Memories of Living in Maungarei Road
by Eileen Shapley (nee Hollett).
I guess the Hollett family could be considered to be one of the pioneers of Maungarei Road. Our parents, Harry and Laura Hollett (although they were very seldom called by their Christian names in those days, were they) – were born in England – Dad in Kent and Mum in Wimbledon, London. Dad came out to New Zealand to “seek his fortune” in 1917 and had hardly established himself in this quest when the Great War broke out and he enlisted and therefore was in the New Zealand forces. He was engaged to marry Mother prior to coming so they had a pretty long wait till after the war before they could be married and be transported out to NZ by troop carrier. I well remember Mum telling us that even though there were several war brides on the ship the men were separated in one part of the ship and the women in another. Some honeymoon!!
It must have been early in 1924 when they bought the section at no. 4 Maungarei Road and mother used to love to relate how, when I was three days old in October of that year, and the third of her brood to be born, Dad visited her and with a gleam in his eye told her that the timber was on the section and the building the homestead about to commence. We moved in when I was three months old and as it remained our family home till Mum died at 92 in 1978, you can well imagine how deeply rooted our affection for the place has always been.
I think my earliest memory of living there is playing with Joan Attwood when we were pre-schoolers – usually Mrs. Attwood brought her along to our place. Joan was always a beautiful brown-eyed child, with particularly rosy cheeks and I believe there was a day when my mother accused Joan’s mother of having her out when she was running a high temperature! Joan features very much in my recollections of my childhood – we were close friends then and continued to be, through all manner of growing-up experiences – until she very sadly died in 1979. Her funeral was held on her birthday – October 29th. I thought, in my grief, how typical of Joan to round things off so neatly!
My brother Fred, Joan and I played continuously together at weekends, after school, and in school holidays. I recall how we would hoist an old flag on to the clothesline post when our chores were done and Joan, looking from her back porch further down Koraha Street would know it was time to come to play. My brother had an old pedal car and to the back of that we would tie one of those wonderfully playthings that boys had in those days – a cart which was merely an old fruit case with a shaft along either side and two old pram wheels attached. The shafts slid along the sides of the car and were secured by a piece of rope and with one of us on the bonnet of the car, one riding in the seat and steering and the third sitting in the cart we’d roar down the sloping path of our house and swoop on down over the back lawn, very often landing in a heap on the flower beds. It wasn’t till I became the proud owner of a carefully tended garden that I realised how very patient our wonderful Dad was – turning a blind eye to the absolute dirt track we reduced his lovely green lawn to! But that was our Dad – never a word of complaint.
The Maxwell family’s house edged on to the bottom of our garden but as their children were in an older age group I didn’t have much contact but oh dear, I do remember how Victor would sit out on their front porch and play his mouth organ! I loved it and consequently whenever I was asked at Christmas and birthdays what I wanted for a present it was always the same – a mouth organ. I think I got through dozens! “Home on the Range” I remember being played a lot – also “Red Sails in the Sunset”.
Marie Hookham comes to mind as I recall childhood days. Joan and she and I spent many hours blackberrying down on the old St. John’s Lake site – I can will smell that must smell of boggy stagnant muddy water that we used to wade through to gather those extra choice berries, but on the shame and disgust on my part when Joan would often eat all her booty on the way home! I suppose I was a bit scared of what Mum would say if I did that, so I always proudly took mine home to be made into blackberry and apple jelly.
School holiday times were never boring – on reflection anyway. And yet really we didn’t go out very much. Perhaps a day in town, but this very often included a visit to the “Dental Hospital” which was the training school for dentist in Kitchener Street – up near the Magistrates Court just below Albert Park. These were depression times of course and lower incomed people were able to take their children there free of charge – to be practised on I suppose!! We hated it and I can still feel the squirms deep down in my stomach when I walk in that area of town, believe it or not! But then, joy of joys, to make up for the pain we were taken by our dear Mum to Farmers where, after a play on the rooftop play area, we were allowed to go to the cafeteria and choose two or three yummies for lunch. We really did fancy ourselves then. We must have made a real day of it because I recall how, on turning the corner into Maungarei Road from Koraha street after climbing the hill from the tram, there’d be a hoot of delight if we found the chimney smoking at No. 4, indicating that dear Dad had got home first and had the coal range alight and ready for action. Hear-warming thoughts indeed.
