Do many of my readers share a sense of Tūrangawaewae for an urban/suburban place?
I grew up in a Napier suburb called Tamatea.
I lived in the same house for 20+ years & went through school there.
While Mum & Dad’s house is now ours, it no longer feels like “home” (you know, once you leave..)
But going to the Tamatea shops DOES.
We’ve lived in Marewa for about 10 years now, buying our first home there about five years ago. But we stopped off to get takeaways from Tamatea on the way home from Taradale the other day and I just felt this..
The shops are completely different now, from the days of Woolworths and Safeway, or when Tamatea had its own post office/ Postbank, video rental store, bookshop and dairy where you could get two sweets for 1c.
But the sky and the stunning sunsets are still the same.
I stood there, looking at the sky, heard children playing nearby, felt the warm breeze – all things that haven’t changed in 30 years and thought:
“Geez, I love this place!”
It reminded me of a piece I wrote that appeared in Hawke’s Bay Today around ten years ago.
Over the summer period (to save on paying their reporters to write more, I guess) they opened up to people’s memories of growing up in and around Hawke’s Bay.
Inspired, I wrote about my more suburban, but just as memorable youth in Tamatea in the 80s.
Given my nostalgic bend then, here it is:
“Growing up in Tamatea”
While we lived, technically, in Pirimai West (the town side of Taradale Road), I consider myself a Tamatea boy. As that is where I went right the way through school, where we shopped and where all my friends lived.
Tamatea Primary was a wonderful place to learn. Mr. Cass, the Principal, had a great love of music and was very proud of his students.
Mrs. Greig, Stewart, Unwin, Whibley and local teaching legends Mr. Smith and Webby taught us everything we needed to know in a wonderful, caring environment.
The school had four ‘blocks’. Each set up in an open plan layout with four classes – one in each corner. Each block usually had two classes of the same standard (year) on either side, meaning that you would usually spend two years in each block:
‘A’ block was for the primers and contained the staff room. The mural on the Durham Ave side of ‘A’ block is the background for thousands of ‘80s school photos.
‘B’ block was a pair of pre-fab classrooms for the slightly older kids, which Mrs. Stewart and Unwin occupied for as long as I can remember.
‘C’ block had a cool arts corner where you could spend ages peeling dried PVA glue ‘skin’ off you fingers to gross your friends out.
It also housed the school library where Mrs. Mansfield fed the imaginations of generations.
Even if that meant Asterix, Tintin and “Pick your own Adventure” books for some of us, it certainly started me on the road to bibliophilia.
‘D’ block was for the “big” kids and was the territory of Mr. Webby, whose glorious baritone voice could often be heard through the walls in C block as the great lion of a man taught his pride.
The playground was far different to the one there today.
Bumps and skinned knees were a regular occurrence, but didn’t matter. The old wooden fort that still remains, was a dirty brown and the high fireman’s pole and three chain bridge provided young thrill seekers with some “death defying” adventures.
The concrete mound opposite the fort posed as the enemy’s base for playing war and Mount Everest, with limestone rocks protruding, in adventure mode. The pipe tunnel that ran through it was graffitid and smelt kind of funny on Monday mornings for some strange reason, but that made no difference to our imagination-driven fun.
There were two great honours as a “big kid” at school.
One was being lunch a monitor, who got to help distribute bought lunches (a rare treat back then); the other was being a school patrol monitor.
While you started earlier and worked through rain, hail or traditional Hawkes Bay drought, you could have a Milo in the staff room after finishing your duty in the winter mornings. This made you feel REALLY big and important, for a ten-year-old, but also meant you were allowed to be a bit late for class. I was lucky(?) enough to be on crossing patrol during Cyclone Bola and vividly remember looking down Durham to Westminster Ave, watching the ominous clouds to the north.
Play and lunch times were fantastic. I discovered my love for soccer and cricket at Tamatea Primary (sadly, that’s where most of my sporting ability stayed).
As well as reading and music (first ever cassette album bought – Def Leppard “Hysteria”, first single – Pseudo Echo, “Funky Town”, so not the best of starts), girls and hopeless romanticism would also plague me for almost twenty years to come.
During a quiet lunchtime in C Block, a group of us staged a lip-synced Dire Straits concert. Complete with pianica keyboards, meter rule guitars, rubbish bin drum kits and screaming groupies.
