ChiCha - a little history

This NZ in Tranzit web page is basically an album, not about prestige heritage sites or events but about the "little history" of Christchurch, mostly meaningful to people who have lived in Christchurch 30 plus years  - common houses, streetscapes of 20 years ago, popular venues, characters of past eras. 

.A wonderful thing about blogs is being able to share items years old from battered boxes of photos, scrapbooks and albums.......other people are welcome to contribute (if the page won't bear the weight  I'll start a subsidiary blog!) 

A Sydenham Walk....

About 1980 on a quiet Sunday afternoon  I went for a walk with a friend Zara and borrowed her single reflex camera about which I knew very little [and it shows!!] to photograph some of the few remaining houses in the central Sydenham area - once one of the busiest and best organised Boroughs in New Zealand (in 1903 the Borough of Sydenham had 11,000 population and Christchurch (essentially the area within what became called the four Avenues) itself only had a population of 17,000.

By the last third of the century Sydenham was being swallowed into an industrial area and the late autumn afternoon with lengthening shadows says it all .....

....but just in case it doesn't the verbose blogger includes some of the text from the little photo essay he made at the time

.....Designation industrial means no future for the people. Those who stayed faced encirclement, isolation and the cold uncaring shoulder of the factory wall...

Photos below; Left Hand; A lone tree puts a pathetic fight to protect its residence from concrete encroachment. Only house left in either street, Cnr of Lawson St and Buchanan St. Right Hand; Backyard dunny sighs as it looks back on happier times cnr of Kingsley Street & Brisbane St - demolished 1982

Below; Old working class ladies - no peace or joy in old age, battered, beaten, working well past retirement age, struggling on to the inevitable end

Brisbane Street. (even today, 2010, a handful of houses converted to car repair workshops remain).

 A lovely lady surrounded by rusting car parts, by the metal teeth that eventually tore off her bay window and verandha, carved out gaping holes,plastering her demoralised skeleton with corrugated iron and roller doors - Kingsley St near Brisbane St.

Note; there also appeared to be one or two decrepit "hermit" houses - elderly people perhaps too poor or with nowhere else to go, or preferring to live with memories rather than start again and determined not to leave - trapped between factories or by the receding tide of residential life..

 Brisbane St between Wordsworth and Kingsley - as Zara and were taking a close up of a window detail a man from from the neighbouring car wreckers told us that the house was still occupied, by an elderly hermit lady.

Detail of south side wall below.

In Harold Street, immediately behind the shops lining Colombo Street, there was only a solitary cottage  (below) still remaining - an elderly lady, lucid and friendly emerged to chat with us. I presumed she had lived there for decades, left behind by the shift of the tide. When Zara said "So how long have you lived here?" She replied, "Oh only six months, I moved here from Kaiapoi".  I had to laugh at my own stereotype expectations, nothing in life is ever what it seems! 

[the leaning below is mainly poor camera-ship]

Life goes on, why think about the end? -well maintained and occupied by a family - Buchanan St facing Coleridge St

....before I put away the over-waxed violin I might also end by  mentioning that two friends (my age then, about 30) rented a house surrounded by blank factory walls and a front view of near distant city high rise and in this very private backyard raised a pig to reasonable size, mainly on a nearby pizza factory throw-outs! Pigs having beguiling personalities, alas it ended they couldn't eat poor old pet Reggie even after a friend kindly offered to dispatch him with a rifle at close range - their other friends (self included) found no such problem of digestion.
Item 2

When buses mate?

One of the more spectacular photos contributed when we were collecting old photos for the Christchurch Transport Board staff Reunion in 2003. The accident itself occurred in the1960s - a older driver said the bus and a different car were in a collision on Victoria Street and the impact sent the bus swerving across the road. Somehow the AEC bus rode up onto an empty Chevy [God knows how, they were very heavy buses!!] parked at the side of the road, and rolled it onto its back. Not just any chevy but the immaculate maintained, pride and joy of some car enthusiast, who turned his back, for just one moment. 
Item 3

The End of the Empire

From 1903 to 1989 public transport in urban Christchurch was a municipal monpoly operated by the Christchurch Tramway Board - from 1951 called the Christchurch Transport Board or CTB. In it heyday in the late 1920s the CTB employed over 700 staff and was claimed to be the biggest enterprise in the city. It's tramway network covered a greater distance than most of the, much larger, Australian state capitals. The organisation was a world in itself, a sort of vaguely militaristic uniformed world of ranks and rules, and keeping all systems going smoothly in the face of regular disrupting events. As elsewhere the trams were replaced by diesel buses in the 1950s. When the free market deregulators opened up all forms of publicly owned enterprises to the cold winds of competition in the late 1980s the Board was abolished.

