Smorgasbord of stories - a taste of Waitakere's oral history

Currently on in the exhibition space on Level 2 of the Waitakere Central Library is an exhibition highlighting some of the stories of West Auckland contained in our collection of oral history recordings.

 If you are interested in exploring any of these stories in more depth these and other recordings can be listened to in the J T Diamond Reading Room at the West Auckland Research Centre

Ref: Picnic in Henderson, 1932, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries.

A menu of sound

Welcome to our smorgasbord.  As the name suggests we have a table ready for tasting – a feast to fit all palettes.

Our feast starts with an appetiser, two slices from an interview with Mrs Elizabeth Baillie (nee Malam).
Elizabeth Baillie was born in 1869 and came to the Te Atatu (now Glendene) area in 1879 when she was ten years old. Recorded by a grandson in 1961, this is the oldest interview in the collection and gives insight into life in the late 1800s.
In the first section, Mrs Baillie explains how she and other members of her family would travel to Auckland on a day trip in the 1890s. In the second section, Mrs Baillie describes the naming of Te Atatu in 1907.

Ref: Mr and Mrs Higham senior in gig outside house, Huia, 1907, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries.

Track 1      Taking the bus to Auckland

What sort of bus?
A horse bus of course! They hold about twelve or fourteen people comfortably.
And they used to go as far as Avondale did they?
Avondale to Auckland and then they used to come Avondale to New Lynn.

LISTEN - Elizabeth Baillie (1961). WOH-1040.3       Glen Eden Oral History Collection

Ref: Avondale hotel with bus outside (horse), c1910, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries.

Track 2      The naming of Te Atatu (formerly Henderson Point)

What was the place know as in those days? It wasn’t called Te Atatu then was it?
It was Henderson Point – they called it.
It was Te Atatu. We had to send it away and get the name to Wellington and get it all fixed up.

LISTEN - Elizabeth Baillie (1961). WOH-1040.3       Glen Eden Oral History Project.

Ref: Te Atatu from Luckens Road, 1967, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries.

Track 3      Be Prepared…

Many of you will be familiar with the Scouts motto ‘do a good deed every day’. Bill Beveridge, formerly Chief Ranger Waitakere Regional Park, tells an explosive story of three boy scouts and their good deed.

Track 4      Huia Dam Loco

Ray Allen worked at a quarry providing rock for the Upper Huia Dam in the 1920s, working on a rotating shift of six days. During this time he lived in the Huia Work Camp, walking out to visit his family at Oratia every two weeks. A great story teller, this locomotive yarn illustrates Ray’s sense of humour.

Ref: Railway engine, 1927, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries.

Track 5      Working in the winery

Helena Ataya (b.1911) and her brother Najib Corban (b.1909) were recorded in 2003. In these extracts both Helena and Najib reflect on their childhood. In the first slice, you will hear Helena describing bottling wine at the family winery.

Then we used to do the labelling by hand. That was before they had a labelling machine, and we had to make sure that the labels were dry before we wrapped the bottles again in crepe paper so that the labels would be clean. Then we would have to pack those bottles in a straw covering and pack them into a twelve container box. And those boxes weighed 56lbs. And when I used to work in the business in the sales part of it, I used to lift those boxes five high! I used to swing them up quiet easily – I had good muscles (laughs).

Ref: K.A. Corban, Preparing wine bottles, Mt Lebanon vineyards, c1930, Private Collection.

Helena’s brother Najib Corban talks about catching sprats in the Henderson Creek.

Track 6      Fishing in Henderson Creek

We used to… catch sprats down on the Henderson Creek there below the sale yard. There was a pool there, still there today. We used to swim in that. And the sprats used to come right up to there, kahawai, sometime kingfish would come up. And we used to, Annise [sister], and the doctor brother, he was studying, he used to wake up in the morning about 3 o’clock and we’d all go down and fish the morning, go down and put a net across and catch sprats, Plenty of sprats for the family.

Ref: K.A. Corban, Catching sprats, c1920, Private Collection.

The oral history collection contains many stories of fishing – and in particular references to the many creeks in the area. Here are three more fish stories.
Owen Freeman (b.1932) recalls boyhood eeling adventures.

Track 7      Eel fishing

But our greatest love of course was eel and trout fishing. And through the farm ran two streams which were a great source of interest to us – interest and fun and hours of fishing - eel fishing. We never ever ate the eels; we sometimes cooked them but we never ate them because they smelt so horrible. But they were slimy things. But some of the eels were enormous!

