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Dispatch from Hastings, Part II

"Can the police do nothing about this insanity?"

The Hastings cemetery sprawls over the northwest part of the town, just down the street from my hostel, but somehow it took me almost a month to explore it. The old section has a number of graves from the 1880s, 90s and early 1900s, including the first one pictured below, marked by a wooden headstone. Hard to say just when this person died but their grave is surrounded by a few others from the early 1890s, so presumably they passed around the same time. There is one other wooden grave marker in the cemetery, surrounded by a rusted wrought iron fence. While the top one still has some barely legible writing, even after 120 years, any information or memorial on the second has long since disappeared.

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Wooden grave marker in the Hastings cemetery, circa 1890

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Wooden grave marker in the Hastings cemetery

The oldest marked grave in the cemetery belongs to Albert Ernest Lincoln. Albert died in 1882. I was thinking about Albert, wondering what his life was like. What was Hastings like when he died? What was Hastings like for Percy Armstrong (1884), Leslie Thomas (1884), Frank Arthur Duddy (1885), M. McCloud (1886), and Annie and William McConnell (1886 and 1888, respectively). What about the person in the grave covered in Japanese characters and marked with the name SAM (1898)? And then there's Brother S. Baddeley, 1885, who's monument was "erected by the members of Courts Sir Charles Napier. Captain Cook. Ruahine. Heretaunga. Robin Hood. Rising Sun and Little John. Hawke's Bay District A.O.F. As a token of his valuable services to the Order." The AOF, the Ancient Order of Foresters, a friendly society formed in the UK in 1834. Who were these people? Needless to say, a trip to the library was in order.

Hastings was founded in 1873 as a railway station, chosen because it was in the center of a large agricultural plain. There was a small township called Karamu there already - essentially a store and a post office. The history books offer varying accounts and nobody, it seems, is sure of who renamed Karamu or why they chose to call it Hastings. The town's business district never really developed until after 1879, and it wasn't until January 2, 1884, with 617 residents, that it was officially declared a town. Up through the formation of a town government the region had been under the jurisdiction of the Hawkes Bay County Council and the Heretaunga Road Board, which essentially put in bridges and built roads from farmers' gates to the nearest road or port. Between 1884 and 1886 the new town government passed several laws to regulate nuisances caused by "night soil, dung, ashes, slops, filth, refuse and rubbish of any kind." People found guilty of violations were fined up to five pounds. In 1886 the population of Hastings reached 1000 and it officially became a borough - the largest and fastest growing borough in the country, in fact. That same year a volunteer fire department was formed, but without a high-pressure water system in place much of the central business district burned in 1893. Everything on the blocks along Heretaunga Street between Market and the railway line was lost - nine shops, the Hastings Hotel, the Bank of New Zealand, a drapery, a restaurant and a store. Bicycles became popular in the 1890s, upsetting some older conservatives. One person wrote to the newspaper, the Standard, asking "Can the police do nothing about this insanity?" after seeing a "scorching" cyclist "spinning along the main street at the rate of cannon shot" before falling off outside the Albert Hotel.

Then, as now, the main business in the region was agriculture. Grapes were grown extensively by 1884, though just as much for eating as for wine-making. Tabacco and hops were grown for a while around 1885 and apple orchards were producing from around 1874. In addition to produce the town also had a freezing works for freezing and exporting meat to England. Establised in 1884 the freezing works was owned by Fred and JN Williams. But since local farmers preferred cooperative ventures they opened the North British and Hawkes Bay Farmers' Freezing Company nearby at Westshore in 1888. Along similar lines the Hastings Farmers' Association dairy cooperative formed in 1890, soon followed by a competitor, the Heretaunga Co-operative Daity in 1892. And after that? Nothing happened after that. This is Hastings...

As much as I enjoy picking blueberries, it's hard to make much money. Fortunately, a week after starting that one I picked up a second job working in an apple packhouse. Supposedly twelve hours a day (7a-7p), five days a week, plus a short eight hour day on Saturday (leaves plenty of time for blueberry pickin') and Sunday off, it's actually ended up being an average of eight hours a day, six days a week. My job is as a grader, pouring over the apples as they come into the packhouse and removing any that don't meet export-quality standards. Sunburn? Out. Blackspot? Out. Bruises? Out. Cuts? Out. Blemishes larger than one square centimeter? Out. These apples hold a different fate. Rather than being shipped across the world so people can eat fruit out of season, these apples head straight to the juicer or straight home with my friends and I.

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Blueberry farm outside of Hastings

But I've been having trouble sticking around Hastings. I had a realization that as a traveler I've been in one place too damn long. Getting antsy, going stir crazy. Gotta get out of hereā€¦ So where to next? I have one week to figure it out.

Posted by axcordion 14:06 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new packing zealand picking apple hastings blueberry

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