The last days of the public authority had a very strange unforgettable quality. I suspect  it had something of the atmosphere of the last days of the Third Reich [conveniently, without any danger of being shot or bombed]. The main assets - buses, workshops etc had been assigned but many other assets seemed to have no ownership. I worked up in the vacated roster clerk desks on the second floor of Carucca House putting together a hurried, primitively reproduced but energetic booklet of photos and cuttings, so at least we could walk away with some memento. A senior inspector knew what I was doing and said "You go for it, we'll cover your [driving] work". These offices looked ransacked, desks pulled apart, everything in disarray, whole cartons of documents strewn everywhere. When the Assistant Manager found me thumping out great piles of booklets on the multi-page photocopier in the top managerial offices, he looked a bit stunned, began with a certain authority to asked just what I was doing... but then - I could almost see the thought processes ticking as his voice trailed off -  he realised with less than 48 hours to go, what was the point? What authority did he have left? The whole system had collapsed. It was the end of the empire.

No one was burning documents down in the yard below but about every couple of hours more stalwarts from the local tramway museum at Ferrymead [see front page of blog] arrived to mine their way through the detritius looking for old photos, documents, commemorative plaques, former timetables and advertising fliers, other special items - tons more was taken to the tip in skips.  I suspect the photo above was part of that goldmine - there were several like this found at Ferrymead archives and copied  in preparation for the 2003 CTB reunion. These photos  appear to be montages put together back in the early 1970s by the marketing department, to be used in some advertising campaign. I have no idea if they were ever properly published.

These photos especially convey the very "English feel" of public transport in Christchurch between 1954-1984 approximately. The long term boss of the CTB, John "Charley" Fardell had come from managing public transport in Reading UK, home of the AEC factory building buses for London. By chance  - hmmm - Christchurch became the only NZ city whose entire fleet was AEC buses and London red - even the logo aped a London Transport design..  When combined with our stone Cathedral and similar buildings, and the city's old guard pretensions  they helped cement Christchurch's English image (one visting UK journalist even wrote Christchurch looked more English than English cities - like England looked before the towns were mauled and murdered by motorways!). A few clues date the photos - the flashest buses available to be shown were the AEC New Reliance model (two facing forward at top of photo, No. 432 loading right-hand lower farme). The destinations visible on the original photo include "Lincoln Rd 7" "Sth. Brighton 5S" and "Tweed St 10" - this latter is in Richmond, a shorter assist run for services running to Marshlands Road (terminus at New Brighton Rd Corner in those days). Tweed St was no longer used by the time I started on the buses in 1977.
Item 4

The curious case of Earl Constable

Winning a lottery in most people's fantasies is linked to joy and living happily ever after. When Earl Constable won the the Golden Kiwi Lottery in June 1962 it was the beginning of a path of woe. He loaned money to a friend (who late claimed it was "his share") who in turn breached currency regulations taking it out of NZ under Constable's name. This led to a court case, and Earl Constable becoming mired in complex legal matters, eventually feeling he had been cheated or misled by lawyers, his own counsels included. When he couldn't get a Court of Appeal hearing he created a fake bomb scare, sending messages to the local police and media, holing up in Manchester Street carpark building in his van, with a biscuit tin and wires protruding, whilst the immediate area was cordoned off. Arrested and sentenced for this got off rather leniently but said later "I got six months jail for something the Law Society or the Justice Departmet should have fixed up and now I've got a criminal record". In fact this stunt did lead to a much more thorough investigation of the case by legal bodies, but his bitterness with lawyers could not be assuaged.

