Sunday, August 3, 2014

The latest Middlebrook Family Reunion Newsletter–dated July 31 2014


Reunion Registration is Open - Register Early and Save!

Early registration discount ends August 30
The reunion will be held on January 24th and 25th 2015 at Fairway Lodge, Silverfield, Takapuna in Auckland.
We have negotiated what we feel is the best  price and format for our needs and we are able to offer
several options in our aim to have as many attend as possible. We hope to make  this event pleasurable and enjoyable as possible while making it as affordable as we can.
To that end we have formatted the two days as follows:
Saturday 24th January
11am - 4pm
The day will begin with check in where you will be issued with name tags denoting which branch of the family you belong to . This will make it easy for you to recognise those who descend from the same branch of the family as yourself.
From 12 noon we will have our photographer taking formal group photos of each branch of the family and of the whole group, along with roaming candid photos throughout the day.
These photographs will be available in an inexpensive  book form, after the reunion. Orders to be taken on the day or beforehand  via a form which will be included in a later newsletter.
Leading up to the reunion we will announce the price of  a photographic family history book which will be available for pre-purchase and pick up at the reunion.
Finger food and tea and coffee will be supplied throughout the day and a cash bar will also be available for those who wish to make use of it.
There will be photographic and informational displays and a large family tree available for viewing.
Saturday primarily though is a mix and mingle event where we can all get to know each other.
Feel free to bring along any photos or copies, along with family mementos you wish to share or display.
Saturday Evening
This is at your leisure. We have suggestions for local restaurants for those interested.
Sunday 25th January
12 noon - 3:00pm
Buffet Luncheon
Sit down lunch with presentations and speakers (descendants) and cutting of the Reunion Cake
Middlebrook Reunion Registration Form
If you prefer to print and fill in a paper form you can download it here

Middlebrook Family History Website is now Live

The first stage of the Middlebrook Family History Website is now up and viewable.
The Stories page is regularly updated so feel free to check for new images and stories .
Lauren will be adding to the next generation  pages as time permits

Travelling by Motor Car
By John McBain ( Great Grandson of John and Mary Ann Middlebrook)

(John McBain in his Grandfathers Car)

My Mum’s recollections of her grandfather John were much fuller than mine.
Some of them she relayed to me, so in a sense I am passing on her “memories”.
He was not a fan of cars!  Towards the end of his life he did travel in them, but he did so with some trepidation.
As a child with the family he had travelled from England to N.Z. in a sailing ship. He had ridden many miles by coach and on horseback, there are photos to prove it. Doubtless too he would have taken train rides. But cars worried him.

Now that I have reached that same  stage of decrepitude, I appreciate that it is common to all, we accept change reluctantly.
I feel sure that that Ellen, the matriarch of our “tribe” would have had similar difficulties too.
My schooling was in the era of pounds, shillings and pence. Its still there, occupying valuable space in my brain, little wonder there’s no space left for new things.

Horses and horse transport were on the wane by the time of my awareness of such things, in towns and cities. In Te Awamutu where I lived, there was a hitching rail and a water trough for horses. It was situated in Walton St. , which was at the rear of  Middlebrooks Butchery. There was often a horse there awaiting its owner. Horses did have some advantages, you sometimes heard tales of men, who spent too long in the bar. Mates would help them onto their horse and it would see its owner safely home. The Wood and Coal Merchant had a wagon drawn by a pair of horses and so too did the Scrap Merchant.

But back to cars that will be the main theme.

