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WILFRED BERTIE (Bert) BROWN's story

This account has been adapted from "Browns of Kyeburn Peninsula" by Wally Brown - to whom many thanks



Bert remembered working at home from the age of 13 when times were tough and wages were a dream. He worked for his food and clothing with the occasional 2/6d (25c) for spending. Milking cows produced problems with his skin, so he changed jobs and went to a large sheep station near Taihape, earning the princely sum of 1 ($2) a week. Transport was a 1928 Ariel 350cc motorcycle which he bought from his small savings plus some money left him by his mother. His wages doubled to 2 a week the following year and he was able to upgrade to his first car, a six cylinder Erskine. Bert drove down to Naseby in this car in 1937, stopping occasionally to clean out the carburettor!

Bert and Rose managed a 132 hectare (325 acre) sheep farm near Kaponga for Maurice Fitzgerald but the advent of WW2 meant that Bert joined up in the army (the air force had been his first choice, but lack of sufficient education prevented this) and fought in Italy where he served for two and a half years with the 25th Battalion. A 75mm shell exploded nearby and ahattered his left eardrum

After returning home he bought the farm he had previously managed through a rehabilitation scheme for 24/10/0 an acre (49 dollars) and the farm became a showpiece for all who visisted it. Bert and Rose replaced every building, starting with their house, raising their family of two and staying on the farm until 1979 when they retired to New Plymouth.

Bert was fascinated by aeroplanes, and could tell you what each one was just by the sound of its engine - in 1928 he cycled 20 kms from Manaia to Hawera to see Kingsford Smith and his Southern Cross aeroplane. He also had an affinity for animals, and cats in particular. The back door of the farm had a closing device which held it open by about 4 inches, to allow his cats to go in and out, even on frosty nights. One night he thought one of his cats had settled beside him on his pillow, but was out of bed like a shot when he realised it was an opossum!

He was a keen salt and freshwater fisherman, and in his earlier days very athletic; he won medals for sprinting 100 and 200 yards, and also enjoyed cricket, hockey, pig hunting and mountaineering. Tragically their son Ian was killed in a motor cycle accident at the age of 18, but his sister went on to become a schoolteacher.

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