In the early 1970s the stockily built, middle aged Constable, almost always in workman's shorts would pop up at all sorts of public meetings around Christchurch, rising in question time to ask what X or Y organisation tended to do about "the lawyers conspiracy" (irrespective of how irrelevant this was to the organisation involved!). He also handed out leaflets lambasting a range of bodies and people including one member of a local legal family as "the peanut brain de Goldi" (I still hear that nickname and smile to myself when I walk past the brass plate of a Hereford Street office, belonging to a lawyer of the same family name). Earl Constable also stood for Parliament and Council under the name of the Maverick Party. His house in Sydenham stood in the way of widening Brougham Street to build the current ring road expressway - Constable demanded $10 million compensation and would not budge from this. The house was eventually taken under the Public Works Act, a further grievance. Earl Constable died of natural causes not long afterwards.

It is a sad story in many ways, the dangers inherent in "taking on" complex professional systems as a layman; the problem of seeking redress over issues too complex to attract popular understanding and support; making assertions which can be be neither, easily, proved nor disproved [the measurements of de Goldi's cranium were never tested in court!!]; the dangers of getting righteous (even if wronged) or paranoic (I'm the only one that is right, the world's wrong and agin me) in a self burn-up spiral.

But Earl Constable did leave the legacy of his passion in the unforgettable images below of the drastic changes that reshaped Sydenham 40 years ago - the vivid folk art of a man who felt displaced in more ways than one.

Sources. Information in this article is drawn from memory greatly assisted by a Canta (Canterbury University Students Association Newspaper) article written about 1975 (saved without date) researched and written by Paul. Corliss and Brian Rooney. Top photo; Ken Pope; Bottom Photo - Brougham Street before widening, - city archives (note also the distant tower of Nazareth House, at that time an Old Folks Home, looming above trees of Sydenham Park. This was  pulled down some years ago for earthquake safety, and revelations and legal cases have revealed the disgusting treatment and abuse of children that occurred there when Nazareth House was operated as an orphanage in earlier years )
Item 5

Race riots, revolution and criminal town planning at the top of Ferry Road

At the top of Ferry Road, just before it joins St Asaph and Ferry Road, there is still a very old building, painted a bright orange and partly damaged in the  recent eathquaking. That was originally part of local tram makers Boon and Company and on the St Asaph Street side, you can still see the the tram tracks running out from the workshop. Right beside that fairly ancient factory building now stands a grass island, where the intersection has been recontoured. Back in the 1970s that long narrow triangle was still home to a block of shops.  This whole area down to Moorhouse Avenue had once been a crowded working class area and the dozen or more shops in the area - now all gone - would have been a busy neighbourhood centre. In 1901 there was even a "race riot" when a young girl who was roaming the streets at 9pm accused an elderly Chinese merchant of making some indecent approach in his shop. The fact that this was easily disproved by other witnesses did not stop a crowd of 2000 gathering and throwing rocks at the shop, though to be fair this caused outrage in the wider city and in newspaper editorials. The mob were incited by the one-legged man, nephew of a former Mayor Gapes. It seems everybody in town knew he was the blacksheep of the family, a lowlife and a drunk. In court he claimed to be one of three one-legged men at the riotous scene, claimed the police has confused his identity. As is so often the case incourt, the racist Gapes junior's defence didn't have a leg to stand on and he was duly sentenced.

Christchurch never had much of a China town but this area was probably as near it came to having one - in the late 1970s I counted nine Chinese businesses within a couple of blocks and I remember reading about police raids on a (heavily fortfied to slow police) opium den in Allen Street in 1932. One of the main defendants had the marvellously stoical name of Ah Fook.

Mrs Hym's Chinese take-aways and fish and chip shop, on the south side of the road, was a much frequented neighbourhood landmark in the 1970s but the only drug dispensed in that time was large a dollop of monosodiumglutamate additive in the Chinese meals, typical fare of a less discerning era This photo - sorry about quality - captures the (vandalised) gilt window just before the shop itself was demolished to make way for the new polytech On the wall of the two storey wall beside is the remnant of a sign advertising a Hatter

The wider influence in this part of Christchurch was probably not the Chinese but the Catholic Church, this was the church of Ireland's poor immigrant labourers as well as more wealthy immigrants, who also found some small foothold in a city dominated by the Anglican politics and pretensions. Much to the embarrassment, perhaps, of the anglican establishment Dunedin architect Frank Petre designed the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament to such grand and beautiful proportions it outshone the more conventional gothic style Cathedral in the centre of the city. In the opening photo above, it towers over the beginning of the modern Polytech, reflected in the window of the derelict shop.  Its greatest disadvantage was to be sidelined in a corner of the central city that was poor and close to the gas works and railway, and in modern times became home to the unfriendly river of traffic formed by a busy one-way street.

