The Price Of Having Fun


For as long as anyone can remember, Kiwi beach holidays have revolved around a small number of timeless activities.  Swimming, sunbathing, fishing, nature walks and spending quality time with friends and family are considered essential to any summer break.  Throw in a portable barbecue and some beverages and most Kiwi holidaymakers couldn’t be happier.

Kids, however, can prove to be a little bit harder to keep entertained, and throughout the years of Holiday Park camping ‘finding fun’ has been left to the imaginations of ingenious parents and cunning children.  There is no end to the activities that have kept people amused and entertained while staying at Waihi Beach Top 10 Holiday Park.

Parents are forever reminding their children that the best fun can be had for free – sliding down the hills behind the Park on cardboard greased with fat, building dams in the creek or climbing trees.  Kids, though, never feel completely happy unless they have a few coins in their pocket, just enough for lollies and an occasional movie ticket.  Back in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s New Zealand was recovering from World War 2 and, for most people, money was tight.  Pocket money wasn’t handed out as liberally as it is these days and this meant kids would often have to find ways of making money of their own.

One such entrepreneurial family was Lorna and Pat Welch, farmers from Hamilton, and their children Ngaire and Jim.

In front of the Waihi Beach Surf Club was a small building where people could hire a ‘lilo’ for sixpence an hour.  These were inflatable pillow-type cushions you could hold onto while surfing a wave – much like a boogie-board of today.  Mum had limited Ngaire and Jim to just one ‘session’ a day – strictly enforced.  However, desperate to have a second go, Jim and Ngaire hatched a scheme to earn them another turn on the ‘lilos’.  They had in their possession an old tractor tyre tube which their Dad, Pat, had inflated and encased in a massive chaff sack.  ‘This made a great vessel which we could tow around in the safety of the lagoon’ remembers Ngaire.  The young money-makers figured that they could make some money from their father’s invention by charging a penny a ride – a bargain!

One afternoon Lorna became concerned about the long absence of her children and went in search of them in the direction of the beach.  There she found them – Ngaire touting the shorefront in search of business, Jim in the water towing young children on the tyre tube and a long line of paying customers awaiting their turn.  A mother of one of the ‘clients’ assured Lorna that the kids were delighted with this cheap new ride.  Lorna, however, was so embarrassed she quickly left her children to it and scurried back to the Holiday Park.  Jim and Ngaire succeeded in getting enough money to hire the beloved lilos once again, although had they known of the punishment their mother was to dish out later they might have thought twice.

‘Rides’ were once popular – not just on the water using anything that would float, but on land too.  Most weekends a small herd of six donkeys were brought down to the beach for the children to ride.  A free second ride was always given to a child who was unfortunate enough to get a stubborn animal which refused to co-operate.  Back when occupational safety regulations were non-existent, Huon Grey, part owner of the camping ground in the late 60’s, offered children motorcycle side-car rides.  He would loop around the camp ground, gathering up more children as he went until the load became such that no one else could cling on.

Another aspiring young businessman was Des Reynolds, who would make his pocket money through collecting empty beer bottles.  By doing this he could earn between eight and ten shillings a week – big money back then.  He used to take them up to the local garage and exchange them for a penny each; thruppence for a lemonade bottle.  On one occasion, when he was fourteen, he spent his pocket money on a ticket to his very first dance.  All dressed up in trousers for the first time (albeit two sizes too large) and a tie (another first), he strutted off to the RSA.  Bold as brass in his new outfit and with brill-creamed hair shining like the sun he sauntered over to a pretty girl and asked her to dance.

Des remembers what happened next vividly – ‘She said, “Go home Sonny and get to bed will you”.  I’ll never forget that, it dented my confidence and wasted my precious pocket money to boot’ – (it had cost him two-and-sixpence to get in).

These days, kids still find their own fun things to do and ways of making pocket money around the Park.  Some clever ones charge unsuspecting tourists to see the eels in the stream, others sell avocados to camp residents.  More charitable children have put on a Christmas concert to raise money for the SPCA.  The playground, the bouncy pillow in particular, provides plenty of entertainment for children, and sometimes even adults, after hours…

And a word of warning to those who like early nights – these may be by compromised by an occasional game of ‘spotlight’ – but don’t worry, it’s all good fun!