A cen­tury of mem­o­ries for Frank

Hamilton Metro News - - NEWS - Lau­rilee McMichael

It was more than 99 years ago, and he was a baby of only eight months, but the mem­ory is as vivid to­day as it ever was.

Now largely for­got­ten, the Raetihi Bush­fire was one of New Zealand’s largest fires. It burned for two days, sweep­ing over many square miles of Main Trunk coun­try, de­stroy­ing 150 houses, nine sawmills, bridges and tele­graph lines and claim­ing three mem­bers of a neigh­bour­ing fam­ily.

Frank Tay­lor’s fam­ily lived on a bush farm near Raetihi, but they fared bet­ter. Even so, Frank says he still re­mem­bers see­ing the flames and hear­ing the roar of the wind. His fa­ther was hold­ing him to pro­tect him, while at the same time try­ing to stop sparks from get­ting un­der the house and set­ting it ablaze.

“Stuff fly­ing through the air, pieces of tim­ber all alight, fly­ing. It caused a ter­ri­ble wind. I re­mem­ber it as plain as any­thing.”

That first mem­ory has been added to over the en­su­ing 99 years and four months, with Frank, who turned 100 on Sun­day, July 23, liv­ing a full and busy life. Born in 1917 dur­ing one world war, he served in the Pa­cific, Egypt and Italy in the sec­ond, en­dured the hard­ships of the Great De­pres­sion in his teens, ran his own car­ry­ing busi­ness and then switched to work­ing in sawmills.

Along the way he and wife Grace had two chil­dren, Philip and Mar­garet.

Af­ter Grace’s death, Frank mar­ried Daisy.

It’s been a busy life, but not a par­tic­u­larly easy one. Frank’s fam­ily, along with many farm­ing fam­i­lies in the Raetihi area, suf­fered stock losses in the bush­fire. A cou­ple of years later his par­ents had to walk off their farm, find­ing it im­pos­si­ble to make a liv­ing.

“At lamb­ing, the wild pigs would come out of the bush and as soon as the sheep had had a lamb, they would come and eat it.”

Frank’s fa­ther man­aged a farm at Tau­marunui, and later in­land from Pai­hia in the Bay of Is­lands. Frank re­mem­bers those as good years. When his grand­mother be­came un­well and the fam­ily moved to Mar­ton to look af­ter her, they hoped the move would only be tem­po­rary and they would re­turn to Pai­hia. It was not to be. The Great De­pres­sion caused hard times. Frank’s fa­ther did farm work where he could but “every­body lived on rab­bit and rareke [puha]”.

Frank left school at 14 or 15 and did his bit to help, get­ting a job on a farm, work­ing ev­ery day, ex­cept for a break be­tween milk­ings on Sun­days. Later, when his fa­ther bought a car­ry­ing busi­ness, Frank quit to help him, even­tu­ally tak­ing it over as F Tay­lor, Car­rier, and run­ning it for 30 years. It was hard phys­i­cal work — there were no fork­lifts in those days — and even­tu­ally Frank sold it and be­gan work­ing in sawmills, be­com­ing a saw doc­tor.

World War II brought more changes. Frank joined the Army’s tank brigade and, amid fears of a Ja­panese invasion, was kept in New Zealand for 18 months as part of the Home Guard.

“We were the only sol­diers they had in the coun­try so they held us back and then they started send­ing us away as re­in­force­ments.”

Frank was sent to Guadal­canal and from there to the Bat­tle of the Green Is­lands in early 1944. Af­ter 18 months of heat and mos­qui­toes, the Ja­panese were on the re­treat in the Pa­cific. Frank had a month’s leave at home where he mar­ried Grace, be­fore be­ing posted to Egypt and then Italy.

By now, the Ger­mans were al­most de­feated and Frank joined the New Zealan­ders en­gaged in push­ing them north to Tri­este, where they fi­nally sur­ren­dered in May 1945.

“You looked out over a pad­dock and there were Ger­mans ev­ery­where look­ing all bedrag­gled and quite glad the war was over, I think.”

Frank was among the last of the New Zealan­ders to be shipped home in 1946. While he was of­ten en­gaged driv­ing loads of sup­plies south to be loaded onto ships home, he also en­joyed the chance for some Ital­ian R’n R.

“I could have re­tired in Tri­este. It was lovely up there . . . we were our own bosses. That was a good part of the war.”

When Frank and Daisy moved to Taupo, they lived first in Ta­matea Rd then built their own house in Birch St, where Frank still lives.

Daisy died a fort­night be­fore they were due to move in. The fam­ily also had a fish­ing bach at Tau­ranga-Taupo where Frank was able to in­dulge his love of trout fish­ing on the Tau­ranga-Taupo and Ton­gariro Rivers.

Al­though he’s now largely house-bound in a wheel­chair, Frank is ac­tive and chip­per, en­joys the com­pany of fam­ily.

About 50 fam­ily, in­clud­ing four sur­viv­ing grand­chil­dren and 10 great-grand­chil­dren gath­ered in Taupo to cel­e­brate his cen­tury with him.

Photo / Lau­rilee McMichael

Frank Tay­lor was born near Raetihi in 1917, fought in World War II, owned his own car­ry­ing busi­ness and re­tired to Taupo in 1987.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.