It also featured crimes against fashion of which I will only say “sweatbands” and leave it at that. They were really good times.
Looking back at primary school, the funny thing is I never actually remember feeling ‘young’.
We always felt old and important.
There was learning to be done and it was our job to experience and squeeze every bit of knowledge we could out of life. The teachers encouraged us to learn and succeed, but more so to enjoy doing so and that certainly made our lives so much richer.
Outside of school, things got even better. Walking home we would cut across an open area that is now the delivery entrance for the expanded Pak n Save. This got really cool and muddy after heavy rain, and had lots of choice dips and jumps for bikes in summer.
The Tamatea shops were a mere shadow of their current size back then.
Woolies became Safeway and eventually Pak n Save in later years. Postbank sat out by itself in the car park. The bookshop, which was part of a string of small buninesses that stretched along where the checkout’s glass frontage is now sold Commando comics, Shoot and Match English soccer magazines as well as GI Joe’s.
The dairy, a ten year olds El Dorado, was the limitless source of one and two cent lollies, Kbars, Chuppa Chups and bubble gum trading cards.
Friday night meant late night shopping in town.
This was before Emerson Street’s paving redevelopment and Art Deco resurgence, so cars still drove up and down the street, which looked decidedly drabber than it does today.
There was a giant hole in the ground where demolition of the old ANZ bank had taken place and new construction was under way.
It was particularly spooky on dark winter evenings. A few years later, as mall construction got under way, the only way to cross the street was on plywood bridges.
Town’s highlight at the time was the multi coloured, lighted arches which criss-crossed Emerson St at the Hastings and Dalton Street intersections.
DIC/ Arthur Barnett / Farmers, Woolies / Deka and Brents Tots and Toyland in Emerson Street as well as Toyworld in what is now Ocean Boulevard were always popular stops.
Transformers, Star Wars Figures and Action Man for the boys, Care Bears, My Little Pony, Strawberry Shortcake, Jem and the Misfits for the girls were all the coolest toys du jour.
Many of these toys are still stashed away somewhere safe today.
For a treat Mum and Dad took you to Mr Wimpy in Lower Emerson Street (a pre-cursor to McDonalds. One still operated in Rotorua I discovered many years ago), Kentucky Fried Chicken (we didn’t care about the “fried” part back then) in Carlyle Street, or Pizza Hut on Marine Parade.
Then it was off home to watch MacGyver, ALF, The Greatest American Hero and Magnum PI.
These great television days and are sadly missed.
The weekend started early on Saturday morning with Fraggle Rock and What Now (which screened on TV1 back then).
Danny Watson, Michelle and Frank Flash, then Simon Barnett and Catherine McPherson hosted the show through its golden age and kept us wrapt.
Super Ted, Inspector Gadget and Thundercats were as much a part of Saturday mornings as cornflakes and Weetbix.
After Saturday morning sports, perhaps a quick trip into town to get some groceries or an ice cream to celebrate a win (everything closed at midday Saturday and wouldn’t open again until Monday morning), then either home or over to mates’ places.
Lucky kids had either a Supertramp trampoline, or a Para pool.
Really lucky kids had both.
This would eventually lead to some death-defying (and knee scraping, tooth losing) jump-bounce-dive aerobatics.
While Mello Yellow, Fanta, Cheeseballs and Rashuns, flowed continuously, and provided some enlightening visions, especially when combined with too much, jumping, bouncing and diving…
Sleepovers were fantastic. There was usually a barbeque, terrorised pets and siblings and, inevitably, someone would get a blood nose from too much excitement.
Sundays meant a sleep-deprived trudge home, helping around the house and homework as a last resort.
The highlight of the day was always a Sunday drive.
Getting an ice cream and sitting in the car under the trees at West Shore beach, an unobstructed view allowing us to watch the sea lap the beach, with Napier Post and the hill behind, regardless of the weather.
It would have been great to remain a ten year old for longer, but time moves on and so do we.
In retrospect, most experiences growing up were vastly over rated when compared to their primary school expectations. Life took directions vastly different from what we could have ever imagined back then. Everything was possible and nothing stood in the way of a ten year old imagination.
If only such things could have remained longer.