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Posts tagged ‘helensville’

Christmas traditions

An interruption to the China series for something a little more topical. Hello from my hometown of Helensville (technically, the small adjacent settlement of Parakai) where I’ve spent Christmas with my parents and grandmother. Christmas nowadays gets shared between Wellington and Auckland in a mixture of new and old traditions. Read more

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Heart of the community no more

A century ago this was a treasured hub for social functions, meetings, church services and acquiring library books. Today the old hall sits quietly at the top of the rise, a structure you’re vaguely aware of as you fly through the blink-and-you-miss-it settlement of Woodhill on State Highway 16.
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Hometown haunts and habitats: rustic miscellanea

My dicky toe had scuttled plans of getting out and about on foot properly. In any case, the weather wasn’t exactly conducive to lengthy walks with a camera. To satisfy the itch to get out and get snapping it was clear I’d need to rely on my car a lot more.
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Hometown haunts and habitats: a brown river

Without question there are far more beautiful rivers in NZ. Up here there are no glaciers to feed the waterways. Don’t be put off by the colour though – the perpetually muddy Kaipara River has its own beauty and character.
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School days time warp

In the middle of June I returned to my old neck of the woods, South Kaipara Head, the rural district north-west of Auckland where I grew up. Mum had timed my visit with an errand out to my old primary school and so on Saturday afternoon we bundled Gran in the car and took off on the 15 minute drive out there.

The errand was donating a book to the school library, a book written by my aunt. Taketakerau: The Millenium Tree has been received fantastically well since being published about 18 months ago, and was a finalist in a recent childrens’ book awards held in NZ.

Taketakerau, The Millenium Tree

She has loads of creative talent and one of my cousins inherited a supercharged dose of that too. Check this out.

But I digress… once at Waioneke School, Mum and I left Gran perusing a magazine in the car and we went to meet Merril, the school librarian.

We used to file off the school bus and up that footpath

We used to file off the school bus and up that footpath

This was the whole school in 1978, photo taken just off to the side of the footpath. 6yo Hayley is in the middle of the back row

This was the whole school in 1978, photo taken just off to the side of the footpath. 5-6yo Hayley is in the middle of the back row

When I first started there were two classrooms: the Junior Room and the Senior Room. Along the way we acquired a third, which was duly called (and I’m sure you will be shocked) the Middle Room.

The old Senior Room

The old Senior Room, now the library

With Merril and book

With Merril and book

Being here provided a great opportunity to look around the rest of school. I was last here in 2005 for the 75th jubilee. This time it was getting late in the day with light fading fast so it was a quick blat around.

The school has changed SO much since my day but a lot is still familiar.

One of the old cloak rooms where we used to hang our bags. It looked like they are used as storage these days

One of the old cloak rooms where we used to hang our bags. It looked like they are used as storage these days

The old Junior Room, where I first began my school life

The old Junior Room, where I first began my school life

Today the library is in the old Senior Room. The old library is gone, and the Junior Room has several of these new fangled electric boxes called Computers. The Middle Room, like the other classrooms, is full of colour and creative stimuli and a vast contrast to how I remember it three decades (sounds better than 30 years) ago. New classrooms have sprung up to cater for the 30-odd additional pupils – the roll now hovers around 90 – and there’s even a school hall.

I remember this door ripping back one of my toenails, and I remember trying to capture boys with another friend to take them into the girls' toilets (can't recall if we were successful)

I remember this door ripping back one of my toenails, and I remember trying to capture boys with another friend to take them into the girls’ toilets (can’t recall if we were successful but I’m pretty sure we got into trouble)

Arty things by a courtyard where the old library once stood

Arty things by a courtyard where the old library once stood

The Middle Room in 1981 - photo taken in the old library

The Middle Room in 1981 – photo taken in the old library

A modern 'safe' playground has replaced the old two-level wooden structure

A modern ‘safe’ playground has replaced the old two-level wooden structure

The pool opened in 1972 which makes it as old as me! Gawd

The pool opened in 1972 which makes it as old as me! Gawd

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We left Waioneke. As a spur of the moment thing, a few minutes away we swung up Wilson Road where we lived when my brother and I went to high school in Helensville. Up the metal road a ways, then left into a right-of-way.

Rural road, South Kaipara Head

Farm, South Kaipara Head

This was (maybe still is) a deer farm and a beautiful place to live.

The fences are for deer, not bionic cows

The fences are for deer, not bionic cows

Deer shed and yards

Deer shed and yards

Flashback from the mid 1980s

Flashback from the mid 1980s

Past our house and onto the airstrip where we turned around in front of a guy holding a gun. (He was target shooting.) (I don’t think at us.)

