Friday, 30 January 2015

Walk Down Memory Lane

Please indulge me whilst I take a trip down memory lane…

For one of my morning walks while in Napier, I drove to Park Island (which is in fact now known as Western Hills but will forever be Park Island to me). Park Island was for many years the HB Hospital Board farm on the outskirts of Napier city. Dad managed the farm for over 20 years and my whole childhood (except for the first 2 years) was spent living and growing up on the farm.

The farm had a Jersey dairy herd & pigsty of around 400 pigs. The Jersey cream was sold, the skim milk fed the pigs & supplemented the food waste that came from both the Napier & Hastings hospitals.

Park Island Farm was surrounded by two large farms; the Harbour Board Farm & the Lagoon Farm. Before the 1931 Napier Earthquake most of this land lay 2 metres under seawater and waves lapped the base of Park Island. During the quake thousands of acres of land were lifted out of the sea and this reclaimed land became these two farms. Eventually the Harbour Board Farm and part of the Lagoon farm were taken over by Napier City Council to become the suburb of Tamatea and to supply sports fields for the growing city. The Hospital Board Farm (Park Island) was also acquired and became the new cemetery for Napier called Western Hills. This might seem strange to those that don’t know the area but in fact was a natural move as the two older Napier cemeteries, Park Island & Wharerangi are on small hills of their own, right beside our farm hill. I grew up with these older cemeteries as my playground.

Nowadays there is a walking track that runs right around the outside of ‘our hill’ and the old Park Island Cemetery. It does feel strange walking the track as the memories come flooding back.

I parked in the sports field carpark and climbed up the stairs to the start of the track, this is looking over the fields towards Tamatea. This was the Harbour Board farm once and we used to raid the pea crops that grew along our farm boundary which ran on the edge of the dip below. I still hate raw peas, I ate too many once and was sick.


This old aerial shot of Park Island (c1978) shows how the city was slowly encroaching on the farms. Our farm was the hill and the land in the foreground and the bottom section of the red square. Sports fields and buildings are now well established inside the red area. The green area has only recently turned into residential and is part of Tamatea. The top blue line is now the road into the sports fields and access to the cemeteries. The bottom blue road is now a main arterial route from Taradale into Napier or heading north past the airport. The orange arrow is our house, the yellow the pigsty; the red star the horse paddock and the cowshed is circled in yellow.


This photo is looking towards Taradale, with Sugar Loaf and the Mission Vineyard at the rear right. This sports complex is on our old farm land and has been built across the old Park Island Road. The cowshed is just off to the right. Well it would be if it was still there. It has only just recently been demolished.


Along the track are quite a number of old fruit trees, plums in particular. Nowadays they’re not very tasty but along time ago they tasted just fine to a child’s palate and they also provided a fair amount of pocket money for an entrepreneurial farming family with four kids. We had a novel way of collecting them too if we couldn’t reach the branches- some trees hung over steep banks. Dad would park the Bedford truck under the tree and Mum would lay out some foam squabs across the flatbed to cushion the fall, then someone would climb the tree and shake the hell out of it. Problem solved and more than enough bags of plums to sell.


Back in those days, Sunday was the day the city folk went for a ‘Sunday Drive’ to the countryside or paid a visit to the gravesite of their loved ones. And of course who should be sitting at the bottom of the hill beside the only road that lead into the cemeteries? Yep, us kids! We’d be seated on makeshift chairs behind a table, under a sun umbrella with hand painted signs loudly proclaiming we had bags of plums and bunches of flowers for sale. We used to make a fair amount of money too; who doesn’t need fresh flowers for the grave and sweet plums to eat on the way home?

Some of you may remember this post from awhile ago, Living Memory about a photo I took of Mum holding a photo of a photo of the farm. It explains quite a bit about what was on this farm before the 1931 earthquake and the reason why there were hundreds of fruit trees scattered around the farm; they were left over from an Old Peoples' Home & orchard that came down in the ‘quake. This plateau which now contains the gravesites of many, once had an old barn in the centre- the one shown in that Living Memory post. The track I’m on runs around the gully on the right, the old pear trees and a few plums are still growing there.


I divert off the track for a short distance, climb over the fence and walk up to where the road now sweeps around and up to our old house. The headstones are slowly working their way up to this level. This was the turn around area for the farm vehicles and a large shed was off to the right. That’s me on the right, a friend in the middle and my sister on the left.


