Page 16 The 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake 80th Anniversary
Gordon Vogtherr remembers
February 3, 1931 was ﬁve-year-old Gordon Vogtherr’s ﬁrst day at Mahora Primary School. Gordon will never forget that day and can still recall “The pervading smell of bricks, dust and smoke.”
It’s a smell you can never get rid of, he says.
His father, Ernest Vogtherr worked at the family business, The Elite Mild Cure Bacon & Ham Factory at Stortford Lodge which contained a fruit cool store, an ice factory, the bacon factory and, at the corner a butchers which later became a petrol station. The Elite Delicatessen was situated at 128 Heretaunga Street East and the family lived upstairs.
When the earthquake struck the other children were outside at school while Gordon was still indoors. The doors were rattling and he didn’t know which way to go.
“I could see the water washing over the swimming pool and kids were yelling and screaming. I made for home. One girl was killed when a chimney fell down; I think it was Shona Spence.”
His father, who had narrowly escaped serious injury when the Cosy De Luxe Theatre in Heretaunga Street collapsed, was very worried about Gordon. He rode his bicycle towards Mahora School but could see no sign of the boy so he rode home hoping Gordon had taken a different way home. When he arrived home Gordon was safe and with his mother. When asked what he did when the earthquake struck Gordon said to his father “Grabbed my hat and ran.”
When the aftershocks came along he’d jump into his father’s arms and say “Spear it daddy, spear it.”
All the chimneys came down during the quake including the Vogtherrs’ which ended up in their living room.
“The scullery was awash with jam jars.”
The family retrieved what they could from their home, like many others, even though the aftershocks continued. Before they were able to retrieve all their possessions a fire that night destroyed the building and they lost everything including the Austin 12 car which had been undamaged but pinned in the garage by a fallen beam.
For years afterwards when a quake hit, Gordon’s heart would start racing. He’s not worried so much now but always looks up at the chimney just in case!
Ernest Vogtherr’s story is recounted in his biography “No regrets” and both Ernest and Gordon’s stories appear in “After Words” by Helen McConnochie.
Gordon will talk about his experiences of the earthquake at Warrens Bakery on Thursday 3 February.
See the Geon Art Deco supplement for further details
Photo caption – These four photographs show the Vogtherr family business, The Elite Mild Cure Bacon and Ham Company, before and after the earthquake. All except the wooden building collapsed. The photo bottom left shows Gordon’s Grandfather Carl Vogtherr on the right standing on the ruins of the cool store. Photo HB Today photographers
Dr Tony Foley reminisces
Home in 1931 for young Tony, his parents and four siblings, was on the corner of Shakespeare and Clyde Roads – just a short distance to the convent on the hill.
February 3 was Tony’s ﬁrst day at school – he was “three days short of five”.
His younger brother was almost four and the nuns at the convent said they’d take him too! So the Foley Twins that weren’t went to the convent on the hill.
When the earthquake struck a nun shouted at them “to get out, get out” then told them to get on their knees and start praying.
The children evacuated pretty smartly onto a grassy bank outside. Tony remembers being eventually lifted over a corrugated iron fence into Cobden Road. Part of the Convent Road had collapsed and they had to get out of the college the back way.
His father, a doctor, worked at the hospital and came to pick the boys up from school. It was a busy time for his father and that was the last Tony saw of him for many days.
At home the brick chimney had toppled and some bricks had come through the corrugated iron roof. His baby sister slept in a drop side cot which had a huge dent from a falling brick. The family moved out of the house for safety and camped in a tent in a nearby driveway for a few days.
The Marist Brothers School at the bottom of the Convent Hill had collapsed, as had part of the adjacent hillside roadway. Tony remembers sailors from HMS Veronica driving along Shakespeare Road on the back of an open deck, large trailer with solid rubber tyres being towed by a tractor and throwing tins of food to people. He also remembers Tin Town, the temporary shopping area built in Memorial Square. For years after the earthquake there was evidence of the horrendous event throughout Napier, he says.
Holly Bacon Co
Crisp Dry Cured Bacon
Delicious Sugar Cured Ham
Tasty Specialty Meats
Phone (06) 878 5072
1931 Earthquake Talk – SIX SHAKEN ROADS
Historian Michael Fowler will be giving a presentation on 3 February 2011 called Six Shaken Roads to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake. The presentation will focus on Havelock North, and include an extensive use of photographs.
Topics included are: Havelock, Hereworth, Iona and Woodford schools; fire brigade; Havelock-Hastings Bridge; water supply; village shops; notable residential dwellings; those who died from Havelock North; Havelock North Town Board’s administration of the recovery effort – and the controversy surrounding an earthquake volunteer worker from Havelock North.
The talk will take place at the Havelock North Community Centre from 7.30 pm until 9 pm, on Thursday, 3 February 2011. Tickets are $10, and are available from the Hastings i-site or Poppies Bookstore in Havelock North.
SUPPORTED BY THE ART DECO TRUST