Ah yes... the corner where I may once have ridden round it on mum's farm bike and crashed into my father on his farm bike

Ah yes… the corner (no trees back then) where I may once have ridden round it on mum’s farm bike and crashed into my father on his farm bike

Flashback: My brother and I at the end of the right-of-way outside our old house. We would often grab one of the bikes and head across the farm or up the road

Flashback: My brother and I at the end of the right-of-way outside our old house. We would often grab one of the bikes and head across the farm or up the road

Time to end the nostalgia and get back – Dad was cooking a roast!

A visit home (and some flashbacks)

I make it back home a couple of times a year. To get there is a one hour flight and about the same again by car, or about nine hours if I have time to drive the whole way. It’s ‘home’ because that’s a convenient label to give the area where I grew up and where my parents still live.

These days they live in a small town at the head of the Kaipara Harbour and my grandmother lives with them. We used to live further out in the country, my brother and I going to a small rural primary school (which is still going strong) and then the high school in town.

In February I made a weekend trip back as I didn’t go up for Christmas and two birthdays were about to be celebrated, including Gran’s 96th.

As well as spending time with the family I got out around my old stomping ground. I’ve posted separately the old dairy factory and cemetery. Below is a picture summary of the remainder and I’ve delved into old photo albums for a trippy flashback or two.

Dad waits to get picked up for golf

Dad waits to get picked up for golf

Mum and Gran at the local market

Mum and Gran at the local market

Me and Gran 2013...

Me and Gran in 2013…

...and in 1973

…and in 1973

Gran on her wedding day in 1943. Her dress is still around and in great condition - I tried it on, at Mum's insistence!, and it kind of just fitted but I ain't the little thing that Gran was!

Gran on her wedding day in 1943. She still has the dress and it’s in pretty good nick – I tried it on, at Mum’s insistence!, and it sort of almost fitted but I ain’t the little thing that Gran was

Gran's mother's 100yo engagement ring which was very kindly given to me during my visit (not in the proposal kind of way!!)

Gran’s mother’s 100yo engagement ring which was very kindly given to me during my visit (not in the proposal kind of way!!)

My old doll Tammy (missing a row or two of hair due to a classic maim-doll-with-scissors incident)

My old doll Tammy, missing a row or two of hair due to a classic maim-doll-with-scissors incident

Fun times in 2013...

With my brother Kyle: fun times in 2013…

...and fun times in 1974

…and fun times in 1974

My brother at his place

My brother at his place

The Kaipara River which runs from the Waitakere Ranges to the Kaipara Harbour. It's always a delightful brown due to the sediments which run into it

The Kaipara River which runs from the Waitakere Ranges to the Kaipara Harbour. It’s always a delightful brown due to the sediments which run into it

A weeny fishing boat heads out to the harbour

A weeny fishing boat puttering out to the harbour

Kaipara River

Flower-diving bee

I used to play netball on what is now a carpark, and we sure as heck didn't have security fencing around the perimeter

I used to play netball on what is now the high school carpark and back then we sure as heck didn’t have security fencing around the perimeter

In 1998 back when they were netball courts

In 1998, yours truly attempting a shot at goal

A derelict house beside what used to be the movie theatre

A derelict house beside what used to be the movie theatre

Freight trains still go through here but passenger services only run on special occasions

Freight trains still go through here but passenger services only run on special occasions

It’s good to have a place like this from your past to periodically revisit. It’s also good to be able to leave it behind each time as well.

At rest above the valley

I like cemeteries. Which is not to say I hang out in them regularly, but occasionally circumstances take you to or near them and I find it easy to while away time just walking around.

Though I’m not religious I appreciate the symbolism and aesthetics, from the sombre beauty of military and battleground cemeteries on the Western Front and Gallipoli, to old and crumbling UK graveyards, to above-ground graves dotted across Vietnamese paddocks, to simple unmaintained burial grounds in rural Turkey. You get an impression of the history and culture of a place. You also get a fleeting insight to the lives of those who have passed and those left behind.

So during a walk around my home town earlier this year I found myself heading up to the cemetery.

Helensville Cemetery

Helensville Cemetery

Helensville Cemetery

Helensville Cemetery

Helensville Cemetery

Helensville Cemetery

Helensville Cemetery

Helensville Cemetery

Helensville Cemetery

Helensville Cemetery

I actually had in mind to find the grave of a boy I grew up with but try as I might, it evaded me.

End of an era in my home town

During my infrequent visits to family further up the North Island I always rubber-neck while driving by the old dairy factory on the outskirts of my old home town. And should I have time for a walk, I will usually linger around the perimeter fence and take a photo or five.

From the road side…

Kaipara Co-Op Dairy Co

Kaipara Co-Op Dairy Co

Kaipara Co-Op Dairy Co

Kaipara Co-Op Dairy Co

Kaipara Co-Op Dairy Co

The factory was still in business when I started high school (the mid ’80s, if we must date it) but it had closed by the time I left. Over many years it was bought and sold a number of times and became increasingly derelict. As you can imagine, local youth looking for things to deface and destroy loved it.

