We loved staying with our Wellington grandparents as everything was so different from Hastings. My grandparents lived in Kelburn which was an established area of mainly large houses. I now know that the area around Upland Road was only developed after the Cable Car was opened in 1902. The house my grandparents lived in was two-storeyed and seemed old because it was built in a Victorian style with sash bay windows.
As the house was very close to the botanical gardens there were a lot of birds which would visit and I can remember learning the names of them. They tended to be British birds such as sparrows and thrushes rather than native birds. In the botanical gardens there were plenty of native species.
Wellington was a city and so we knew about things that our friends had never seen. There were department stores which had lifts and one even had an escalator. I do not think I knew any child in Hastings who had been on an escalator! There was only an ‘up’ one and we were taught to be very careful getting on and off it. My grandparents lived just outside the main city at the top of the Cable Car so we got used to travelling on that. My grandmother went to a butcher and a greengrocer on Lambton Quay in town although there was a local grocer’s shop along Upland Road that she used. Next to that was the petrol station or ‘bowser’ as my grandfather referred to it. There was also a corner shop (called a dairy) very near their house where we bought bread and newspapers.
On Saturday evenings my grandfather bought the tabloid with the sports results (I think for the horse racing results) and a small bar of mint chocolate which was cut into smaller pieces and shared. Milk was delivered by a horse and cart. The milk came in glass bottles, some of which were brown (because of the War we were told) which were put out at the gate in the evening with tokens to pay for the milk. The bottles had cardboard tops. My grandfather used to follow the horse down the dead-end street carrying something into which he would put the horse’s manure for his roses.
What did we do on these holidays? There are some old photos which provide a few clues to supplement my memories. The beach was important. We used to go to Moa Point at the end of Lyall Bay. This was ultimately buried under the airport runway but in our day it was a quiet spot with a few rocks.
The main part of Lyall Bay was very busy and the main beach for training lifeguards so we would watch them running into the water and then someone throwing out a line to them. We also went to beaches further away. I have an extremely early memory of sitting on a horrible lumpy surface at Lowry Bay. I think this is possibly my earliest memory and it has really become a ‘memory of a memory’. My grandparents had friends who had a beach house at Paekakariki so we went there a few times.
We also spent a lot of time in the botanical gardens. We used to go to the area next to the Cable car where the three observatories were.
The main part of the gardens were down a steep hill. We were not allowed to walk around or go down there, even when we were older, because of ‘stranger danger’.
We used to go and watch the launch of the 4 pm weather balloon. My main memory of this is from my 1953 holiday when my grandmother took me and my cousin Ros to see the balloon go up. Ros had just been diagnosed as short-sighted and could not see what we were looking for. We did go to the bottom part of the gardens but by car. There was a small lake with swans and we were taught to steer clear of them because they could hiss. We used to take bread to feed them. I remember going in the begonia house but the gardens were much smaller than they are now. My parents used to talk about glow-worms on the paths up the hill but we never went there.
Pond at the bottom of the Botanical Gardens
My grandfather was always encouraging us to travel when we grew up. I can remember driving along Oriental Bay past the old swimming baths and him telling me I would go to Europe when I grew up. He also liked nothing better than to talk his way onto ships. He would take us down to the wharves, talk to some officer, and then we got the guided tour. I think I went round ‘The Dominion Monarch’ three times. I can just remember the children’s playroom from those visits. The ships carried cargo as well as passengers so when they reached Wellington they would stay for three or four weeks while they were unloaded and reloaded.
There are more memories but they can go in another post.