Friends join in the singing in the lounge during the evenings. Most of the boys prefer to stay at home by the fire while others prepare to go skating, to a film show or to night school.
Mr and Mrs Herbert Rennie, known to the boys as “Mum and Dad”, are very proud of their family. They claim that there is a need for more similar types of “Guest Houses” in Christchurch and urge others to take up this rewarding service to young Maoris.
Many departmental and church sponsored hostels have been established to help accommodate the increasing number of Maoris seeking work in the cities. Although many facilities are being provided to assist young Maoris to adjust themselves to city life, adequate accommodation is still a problem.
Just over a year ago however, Mr Herbert Rennie and his wife Huia, with seven years' hostel experience behind them, decided to set up and operate a special guest house of their own for Maori youths. They now have a large house situated at 344 Lincoln Road, Christchurch, which is accommodating fifteen “young men”. The Rennies share the work between them with the help of the boys.
Known as the Te Ao Hou Guest House, its “guests” are mainly from the North Island. Twelve of the boys are apprenticed to various trades in the city. Most of these are attending the Technical College evening classes, but are still able to find time for Rugby, skating, hobbies and their music. They have their own workshop where some are learning the art of carving.
Apprentice wages do not allow for too much city entertainment, consequently most winter evenings are spent around the fire in the lounge, singing until suppertime. “We are just one big family,” says Mrs Rennie. “I wish we had more rooms, especially a larger lounge for the boys. However, a larger ‘guest house’ would mean employing staff and possibly losing that family atmosphere. We have had to turn down over twenty boys in the past year, because we have had a full house. If there were other guest houses for these boys to go to we would feel much happier. I often wonder where they will go and what will become of them.”
Another boy finds he cannot get board at the Guest House because they have a full house. “If there were other Guest Houses or Hostels that these boys could go to, we would feel a little happier when we have to turn them down here. This is the worst feature of our work,” says Mrs Rennie.
Home work always presents its problems, but John Mitchel, left, and Peta Rennie work it out together. Night school is an essential part of apprenticeship training and most boys attend classes.
Jimmy Ruru watches his scholar Mickie Wairoa add the finishing touches to the side piece of a carved trinket-box. Their workshop is small but well equipped with tools. Maori carving is in good demand in Christchurch and some of the boys are able to make extra pocket money with their works.