Sepia Saturday : Skiing the black runs…or not!

Looking the part as we set forth from our cabin.

Looking the part as we set forth from our cabin at Methven.

Back in 1984, the Cass Mob ventured forth on their first skiing expedition as part of a driving trip around New Zealand. We’d first been there in 1975 but at a different time of the year, and with no plans to ski. This time we had promised the girls there’d be snow…and plenty of it.

Sure enough there was plenty as we drove over Arthur’s Pass without chains (don’t even go into the reason behind that, thank you Avis!)..scary enough that another driver had a heart attack. But by the time we got to our cabin near the Mt Hutt ski-fields, snow was a little thin on the ground.

Bizarrely at the same time there was actually snow falling at Stanthorpe, about 150kms from where we lived, and Dad always vowed and declared that when he was on night shift in the Roma St Railway yards that week, there’d been snowflakes which melted before hitting the ground. And there we were, almost snow-less in the ski-fields….well I exaggerate a little.

I suspect DD2 was laughing like a drain at this point. And big sister wanted to help. DD3 and I knew we'd be useless.

I suspect DD2 was laughing, or hamming it up, at this point. And big sister wanted to help. DD3 and I knew we’d be useless. Mt Hutt 1984

I think these photos were taken on our very first skiing expedition and as you can see we were the picture of skill, grace and glamour! I was clever enough not to be photographed actually trying to do anything!! That night there was a massive dump of snow and we were holed up in our cabin, log fire, marshmellows, games and books.Louisa and Bec skiing Mt HuttA couple of days later we were able to venture up what was a rather scary road for we sub-tropical folk and have another go at skiing. I think it’s safe to say that Mr Cassmob and I promptly decided any winter sports skills we had would be confined to skating, not skiing. Before we left that day the older two were whizzing down steep slopes quite confidently.

My feet are supposed to do what...?

My feet are supposed to do what…?

It was traditional at their school to do a ski trip in their final year of school. Each and every one of our little “angels” made it their mission to ski the black runs before they came home!! But my abiding memory is the bedraggled group of young ladies who set forth on one of the trips the night after their Year 12 final….wild and woolly.

Always keen for a pose...just like her daughter is now.

Always keen for a pose…just like her daughter is now. Mt Hutt 1984

I was going to say that was the start and finish of our skiing adventures, but I just remembered I took DD3 and her cousin to the Snowy Mountains one September holidays when I had a week off work with the kids and it suddenly started dumping. So a 3000km drive to go for a few days’ skiing…I must really be mad!

What was that about posing? Surely I look the part at least?

What was that about posing? Surely I look the part at least? Perisher 1990

We camped among the snow gums below the snow line at Sawpit Creek and had possums visiting us every night. Possums have something in common with humans – they like to eat what they shouldn’t, especially marshmellows.Bec and possum Snowy

The kids had fun… attempting to ski and building a snowman and generally playing in the snow.

Having fun -the headband actually says "Ski Austria" not "Ski Australia"

Having fun -the headband actually says “Ski Austria” not “Ski Australia”

Posing seemed to be the name of the game.

Pauleen posing at Perisher -seemed to be the name of the game.

Camping below the snow line was a bit of a challenge though…one way to use every article of warm clothing in the car. And they made sure I paid for it with this glamour shot…after all when it’s below zero who cares how you look!

I wonder just how many layers I was wearing?

I wonder just how many layers I was wearing?

Why not see what  other Sepians have had to say about snow and skiing this week. Was it something they’re sick of or longing for?

Sepia Saturday 212

Fab Feb Photo Collage Festival: Day 24 Across the Ditch

4 x 7UP collageOne of Mr Cassmob’s employment conditions in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s was first-class (!) return airfares for his family every two years (initially) then every year, from place of employment in PNG to Melbourne, Australia. So if you’ve sometimes wondered which gold mine we’d discovered, you now know why we’ve travelled so much though not in first class I assure you.

Miss Two and her Riff Raff at a friend's house.

Miss Two and her Riff Raff at a friend’s house.

If you’re going to have to rent accommodation, hire a car and travel in Australia, you may as well translate that to airfares etc in another overseas destination.