(John Thompson Middlebrook with one of his cars)
My Mum’s father, John Thompson Middlebrook, took to cars like a “duck to water”. In his lifetime he owned 3 maybe 4 cars, each one newer than its predecessor. The last was a 1937 Chevrolet Sedan.
He told me about getting his Driver’s License. Apparently he went to the Traffic Officer’s Office in Te Awamutu to “sit the test”. The Traffic Officer took one look at him and said “Oh yes I’ve seen you driving around the town!” and without further ado he issued the License. I am sure youngsters of today wish it were that easy. My earliest clear memories are of much later, 1937-39, more people were aspiring to the ownership of cars, but then even more than now they were beyond the means of most. The ‘'great depression” was very recent and although things were moving again, people were very cautious with spending. For those living in rural areas, a car or small truck became a priority, so most had some vehicle.
But in the towns and cities most used bicycles and only the well- to-do had a car. In 1939 as all know World War 2, was declared and no private cars or trucks  were imported into N.Z. until after 1948, when new cars started to be produced again. In those days of so few cars, most people could identify an approaching car- it’s make- model- and year of manufacture. Mind you, with so few cars there was only one passing every 10 minutes or so. A trip to Auckland by car from Te Awamutu in those days, so different from today. For a start it was gravel roads for almost the entire distance, the only seal was through any towns ‘en route’.  The route didn’t bypass towns as it does now , you drove through the heart of Hamilton , Huntly , Mercer, Pokeno , then you passed through Ramarama , where there was the first petrol sold at city prices!   My grandfather always stopped there to fill up the tank.   Manurewa, Otahuhu, until finally you reached the “Harp of Erin” as it was called and the sealed roads of Auckland.
I think the trip would have taken around six hours in those times, it was quite a journey.
Still on cars- my story moves forward a lot of years to 1948. World War 2 has ended , but the cars are still all pre-war models, so all much older. I now had a Drivers License and drove the 1937 Chevrolet that my grandfather had owned , but could no longer drive, as he had suffered a stroke. We now lived at Whitford , near Auckland city, so that was where a lot of our shopping was done. Driving- Well there were some differences back then. No indicator lights and stop lights were not recognised either. So it was all hand signals through the open driver’s window, wet or fine. No automatic transmission either, though there wasn’t much other traffic to contend with. No traffic lights. Most city people travelled by tram.

Trams were great people movers, but with twin tracks in the middle of the road, the passageway for cars was sometimes quite restricted. Bear in mind that vehicles of necessity were often parked at the edge of the road, so the space to pass a tram travelling in the same direction, was often restricted, even impossible.  When the tram was stopping to pick up or drop off passengers, a small red stop light would  show at the back. So following motorists were obliged to stop to allow passengers to alight or disembark safely. Once started again the tram, powered by electricity was up to speed very quickly. The car driver on the other hand started slowly and had to work through the gears before reaching the top speed permitted (30 m.p.h.) in the city. Often one would not manage to overtake before the next stop was reached.
Post script from Lauren
We are lucky enough to have several photos of cars belonging to or relating to our family such as the two in the story above but also the ones below .

This photo comes from a collection belonging to the McRae branch of the family. We are unsure who is driving this gorgeous car - If anyone can shed some light on it we would be most appreciative.

Margaret Harris ( nee Middlebrook) - daughter of Samuel) and partner Tom

Samuel Middlebrook and unknown Middlebrook women in Te Awamutu

Unknown car on the Tauranga Road - from the album belonging to Bess Middlebrook - daughter of Samuel

We are still looking for further photographs to include in the Pictorial book which will be available at the reunion - please email Lauren if you have anything at all which may be of interest. This includes not just photographs from the 19th century but also 20th century photographs pertaining to the Middlebrook family.
If you do not have any way of scanning the photographs we may be able to organise someone to visit .

Opua December 14th  1887

Dear Welsh,
I received your letter last week but had not time to answer it for I did not get it out of the Office until Thursday morning. I hope I have not troubled you too  much in asking you to get the calico. If I have, do not get it. I was going to trouble you further in getting a little fruit , for we can not get any down here and I should like to get some for the children at Christmas.
They are all talking about hanging their stockings up. Amy sends her love and she hopes you are enjoying yourself in town.
She also wishes you would come down, but I suppose it is no use to ask you to come to such a dull place as this. Roddy wishes to be remembered to you. I have not sent him to Kawakawa. Mrs Harris says it is too near Christmas for him to go now, but I shall see about him going after.  But I must come to a close for I do not feel inclined to write much and I have two other letters to write, and I am sure they will be short. Things are very dull here but we must live in hope if we die in dispare. (sic)
If things are not better, I shall have to leave Mother in charge and see if I cannot get a situation as a Housekeeper or somethign else to do. Trusting you are well, I remain
Yours sincerely,