I spent quite a bit of time in the area in the middle seventies by virtue of this cheap rental shop area being home to food co-ops, tenancy action groups and the protestor cum left wing "Resistance Bookshop and Action Centre" at  a time when lots of younger people thought they were part of some great worldwide revolutionary upsurge.  I certainly did and still live by some of the values inherent in the main philosophies of that protest generation.

Neither race riots or revolution took a hold, here or anywhere else in Christchurch, but this area of Christchurch was the scene of a horrific planning disaster.

One of the greatest criminal acts of town or institutional planning ever done in Christchurch was to continue the side-lining of the beautiful and spiritual magnifence of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament when the Polytech (now known as CPIT) began to expand consuming the remaining old wooden houses and various small factories in the area. Even with the seemingly impossible one way street directly in front of the Cathedral here was a brilliant chance to design a tertiary educational institute with the most prestigeous image and feel by creating an open piazza between higher buildings, a visual corridor from High Street corner terminating in a the grandeur of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrement. It would enhance the spirit and energy of the polytech and enhance the Cathedral (give it the status it deserved) and open up that whole corner of the city, a massive magnificent building at the end of the historic High Street area. A diagonal straight street phasing into the view of a anchorstone building, a view similar to the Wikipedia Commons photo below but from further away. 

I was thinking this way back in the 1970s and just presumed every else would too, including the experts designing the Polytech.  It was widely recognised that the Cathedral was (a) magnificent but (b) poorly located. With the purchase and demolition of so many properties in this block, immediately before the Cathedral's face,  it was assumed by me that "ah, fantastic, now they'll have a chance to create some better visual corridors and bring it back into the city", so to speak". How wrong. High rise building to four storeys or more almost completely block out any view of the Cathedral now.

So gross.  So utterly gross!

This photo added Jan 2011 - High Street in Summer - photo taken just south of Tuam street corner - note corner tower of Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament - image how much would have been visible if CPIT had been lais out sympathetically. Or even more radical - the City Council had  a policy of identified sight lines/visual corridors they want to preserve and enhance and had said to CPIT that the Jazz School (end building left hand side of road) needs to be cut back to open up view of main dome of Cathedral., perhaps five storeys but narrower.  The beauty of a city is priceless....but let's face it beautiful cities attract significantly more tourists and beauty makes a holiday so much more magic.

It would be interesting to know whether incorporation of the Cathedral back into the city was missed in ignorance; put in the too hard basket; considered and rejected or deliberately not allowed greater presence out of some old Church bias. But what a loss!! What a criminal loss.
Lesson never trust so-called experts (who usually represent one field or partisan faction)  to join up all the dots.

One last view of those shops on the North side of the road looking up towards the bottom of High Street. The bus is a Bristol Hess (one of my favourite models for driving, so nicely balanced and it handled so well) a mainstay of the fleet in the eighties. Behind it to the right the "KG" - the King George Hotel, once a favourite haunt of some of the city bus drivers  the bus depot not far from here.  The "KG"  was demolished and replaced by some reasonable looking flats for CPIT students, I guess about 10-15years ago.

Just a "little history".

