Archive for the ‘History – Observations’ Category

ANZAC Day 2008

Friday, April 25th, 2008

There is a small but growing group who feel that we should make ANZAC Day our national day, moving the emphasis away from Waitangi Day which has attracted so much protest in recent years.


Sir Edmund Percival Hillary KG, ONZ, KBE 1919 – 2008

Friday, January 11th, 2008

The best-known New Zealander of the 20th century, Sir Edmund Hillary, died at the age of 88 this morning, Friday 11th January 2008.

Best known for conquering the planet’s highest mountain Mt. Everest in 1953, Sir Ed, as he was known to New Zealanders, held a special place in the nation’s heart. He was a diplomat, philanthropist, adventurer, innovator, but most importantly one of us.


Upgrade to Papers Past Website

Friday, August 31st, 2007

The National Library of New Zealand has revamped its online collection of historical newspapers and will offer new features from early September.


Proroguing Parliament

Friday, June 29th, 2007

This website usually avoids political issues, there being plenty of other sites devoted to the activities of our politicians both inside and outside the debating chamber.

Nevertheless, the use of the phrase proroguing parliament in a newspaper from 1890 caught my eye recently and led me to discover two issues of the day which have a modern complement.


Augie Auer 1940-2007

Monday, June 11th, 2007

“Well, my friend, there’ll be a few windscreen wetters around Auckland today but otherwise some long fine periods for those who want to prune the roses.”

Just two of the “Augie-isms” that added colour to weather talk in New Zealand in recent years, but will no longer be heard following the death of Professor Augie Auer at a family gathering in Melbourne, Australia, last night.


Henare Te Ua 1934 – 2007

Thursday, May 3rd, 2007

“It was a busy week in the Waikato, wasn’t it Libby? On Monday there was…”

Like an arm sweeping flotsam and jetsam from a desktop, Henare Te Ua would sweep the formalities of the opening theme for his weekly programme Whenua on National Radio aside and launch into an hour of korero on matters Maori.

The veteran broadcaster, who died yesterday, was best-known for Whenua which ran for 7½ years on National Radio, with co-host Libby Hakaraia and, latterly, Alma Ma Ua.


ANZAC Day 2007

Wednesday, April 25th, 2007

The perversity of the weather usually makes an early start to get to a dawn parade on ANZAC Day an uncomfortable one. But this year’s Indian summer has changed that with dry weather in the North Island and the upper two thirds of the South Island encouraging good turnouts for the dawn commemorative services.


A Quacker Week

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

No-one has ever called me Cyclops (at least within my hearing), so I feel confident in saying that Wellington is a cracker place in which to live, knowing how impartial my judgement can be in such matters. Steep house-clad hills snuggled around a stunningly beautiful harbour, a compact city centre, good public transport, a vibrant arts scene, an active social lifestyle of pubs and cafes, a melting pot of people from all over the planet … the list goes on.

We even have nice weather … sometimes.


Two Moments in Time

Wednesday, August 30th, 2006

Last Monday’s funeral for Te Arikinui Dame Te Atairangikaahu was one of those moments in time that make some of us focus on the passage of something we should have paid more attention to.


The Naming of Tolaga Bay

Sunday, August 27th, 2006

The town of Tolaga Bay on the North Island’s eastern coast, north of Gisborne, is well-known as the home of a marvel of early 20th century engineering – its lengthy wharf.

Tolaga, as it is known to locals, is also unusual in another respect – its name.


Success is a Cleft Stick

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2006

Many people presume that a company that has its name enter into common usage would think that it had died and gone to heaven.

To a certain extent this is true, as brand recognition is a key component of advertising and promotional campaigns. However, there is a point at which common use of a company’s name can be come a liability.


Sea-change for Scientists

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

The recent public announcement that Mt Taranaki (Egmont) is expected to erupt within the next 50 years marks a sea-change for New Zealand’s geological scientists.

