Saturday, 25 February 2012

Be It 'Ever So 'Umble

90 Browne Street, Waitara
Click on the image to see the larger version
This seemingly forlorn property holds special memories for me.  Through the miracle that is Google Street View I rediscovered the house where I was born and raised for the first twelve years of my life; from 1948 until 1962 when I left the town to go to boarding school in New Plymouth.

I am surprised that the dwelling is still standing while others around it have ceased to exist and have been replaced by more modern homes.

The front block fence is how I remember it and the big shed at the front used to be clad with fibrolite. The smaller shed at the right, running parallel to the front fence did not exist in my day.  We had a rosemary hedge in its place and my mother used to use cutting from this to make a perfumed infusion when she washed her hair.

At right is the lounge's dormer window which I remember and the chimney also looks original; in my infancy we had a coal range in the kitchen and a roaring fire in the lounge during winter.  We used the embers of the latter to make toasted cheese.  At Xmas the lounge always smelt of the freshly cut pine tree which stood in a decorated bucket in the corner.

The big expanse of lawn out side our gate was where the boys in our street played our rugby games. Cricket was played inside the inner fence to stop the ball running on to the street.

My father was the town's solicitor and this was our first and only home in Taranaki.  When he later became a Judge of the Maori Land Court, my parents shifted down to Palmerston North but I remained at school in New Plymouth until the end of 1966.

At the back of our sections we kept chooks (hens) in a large pen so we had a ready supply of fresh eggs.  There was also a small path behind the hen house that took us through to the neighbours, the Lehndorfs.

Old Mr Lehndorf used to come and mow our lawns and do a bit of gardening when I was very young.  He had a large work shed in which he entertained me, with stories of the musket balls from the Maori Land Wars and other tales.  He also kept tropical fish in  a large ornamental pond that he found necessary to cover with chicken wire netting as the neighbourhood cats supplemented their diet from it when ever the opportunity arose.

Sybil Baker and her husband lived at number 87 Browne Street in a distinctive Art Deco styles house.  She was my sister's god mother and a very kindly woman who lived well in to her eighties in New Plymouth.  he house remains much as I remember it.  I stayed with her when I was three years old whole my mother gave birth to my sister.  It was my first brush with oil paints (literally) as I managed to completely ruin an oil painting that her husband had been working on for a Rotary Club auction.

Advert in the Christchurch Star 1963
I was great friends with the children next door at 83 Browne Street. First with Paul and his brother Dave Bullot and later with the Olliver children (Barry and Max in particular).  There father Jack Olliver was a Physical Education teacher and also a stage magician of some talent.  It was his performances who first fostered my own childhood interest in conjuring.  I used to get the De Larno's Magic catalogue each time I visited the store in Chancery Lane, Christchurch.  Much fun was had entertaining the local children with my box of tricks.  I wrote a little about this in an earlier post.
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