This trip Across the Ditch to New Zealand was to be the kids’ first non-Australian international jaunt, a tiny compensation for missing out on Rome, Athens etc in the previous year. During the trip we were also able to meet up with some long-standing friends who’d reversed the trend across the Tasman. Along for the trip was Ms Two’s best friend, Riff Raff, which I’d made for her from batik fabric. In Auckland the girls met the real article for the first time – their eyes were wide, as they travelled from small girl height up the giraffe’s long legs and neck to his head and that long blue tongue. (After a conversation with my mother, it turns out it wasn’t the first time, as DD1 had been mesmerized when she had seen one the previous year while we were overseas).

Pauleen Louisa Rach Auckland Zoo 1975

The body language on DD2 as she draws away from the giraffe is noticeable.

Further south in Rotorua they would come face to face with another startling discovery, as like many tourists, we booked for a Maori evening show. Well it certainly was a cultural experience! Remember these were two little girls who were all too accustomed to seeing many hundreds of warriors armed with spears, arrows and axes, dancing in the Goroka Show. So when the Maoris burst onto the stage with a fully-fledged haka[i], tattooed faces, eyes bulging, arms flailing amidst much yelling, two small voices were added at full-screech to the noise. They just freaked out!! No longer were those warriors passive, they’d finally come to get them. Needless to say that was the end of the show for us!

The North Island also cost me part of my heirlooms as I lost the largest diamond from my grandmother’s engagement ring, probably in a gutter somewhere, as we searched for somewhere to stay (no, not in the gutter! rather just driving to find the right place).

High on a mountain Louisa Rach and Peter NZ 1975

Even simple things like slippery slides are special when you don't have them at home.

Even simple things like slippery slides are special when you don’t have them at home.

We loved the South Island because it was so very different from what we were used to, with its cold climate and snow. Everyone enjoyed the flight up to Fox Glacier and being able to see all that snow up-close. One night while watching the unaccustomed treat of television, we were shocked to see the Fall and evacuation of Saigon and all the surrounding panic. It was a confronting sight which bookmarked our own interest in the Vietnam war from our university days.

The kids travelled well without any hassles other than Miss Two’s need for her pliggles (aka dummies or pacifiers). Not only did she need one in her mouth, she had to have a spare in each hand. Have you ever had a midnight search for a missing dummy in an unfamiliar motel room (it was usually found behind the bed!) Tedious I can tell you! Perhaps that was the impetus for evil mother to wean her from it a month or so later.


One of the other joys the girls caught in New Zealand was chicken pox which they carried home carefully on the plane with them, revealing it only on our return home. Of course being sharing sorts of children they had to have it in sequence, rather than together, while their father was away for a couple of weeks’ work travel. Such are the joys of motherhood.

Appropriate for someone with two convicts in his family tree -not that we knew that then.

Appropriate for someone with two convicts in his family tree -not that we knew that then.

Fab Feb imageFamily Hx writing challengeThis post is part of the February Photo Collage Festival and the Family History Writing Challenge.


[i] Rugby Union fans are familiar with the All Blacks version which is every bit as formidable.  You can see one version here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tdMCAV6Yd0Y. Traditionally a pre-battle challenge, it is also pertinent to my family history, as one of the Sandon Kent family died in the Maori wars.

For an amusing version check out the “flash” version in which the Qld copper joins in. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bmSNN7vZt_o

Gravestone Janet McArthur – Kilmorich Churchyard Cairndow, Argyll

Janet McArthur grave at Kilmorich Kirk

This photograph from my archives was taken in March 2003 at the Kilmorich Parish kirk in Cairndow, Argyll, Scotland. One of the reasons I took it was because it linked Scotland to New Zealand.  Perhaps Alexander’s family don’t yet know of his Argyll ancestry or that the gravestone was erected by him.

The words on the stone are:

In Loving Memory of Janet McArthur who died Drishaig 3rd April 1896. Aged 93 years.

Erected by Alexander McArthur, New Zealand 1904

Cairndow is sometimes also shown as Cairndhu on old records. My own great-great-grandmother is buried there.