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May—June 2013

Volume 12 Issue 71

The Avondale Historical Journal
Official Publication of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Incorporated

Night of the Exploding Tote
Avondale residents and those in surrounding districts for several miles around were enjoying a peaceful evening on September 22 1924, when at around 8.45 pm a thunderous roaring boom filled the air, coming from the Avondale Jockey Club. It was immediately feared that the grandstand was on fire. Houses shook, neighbours and volunteer fire brigade members came running, as sheets of flame tore through the centre of the roof of the totalisator building on the course. Pieces of galvanised roofing iron were parted from their fittings, strewn about the paddocks around, one was even found a hundred metres away on the racetrack itself. An old roller-type of totalisator machine owned by a Mr S Yates and used by the Jockey Club was completely wrecked. All but one of the windows were blown out, purlins measuring 3 x 2 lifted from the cross beams throughout the structure, inside toilets wrecked with “lumps of porcelain … scattered about the room”. Part of the front wall of the building was “shattered to fragments, leaving an aperture several square yards in extent,” according to an Auckland Star reporter. Almost immediately, rumours that the explosion was deliberate, rather than an accident, began to circulate around the village. “There is not the slightest evidence which would suggest that the explosion was an accidental occurrence,“ the Auckland
Images from Auckland Weekly News, 2 October 1924, AWNS-19241002-44-1, by kind permission of Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library

Next meeting of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society: At St Ninians, St Georges Road (opp. Hollywood Cinema) SATURDAY , 1 June 2013, 2.00 pm

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Star declared, giving as a reason for this deduction that only the gas and water mains could have caused an explosion, and both were found intact (part of the gas main, however, was badly twisted on the edges of the damaged area.) The reporter pointed to the fact that the door to the commission room was found open, saying that it suggested that a forced entry had been made as the door opened inwards. “The bracket of the lock was forced away and the tongue was still as it had been turned in locking.” However, the Star did add that the explosion could have accounted for the door being open. Reports were made of “adverse comments” having been made of the totalisator system at Avondale up to the night of the explosion. Unlike the automatic systems to be found at the time at Ellerslie, Avondale still used old hand-controlled roller types, such as had been introduced by the first secretary of the club, Harry Hayr, back in the early days of the racecourse. According to Graham Reddaway, a former president of the club, Avondale had been at the forefront of totalisator technology in the early years, thanks to Hayr and his company (continued on by Yates). Up until 1903, there were only bookmakers on the course, but these were replaced by the totalisator. There were advances in the totalisators from Hayr’s time until 1924, but it still took up to seven minutes after the tote had closed to adjust and ring up the bets for each horse, in order to determine each bet’s share of the total pool. The Star noted that the delay was found “tedious” by the betting public attending the meetings at Avondale. The Star also reported an opinion about the town that there was a “difference of opinion” over the verdict on “two very close and exciting finishes” on the day of the explosion. Six of the eight tote machines in the building were severely damaged, and belonged to Yates, while two others belonging to the club remained undamaged. Despite all the rumours and speculation rife in Avondale, the official insurance investigation found that the cause was due to the escape of “coal gas”. Mr. Reddaway, who had done some study into the incident, said that the building was lit by gaslight, and it was highly likely that someone had forgotten to turn the gas supply off to at least one of the lights before closing the building at the end of the day’s racing, and a spark ignited the gas. Lisa J Truttman

by Ray Hollier, Matamata
Remember when you could buy your bread and milk at the front gate? Yes, Buchanan’s Bakery would come around with their horse and cart loaded with fresh bread. Then the milkman with his wagon load of milkcans would do his rounds. You took your billy to the gate and he ladled out the pint or two you wanted. Of course if the horse left its droppings on the road there was always someone that would rush out with bucket and shovel to collect it for free manure for the garden. Then there was the rag and bone man and his wagon who bought up bottles, rags and junk. Time to start school. This means for us children who lived in Beatrix Street and Plane Street a walk along Great North Road past Hoyes’ coal and firewood yard and the opposite side of the road the joinery furniture manufactory shop. No mother taking us to school by car in those days … Once at school besides classes there was always the fun of cricket and football down on the playing field or climbing the trees on the front boundary. No OSH to say it was dangerous and to keep off. Then there was the woodwork and cooking classes for the older children. Not to forget the Dr Barnadoes’ group supporting that work. Also the bottle of milk warmed by the sun. If it was banking day at school we would have our bank books and 3d or 6d to bank. If we were lucky mother would give us 6d to go over the road from the school to get fish and chips for lunch. If we went shopping with mother there was a stop at the Post Office to mail letters or collect the child allowance then cross Rosebank Road to Self Help for groceries. Maybe go up Rosebank Road to Leary’s bookshop for school supplies or Alf Kirby’s for a haircut, maybe Tomlinson’s for haberdashery needs A little further along Great North Road was the bootmaker who resoled your shoes. Sometimes we would go to the next block of shops past the school to Mr Amos’ store. A real old country store. Was like a huge barn with high polished wooden counters from so much use. Sacks of flour, sugar, grain, potatoes from which Mr Amos scooped out what you wanted. Large hams and sides of bacon from which he sliced off your order. Then the large cheeses and the wire cutter he used to slice off the size you wanted. The best part of going to this store was that Mr Amos gave us children lollies.

