Lively tale of new life in 50s Bay
Historic Hawke’s Bay.
A person who had significant influence on me was my 1980 sixth-form English teacher at Havelock North High School, Patricia Frykberg.
Patricia, her husband Doug, and children Margaret and Eric left Cape Town, South Africa, in October 1953 aboard the Dominion Monarch to settle in New Zealand.
Two more children, Susan and Kate, were born in New Zealand.
While the arrival of South Africans to live in this country is now commonplace, it wasn’t so in the early 1950s.
It is now 64 years since Patricia and her late husband Doug, both teachers, arrived in New Zealand.
Patricia, who is in her 93rd year, has this week published a book called Many A Golden Afternoon which details her family life in New Zealand.
While books of this nature can have content probably of interest only to immediate families, not so this one. Being written by an English teacher, who has a remarkable memory and a love of history, the narrative is amusing, lively and interesting.
The story begins with the voyage from Cape Town, and the quaintness of her family’s experiences is amusing in an age before the worldwide web.
On the sighting of land on November 20, 1953, the family heard, “Look, you can see both the North Island and South Island.”
“Which is New Zealand, we ask?”
“All one, mate. All one. Three islands in one,” was the loud reply from a man nearby.
Patricia writes, “Had we realised New Zealand was three islands? No. It didn’t say anything about that in our geography books.”
The family remarked that the country looked so green.
“You gotta see Tarra-nackie. That’s green for you.”
“What’s Tarra-nackie, we ask?”
Similar to New Zealand today, there was a housing shortage, and on Doug Frykberg securing a job at Hastings High School, the family bought a caravan as temporary shelter while they looked for a house. They left the Lower Hutt camping ground and headed for Windsor Park camping ground, Hastings, the caravan pulled by a Chevrolet.
Patricia’s experience of camping grounds and cultural differences make for hilarious reading.
Doug would not start his job until the new year, so he worked at Wattie’s over Christmas as a packer. The Frykbergs were told after Christmas it was illegal for them to stay at Windsor Park as Doug was a working man!
Fortunately, they were offered a place at a country residence to park the caravan, with a “loo” and shower facilities in the backyard.
Those who enjoy nostalgic reflection will relish these recollections. Roach’s, Westermans, Bon Marche – all past large family-owned retail stores – get a mention.
She recalls women had to pay to use the toilet at the Women’s Rest in Russell St, while men had free toilets. A protest saw the women’s toilets become free to use too.
As with many immigrants, Patricia had no idea what many sayings meant, such as: “I’ve got my golden queens. I’ll get them done tonight.”
Patricia would timidly ask: “What’s a golden queen and what on earth do you DO to them?”
The Frykbergs eventually built in Pufflet Rd. Havelock North, and there are some lovely photos of a largely unspoilt landscape towards the Peak.
A long-term Havelock North resident, she has many recollections of life in “the village” in the 1950s. She recalls legendary blacksmith Bob Given and encounters with notable residents such as Joe Nimon, of Nimon’s buses, and George Nelson, whose property became Keirunga Gardens.
Patricia would teach at Woodford College, then Hastings Girl’s High, and her last job was at the newly opened Havelock North High School in 1975, where she was senior mistress, which today means assistant principal. Patricia retired at the end of 1980.
I was fortunate to be in her English class, where I was taught to think and question, which helped me in life immeasurably.
Many A Golden Afternoon is for those who have an interest in social and local history, and particularly those who settled here and can relate to the strangeness of it all.
It is extremely well-written and, at $25, wonderful value for the treasures it contains within its 190 pages.
The book can be ordered via [email protected] for $25 and picked up at Summerset Village, Te Mata Rd, Havelock North.
Michael Fowler ([email protected]) is an EIT accounting lecturer, and in his spare time a recorder of Hawke’s Bay history.
“Had we realised New Zealand was three islands? No. It didn’t say anything about that in our geography books.”
Photo caption – WORKERS BARRED: Doug Frykberg with the family caravan in Windsor Park, Hastings. The family were asked to leave when it was discovered he was a working man. INSET: Patricia Frykberg, the author. PHOTOS/ PATRICIA FRYKBERG