Archive for category 1957

Great Barrier Island

Great Barrier Island --- map showing AucklandIn 1957 (when Grandad Dale was 15), I spent a wonderful week on Great Barrier Island staying with my boarding school mate David “Coop” Cooper.

It’s called Great Barrier Island because it protects the Hauraki Gulf (and Auckland Harbour) from the sometimes stormy Pacific Ocean.  Nowadays it’s a popular tourist destination, but in 1957 there were far fewer visitors and not many residents at all.


In those days you travelled to “the Barrier” on a small ship, leaving from Leigh (near Warkworth).

The trip out to the island was so very exciting.  It was at night and I can still remember looking over the ship’s bow and seeing dolphins diving in and out of the water as they raced alongside us.  It was all the more exciting because the dolphins glowed with phosphorescence, which you can see an example of in this short video:  Phosphorescence is caused by plankton in the water.

Here is an interesting article about interactions between humans and dolphins in New Zealand:


Great Barrier Island --- Port FitzroyThe Coopers lived in Port Fitzroy, in the northwest of the island (in the house marked “Glenfern Sanctuary Accommodation” in the picture).  It was their home, a boarding house, and the local post office.  Mrs Cooper was the postmistress and Mr Cooper ran a “store” across the inlet (where it says “Port Fitzroy”).

It was such a beautiful place with bush clad hills and very still waters.  The only buildings I remember were their home and the store.  The store was on the wharf;  just a huge shed, really, full of provisions to sell to the locals.  I don’t remember any other houses in the inlet.


Each day Coop and I spent hours rowing a dinghy around the inlet.  We had the whole place to ourselves, with not another boat in sight.  I’m afraid I wasn’t very good at the rowing and kept losing rowlocks (pronounced “rollicks”) over the side.  I don’t think Mr Cooper was very pleased!!!

Some days we got as far as the very small Quoin Island, which is known to the locals as Grave Island (because all that’s on it is old graves).  We never landed on it, because Coop and I were both a bit nervous about ghosts, which is pretty silly really, because there’s no such thing as ghosts, so there was nothing to worry about.

Grandaddy hapukaOne day, friends took us fishing on a launch off nearby Little Barrier Island, and I caught a “granddaddy hapuka” (ugly as, eh)!!!  My one weighed a whopping 12 pounds (over 5kg).  I remember the adults on the boat being hugely impressed, saying it must truly be a “granddaddy” (very old).

We also sometimes went rabbit shooting up in the farmland behind the house.  There seemed to be hundreds of the cute little pests and we’d lie there in the grass having turns at shooting them with a BB gun.  The rabbit stew the next night was delicious!!!


It was my only ever trip to Great Barrier Island and I loved every minute of it.


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Te Atatu

Te Atatu (1950 and 2017)In 1957 we moved from Maungaturoto to Te Atatu (a suburb of Auckland), where Dad took a position selling houses for Neil Housing, one of the first large scale private housing developers in New Zealand.  I was fifteen at the time, and still at boarding school in Whangarei, but went home to Te Atatu during the holidays.

The pictures show how the Te Atatu peninsula has gone from being almost totally farmland in the 1950s to a small city fifty years later.


The ostensible reason for the move was that, at the age of 48, Dad had decided to take a break from the pharmacy business, but I now wonder about this.

I have this memory of him standing in the kitchen at Te Atatu, looking out the window and sadly sighing “I don’t know”.  Mum said “what don’t you know Alf” and he joked his way out of it and we all had a friendly chuckle at his expense.

It’s a bit hard to get over the oddness of that little incident, but at the time I thought “what the hell was that all about”.  I can’t help feeling there was some deep unhappiness involved.


Here is some advice for you.  When you grow up and become an adult, your relationship with your parents will change.  You will start to become friends (as well as being parent/child).

When that happens, remember to have chats with them about “the olden days”.  If you are genuinely interested, and pick the right time, you will learn all sorts of interesting stuff.  You will get a different perspective on your life as a child, which you will cherish when you in turn get old.

But, remember, we all die in the end, and so will your parents, so don’t leave it too late.

As an adult, I had lots of those conversations, particularly with my mother.  (It seems to me that women are the primary guardians of the past.)  Unfortunately, I never thought to ask her why we moved from Maungaturoto to Te Atatu and, now, everyone who knew the answer is gone, so I’ll never know for sure.


Our first house in Te Atatu was at 18 Titoki St, but we later moved to Roberts Road on the other side of the motorway.  The left hand photo below shows the Titoki St house in 2013 (it’s recently been demolished to make room for a motorway off-ramp.  The right hand photos shows my sister Lynne (aged 14 or 15) and Grandad Dale (aged 17), both in front of the Roberts Road house.

Te Atatu houses


Te Atatu is right next to Henderson, one of the first major wine-growing areas in New Zealand, started by immigrants from Dalmatia.  The story of the Dalmatian people’s contribution to winemaking is included in this article:

But wine drinking by the masses was very much in its infancy.  Wine and sherry were often sold in half-gallon flagons (2.3 litres) and the quality wasn’t nearly as good as nowadays.  It wasn’t until the 1980s, when we developed our “grassy” sauvignon blancs, that New Zealand started making internationally acclaimed wines.  The wonderful Te Ara website tells the story here:

While we lived in Te Atatu, Dad also started up a delicatessen business in nearby Henderson (right opposite the railway station).  The product lines were extremely basic by modern standards, but this was another indication that life in New Zealand was becoming slightly more sophisticated.


We lived in Te Atatu for only three years, but I have fond memories of that time, including:

  • My sister Lynne and I strolling down Titoki St on a summer’s evening, listening to the Everly Brothers singing “Wake up little Susie” on a new-fangled transistor radio.
  • Being woken by Mum to be told that I’d passed School Certificate (the equivalent of NCEA level 1). The results were sent by mail in those days (no email or internet or texting), and she had opened my results letter in case her delicate little son was anxious about the results.  She was such a lovely mum.
  • Arriving home for the August holidays with my boarding school mate “Charlie” Tutaka in tow. Charlie was from the Cook Islands and we called him that because his real first name was too difficult to pronounce.  Many years later, when I was an adult, Mum told me that Charlie’s arrival had been a total surprise to her (I’d forgotten to tell her I’d invited him)!!!

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SputnikIn 1957, the USSR (Russia) launched the world’s first artificial satellite, called “Sputnik 1”.  This triggered what became known as “the space race” between the USA and the USSR.

On a fine night, you could see the satellite passing over New Zealand, and I can clearly remember standing just outside the Carruth House assembly hall watching it pass through the sky.  (Carruth House was the hostel I lived in when I was at secondary school.)

From the ground, the satellite looked just like a large star, but it moved across the sky very quickly.  This is a video of a later satellite, but it shows you how fast the Sputnik moved:


GPSIn some ways, the launch of Sputnik 1 also heralded the start of the digital age.  Not only had early digital computers been used in its development, but artificial satellites also made possible (or made more efficient) much of the technology we now take for granted, such as GPS, live coverage of overseas sporting events, and the internet.


Here are some links about Sputnik 1:



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