LISTEN - Owen Freeman (2002). WOH-1024-1 Ranui Action Project Oral History Collection

Track 8      There was always plenty of fish

What sort of fish did they catch?
Mainly snapper – snapper – and you could go scalloping and all that sort of thing. And floundering. They used to put a flounder net across the creek – across the muddy creek. I don’t know that you are allowed to do that now days. Mind you the snapper is a bit hard to find I think – particularly with the sewage ponds – which have gone now, but over at Mangere – they polluted the harbour and even our beach down here. It was pretty terrible. When the tide went out there wasn’t anything in the little pools. It was just terrible – when the pollution came.

Ref: Rocks, westside of Puponga, 1957, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries.

Track 9      The fish van

Mrs Gossleman used to park her little van outside Lopdell House and she sold the most beautiful fish – and how the poor lady sat in the van with everything on ice… it must have been freezing! And this lady used to dress up. And she used to sell this roughy – orange roughy – and it was just wonderful, it really was, to be able to buy your fish there, because the fish shop had long gone.

Track 10    Flight at Muriwai
Essie Chapman was teaching at Muriwai Beach in the 1930s. The romance of flight was rippling throughout the world. Pioneer aviators Kingsford Smith and Charles Ulm had recently made the first trans-Tasman crossing in their plane. At this particular time Charles Ulm was travelling New Zealand offering joy rides in his plane ‘Faith in Australia’.  Listen to Mabel telling the story of Charles Ulm on Muriwai Beach.

Ref: Aircraft on Muriwai Beach, 1934, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries, MURI-P.

Ref: Aircraft on Muriwai Beach, 1934, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries, MURI-P.

Track 11    Grandpa’s Pie Party

Dorothy and Roy Butler purchased and renovated Winchelsea House in Karekare, making it a family haven. Warm and welcoming, the large front lawn has seen many a frolicky group as Roy and Dorothy brought family and friends together. Listen to Dorothy describing Grandpa’s Pie Party.

Track 12    Tui Glen canoes

Waitakere during WWII, when New Zealand was a destination for American armed forces who were seeking rest and relaxation. Many interviews recall this time of dances and socials. Murray Becroft (b.1929) shares his memories of Americans visiting Tui Glen. This interview was a ‘walk and talk’ - background sound of wind and traffic can be heard.
The Tui Glen Landing – now, there used to be canoes and dinghies and what-have-you on the creek here - then let out by Mr Brooks. And then of course in 1942 or thereabouts, the Americans came here.  It was a favourite picnic place.  They used to come out here with their girls, hire the canoes and dinghies, go down the creek, go up on the bank.  Now of course those young fellas was on the Creek, 10, 11 and 12 and so on … and we used to find these canoes on the bank and we used to gently pull them out into the creek, row further down letting them all off and pick them all up as we came back again and come up back up here and get a shilling each for them.

Track 13    The Orchard

During his walking tour Murray Becroft described the area in which he grew up and his job of protecting the orchard.

The orchard being handy to Tui Glen – we used to have a lot of stealing – a lot of raiding on the orchard. My father gave me a 22 with blank cartridges and my job was to patrol the orchard with these blank cartridges.

Ref: Baby Austin car, 1930, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries.

Track 14    Childhood summers

John Munro (b.1938) brings us our last taste sensation for this smorgasbord, with this delightful childhood memory

When I drive through there now and see all the houses on either side of the road – gosh, I can remember standing there on the intersection of Ranui Station Road and Swanson Road on a Sunday, there’d be no traffic at all. Even during the week there’d be very little traffic, there’d be no traffic at all, but it would be so quiet on a hot sunny day that all you could hear would be in the distance would be Rupert Cook’s cows lowing and you could hear the cracking of the pine cones as the hot sun burst them open and all the seeds would come down. That would be the only sound that you could hear and just the crinkle of the grass, the long grass in the sun. It used to be so isolated; it was quite a tranquil place in those days and I can see why they called it Ranui because Ranui, from the Maori, is “plenty of sun”.

LISTEN - John Munro (2002). WOH-1024.2.       Ranui Action Project Oral History Collection 

Ref: Munro family home, c1950, John Munro Private Collection.

Author: Liz Bradley, West Auckland Research Centre