The announcement was made following a symposium at Massey University in Palmerston North where scientists discussed the effects that such an eruption would have on infrastructure and the economy. Mark Bebbington, of the Institute of Information Sciences and Technology at Massey’s Palmerston North campus, was specific in making the projection based on the volcano’s eruptive history.


ANZAC Day 2006

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

Though uncomfortable, it somehow seems fitting that the one day we set aside for remembering the work of our servicemen and women falls during autumn. ANZAC Day is often wet and windy and attendance at the dawn services around the country usually means wrapping up against the weather.

Early reports are that attendances are again up this year, with an estimated 3,000 turning up at the cenotaph in Wanganui.


Summer at McRae Baths

Wednesday, December 28th, 2005

Another summer holiday excursion in the 60s was a trip to the McRae Baths in Gisborne. Situated on the banks of the of the Waimata River, near its junction with the Taruheru, the complex was a popular holiday destination for kids.

The main pool, which was 100 feet by 36 feet, was opened on the 4th of April 1931, following several years of lobbying and fundraising. The £1800 which had been raised was handed over to local authorities in 1930, at a time when there was considerable unemployment in the depression-hit town. This enabled the work to be carried out as state-subsidised relief work, with the RSA providing additional financial support.

The site had been gifted by Alexander McRae but he never saw the completed work as he died in 1925 at the age of 95. The McRae Baths were superseded by the olympic pool complex in the 1970s and the site is now known as Gisborne Marina.

Being the only sinker in a family of water rats, I spent a lot of time at what we called “The Crayfish Baths” in all weathers and all seasons. Highlight of the night-time meetings of the Swimming Club was the lip-smacking sweet cocoa dispensed (by St John’s?) from the caravan parked at the entrance.

In summer, it was baking hot sitting or lying on the stepped concrete terraces to left and right of the main entrance. A better location was over on the wooden grandstand which backed onto the river bank. Refreshing breezes (on summer days) passed through the structure, as swimmers cavorted or competed below us in the main pool.

A special treat was an ice cold bottle of Coca-Cola (forbidden fruit) purchased from the harassed attendant in the ticket office, if our parents weren’t with us. These attendants were responsible for selling entrance tickets, rescuing drowning swimmers, selling drinks and ice creams and policing the big black NO RUNNING signs that graced the blue-green changing shed walls. A quick “fweeet” of that whistle would cause people to freeze and silence to descend as an offence was swiftly dealt with.

Leaving the pool, we’d hobble across the hot sharp stones of Vogel Street, and perhaps pause to look at the ROAD CLOSED signs nailed across the entry to the William Pettie Bridge. This old wooden bridge had been condemned for years, and the big 1966 earthquake probably was its death-knell. It would be several more years before it was replaced by the graceful curves of a new concrete road bridge, sometime in the 70s (or was it the 80s?)

On the way home, we’d walk bare-footed on the molten tar footpaths of Ormond Road. On an extra hot summer day, having walked past the glass-walled lube bay of “The Service Station with Merritt” hoping to see a mechanic down in the deep pit, we would pause at another of Gisborne’s little oddities. There would sometimes be a small hastily fenced area in the middle of Ormond Road as it began its gentle uphill climb. Poking through the tarmac would be a remnant of Gisborne’s past – the tramlines. Buried under successive layers of asphalt over the years, they would poke their heads up on a hot day as they expanded on the northern side of the Fitzherbert Street points.

For most of my time in Gisborne, the tramlines were our barometer for a hot summer. If they appeared like some subterranean augur, then it was hot, and would be remarked upon in The Gisborne Herald. Old-timers would suck their teeth and remark that they hadn’t seen “The Tramlines” since the summer of fifty-eight, or somesuch date.

If we had a sixpence or two left, we’d buy ice creams at Hamilton’s Dairy before swinging around the corner and heading home. Even then we were loyal shoppers, favouring “our” dairy over the one at MacLean Street.

