All in the family – My nana tells a good story too!

My Nana is a rockstar. She’s a legend. The kind of legend who cares continousoly, loves relentlessly, and says exactly what is on her mind, 100% of the time. She’s the best. I found out recently that one of her stories placed in a historical category for a New Zealand competition. Bare in mind that she turned 90 last year! I’m super proud to feature her work here 😍 If you are from New Zealand, and the Rotorua area, you’ll find this particularly cute and fascinating.

Rotorua Recollections by Eileen Shapley — a 2012 Memoir and Local History Competition entry

My family’s association with Rotorua actually goes back to a period following the First World War. My father travelled to New Zealand in 1913 with a dream of making his fortune in horticulture. He had been a head gardener in one of the stately homes on the outskirts of London.

When war broke out he enlisted in the New Zealand forces and was captured in France, spending two years in a prisoner of war camp. On his return to New Zealand he was one of a gang of returned servicemen who, for some strange reason, were put to work forming the road up Pukeroa Hill to what was then the beginnings of the present day hospital.

Distances being what they were in the 1920s, together with the effects of the Depression, it was not until I married in 1955 and became a resident of Rotorua that he returned on a visit to the town.

That was the time my husband David and I bought a small house in Otonga Road. Yes, small indeed, but how I loved it! Over the years we added on at the front and back and only sold and moved away from the area two years ago.

The garden was over one-quarter of an acre and, following in my father’s footsteps, I soon enjoyed being able to spend hour after hour keeping it in order. No ways was I going out to work! After a career in nursing with rostered duties I was more than content to be a kept woman.

The only interruption in my day was the return of David for lunch from the Waipa Sawmill, where he was at that stage a maintenance fitter. I smile now as I recall my acceptance of the role of submissive wife. In my eagerness to please my hardworking breadwinner I would always hasten to open the wrought iron gates when he was due to arrive. Yes, I am talking about Otonga Road!

The farm across the road belonged to a Mr Jackson, a previous mayor of the town, but it was leased by a Mr Claude Parkinson and his wife Feather. The elderly couple took a great interest in us as newly-weds, and we became the grateful recipients of bunches of flowers and vegetables from their garden.

Later, when we became the proud parents of our first daughter, they delighted in giving us daily a preserving jar of rich creamy milk from their Jersey cow. I would skim off the cream to accompany our dessert every day. There was no such thing as cholesterol in the 1950s.

Claude and Feather were oh so English, and had come from Hampshire between the two world wars. I remember it was said they were ‘more English than the English.’ Thin bread and butter served on a tea trolley from a silver tea service every afternoon on the dot of 3pm. All this from a humble small cottage.

Claude was a keen horseman and to me, moving to Rotorua from the city of Auckland, the sight and sound off his going off to the local hunt on Saturdays, appropriately rigged out in hard hat, riding breeches, boots and riding crop right in front of our dwelling was a sight not to be missed. So very rural and proper.

The road frontage was exactly how nature made it. No footpath, and I recall saying to David one day that it was time the council did something about the wild broom that was growing profusely along the front of our hedge. What a blow when a few days later the mail brought a stern letter from the council demanding that we remove the noxious weeds from our road frontage. We obeyed, but wondered where our rates went.

The farm across the road provided another ‘goodie.’ David and I would sneak out under cover of darkness carrying buckets and shovel and help ourselves to cow manure for our garden. I’m sure we would have been given permission if we asked, but isn’t it so much better to imagine something as forbidden fruit?

My transport to town was an ancient cycle and I would bounce from corrugation to corrugation on the rough pumice road, hoping that one of the few vehicles that used the road would not pass me and shower me with dust, as I was travelling to town in reasonable clothing to pay that month’s mortgage money. The vehicles were so few and far between that I could recognise them by their motors – the Wychwood Nurseries truck or Dick Spurdle’s motor car.

The rough road was no big worry until things charged and I had a smart cream Plunket pram to push over the ruts. My beautiful baby AND beautiful pram surely deserved better treatment.

When David and I were first considering buying the council that the farm across the road was designated for a school, but we scoffed, thinking that would be many years ahead. Where would the children come from?

Springfield Road, then known as Horahora Road, was flanked with thriving blackberry bushes and the Utahina stream flowed gently across it. Pukehangi Road was unheard of. The houses along the length of Otonga Road could be counted on two hands. The corner shops that came later were then non-existent.

The only use for that area was a stand of rough letter boxes for the mail that the postie delivered to the few locals at the end of his run into the country.

Things changed rapidly. While our girls were still infants the bulldozers moved in. The farm was there no longer and so Otonga School was born. Later the road was reconstructed, footpaths laid down and sealing done. We were told this was a complicated job because Otonga Road was never surveyed as a road – it was merely a track leading up to the Ngati Whakaue Farm on the hills at the top.

A road it surely is now and such a busy road, with school traffic causing bottlenecks twice a day. Subdivisions have been formed, houses built and Springfield suburb is a flourishing, popular area and much desired as real estate.

The area is lovely indeed, and pleasant; but I loved it the way I knew it sixty years ago.


I hope you enjoyed something a little different this time!

With love and darkness until next time,  J R Manawa x

That moment when you surprise your Nana after three and a half years away from home

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