Many people said it was an eyesore and sure, I didn’t have to see it everyday, but I liked it. Or at least appreciated its history and decayed character.

From the river side…

Kaipara Co-Op Dairy Co

Kaipara Co-Op Dairy Co

Kaipara Co-Op Dairy Co

Kaipara Co-Op Dairy Co

Kaipara Co-Op Dairy Co

Nothing happened for so long it seemed it would remain one of those goliath reminders of the past. Here’s a news article from 2011.

But recently mum emailed me with the news that much of it had come down.

I was glad to hear they left the end of the original art deco building (even though there are no particular plans for what to do with it), and the other end will be renovated for re-use.

So that’s that. I’ll have a look when I’m back there in June.

New Year Trip: 5~Bye family, hello friends

Later on back in Parakai we walked around to see friends who live not far from mum and dad. I went to primary school with Krissy and she stayed in the area, now married with two children. On the way is this eye-catching place. Pretty sure if I was a pre-schooler I’d want to go here.

The wonderfully colourful local kindergarten

We had tea with mum, dad and gran, though the Indian takeaway in Helensville did the cooking. Mum went through with dad some plans for their upcoming trip to the UK. They’re off in April and I’m joining them early May. More about that later!

Mum explains some details for their trip while dad gives me a suspicious eye and gran goes about her business

The next morning it was time to move on to the next phase of our holiday. We called in to say bye to the family.

Gran lives with mum & dad now so I get to see her more often

Didn’t see much of my brother during our brief stay in Parakai. I left this likeness of him on the kitchen message board.

My brother isn't a crustacean though he may have resembled one because of his sunburn

We travelled to nearby Kaukapakapa, another rural district on the other side of Helensville. My friend Trish lives there and I hadn’t seen her for a few years.

Big Hayley, little Trish

I met her at my first job and back in our single days we used to go out a bit. Fond memories of Georgie Pie pies and ice cream sundaes in the wee small hours! Anyway, fast forward some 20 years and today Trish has two teenage daughters and various animals. I took a shine to one pet in particular…

I could have popped Trish's pet chihuahua in my bag and taken it home

Then it was time to head into Auckland, stopping off in Albany where it seemed that much of the North Shore population was in the Westfield mall. We were destined for an area of West Auckland and in the olden days the north and west parts of the city were not conveniently located so I was expecting a bit of phfaffing around. Well blow me if a new motorway hadn’t gone and popped up and it took next to no time.

And so we briskly arrived at our hosts for the next couple of nights: Kirsten, Mike and one year old Mitchell. I’ve known Kirsten since we were toddlers, growing up in the wop wops of South Head.

Mitch and his mum

And now she has a toddler. Mitch is adorable – Aunty Hayley is a big fan!

Mitch playing with silly Aunty Hayley

New Year Trip: 4~Old schools & a shelly beach

Our walking adventures the day before stopped short of the long detour needed to see my old high school so we did a quick drive by. It’s a much more imposing place these days with a steel fence around the perimeter, a bit of a sign of the times I guess. Mind you, 1985-89 is a very long time ago.

Ahhh, good old Kaipara College

Next we sailed on through Parakai and out to South Head. About half way up the ~35km peninsula is my old primary school. Its 75th jubilee was held there in 2005 and it was good to have a proper look around the place again. Either those playing fields got a lot smaller, or I got a lot bigger. Hmmm.

I can still manage the cross-legged thing, just

I grew up at the end of the peninsula though we didn’t go right out there again this time. We zoomed back toward town, noting the flash vehicles in the golf club carpark, and stopped briefly on the corner of the road where we last lived before I moved into Auckland to go to polytech.

They still have Calf Club day!

Our old bus stop, which dad co-built

The plan for lunch was to stop at the macadamia nut farm café but it was closed. Mike had been looking forward to visiting the shop and especially its bags of chocolate-coated nuts (which you’d think the local town might sell, but apparently not). After that crushing blow we decided to detour down to Shelly Beach.

Shelly Beach is a small community within the general South Head community, being a little seaside settlement about 5km off the main road. It has continued to develop over the years, with new subdivisions and a pretty decent little cafe now. A new concrete wharf helps cater for the boating traffic it gets and also I imagine those who like to chuck out a fishing line. The beach was as I remembered, fairly small and narrow, lots of shells, and flanked one end with mangroves.

The wharf, just across from the cafe. We walked out there and boy, Wellington wind had nothing on the coastal breeze that day

Now that's a classic community noticeboard

The Maori name for Shelly Beach is Te Aukahanga o Aotea (shortened to Aotea) meaning where the Aotea canoe lashings were overhauled. You could almost imagine the area's, er, European settlers... "So, what shall we call this place?".... "Hmmmmm" ..... "Say, aren't there a lot of shells on this beach?" ....

The mighty Kaipara is one of the largest harbours in the world

Taking a wide berth around a couple of, um, interesting local male specimens, we returned to the car and back to Parakai.

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