Item 6

George Shannon,  Street Entertainer

When one drives a bus through the centre of the city several times a day, month after month, year after year, one becomes very familiar with the "street people" of the city. I use this term broadly, to encompass all those people who spend a big part of their time out on the street in the central city. Not all them are homeless drifters and potential wastrels and scoundrels - some are just obviously retired, or perhaps on a sickness benefit and prefer the life and energy they find out in the public world. Others may be people that follow a set routine - always have lunch on the same city bench etc. Then there are some people who are distinctive in style or appearance, or stand out because they are distinctively handicapped in some way. Among the most famous, of course, is the Seagull Man - a partly blind man who used to feed the seagulls, so they would perch on his head and shoulders [it did mean wearing a hat and raincoat in all weathers!]. He is commemorated by a bronze plaque on the wall of old post office in Cathedral Square. Bus drivers remember him because he listened constantly to sports on his transistor and would always greet the bus driver with the latest score "231 for Australia driver"...or First Round Knockout to Bill Bloggs, driver" - if you were not a great sports follower, as I was not, this score with no further explantion or even what sport was being played was often somewhat obscure! But every trip through the city as bus driver I'd probably pass at least a dozen of these familiar faces, even if I rarely knew their names. Bus drivers would often share incidents and funny moments with these identities of the city and give them nicknames, such as "Johnny Dancer" or the "Wainoni Beauty Queen". Even back in the 1980s I thought;  I should take a camera and go and introduce myself to these people and see how many would be prepared to share their story, just a page length or something to go with a good quality photo. And then put the whole lot on a box for 20 years, before releasing a small booklet pre-Christmas one year "The Street People of Christchurch Past" - an easy gift for 20 years old to buy their parents! I never did.

I am sure every corner of the city  (of every city!) has its characters but some older readers (locals) may also remember some of the central city area characters in Christchurch that I recall - Leonardo Pagliara - Christchurch's first (yeah right) and most flamboyant drag queen adding glamour to late night hamburger bars [deported to Italy despite a public campaign]; the long haired American man who ostensibly lived in a cave at Sumner and walked down the street with his seven (well looked after and well behaved) alsation dogs; the long robed Wizard of Christchurch preaching against preaching on his ladder in the Square and his great protagonist, fervid evagelical Christian, the Bible Lady, Renee Stanton, with her violin; the name unknown retired bus cleaner widower with tightly belted garbedine coat, and his soft toy policemen and a penchant for directing traffic mid-street and dancing with young woman at live music bars; Eddie the skinhead with his US GI helmet and army camoflage,playing raucous noises on his trumpet in the square; Willie Jack a relatively rare Chinese man in Christchurch thirty years ago - and doubly rare because he wore a beret, a tartan kilt and if you were a woman and friendly he'd show his pink panties too; Mervyn Glue the barrister (and actor) with his distinctive Rumpole like presence and his drinking mates, including the late Bill Sutton (much revered art school teacher and iconic Canterbury artist) heading for the New Albion Hotel and Christchurch's most prestigious bohemian afterwork drinking corner; "Blind Bill" the door-to-door knife sharpener, rocking back and forward in his monk-like hooded duffel coat; Murray Horton with his distinctive high forehead and white whispy hair, the well publicised radical protest leader, pumping pedal on his bicycle; Elsie Locke the well known children's author and liberal leftist campaigner, another cylist often passed by the bus; Sugra the ubiquitous red bearded, mono-cycling juggler (still very much with us); the City Mission guys in the square such as Steve Apirana from Butler, a street kid who became a famous musician and social worker, back on the streets; the bloke from Masters Theatres (Lang Masters I think) with his Nash Rambler car with the cardboard cut out of Yogi bear his constant passenger; Anglican Bishop Pyatt, more like a bluff faced watersider in his manner, on his bicycle or just as likely seen chatting to his Catholic counterpart Bishop Ashby......

.....I'll have to resist the temptation of coming back to this page as more names or faces come to mind...I never interviewed any of these people - landmark figures in Christchurch streets - and  the only photo I have - above - is of poor quality and taken from a safe distance of one the city's most distinctive tramps of Christchurch two and a half decades ago, George Shannon. It says everything that he not only manages to ride down the wrong side of the street whilst drinking from a bottle, he also manages to raise it in a sort of mock satirical salute. Yes George Shannon (a huge man) was unquestionably an alcoholic but so are many thousands of other people and few have worked so hard to "cock a snoot" at society with such irreverent public performances. These were by no means always charming - I saw him once pretending to masturbate in Chancery Arcade, at other times spitting tacks at by passers. Running at high speed through a group of Japanese tourists saw him before the courts.  More often I saw him singing bizarre songs while he glugged from a half gallon jar of (presumably sherry - he could hold the base of the bottle in the palm of one hand). He could be aggressive and once when the police came to arrest for causing a public disturbance near the bus that I was loading for  Sumner it was very noticeable from my position in the cab that two or three carloads arrived and the largest of policemen waited to they had the whole team together before moving in on this powerfully built man (well who wouldn't?). Yet for all that he kept the bus driver's cafe alive with George Shannon stories, comments about latest sightings and bizarre doings. Not least his bizarre head gear made anew each day it seemed. George Shannon would assemble all sorts of old cardboard boxes, driftwood, feathers, bits of clothing, children's broken toys etc, found in rubbish tins and tie them on his head with strips of rag. Whatever he is wearing in the photo above appears almost normal. 