[some data from J.A. MacKay, “Historic Poverty Bay and the East Coast, N.I., N.Z.”]

Life’s a Beach

Monday, December 26th, 2005

In my earlier days, before I got my first bike, I tended to be tail-end-charlie in the excursions of my older brothers and sisters during the summer school holidays.

One popular trip was the walk to the beach, across the clanking “Billie Goat’s Gruff Bridge” at Derby Street, stopping to select honeysuckle flowers to suck on the way. They always told me that the yellow ones were poisonous, but the white ones were OK. Knowing my siblings, this was probably because the yellow flowers had sweeter nectar and, as there were only a couple of thousand of them available, they had to be protected from my predations. To this day, I still don’t know whether they were joshing me.

If we had time, we’d make sure no-one was coming and furtively climb over the side of the bridge and underneath it. The bank was steep but navigable, and we could hide in secret as people walked or rode their bikes overhead. The bridge was an ancient wooden structure, decked with huge wooden planks that had started to bow with age. As a cycle rider approached, the timbers would resonate, and the planks rattled for several seconds after they’d biked past. The curious “wap-wap-wap” sound combined with metallic rattling and squeaking of old iron nails is something I remember to this day.

Cables, water pipes and the gas main for much of Whataupoko were slung on the sides of the bridge. The gas main hissed noisily as its volatile contents passed through, and the massive bolted joints were a thing of curiosity. Women in high heels had to literally tip-toe across the bridge for fear of losing a heel in the open knot holes or the gaps between the planks. The river always looked mysterious when peered directly down on through one of those open knot-holes.

Leaving our secret lair, we’d clamber back onto the bridge and head up Derby Street, passing the gas works with its coal sorter going “shuff-shuff-shuff” and call in for something less healthy than honeysuckle at the Little Wonder Dairy. The shop was a small room on the streetfront of a house, crammed with all sorts of wonderful goodies sitting on the (to me) tall counter or hung on trellis on the walls or stacked on the shelves behind the shopkeeper. We were “known” to the various shopowners over the years, but the only one whose name I can recall was Mister Visser, a kindly Austrian chap.

From the dairy, our trek would take us up the hill to Gladstone Road past the gasometers. There were two – one red the other silver. I used to marvel that something so big could grow and shrink from visit to visit depending on how much gas was in storage. From here, we had a choice. Straight ahead led to my grandmother’s place, left led us past the town clock to another turn into Grey Street and down to the beach.

On the beach trip, another feature would attract our attention, the old steam locomotive. A frozen relic of an earlier age, the small loco had been welded to a couple of rails on the footpath near the skating rink. To my eyes at that age, it was HUGE, and it was a struggle to climb up into the cab to look at the remaining brasswork and firebox.

From there it was only a few minutes more, past the railway station, to the hot grey sands of Waikanae Beach. I spent many, many hours at Waikanae in my younger days, both on the beach or in the curious 1950s collection of buildings that stretched from the surf clubhouse to the motor camp.

For a youngster, there were hours of entertainment to be had there. After a paddle in the open paddling pool and an ice cream bought from the kiosk there were the glassed observation rooms to be checked out. These concrete labyrinths afforded a view of the beach, and provided peaceful, sheltered seating for tired elders when us little horrors weren’t in them. But when we were there, they were places of resounding claps, echoing wails, pealing shrieks and other ghostly noises which were amplified to a satisfying degree by the inward curving concrete walls.

On one beach trip, I recall one of my brothers sitting atop the concrete wall of the promenade. He was either pushed from behind or slipped and slid down onto the sand grazing the skin on much of his back. It was vivid red and starting to bleed as he slipped his shirt on and we set off on the long walk back home.

En route, we worried anxiously, and debated back and forth. With scarcely a thought for our brother who might have bled to death on the walk, we worried – Would Mum be so angry that she grounded us for a week, and we couldn’t go back to Waikanae?