An era will come to an end in North Hokianga when the ladies of St Mark's Church pour their final cups of tea and serve their last sandwiches at today's Broadwood stock sale.
It's a tradition that began in 1929, when a group of women from what was then the settlement's Anglican Church took over the job of catering for crowds of visiting farmers and stock agents. It had previously been done by a local woman who felt sorry for menfolk going hungry during a long day in the stockyards.
Over the years the ladies' sale catering grew into a Broadwood tradition, and a fundraiser that paid for church fit-out and maintenance, youth programmes, Christmas treats for the elderly, child sponsorship and many things besides.
June Hick, one of the catering ladies, said today's stock sale, the last for 2020, would be the last time the ladies rolled out the sandwiches, filled rolls, bacon and egg pies, sweet treats, and of course endless cups of tea.
During the past 91 years the size and frequency of sales had changed as much as the logistics of catering and the fashions worn by the helpers.
''In the 1920s afternoon tea was served in the A&P hall, then in the first pavilion by the bridge. With no power in those days the copper had to be stoked and water boiled for cups of tea and washing the dishes, even in the summer months,'' she said.
''Prior to lighting the copper the birds' nests had to be removed from the chimney. The men at the sale knew the tea was nearly ready when they saw the smoke rising from the chimney. One auctioneer, Johnny O'Carroll, was too short to see the smoke rising, so he'd wander down to the pavilion and, when the tea was ready, he would whistle Come to the Cook House Door Boys so everyone knew it was time for tea.
''Until the 1950s the women were addressed as Mrs, and everyone wore hats. No ladies went out without a hat on. Then they were happy to be known as 'The Women.' Today it's casual dress and we're all on first names.
''In the 1930s and '40s few women drove cars, so the menfolk had to bring them to the sales. The bread had to be sliced by hand until years later a hand-operated bread slicer was purchased. When sliced bread was first available the ladies resisted buying it as it cost more.
''The men were waited on and could eat all they liked, paying one shilling (10 cents) or 1/6 (15 cents) as they left. Today most things are $1.50-$2.50, still cheap compared to town prices.
"The money was collected in a billy at the door, and the collector became known as Mrs Moneybags. Today the men serve themselves from a pie warmer and food cabinets and pay at the counter. The stock agents' bills are recorded and the bill is paid at the end of each sale.''
Home baking had always been central to sale catering, with much good-natured comparison between the helpers.
''Before electricity came to Broadwood in the 1950s, sandwiches, pikelets, sponge cakes, chocolate cake and sausage rolls were the mainstays, with apple shortcake a favourite. Once power was connected hot food could also be provided," June added.
In 1972 the Anglican and Methodist churches united, and St Mark's became known as the Community Church, but sale catering continued uninterrupted.
''However, with the downturn in the economy, many farm women needed to find paid employment off the farms, so finding helpers and home baking for the sales sometimes became a problem. The Rev Ian Norwell became the Master Dish Washer, while Les Grounds provided milk and eggs from his farm. Food had to be purchased from bakeries or cafés in Kaitaia to supplement local baking.''
Bacon and egg pie, sausage rolls, bread cases, sausages, sandwiches, cakes and biscuits still feature on the menu, along with the famous apple shortcake. Mutton sandwiches were also demanded by the men.
''Since the 1990s profits have funded a youth group, disaster relief, Christmas cakes and mince pies for singles and the elderly at Christmas, decorated and delivered by the youth of the community. The church ladies have also invited other groups to assist at the sales, giving the profits back to the community through the building of the fire station and purchasing a defibrillator.
"Sale catering has also provided an opportunity for special needs students from the high school with monthly work experience. Our men were very supportive, as the students took time to serve and give change.''
With many women today finding employment outside the home, the downturn in church attendance and the closure and probable sale of St Mark's, the time had come to hand over sale catering to the North Hokianga A&P Association, and hope others would step up to fill the void.
''Otherwise the men may have to provide their own lunches. It is with much regret that we can no longer provide this service for our men," she said.
She was grateful to everyone who had provided food and given their time to help on sale days, adding that all involved would miss the friendships and the camaraderie between helpers and sale visitors over the past 91 years.