Every summer, our family spent a month holidaying at nearby Waipu Cove.
The Cove was a terrific place for us children. It’s a great swimming beach (if you like surf) with beautiful golden sand. In one direction, it sweeps away in a great curve towards the majestic Whangarei Heads (which you can see in the photo on the right).
In the other direction, there are rocks to fish from and farmland to walk over and, on the beach itself, there’s surfing and sunbathing and digging for pipis at low tide.
Out to sea are the “Hen and Chicken” islands, consisting of one large island (the “hen”) with several small islands to the left (the “chickens”), and there’s also Sail Island (which looks exactly like a yacht’s sail)
The beach was so popular that mostly the same families would return each year, so each holiday we’d meet up again with lots of really good “once a year” friends.
It was magic.
At one end of the beach, a little river comes down to meet the sea (see the picture on the right). It’s very shallow and gentle and really good for little kids to paddle in.
In the other direction, a kilometre or two along the beach, there’s “the Gap”, where in some ancient time the sea broke through the sand dunes and where we’d have great fun jumping down the huge sand-cliffs (well, they seemed huge when we were young)!
And, near the Gap, there’s a large lagoon where you could gather cockles (often called clams nowadays) and where we sometimes fished for flatfish (using a stick with a short piece of fencing wire stapled on to make a “spear”).
Most people camped in tents or caravans, but there was a row of six concrete units near Mr Wrigley’s shop (now the Cove Café) and we rented the one on the end each year. The units have been long since demolished, and it’s a small carpark now.
The bach was very small. The larger of the two rooms was just big enough to hold two bunks (for Mum and Dad), plus a table and chairs, and the second room was tiny. It contained two small bunks (for me and my sister Lynne), a basin, and a tiny little electric cooker with two hotplates. When my older brother Max was there he had to sleep in a tent in the camping ground.
The photo on the right was taken in 1959 and shows my girlfriend Carol Griffin (in front), my sister Lynne, and a young friend Bryce Beeston, on the steps of the bach.
One of my memories of the bach involves Pat McMinn, a famous New Zealand pop singer of the time. She was visiting the Cove and Mum and Dad held a party for her in our tiny bach.
My sister Lynne and I were meant to be asleep in the back room, but Pat saw us poke our heads around the corner and asked if we’d like her to sing something. We were thrilled, of course, and she sang “Opo the friendly dolphin” for us.
“Opo” was a very friendly dolphin who had captured the public’s imagination up in Opononi, in the far north. He even allowed children to ride on his back!!!
Read about Opo here and listen to Pat McMinn sing the song here. By the way, at the start of the music clip you may notice that there’s a poster saying “Opo the gay dolphin”. In those days the word “gay” meant “happy”, so (in today’s language) the sign actually means “Opo the happy dolphin”.
Another of my memories of the bach involves eggs. During the 1950s, at least in rural areas, you usually bought eggs directly from someone who kept chickens (a farmer or a friend). Because the chickens weren’t kept in cages on a very controlled diet, there was much greater variety in the eggs, and sometimes you’d get a “double yoker” (an egg with two yokes).
One day Dad was cooking bacon-and-eggs in the bach and he said he was sure he’d find a double-yoker because the eggs were so large. His theory was that the bigger the egg was the more likely it would be a double-yoker.
So, he picked out the largest one and broke it into the frying pan, only to be disappointed to find that it had a single yoke. But, undeterred, he picked out the next largest one and this time it was indeed a double-yoker. Finally he picked out the third biggest egg and, lo-and-behold, this one was a triple yoker!!!
Of such trifles are memories made.