Monday, July 28, 2008

Remembering Frank

Tonight we've got a big event at Taka Library - Never Enough - Remembering Frank Sargeson. The timing's less than immaculate - Council have just posted storm warnings for another weather bomb to all staff- so that may well cut down the numbers, but if everyone who rsvp'd does actually turn up it it should be a good crowd. Sargeson mentored many Auckland writers, and some of them ended up living on the Shore becasue he was here. Back then the Shore was a looser, far less suburban place where you could find a bit of peace without entirely forsaking city ammenities, most of which were just a ferry (or later on a bus) ride away.
Frank's house is very visible from Esmonde Rd, but back in the day this was a dead-end road leading down to mangroves and estuary, and his house had a large and dense hedge, so it was pretty quiet - ideal for a writer. The privacy went when the harbour bridge went up and the motorway went through in 1959, and the hedge came down when Esmonde Rd was widened in 2007, but it has been replanted and in time some of the original sense of retreat should return.

The Friends of Sargeson House have organised tonight's knees-up and have bought down some of the more portable bits and pieces from his house to go on display, including a truly vile substance called Lemora, which used to be brewed in Henderson, was lemon-flavoured and 29% alchohol. We will be recording the event - Graeme Lay, Kevin Ireland and Christine Cole Catley will be speaking - and all going well I'll post some photos.
The image above is of the bust of Sargeson by Anthony Stones.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dear Diary...

23 July 2008

Coming up this week? School holidays are over so things are a little quieter at work. I'm currently working on an exhibition of photographs from our library photograph archive for Heritage Week in thee first week of November. It will focus on Milford beach between the 1920s and 1950s, during its heyday as a seaside destination for local North Shore families, and for Aucklanders coming over to the Shore by ferry - before the Auckland Harbour Bridge was built in 1959.

Before the bridge, it was the local ferry service that connected the Shore to the rest of Auckland. In the mid 1920s a tramline was constructed from the Bayswater wharf to Takapuna, and from there it looped around Lake Pupuke, passing through Milford on the way. There were a handful of very smart residences on the shores of Lake Pupuke. The most famous of these was Sir Henry Brett's three storey Victorian mansion - it burnt down, but the old photographs remain to give some idea of the kind of house it was. It had beautiful gardens, as did the original Mon Desir hotel on Takapuna Beach. That Edwardian building was also replaced by the better known 1960s Mon Desir, and that gave way in turn to the apartments that now occupy that site. Gone but not forgotten.
Edwardian visitors to the Shore came over for the races at Devonport or to go boating or picnicing at Lake Pupuke rather than to visit the beach, but after the 1920s the beaches at Takapuna and Milford came into their own. It's interesting looking back at the old photos to see just how much happened down at the beaches at Takapuna and Milford. There were life-saving teams - both male and female, political rallies, a flying boat passenger service for a while, a visit from the aviator Charles Kingsford-Smith in the Southern Cross.

There was also the old Pirate Shippe, a restaurant at the northern end of Mildord beach, and a big open air swimming pool. Both are gone now, but in their time they drew big crowds.
Pirate Shippe on opening day 1929
If you didn't want to hang out at the beach, there were other things to do too - there were two or three dance halls and movie theatres, including the old Picturedome, and in the 1960s a venue called Surfside that was popular with the locals.