I don't want to be accused of romanticising an alcoholic who may have suffered terrible trauma or whatever, but there was for me, so often, a big grin hidden his deliberate presentations, a sort of deep irony and teasing of the world. He was not only a most unrespectable citizen he was quite consciously and deliberately a disrespectful citizen, given to bold theatrical displays, the classic outsider who loves to mock the gentry. My last memory of George Shannon (about 20 something years ago) was walking along Brougham Street as the sun went down in the west and suddenly seeing this cartoon giant silhouette outline, a black shape etched against the sunset, deliberately standing half out in one traffic lane with his head tilted back, and holding a whole flagon (wide based half gallon bottle) in one hand while going glug-glug-glug with all the devil take you gusto of some mad story book giant or pirate king. An added artistic aspect - the sunlight almost at the horizon caught the golden liquid inside the bottle, radiating a spectacular beam of golden light.

Item 7


In a way that evokes images of fragile and elderly people whose lives are suddenly cut short by a vicious flu sweeping through a country, the earliest "suburban" centres of Christchurch have finally succumbed to a violent outbreak, one far beyond the capacity of their frail health  to withstand.

Almost all that was left, whatever the erosion of time and re-development had not taken across the last fifty years, was brutally seized, shaken and stripped apart in two brusque sweeps of the grim reaper's scythe. Two giant earthquakes five months apart felled or rendered beyond viable rescue hundreds of the older "corner store" style commercial buildings in Christchurch's inner suburbs. And over 5000 lesser aftershocks conspired to destroy a few more, some amongst them that might otherwise otherwise have been restored.

I suggest it is not just a large number of heritage buildings lost, but a very core element of our older generation's identity, the collective expression of the technology of daily life for most of the last century (or circa 1890-1980).  I speak of  the public transport line, route, or hub and small gathering of shops and other services, that constituted the active heart of each of the early suburban areas.

Until the rise of the supermarket from the 1950s onward, then the car in every garage, then the 24 hour service station that sells bread, and the ATM machine,  most people were largely dependent on these centres (and a few delivery services or  traveling vendors, ringing their bells,  "same day and time each week') to meet most of their basic needs. 

It is not just 300 hundred suburban commercial buildings that have been identified as needing demolition, it is a sort of circle of elders, who on September 3rd were still standing tall, shabby but august and (in most cases) straight backed, yet like so many old folks isolated and feeling barely heard, no  longer loved,  admired, or very meaningful in the larger scheme of things. Apart from the beach suburbs most shared the common experience of being about 3 km or 4km from Cathedral  Square, typically alongside or at the end of a tram route.

Yes they often looked old and run down, their facades a bit battered, festooned with signs or with upstairs windows blank, ramshackle additions and outside stairwells added at the back. Yet  these groupings of mostly two-storey, mostly brick shops, three or four in a row, with their flats up above, were the dynamic shopping and service hubs (in modern jargon) of a bygone time. Most of them sprang up at tram termini or other key points along the city's tram routes constructed between about 1880 and 1920.

They were the Victorian-Edwardian equivalent to our suburban shopping malls, but with all the household basics accessible at a walking distance from home after getting off the tram from the city. The grocer, the butcher, the greengrocer, the baker, the fishmonger, the chemist, the hairdresser, the tobacconist, not each to an aisle in the supermarket but each shopkeeper with their own little kingdom, each shop stamped by their owner's personality, usually well known to all local residents. And long before credit cards, many offered elasticity in weekly cash flow by allowing known residents to put purchases "on the tab" - to be settled up on pay day, of course. 

