Elizabeth Della Bosca remembers the day she accidentally sold dog roll to Rai Valley people who thought it was luncheon.
The story has been repeated many times but to this day Elizabeth has no idea who ate the dog food for their lunch.
"I never got one complaint."
Elizabeth was working at the Rai Valley dairy factory store, which later became a mussel processing factory before it burnt down nearly two decades ago.
Now retired, Elizabeth was a young bride when she swapped her home town of Nelson for life on the farm in Rai Valley in 1958.
From the 4.30am starts during shearing and catching possums in the evening, milking and cooking for gangs of hungry shearers, Elizabeth did not take long to be immersed in the new lifestyle, which would soon include four children.
"I had good in-laws," she says with a smile.
"It was just a different routine."
Friend Faye Stratford moved to Rai Valley as a 19-year-old from her parents' farm up the Wakamarina Valley on land that included what is now Pine Valley Motor Camp.
Her then-husband worked for the Ministry of Works and she initially found it hard to blend in to the tight-knit Rai Valley community but was soon busy having and raising her five children.
Though both women led very different lives in the valley, they both remember the frost below the treeline that would not melt all day, and the fog that finally dissipated at 2pm only to return at 4pm.
The fog still comes, they say, but disappears at a more reasonable hour and is good for the grass and the plants.
They remember the floods that would surround their homes and cut them off from the main road.
Life was tough at times but they also remember the highlights, such as the social balls in the Opouri Hall - when they could get a babysitter.
Back then, Rai Valley's main road had a lot more going on than today: There was a butcher, tearooms, post office, baker and a garage.
Elizabeth was employed at the post office, using morse code and operating the telephone switchboard. During one particularly bad flood which took a bridge out in 1983, the lines overloaded and all she could do was say "I'll call you back" to most of the people who tried to get through.
The main road also had a dairy factory which made cheese from milk delivered in cans from farmers around the Rai area.
See for yourself what life in Rai Valley was like back in the day, and what it's like now, at the International Year of Family Farming event at Carluke Domain, Rai Valley, on March 30.
- The Marlborough Express
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