A 97 year journey: Morrie’s adventures of nearly a century

Updated: Oct 11, 2018

“Do unto others as they would do unto you”. That’s the principal Maurice “Morrie” Moor has tried to stick by through his 97 years so far, and it has served him well.

Morrie has generously donated his scooter to Hospice because he didn’t need it and “just wanted it to go somewhere of use”. He explained “Hospice has been great to us. That is why I wanted to give them the scooter, because they’ve been so good to me. They gave me a hospital bed… oh they’ve been so good, so kind and I wanted to do what I could for them. Because they will pass it to on to other people you see.” The scooter it will be sold on Trademe to help with the cost of the nursing services.

From left: Hospice Nurse Anna Foley, with Maurice and Noeleen Moor

Morrie has had a very interesting life, with many challenges and ups and downs and seen nearly a century’s worth of technological changes. He has lived in places without electricity or running water, through to the modern conveniences of today. Born 3 years after the First World War ended, he lived through the depression, World War II and a number of natural disasters, and remembers having a crystal radio set when radios first came in.

His mother died when he was three days old. His father remarried, but then split and he was separated from his siblings. His father died of bowel cancer when he was still very young. Morrie then went to live with his aunt for a short time, however this was during the depression, and times were tough. A children’s home with Richmond Mission in Christchurch took Morrie in until he was 10 or 11 because he was “old enough to work”.

Sent to work on a farm, Morrie would be there as the farmers milked the cows, and delivered the milk. He would then wash out the dairy, feed the cows, take all their covers off, hang the covers in the sun, put the cows in the paddocks all before he went off to school. After school he would take the cows in and put on the covers again. It was a different time, Morrie explained, during the depression.

Morrie joined the railway in 1938 at 17, cleaning locomotive sheds, shunting engines and then went to taihape as a fireman driver. On joining the railway he had to provide his birth certificate and found out he had been celebrating his birthday on the wrong day his whole life.

In 1950 he gave up the railway and went farming. Meeting a fellow from Tolaga bay, Morrie went to work there. “There were no lights or electricity on farms in those days”. He did shepherding and general roundabout work. Moving on to Gisborne, he worked as a fencer and cowman. He had a “lovely big horse” who was temperamental and shy and once threw him on his back, which took a long time to recover from.

Morrie’s first marriage was 1943 in the middle of the Second World War. Due to the workforce regulations with the manpower act, they were given a week to get married and then they were needed to work on the railways in different areas. “I got married and had to wait 3 months to get my wife” said Morrie. They had 3 boys and were together until 1990 when she died of breast cancer.

In 1954 he came to the Bay of Plenty with his wife and 3 sons to manage a farm with 2 sharemilkers and 2 herds, shifting into a farm cottage on the banks of Rangitaiki “near where the Edgecumbe floods happened”.

Recalling the Edgecumbe earthquake, he was out buying firewood. He’d experienced earthquakes before but nothing like that. When the earthquake happened he unhooked his trailer and got home as quickly as he could, to make sure his wife was alright. “Here she is, sitting in the passage, as calm as you like. Of course she’d already been through this in the Napier earthquake. Valuable sort of pictures and ornaments were thrown on the bed with a cover over them. She was quite happy – it was me that was worried.”

Anyway, we got over that but we were like zombies. Honestly, if you’ve been through a big earthquake, it really, really upset everybody.”

“One thing we didn’t do is use the portaloos they had on the street. I’d jacked up our own loo. We were used to that being on the farm in those days they didn’t have flushing loos on the farms because it used too much water. Water was a big thing.”

At the time Morrie was working on the farm in Rangitaiki, the Matahina dam and Kawerau Mill were being developed which created challenges finding farm workers. “You couldn’t blame the guys, they got better money than you could ever get on a farm. I ended up having to do the milking and all of it myself. Until I chucked it in. I thought to myself, well everyone’s leaving and going to the factory or wherever, I may as well knock this off too.” After 13 years, Morrie got a job at the Rangitaiki Plains Dairy company.

“So I got a job at the factory too. It was called the RPD. So I worked in the bolt store 3 years and then they put me there bowser station.” Morrie worked there from 1967. He was manager of the bowser station and there were 3 girls working there for him.

The vets bought the veterinary department out from the dairy factory and then it became privatised. Morrie worked there until he retired, managing the retail side, with extra qualifications to mix up drenches other products that farmers needed.

“In those days the retirement age was 60 and of course when the guys at work in the factory got to that age they were put off. I used to get the works to say why are you still here? We had to retire, why don’t you? And I used to say ‘because the veterinary department is a private enterprise now - it’s got nothing to do with the factory’ and then I was able to carry on. Eventually I did retire, in 1984”.

Morrie bought a house in Tawa street in Edgecumbe and lived there for 40 years, til he sold it and bought their place in Kawerau.

Morrie and his second wife Noeleen have a big and tight-knit family between them, with his 3 sons and her 6 sons and 1 daughter. “He proposed to me when I was feeding the chickens!” Noeleen shared. However, she told him to come back in three months and ask again. Noeleen wasn’t sure she wanted to get married again, but in the end she agreed (she said with a smile). They’ve got dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren between them, and two great-great-grandchildren.

Morrie has seen huge changes in the Eastern Bay region. “Since 1954 when I came here, Whakatane has changed so terrifically. The council buildings and post office were down by the wharf where the old hotel is. Where they are now, that’s all reclaimed.”

Morrie said he now gets very frustrated relying on other people to take care of the section “I’ve always done that sort of thing, I’ve always had a big garden”.

They both shared how grateful they are for the support given to them by friends and family nearby, and for Noeleen’s youngest son Stephen who lives with them and looks after them. He’s “very good” and does washing, cooking and more. “When he offered to do it, he didn’t realise what it would entail.” Said Noeleen, conveying her appreciation for his support.

Of their experience receiving support from Hospice, Morrie said “Hospice has been great to us… What I asked for I got.” Noeleen, Morrie’s wife said “Oh it’s been brilliant. Just having the ladies to come say hello and have a chat, you know. Morrie adds “even if you just have a chat, when you’ve got problems, it’s worth a lot. It is worth an awful lot. You realise you’re a human being too, and not just a heap of trouble!”