A two part documentary in which Tokoroa school teacher Bob Gray [Ngāti Kurawhatia, Te Āti Haunui-a-Pāpārangi] returns with Alwyn Owen to his papakainga, his family's ancestral land at Pipiriki on the Whanganui River. He recalls the events of his boyhood and especially two teachers in the settlement, Keith Henderson and his wife Sylvia Ashton-Warner.
Part 1 Spectrum 587:
They visit the site of the former pā where Bob's family home was once located and he describes the settlement as it was in his boyhood. His mother was pākēha but his father's family approved of the marriage. His paternal grandfather was drowned in the massive flood of 1940, while working as a riverboat engineer, so the river is now his resting place.
He describes the river traffic in the 1940s; the paddle-steamers and 'tunnel boats' screw-driven vessels owned by Hattrick's River Services. He says there were still canoes being used to commute down the river, although most people travelled up-river in the Hattrick's vessels.
He remembers Pipiriki House and its beautiful gardens which were the centre of tourism on the river until it burnt down in 1959.
Bob and Alwyn visit the old school at Pipiriki, where teacher Georgina Te Huia is taking a group of young people who are interested in learning more about tourism. This was the school where he was taught by Keith Henderson and Sylvia Ashton-Warner. He recalls about 20 children attended the school with him, and he shared his dual desk with one of the few pākehā girls in the school, Lois Walker.
Georgina explains the tourism module she is teaching. Although she admits the idea of more tourism scares her, there is a need for more work to keep young people in the area.
Part 2 Spectrum 588
Bob Gray recalls details about his former teacher Sylvia Ashton-Warner. He says she spoke fluent Māori and would speak it when she visited thier homes, although the children were discouraged from speaking Māori in the classroom. He says they were not strapped or punished, but it was discouraged.
He says she taught the children art, dancing and music which he enjoyed, but they were amused at her husband Keith teaching them the 'pakēha' way of swimming, which was side-stroke, in a rainbow-striped full-body swimming costume. The Māori children never wore bathing suits in the river.
Every Monday morning the children were inspected for kutus (headlice) so they were always scrubbed by their granny on Sunday night. The district nurse would come around and treat them for scabies (hakihaki).
He says the teachers were treated as rangatira by the elders and given a proper pōwhiri whenever they went to the marae. He says the Hendersons chose the career of teaching for him.
Other Europeans in the area were Bill Templeton the store keeper and Charlie Hawker and his family from Te Kohai Station.
Only two buildings remain at the former site of Pipiriki - the settlement was moved across the river when riverboats came.
Bob talks about the Paparoa Rapids, the whirlpool where a taniwha lives and legends associated with the taniwha.
Bob Gray ends by describing what the Whanganui river means to him.