The house veranda played a very important role in our lives; it was a play room, a gathering area, a lookout over the farm and one end eventually became Mum’s pottery display area & shop. If only this veranda could talk, it could tell some stories; a lot of parties were held here, this is my fifth birthday party; I’m third from the left. Mum is at the head of the table.


I carried on along the track and eventually a staircase takes me back to ground level again and then the path runs behind the hill, I pass by the back of the pigsty paddock and cross over behind the old Park Island Cemetery.


The track hugs the hill and runs along side our old eeling creek. On the other side of the creek was the paddock where we hosted the Poriate Pony Club every weekend. Nowadays a ruddy great expressway runs through the middle of it along with one of Hawkes Bay's many cycle trails.


Round the next bend is our old horse paddock, many happy hours were spent riding and schooling our horses in here. Another barn was located where that shed is and the road into the pigsty ran past the front of it.


There’s now a few dirt piles and a shed where the pigsty used to be. I wonder if the high pitched squeals of 400 pigs at feed time can still be heard?


Here we are training pigs to walk on a lead; Dad was in charge of organizing the Pig Expo at the HB A&P Show one year (this looks about 1974) He had the bright idea of training a pig from each of the main breeds to walk on a lead so they could be walked around the oval in the Grand Parade at the end of the show. Pigs actually train well and we had a lot of fun walking them around the farm and down the local roads in the lead up to the show. Fortunately, one pig, Peanut who was smaller than the others just followed along. Unfortunately, come the parade she got a bit scared and took off in amongst the riders & horses in the centre of the oval. You do know that most horses don’t like pigs don’t you? Needless to say that was the first and last time pigs were invited to participate in the Grand Parade.

That's me on the left
Some may wonder why there’s a photo of tree roots and a bank below. This was, and I can still see it slightly; weaving through the roots that provided natural steps, our track to the drive & house from this side of the hill. This track was our lifeline as well as our nemesis, it was a short cut to the road and the mile long walk to the bus stop each school day. In the morning it was fun, skipping and running we’d slip and slide down the track full of energy but after a full day at school, a long ride home in the school bus and then a exhausting and slow walk home we’d be confronted with the steep track. Many school bags, jerseys & feet were dragged up this slope.


It is here, in this little cove tucked into the side of the hill on the side of the road, where there are now a selection of fitness activities for passing walkers & runners to complete, this is where we used to have our fruit & flower stall.


And this was our drive to the house, which now looks a lot different to the narrow gravel track that we used to travel up.


One day I’ll return home.


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6 comments:

  1. A very interesting walk in past times. You certainly had a great childhood by the look of it. It must be quite strange to see the way things have gone.
    I enjoyed the Monarch blog as well. The photography is very good. Butterflies can't be easy to photograph! I try to get shots just for identification but when they finally rest they always seem to fold their glorious wings together. I gave up feeding Monarchs as it was so heartbreaking - always running out of food and time as Autumn approached. Many years (16ish) we came across a terrificly large gathering of Monarchs here in Wellingtons town belt, thousands of them in a grove of trees. Many were dying. We've been back to that place a few times at the same time of year but have never seen them again there.

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    1. Thanks Olwen, glad you enjoyed both posts. I know what you mean with the butterflies, I usually creep up on them, slowly get them in focus and just as I go to click they lift off! This was a tough day too, the wind was blowing a little with not much time to focus between gusts.

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  2. Gee big changes round there. I remember the stone fruit trees from our raids over from Westshore in the early 60s. One of the dairy owners would sometimes buy Apricots? (if we had not eaten them all on way back) the proceeds of which we bought a packet of ciggies from the other shop with a carefully kept shopping note from dad that was used many times over.

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    1. Hi Muzzar, isn't it great to reminisce? Maybe the apricots were from the Roll's orchard on the other side of Wharerangi cemetery, if not you would have been whipping ours right beside the chook house! I'm surprised you managed to get across the farms without ending up in the swamp or estuary. What a great idea to keep the note from your father (not so good what you were buying was though) I'm sure we had to take a note with us too, when we rode the horses to Greenmeadows to get Dad's Park Drive.

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  3. Memory Lanes...most important for mental health, gratitude and going for it...while one can!
    So nice to read...all good homely stuff.

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    1. Thanks Jimu, you are so right. Our immediate family plus both Mum & Dads' families have a lot of history in New Zealand and document it well, it's great to keep it going for future generations.

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Thanks for taking the time to comment, it's much appreciated.