Life in 1920s world apart

Keith Rowe relaxes at Holmwood Rest Home in Rangiora ahead of his 100th birthday last Sunday. Photo: David Hill
Keith Rowe relaxes at Holmwood Rest Home in Rangiora ahead of his 100th birthday last Sunday. Photo: David Hill
Life was very different when Keith Rowe was growing up in the Cust area, between Oxford and Rangiora, in the 1920s.

' Last year Mr Rowe was the oldest former pupil at the Cust School 150th jubilee and last Sunday he celebrated his 100th birthday.

When Mr Rowe was born his parents were living in Governor's Bay, near Lyttelton, but soon after moved to the Cust area, living for many years in Terrace Rd, where his father grew crops and farmed sheep.

They grew oats for the horses and wheat, which was carted to the Cust flour mill.

''We used to take in a bag of wheat and swap it for flour and take it home, where Mum made bread,'' he said.

Mr Rowe said he remembered taking his younger siblings and the neighbour's children to Cust School on a horse and trap.

It was a 5km journey and required crossing the Cust River. While the younger children crossed via a swing bridge, he would take the horse and trap through the water.

''One day when the river was in flood, my horse lost its footing and we floated downstream until she regained her footing.''

The alternative route to a bridge involved a 15km journey.

He left school at the age of 12 and worked for his father with a six-horse team undertaking ploughing, binding and heading of wheat and oats.

When his family later moved to Cheviot, he opted to remain in the Cust area, where he continued to work for various local farmers, Mr Rowe said.

He played rugby for Cust at halfback for many years and served in the Home Guard during World War 2, riding an old push bike from Earlys Rd to the Cust domain on shingle roads.

''I wore the bike out,'' he said.

In 1949 he married Lilian Thompson in Oxford and continued to work on farms in the Cust and Oxford areas.

He later worked at Woodstock Station, near Oxford, doing tractor work, before moving to Rangiora in 1963, where he became a truck driver for Transport North Canterbury, transporting coal, coke, kindling wood, fish, deer carcasses and stock.

The company bought a lower-deck truck to suit Mr Rowe's short stature, his daughter Bev Ensor said.

''Carting stock was his passion, as he was a country boy at heart,'' she said.

''He moved stock to and from the Addington saleyards for many years.''

His wife died in 1985 and Mr Rowe later married Valerie Smith.

Mr Rowe has two younger siblings in their 90s still living in Canterbury and has four children, five grandchildren, eight great-grandchildren, two step-daughters and several step-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren.

-By David Hill

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