Thanks to John McBain for the journalling in this layout . He is a wonderful story teller
John Thompson Middlebrook was born in Auckland in 1883 , and he seems to have grown up mainly in Ponsonby. His father having a butchery business in St Marys Bay Road. There were stories of him delivering meat before school in the mornings. Leaving school he entered into an apprenticeship with A.& T. Burt in Auckland to train as a plumber. One story that comes from that time was that he was working on the “Clansman” that was a coastal steamer. It operated a regular service between Auckland and Whangaroa , he had some pipework to attend to on the ship. But come sailing time and the job wasn’t yet completed! So John had an unscheduled voyage to Whangaroa and return. He had leave owing at Christmas/ New year (probably 1904/5) and so spent it in Te Awamutu , with the family after they moved there. Fate took a hand here in two ways (1) there was sickness in the staff at the butchery. , so John T. was called upon to do duty in the shop and (2) he had met a girl (Susie Frost) that he rather fancied , who lived at Te Rahu, close to town. The two things must have combined to persuade him to contact A. & T. Burt and terminate
his apprenticeship. So he was now an apprentice butcher, though it probably wasn’t exactly new to him anyway. He continued to court Susie Frost and in 1906 they were married .They lived on the outskirts of town on Te Rahu Road. Their daughter Thelma was born in Oct.1907 and was an only child. In 1918 John T. was “called up” to go to War and entered Training Camp, but happily the war ended , so he was released from duty and he returned to the butchery to work with his Dad . When brothers Nelson and Victor returned from the war , the Government had some scheme to settle Returned Soldiers on the land. Nelson and wife May acquired a farm at Korokonui and ran dairy cows on it. Meanwhile John T. continued to work with his Dad in the butchery. Sometime around 1920, John T. bought land at Korokonui , on Happy Valley Road (the same road as Nelson was on). It was in a rather rough state with a lot of clearing still to be done. But there must have been quite a good house and there were outbuildings.
But of course John senior still needed John T. in the shop, the more so now as he was aging. Its hard to contemplate now, butKorokonui was quite distant from Te Awamutu in those days . Monday mornings early, John T. rode a horse down to the Main South Road, and left the horse grazing for the week in a paddock. There he would catch a bus which took him into Te Awamutu. He would work the week in the shop, lodging with his parents and then on Saturday afternoons after the shop closed he would return to the farm. Meantime on the farm Charlie (a Maori farmworker )and Susie would milk the few cows (by hand) (and Thelma helped a bit too!). Charlie did some clearing and the usual farm chores. At a later period , probably around 1926/7, James Mc Bain (who went on to marry Thelma) was engaged to work on the farm . He took over from Charlie, who I presume was aging. But things were changing, Electricity was now coming to town and refrigeration was revolutionising the butchery business,. Things had to change. Already things had changed .John T. now had a car , probably early in the 1930’s. Which would have made things easier. So although John T. was still on the farm ,most of his interest had now switched back to the butchery. Somewhere around 1935-36 the farm must have been sold . Thelma and John McBain married in 1928 and they had been running the farm in the main somce tjem . John T. and Susie had a new house built in Teasdale St. It was wartime by 1939 and John Sr. had passed away. John T. was having some health issues himself . The doctor was treating him, but said that really his occupation wasn’t helping, as he was in and out of chillers constantly. He said that his health would continue to suffer unless he changed his occupation and even better moved to somewhere warmer. So in 1941 they left Te Awamutu and moved onto a small farm of 15 acres at Manurewa. But 15 acres is a problem, a hobby farm really, too small to be profitable and yet you are tied to milking cows to the same degree that a larger farm requires. So after a year they sold it and bought 100 acres at Whitford. Again milking cows, but profitably this time. They needed assistance though and with it being wartime, labour was hard to find. There was a 16 year old lad that worked for them but after a year they decided to enllist the support of Thelma and James McBain. With 2 houses on the property it was the obvious answer. By1947, the war had ended and John T. and Susie had a house built in Howick to which they retired. Unfortunately soon after that Susie was diagnosed as having cancer, but she died quite suddenly one night John sold the new house it had no happy memories for him, and he had a room at his sister-in-laws apartments in Auckland city. He had his meals with them , so it really was quite good. He could no longer drive (he’d had a stroke some years earlier) I had a license so had taken over the driving of his car. But Health problems returned and he came back to the farm where he was diagnosed as having cancer. He died at the farm in 1950