Aratoi visitors trip down memory lane

By Andrew Bonallack editor@age.co.nz -
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Ella Arnold, 11, visiting from Nelson, takes a look at the infantry rifles. PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK
Ella Arnold, 11, visiting from Nelson, takes a look at the infantry rifles. PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK

The exhibitions at Aratoi Museum touched a chord with two different sets of families visiting on Thursday.

The main exhibition, entitled "Featherston Military Training Camp ... A Record of a Remarkable Achievement", commemorates 100 years since the camp was created outside of Featherston town, to train troops heading to battle fronts during World War I.

Murray Campbell, Masterton, came with his wife and grandchildren and said he remembered the camp in its World War II incarnation, as a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp.

"I can just remember the watchtowers and the barbed wire."

As a child he came over to Wairarapa on the Fell engine, with the tunnel yet to be built, and he could remember seeing Japanese working on the railway line.

He said the exhibition was fascinating.

"It's so well curated, easy to read."

The exhibition is particularly profound because there is nothing left at the camp location apart from some bricks and concrete.

"It's basically gone.

"There's the Anzac Hall in Featherston, which is the only thing obviously connected."

Elsewhere, in a permanent exhibition room dedicated to iwi history, Sou Tapusoa was delighted to see a leather chair on show, a chair she remembered from visits to Papawai Marae as a child.

Ms Tapusoa, formerly of Carterton and now living in Auckland, was there with her three children, Nature, Sapphire and Freedom.

The chair in question was used by Papawai leader Tamahau Mahupuku during the sitting of the Maori Parliament at Papawai Marae.

"I grew up going to the marae, and the chair was always there," she said.

It was supposedly blocked off, but children used to sneak to sit on it.

On this visit, she was surprised to see the chair was gone.

"We came here [to Aratoi] and ta-da, it's here."

She had been away from the area and was touched to see the chair treated well.

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