Purely by identifying these locations, one could almost plot out the tram routes at their fullest extension, all achieved  by 1925.  I knew these little blocks of shops well, firstly  as a bus driver, and then also as one who researched and has written some small part of the city's history.

Papanui and Sydenham grew with the earliest steam tramways, from 1878, Lincoln Road from the railway line not far behind them  [even as late as 1970 Lincoln Road close to the railway line still had "Sydenham style" rows of two storey brick shops, and The Star, a solid hotel in the classic Victorian style]. 

In the days when vacations away were rare, day trips to the beach and carnivals were the most widespread form of holiday outing - Sumner, New Brighton, North Beach depended on the the over-extended tramways (across paddocks) to bring them the hordes (14,000 passengers recorded in one day on New Brighton trams on one carnival day in 1909). 

Most of older New Brighton had already long gone, in the Saturday shopping era [the most drastic EQ effect  the facade of the old Everybody's Theatre crashing onto the road, irreparable, the site now bare] but at North Beach the lovely wee turreted building on Bowhill Road (more lately a bar) laid its turret down and died in February's quake.

Other "tram stop locations" from Papanui shops clockwise; Edgeware had lost most of its historic shops long ago (the block with chemist and video hire on the west side at the top of Colombo weathered the storm well - the first building in Christchurch built on a floating slab foundation back in the 1960s) but the former "Century" cinema aka Supervalue Supermarket not so, now demolished.

Shops on Barbadoes Street, tram route to St Albans Park (before developers added the park title the area previously nick-named "the swamp"!) suffered badly in September's pre-dawn earthquake, all brought down and most of them already rebuilding in February. (How many lives were saved by these small businesses being already destroyed in the first quake in September (at 4.35 am) when no one had been inside them?).

Cranford/Westminster corner (the old Cranford Street tram terminus and turning wye... two corners full of shops lost in September earthquake; Linwood and Richmond shops at Stanmore Road, those at Worcester Street into Linwood Avenue, and those at Linwood Avenue and Aldwins, many - and usually the largest and oldest in most cases (such as landmark restaurant Henry Africas) mostly felled by FebEQ22.  

Dallington (Woodham/Gloucester) terminus one of the last tram routes created, and most short-lived, replaced by more cost effective buses in the 1930s, a more modern block of shops than most but equally munted and demolition likely following February's mega shake, shallow, incredibly rapid, ground acceleration rates doing more damage than September's larger 7.1 quake. Woolston's finest, the old Post Office, the former Police station, among those buildings so gravely injured; Beckenham old dame shops were already facing the bright glare from tomorrow's neighbourhood style shops (set back from road with large car-park on the Tennyson Street corner) and the invasion of new Police Station of the most unbelievable gross ugliness, never lived to fight a longer death struggle -  gravely damaged, bulldozed and bricks carted off, their sites now an option for roading enhancement to link Tennyson and Somerfield Street directly. 

Long before Barrington Mall - the rich and intense gathering of shops at Selwyn Street [near Brougham] - in a busier city with all the promise of revival as a trendy neighbourhood. Alas the old Spreydon tram terminus area is largely leveled sites, reduced to graveled spaces. 

What is perhaps most sad, I am beginning to realise, is that so few photographic records of these "heart of the area" - in today's jargon "heart of the hood" - centres seem to remain. Yes, photos in their post quake destruction in abundance, but so few before the earthquake, taken ten, twenty, forty or eighty years ago. The buildings were so much part of the community, mundane living, few people it seems thought to capture these cornerstones of daily life on film.

Few things define a city so much as its buildings, but suburban hubs (in days before suburbs conceptually existed!) that marked our territory, childhood and adult years, taken for granted, so much now gone.

Below is a photo from city archives of the corner of Waltham Road and Shakespeare Road - right hand side - in about 1976 [I think] just before Waltham Road was widened as part of the redevelopment needed to recreate narrow Brougham Street as a four lane expressway through Sydenham. As St Martins didn't get a tram route to after 1912, and Sydenham was an independent borough until 1903 (with 11,000 residents said to be better run than Christchurch with 17,000) this little gathering of old timers chatting on a corner was more likely a "suburb" - commercial outpost - of Sydenham than of Christchurch for its first few decades. 