Summer holidays would bring visits to Mission Bay and oh what days they were! On the public holidays – Boxing Day, New Years Day and the day after, were the best because Dad could come with us. Mountains of sandwiches were cut early in the morning – a joint effort by Mum and Dad and often a special treat of salmon fillings. These were packed into an old school case, togs were rolled up in the old “bush rug” which served as a picnic rug to sit on when we got there (or rather for our parents to sit on – we did very little “sitting”, with the sea there for swimming and the rocks for walking round. The Keys Buses conveniently ran along Remuera Road and on to Mission Bay and I do declare we’d be down there waiting for the first one to come – around 8.30 or 9am. There was no such concern then for harmful rays of the sun shining through the disturbed ozone layer and as we leaped into our togs as soon as we arrived and didn’t get dressed again till it was bus time, I can recall having some pretty dreadful doses of sunburn. In fairness to Mum I do know she would smother us in coconut oil (pooh!) but I don’t think it did us any good because we still got burned. But we didn’t grizzle – the day at the beach was well worth the agony. It is only now – when I consider those heavenly outings – that I realize that the sun always seemed to shine for us – or do we only recall the favourable things??
The tradesmen seemed to feature prominently in our lives – no doubt due to the comparatively small world we lived in then. Hellabys butcher boy who drove a very small white Austin van. A handsome brown-eyed Scottish lad he was and even at that tender age I somehow knew that there was something about him! I remember the day Peter Morton who was only about four years old and lived on the crest of the hill in Maungarei Road (the house was later bought by the Griffiths) climbed into the van while the meat was being delivered to one of the houses, released the brake and off he sped down the hill and finally crashed into a power pole. We were all so shocked at his devilment! We were so law abiding – very uninteresting! Mr. Gregory was the baker and he delivered bread every weekday with a very large basket over his arm. Mum very often would have the kettle boiling and give him a cup of tea and a plate of sandwiches which I gather he called his lunch. In today’s world with its supermarkets and consequent comparative impersonal attention it’s hard to believe that in our childhood we had a man who delivered butter, another honey – not to mention the milkman who lift the milk on the back doorstep, having measured it out with a pint measure into our billy, from his milk can. And there was the man on horseback who tossed the Herald on to the front veranda every morning. I can still hear that resounding thump as it landed on we’d have a race to see who could get it first to take to Dad.
We must have been a tough breed – getting to school all through the winter, regardless of teeming rain, thick frost, biting wind, seemed no problem. But I did used to hate those wiggly worms in the puddles on the footpaths and I remember Joan and I going to all lengths to avoid stepping on them. But come very wet rainy days, there was one person who would make all the difference to our homeward journey and that was Mr. Fountain who, I suppose because he was self-employed and also one of the very few parents who owned a car, would arrive at the school gates and pack countless kids from Koraha Street and Maungarei Road into his canvas roofed Chev (I think it was) and those days we’d get home warm and dry.
The Fountain’s kindness also featured a lot in my young life because of those wonderful birthday parties they put on for their girls. Joyce was my contemporary so I suppose it was to hers that I went and I can still see that table in the sun porch spread with delicious iced cakes and delectable treats. And the swing in the back yard took us to heights unheard of! I’m sure the seat was made in the shape of an aeroplane and Mr Fountain would give us gigantic heaves and we’d swing out over the sloping garden and feel we were taking off into the wild blue yonder. I gather that would happen before we’d consumed the goodies on the table! As the Holletts didn’t have the resources to celebrate birthdays so lavishly and were unable to reciprocate, I think it was pretty grand of them to include me so regularly. But hearts were big in those depression days. Another venue for birthday parties I recall with nostalgia was the Cowan’s place. More scrumptious food and fun party games.
Very early in our childhood we children were introduced to the Baptist Sunday School. This happened through a person called Edna Patterson – one of a family who lived further down Maungarei Road. She I believe used to be a teacher in the Sunday School and, knowing there was a family of four children in our house, she called to see if she could take us along each Sunday, and that was the beginning of a very long association with the church which probably had a very far reaching affect on our lives. I think one of the most exciting events that we as children were involved in was when as a fund raising venture, the church produced the operetta “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. The Hollett crew were all involved – Vera as the Wicked Queen, Ivy and I as ‘flowers’ in the chorus and Fred as one of the seven dwarfs. A real highlight in our somewhat humble lives. Mum was a very basic dressmaker and being confronted with the prospect of sewing four costumes was pretty horrifying. Dear Mrs. Ingham came to the rescue and with her wonderful dressmaking expertise she produced both Ivy’s and my outfits – possibly Fred’s as well, I’m not sure about that. But I do recall our Dad making Vera a very beautiful golden crown (painted cardboard) with the appropriate large jewel in the centre front. That was made from one of our old broken red glass necklace clustered together into a circle. I recall that it was such a success (held in the Remuera Library Hall) that we had to put it on a second time. At the drop of a hat Vera can still burst into singing one of the songs she had as a solo! And so we grew up in this healthy happy environment. Not much in the way of material wealth but we were always well fed, well clothed and well loved. Would that all children today could be blessed with such a stable home.