, and soon the operator answered. Number please, well we didn’t know the number. So just said the Saddle is on fire, the fire brigade need to come real quick. Then hung up, And all scarpered home on our bikes as fast as we could. We know nothing. Unbeknown to us, as it was a Saturday, the Reefton Forestry had a rugby team and were playing another Reefton Team. So both the Forestry Fire Brigade and most of the local brigade were all out playing ruggers. The game had to be stopped, so the firemen could attend the spontaneous fire outbreak out at the Saddle. We heard the siren go off, but no way were we biking back out to watch it all. It was lay low and say nothing. Well that didn’t work. The operator of course knew where the call came from, and it seems she recognized the voice. Which I do believe was mine. Mrs Cutbush filled the powers that be in, with more details of our little gang, and sadly we were sprung.

Our good deed, the assault on the German Invaders had turned around and bit us on the bum. To make matters worse, my Dad was the Sergeant in Charge of the Reefton Police, so we were really in hot water, especially me. I knew the old jail well, as that was also one of our playgrounds. Frig now we are all going to be jailed we thought.

But the gods smiled on us. The six of us, had to report to the boss of the Reefton Forestry at Forestry HQ, apologize and be cautioned on the errors of our ways. Phew we escaped imprisonment and other harsh penalties like the Dad’s belt.

Cheers Trev aka “The Mad Hatter”


Now childhood memories are really flooding back.
At high school l was anything but an academic. My only goal in life was to join the Police or the Armed Forces. School was a place for fun and thus l associated with like minded individuals…a motley crew to say the least.
I became a Laboratory assistant. That gave me access to vaste knowledge and also chemicals. Knowledge plus chemicals equals disaster!
I discovered touch powder. Red phosphorous and Potassium chlorate if my memory serves me well.

Up in the bush a group of guys l know had a fort. Not very well placed strategically as it commanded the small Gully below but was vulnerable from above.
One of my friends fathers had borrowed from an old gold mining family a genuine 1849 Colt .31 calibre cap and ball revolver. Another group of friends down the road had a genuine Mg 08 machine gun on a sledge mount, a souvenir of WWI.
By taking a fired .32 rimfire cartridge case and filing off the rim we could make a ‘pipe’ of more or less the right dimensions to push into a potato to make potato bullets.
Gunpowder was poured into each chamber, followed by a potato bullet and finally a percussion cap on each nipple. Ready for action!
The old machine gun was lugged all the way up the road to the fort down in the bush and the local lads divided into two groups, fort defenders and attackers.
The attackers would charge the fort only to be met with a fusillade of potato bullets which if they hit you were agony and left a nasty black welt. Strings of crackers were forced into the water cooling jacket of the Mg 08 and if they were going off any ‘enemy’ in view were out of the game. On the day in particular the enemies strategy was definitely superior. The attack never came up the side of the Gully, instead it came from behind and above, in the form of a ‘bomb,’ which came bouncing down the slope- into the fort - and landed on the touch powder jar. The touch powder was used to make handgrenades. These were empty 12 gauge shotgun shells into which a pebble was placed to give it a bit of weight and to also insure that the powder exploded and also about a level teaspoon of touch powder. The top was crimped back over and here we had our grenades. War is a serious business!
In any case the rock landing on the jar set it off. The resultant explosion echoes up the Gully and a huge cloud of white smoke rises out of the Manuka above the ‘fort’
Someone down the road heard the racket and sees the cloud of smoke and calls the authorities. The fire brigade duly come roaring up the road! The road had been ‘mined’ - a touch powder ‘land mine’ concealed under the gravel to ambush the ‘enemy’ as they headed home on their push bikes! The fire engine set it off. As the powder was in an old envelope it was harmless and it’s only affect really was to scare the wits out of anyone who set it off and maybe in the case of anyone on a push bike to cause them to lose control and end up in the gorse on the side of the road.
The aftermath of this episode was much more exciting and l was not there but apparently the guys knew who had phoned the authorities, or at least thought they knew - Ma Laverty. It had to be her. Not only that but Ma Laverty had apparently come out screaming at the lads for throwing stones at her chooks as they walked past one day. Time for revenge. Off up to Ma Lavertys with the shotgun shell grenades and another jar of touch powder. One of the guys prepared the grenades while the others threw them into the chook yard. Demented chooks squawking, feathers flying and running every where. The guy with the jar of touch powder getting more enthusiastic by the minute - until the jar exploded! He was severely cut and that was the end of the war on Ma Lavertys chooks.
Nothing much ever came of it. The Police were different then. A kick in the arse, a stern warning and that was the end of the matter.
As for the old Machine gun it sat in the back yard of the home of three of the lads and was readily visible from the main road. No one cared. It was harmless. A relic from a bygone era. Today OSH, Psych Service, Police Armed Offenders Squad would all be involved. Parents arrested for raising ‘terrorists’ all the locals given counseling, the lads all labelled criminals and incarcerated accordingly.
Today some of them are well educated professionals and all have taken a valuable place in society.
Better days - better times. No wankers, tossers and party poopers complaining about adventurous kids having a good time. Authorities who understood kids knew when to leave them be and knew when to give them a kick in the behind.


Good to see you haven’t changed Graeme. Still playing with black powder & things that go bang. Is that kangaroo still without a gapping hole in it? :joy:

JW :cowboy_hat_face:

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Kanga is still alive and well as I have just arrived back today from up North - looking for a bit of company now hint hint!
You may have noticed that Cookie Bear ads no longer appear on TV - thats because Cookie Monster went bad and ambushed us at my place but thanks to the trusted 1863 Sharps he no longer exists…the last moments of Cookie Monster!


Bliztem slug bait happens to be about .177 calibre. Fire from a slug gun it leaves an immediate sting and after a few days a festering sore. Trust me you don’t want to get hit in the face with a bliztem pellet traveling end over end at 650 feet per second.
My friend live in a orchard that had gone back to bush and his grandfather had scrapped several Curtis PT50? Fighter and some flying boats so these became our forts we also dug Firebase Overkill into a bank
and the Bliztem battles were legendary.
Best weekend came once we were cashed up in first jobs and hired a paintball feild to bring paintball markers to the orchard and we replayed the battles of our youth with reliable weapons and unlimited ammunition.