I have reproduced the photo twice, because the smaller but wider view better locates things. Both the buildings on the immediate left survived until recently, with the road frontage closer to the building. The Shell service station sign belongs to Holland Motors, now purely a car dealer, and the service station buildings themself were refitted into the dairy (Patel's dairy) and the fish and chip shop.

Other buildings that remained until Feb 22, as a tattoo parlour and a golfing equipment wholesale warehouse, might be identified by locals. In the background the domes of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, too magnificent not to be restored; the old railway sorting sheds and the old coal fired gasworks demolished about 20 years ago.


Item 8

In Review

Mainstay of the Christchurch bus fleet for 30 years (!) an AEC Mark IV bus
- solid buses and complemented in 1979 by a bus timetable with clout (especially if thrown)

Earthquakes don't just collapse buildings, they over-turn (or is it turn over?) past lives. After our wonderful old high gabled Victorian brick building was cracked by the 7.1 richter scale quake in September, we vacated (bloody fast!) but in weeks afterwards went back and retrieved personal bits and pieces, and were able to use part of the house, before the far more damaging Feb 22 quake.

Of course the main priorities at such "what shall I take moments" are the unique and personal, the family photos, the mementos of past loves, the boy scout badge from 50 years ago, the kids school reports and first drawings.  And, of course, 27 boxes full of old bits of paper covered in scrawly writing; long forgotten draft articles; letters when people still posted them; yellowing newspaper cuttings; photographs too blurry or odd to ever stick in an album; scrapbooks; articles saved from magazines in 1977 and airline timetables from 1986 - and all the other important things in life!

In the last six months of quasi refugee status, ferrying boxes (sigh)  and trying to simplify and save only the main items (aaargh!!) bits and pieces have emerged that I have not seen for years, indeed sometimes decades. 

This includes a real world rarity I imagine - a faded to warm yellow genuine, serious and evaluative fair dinkum book review of a  book of bus timetables - I wrote over 30 years ago.

                                                                   click on image to enlarge

And it is a review that manages to cover some fairly wide bases,  also mentioning the Bible and Mao Tse Tung **(as then known) in the first three paragraphs! All this in a conventional give-away suburban newspaper.

The classic tome to which the review refers is "Christchurch Transport Board Complete Services"  the title in gold embossed lettering on the heavy red vinyl cover. Pages were on the ring binder principle so the really dedicated bus users could replace and update pages. I think it may have been produced originally for drivers to always have info at their finger-tips, on every service, in answer to queries [no radio telephones in those days] but an over-run was done to allow keen passengers to purchase this same miniature encylopedia of Christchurch bus routes.

I sent the review unsolicited to Suburban Newspapers (I think a "Star" subsidiary - or the competitors) and it was printed in their letter boxed give-away papers on August 6 1979.
Later I went on to write more literary reviews for various publications, some a mite more critical, and varied in their focus or topics, but this is a master piece of laudatory propaganda for bus use. For example the comment "though it is bit bulky"... was a gross understatement. it was quite literally almost the size of a Bible, Totally impractical for carrying unless one had a large purse or a small car (the latter of course rendering the timetable largely irrelevant.....except (and recent blog postings show I am nothing if not consistent) it is needed by parents ..."to prove to your children they can get to the Saturday matinee perfectly well without needing you as a chauffeur." [were children really still going to the movies on Saturday afternoon as late as 1979?] .

The bizarre fact, that it contained no maps or even written details of where each route went, seems to have got off very very lightly in my judgement at that time, described as merely "a shortcoming".

I only regurgitate this triva to show my impeccable credentials as a bona fide busspotter elder one who stayed the distance! "ee stood loyal, ee did". Got too much bloody diesel in his brain and it addled him, that's wot really 'appened mate. He couldn't get off the bus, don't matter 'ow many times it went round in a circle, that's wot 'appened mate.

Note the last paragraph - Light Bus Network and NICERide integrated schedules [use top corner searchbox] - still 32 years away but already fermenting.... some people sure think slow.

Of course in those days transport journalism was far better paid - noted on the side of the page above,  paid $3.03.  Those were the days!

** friends of friends, anarchists no doubt, had a cat they called "Mousey Tongue"