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Of course there was the stop at Fearons butcher to pick up the weekend roast. Must not forget Crawford’s garage where we would stop to pump up our bicycle tires. When we turned eight years old we could join the Wolf Cubs meeting at the Waterview Methodist Church Hall under the leadership of Mrs Tatton and Miss Kerr. The highlight was the annual weekend camp out at Motu Moana, Green Bay. Then when we were old enough we could move up into the Scouts. Again the highlight was to be able to spend every Easter and Labour weekend camping at the Scouting campsite Motu Moana. We would fetch our 10x10 tents and settle n for the weekend. Sleeping was on a groundsheet on the ground. No inflatable mattresses. Cooking over an open fire which was a challenge in wet weather. Then there were the bottle drives and paper drives to help raise money to purchase tents and equipment. Mums and Dads would help as the boys went house to house collecting the bottles and newspapers. During the war years we also spent many hours making camouflage nets for the Army. Also scouring the countryside gathering the seeds of the fescue grass to be used for medical work. Then came the day we could no longer use the Waterview Methodist Hall so the Scouts moved to the old Avondale fire station on Blockhouse Bay Road by the railway line opposite Avondale railway station. I did not get to go to Avondale College as I was already at Seddon Memorial Tech but as I delivered newspapers after school I saw the start of its construction as a rest over recreation facility for the American forces fighting in the Pacific. When the market gardeners had to move off the land they had to leave their crops. So before the bulldozers got started many of the neighbours helped themselves to the vegetables. I can remember going home with the store bag on my bike full of carrots, parsnips etc. Many a time as I come back from my paper run, and as I passed the American Camp entrance on Victor Street some American servicemen would ask if I would go to the shops in Avondale for some item he wanted. Was always rewarded with a generous tip for the effort. Avondale races was a profitable day for us kids as when the race meeting finished we would collect up the empty beer and drink bottles as we could sell them for a penny each. Every 24 bottles gave us two shillings which was a lot in those days. Ice blocks were two a penny at Knight’s Dairy at the top of Victor Street. All hand made on the premises. Those were the days.

Avondale’s Maternity Homes
My recent bout of research into this topic was sparked off by a conversation with Lorna Gagen, whose parents Paul and Margaret Richardson once lived at 6 Roberton Road. Lorna told me that their house had once been that used by Nurse Manning as a maternity home before the Richardsons bought it, and it was used by Nurse Edwards when the Richardsons swapped for Nurse Edwards’ place on Great North Road. The first nurse in the district I’ve found so far was a Nurse Mary Gibson, who started c.1885 probably in the Ponsonby area. She practised only briefly in Waterview from c.1901-c.1904. Somewhat itinerant, she travelled around Parnell , Eden Terrace and even New Lynn for a time. She nursed down to the 1920s or so. The newspapers give a reference a Nurse Chisholm, living somewhere in Avondale in 1907, but there is little further on her. At 71 Blockhouse Bay Road, William Salisbury built a house between 1904-1908. This villa was sold to the Morey family, who by 1915 rented it to Joseph and Jane Newman. From c.1917, this became Avondale’s first established maternity home of any duration beyond just months, used by Nurse Newman, then Nurse Edwards from the early 1920s (renting from the Newmans who by then owned the house). The villa has now been replaced by flats. Meanwhile, in 1914 Avondale’s first dentist/chemist, Robert Allely, purchased the property at 6 Roberton Road. He may well have had the house built there himself, a villa which still exists. He sold it, around the time he left Avondale in 1920, to Nurse Mary Manning. Her husband W H Manning was a veteran of the British Army from 1877. Nurse Manning operated “Erinville”, Avondale’s most equipped maternity nursing home, having a total of five bedrooms, nursery, and birthing theatre, until her death in 1928. She lies buried at the George Maxwell Memorial Cemetery. Mothers came from as far away as Kumeu to have their children born there, Avondale’s maternity homes being quite close to the western railway line for ease of transport. The Richardsons purchased “Erinville”, and lived there until 1940, when Nurse Edwards moved in, and leased “Erinville” for 10 years from the Richardson family, renaming the house “Puriri Home”. Unfortunately, according to Lorna Gagen, Nurse Edwards died before her lease was up, c.1946. Before Nurse Edwards moved to Roberton Road, her base was at 1798 Great North Road, another house which still remains to this day. Alice Edwards was Avondale’s longest-serving maternity nurse, working more than twenty years.

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(Above left) 6 Roberton Road. (Above right) 1798 Great North Road. (Right) 17 Powell Street (Far right) Advertisement for the sale of “Erinville” on Mary Manning’s death, Auckland Star 15 June 1928

Another maternity home here in Avondale was “Avonlea” at 17 Powell Street (another surviving building). Probably built in the mid 1920s by builder Thomas Herbert Copsey, John and Kathleen AddisonSaipe appear there as occupiers by 1928, which is when the “Avonlea Maternity Home” begins to appear in birth notices published in the Auckland Star. Nurse Addison-Saipe operated from Powell Street only through to c.1932. She died 1 February 1952, aged 65. I’m still piecing together the story of Avondale’s maternity homes — and were there any in Waterview, or even a midwife based there? I’ve been asked to give a talk at the Central Library in mid-August this year on the topic of Auckland maternity homes, so any information would be very much appreciated. Lisa J Truttman

The Avondale Historical Journal
Published by: the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Inc. Editor: Lisa J. Truttman Society contact: 19 Methuen Road, Avondale, Auckland 0600 Phone: (09) 828-8494, 027 4040 804 email: Society information: Website: Subscriptions: $10 individual $15 couple/family $30 corporate

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