Central HB: Merger sparks fond WI memories

By Nicki Harper

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Tikokino Women's Institute's longest-serving living member, Margaret Robertson (left), with the help of Rose Law, cuts the cake to mark the branch's 90th birthday. Photo / Nicki Harper
Tikokino Women's Institute's longest-serving living member, Margaret Robertson (left), with the help of Rose Law, cuts the cake to mark the branch's 90th birthday. Photo / Nicki Harper

For the past 95 years Women's Institute groups around the country have provided a forum for women to socialise, travel, teach and share homemaking skills, and help others.

In Central Hawke's Bay, the Tikokino Women's Institute has been going almost as long as the national organisation itself, but last Thursday, after 90 years, the branch formally ended and merged with the Waipawa branch.

The occasion was marked by the seven existing members (only one of whom still lives in Tikokino), former members and guests from other institutes with lunch at the Tikokino Country Hotel, followed by afternoon tea, and raffles at the Tikokino Community Hall.

Members of the Tikokino Women's Institute in 1935.
Members of the Tikokino Women's Institute in 1935.

Maxine Whitworth joined the institute in 1970 when she and her husband moved to Tikokino and took over the garage.

In the early days membership would have been made up of young women, some the wives of rehab farmers, others single, who would have been at home or helping out on the farm, she said.

They would also have been attached to the forestry activity going on at Gwavas Station, which at one point had 33 houses for workers, and the women may have been working in the forestry or the nursery.

"Most kids would remember their mums going to meetings every Thursday of the month and gobbling up the remainders of afternoon tea when they returned," said Mrs Whitworth.

When the institute started in 1926, meetings were held in the evenings and the women, who were allowed to join from the age of 16, would walk, ride horses or bike to the hall that used to be where the camping ground is now next to the Tikokino Country Hotel.

Member Rose Law remembered that this hall belonged to the Ruahine Lodge and had a sprung floor, which was "the best to dance on".

As time went on the meetings were changed to the day-time to make it easier to attend and members would help each other out with baking, and share recipes and sewing ideas, such as what to do with old flour bags.

Mrs Whitworth recalled using these bags to line boys' pants, and also to make aprons and duster bags.

In 1975 the Tikokino branch of the Women's Institute was still thriving with 24 members.
In 1975 the Tikokino branch of the Women's Institute was still thriving with 24 members.

The friendship, baking, crafts, gardening and competitions continued over the years.

The Tikokino institute was famed for its annual daffodil show, known for its fierce competition, when the community hall would be packed out with daffodils on tables and shelves tiered up the walls.

Regular gardening and art and craft shows continued to be held at the hall up until recent times, and Tikokino schoolchildren got involved entering their own handiworks.

The Tikokino branch also enjoyed regular outings, created wonderful tableaux of crafts for the CHB A and P Shows, raised money for good causes through raffles and engaged with the community such as teaching local school children how to knit.

Mrs Whitworth and Mrs Law said it was sad that their branch did not have the members to sustain it any more, but were glad that they could amalgamate with Waipawa to become the Waipawa-Tikokino Women's Institute.

"It's the end of an era - it's really quite sad," Mrs Law said.

A lot of memorabilia and photos were collected over the years and it's hoped these can be donated to the CHB Settlers Museum.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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