P.S. The Norvel and Saxon will be going to town this week - and both of them will be down before Christmas

From Jane to Welsh, 14 December 1887

This letter from Jane to Welsh ( and the first one we have from Jane) could be in reply to his letter of 21st November but I suspec t it is a later letter that we do not have a copy of . Once more though there is much talk of the desire of both Jane and Welsh to be together.
It is clear in this letter that Jane is not in a great financial situation . We assume she is running a boarding house as this seems to have been her main form of income through most of her life. It sounds as if there isn’t much business just prior to Christmas

“Roddy” refers to John Roderick McRae , Jane’s eldest son. Born in 1871 he was 16 years old at the time of this letter and one would assume Jane was keen for him to be out working to help support the family

Dear Welsh,
We received your letter last week and all the goods all in good order and we are much obliged. I also let Amy read your letter and what she could not make out , I read for her. I told her to write today but she did not, but she is such a poor writer that makes her not like to write. But I am not a very good scholar myself so I should not say much about any one, eh!  Amy and I are very glad you are so comfortable. It is a nice part of town that you live in, not too thickly built on.
I must now thank you for the things you sent. The calico is very good. It was for Amy and she is much pleased with it and all the other good things. I do not think they would have got much if you had not sent them for I had the misfortune of braking(sic) the clock and had to get a new one for we could not do without the time in a place like this. I am glad that you have the prospect of such a merry Christmas.  The town will be quite lively, but we shall be quieter than usual, for the people are all going to town ( that can afford it); but it is getting very late. I had some work to finish and send home first thing in the morning so I had to finish it tonight, but I will add a few more lines in the morning. I have had a very bad head ache all day, in fact I am hardly ever free from it.
Thursday morning, and a beautiful morning . The Bay is so pretty.. there are a lot of boats about with their white sails set. I trust we shall have Hector over for Christmas Day. We are all going out the day after to a picnic party ad a place called Wapau, a very pretty place.
You say in your letter that you wish we were with you, so I can say in return that I wish you were with us. I wish we could do anything for you to help to pay for your kindness. Amy sends her love and wishes you a merry Christmas. She says you promised to come back, but she will write next week. With the complements of the season, I must now close, I remain
Yours Truly
Jane McRae

From Jane to Welsh, 20 Dec 1887

It is clear from this letter from Jane to Welsh ( replying to a letter we unfortunately dont have a copy of) that he has sent the “fixings for Christmas” he referred to in a previous letter. . Again we get a clear impression that financially things are not great for Jane. Replacing a broken clock ( which could be a considerable expense in the 19th century) used up much of the money she would have spent on the family Christmas .
Jane’s mention of having Hector over is another indication of that relationship growing but it was to be another 3 years until she married him.

I have not been able to find out where “Wapau” might be. We could assume it is relatively close to Opua, a day trip or less by boat or by road as they were headed there for a picnic

This new slot in the newsletter will feature one or 2 photos we have received from various family members over the last couple of weeks. It is interesting to see that some photos seem to have been shared very widely within the family. For instance many branches of the family seem to have a copy of the photograph of Samuel on his boat which was published in the NZ Herald in the 1920s.
We also have seen copies of the photos of the elderly  Ellen Middlebrook appear from several branches of the family.  This is a good indication that the family remained in close contact throughout the years regardless of their location.
The photo above is a new one to our collection. It is of the wedding of Walter Stanley Rush ( son of Mary Rush nee McRae- who was daughter of Jane Thompson McRae nee Middlebrook)
Walter married Irene Morgan in 1929. The attendants at the wedding were Walters brother Gordon and his wife Beryl

Your Stories Urgently Required

We are still urgently requiring stories for the newsletter and also for the reunion book. Without your help there are most certainly going to be gaps in the research. This could be as simple as jotting down your memories of your parents, grandparents, or any stories you have been told relating to all branches  the family. 
Remember to fill in a Family Group Sheet Form here if you havent already

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