The picture was taken in 1952, when I was 10, and shows my sister (Lynne), my mother (Nell) and me (Grandad Dale). But let me tell you about some of my cycling adventures.
Lots of children had bikes in 1952. This was partly because we lived in a country town and partly because parents didn’t chauffeur children around everywhere in those days, like many parents do today. You either used your bike or you went by shanks’s pony.
I remember getting a “new” bike for my tenth birthday. Well, it was nearly new and quite expensive. It cost 12 pounds and 6 shillings, which would probably be worth several hundred dollars nowadays. And, not only was it nearly new, it had gears!!! (In those days, many bikes didn’t have any gears at all, and those that did had only three.)
Me and my mates used to go on long bike rides out on country roads. I remember coming a cropper on one of those trips. On that day we rode from Maungaturoroto to Whakapirau Road, up Ford Road to the Paparoa road, then back home (about 20km for the round trip, much of it on gravel roads). We were haring down Whakapirau Road (see the picture), trying to get up plenty of speed for the hard pull up Ford Road, and I missed the right turn. Just going too fast, I suppose. Anyway, I ended up going a few more metres down Whakapirau Road before ending up in the little creek between the two roads.
Very embarrassing. But, to be fair to myself, remember that both of these roads were covered in heavy gravel in those days (not many country roads were tar sealed). It was very difficult turning to right or left because you got stuck in the “ruts” that formed from constant use.
My shortest ride to ignominy was going flat tack down the main road in Maungaturoto (now called Hurndall Street) towards the dairy factory. We’d only got 500 metres down the hill when my mate’s front wheel clipped my back wheel and over I went. Tar seal, this time, so I was a mess of bruises and grazes. No helmets, in those days, and I was riding in a short‑sleeved shirt, shorts, and bare feet. So we trudged back up to dad’s chemist shop and he patched me up. I don’t remember, but I’m sure he said something reassuring like “stupid boy”.
The longest trip we did was along Gorge Road to the Waipu side of the Brynderwyn Hill, up and over the hill, then back to Maungaturoto. The ride was more than 30km long, the gorge road was very heavy gravel and seriously rough and rutted, and the Brynderwyn is 450 metres high (about the same as the Rimutaka Hill near Wellington). It sure was a big trip for us boys. (I wonder if we told mum where we were going that day? Parents didn’t keep such a tight rein on their kids in those days.)
And then there was the great no‑pedalling challenge of 1952!!! My friend Robin Hargraves and I had noticed that it was downhill pretty much all the way from the Maungaturoto township to the railway station 3km away, so we invented this great game. The idea was to start at the top of that small hill in the picture (in the distance, on Gorge Road). The rules were that you were allowed to pedal down the hill as fast as you could, do a right turn into Hurndall St, but once you turned the corner you weren’t allowed to pedal anymore. The idea was to try and coast all the way down to the railway station, so the faster you pedalled down the hill the more chance you had.
Of course, this was an unbelievably stupid thing to do. There used to be a building on the corner (where there’s a parking area now), so when we did the right hand turn we had no possible way of knowing whether there was any traffic coming. Now, there wasn’t nearly as much traffic in those days, but even so, this was possibly the most stupid thing I ever did as a kid.
By the way, we never made it all the way to the railway station, but we had a hell of a good time trying.
(PS: Many thanks to the wonderful Google Maps, for the graphics.)