Tamehana (Tom) Nicholls
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Tamehana (Tom) Nicholls


Early years - Whakapapa


Born Thames hospital. 1st 10 years in Parawai.

Youngest of 4, parents and grandparents.

Very little material goods, no power, coal range.

Only boy, chores kept fire going, weed kumara.



1 acre gardens, everyone had to do their jobs

4 house cows, tom had to milk by hand 9 year old.

Simple hard life but everyone around them the same.

Childhood Pastimes/Chores


Childhood pastimes - stones river, shanghai, eeling.

Rugby, no money for  football used pig bladder

Hockey, tin can and sticks.

Everything now centred around material things, not like then

Childhood - Typical Day


Day start at 7am. Banking (to cover the hot coals of the fire with ash, so the coals of the fire would burn slowly thru the night .

In the morning I would stroke the fire get rid of the ashes and the  fire would burn strongly again.

Make toast with toasting fork over the hot coals of the fire .

Dad would let cows out for the night, tom had to find them in the morning. Hand cranked separator, send milk to dairy factory

Little hoe to weed kumara's. Keep fire for copper hot. No hot water

Bath from the copper. No gardening on school day.



No gardening on school day. Thames South School.

Walk 2 miles to school every day, all walk together.

Embarrassed lunch wrapped in newspaper.

Pakeha mates had grease-proof paper and serviettes.

School clothes, patched pants normal everyone did.


Growing Own Food - Maara Kai


Mac Stevens worked for Crawford's and got use of plough.

Ploughed garden with horse, plant by hand.

Planting by moon, mum says plant and you did it.

Garden to last for whole year. Pit the kumara,

Line pit with manuka, manuka on top like a hut. Kumara nice smell

Tomatoes, potatoes, no cabbages as lots of watercress and puha

Kept your puha patch to yourself, lots on railway line.



Father carpenter, mum sewed - what ever work you could find.

Heard stories guys would work all day for a shilling.

Kauaeranga River


Used to be full of herrings, kids herd herring into the net.

Fried, preserved, dried herring.

Apple tree focal point for community, herring catching like a picnic

Dancing and singing. River flood a lot, all over Parawai area.

Flood would go through house, put the furniture up, sweep silt out afterwards, they adapted and lived with it. People rowing across paddock 4 - 5 ft deep, fun time everyone would play.

Local Maori Communities


Parawai close knit community, kept to themselves.

At school knew people by name not skin colour.

Whanau of Parawai


Stevens, Rolleston, Nicholls, Kipa, Hillman, Robson

All very close, played at each other houses.

Parawai now,  Waihou scheme fixed river for flooding.

Rugby paddock now orchard, paddock played now church.

Families have gone, still a Stevens, Robson, and Hillman

Jean and Joe Hillman are the only originals.

Train would go past twice a day, small railway station.

1 penny into town, none of the railway stuff there now

Career Path


Left Thames when 10, father had job Waihi and worked as a knife-hand abattoir (sp)

Secondary school in Waihi, did well at school.

idea in those days was to get trade behind you.

Half way through 5th form put out to work local garage, 25sh week

Moved back to Thames, Mum got Tom apprenticeship at LW Hall

Apprentice 5 years, got married in the 4th year

Was going to quit mechanic, didn’t like it but got married and needed to earn. Did it for 26 years. Joined AA - A grade Mechanic

Was a country service officers for 15 years, made redundant at 56

Couldn't get a job so created a job, approached district council.

Worked for them on contract for 10 years.

Job evolved into consultancy role, handled all traffic services

Worked there till retirement.

Motor industry wouldn't have been 1st choice of job in hindsight

People in overalls looked down on, stigma attached to working

with hands, even though they work hard.

Out of overalls later in life that treated with respect, had mana in job.



Entered talent quest half time at the movies - got to the finals

Had a group of fans, noticed a lady of the world - Monty.

Monty asked her friend about him. Tom over awed by Monty

Whirlwind 12 month courtship. Tom 20, Monty 18 got married 1954

Registry office, nearly forgot on the day, redecorating.

Wedding breakfast, bully beef stew, not glamorous but long.

Got 3 boys and daughter, all doing well very proud of them

Very strong marriage, must have had good ingredients

What first attracted Monty to Tom


Something about the way he played his harmonica.

Tom: She thought I had money. Monty: I came down to earth fast

Tom: Had a car, used to go courting in. Had no money at first

9 Pound a week, struggled, miracle to keep head above water

Saved any extra money, in money box.

Cost 2 and 6 to take a taxi to the pictures

Basic existence, but everyone the same, no appliances

1st appliance, a washing machine, primrose, big event

Saved up deposit on house they're still in it, more than a house

don't want to move, full of memories bringing up the kids.

Travelled to Asia, Australia, always makes you appreciate home

Sold property at Whangapaoa, bought motor home. Toured around

North and South Islands. In motor club, does rallies in the weekend

Very sociable, lots of like minded people.

Life Highlights


Trip to Singapore and Asia, 1st time on aeroplane.

Seeing Richard graduate in Melbourne.

Gregory graduating from Police college

Kevin, one of driving forces behind Mangakahia Land Claim

Monty: when the kids stood up and korero in Maori that was highlight

Went to visit Richard when he in army, on the marae.

Richard got up and spoke in Maori, didn't even know he could speak; it - very moving - 1st time CEO get up and speak on the marae

Winning the talent quest, love music.

When Missy (daughter Sandra) bought salon, when your kids do well feel proud

Toms Life Advice


Everything I've said really happened

Though I look back and think it was hard, but gives you skills for

later in life. Maybe that's what's lacking today, young people expect

everything now. When they get married they expect all the modcons

It took us 16 years to get a carpet. Nothing comes easy and when you achieve something you appreciate it more.

Thankful for good health.

Monty: At our stage in life, we can take off anywhere we want.

Tom: if you want something you've got to get out there and take it

Family is important, if you lay down values, your kids will take on.

Life isn't a dummy run, this is the real thing.