You are on page 1of 4

July August 2013

Volume 12 Issue 72

The Avondale Historical Journal

Official Publication of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Incorporated

Avondale, 9 August 1963

This image from the Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Library (ref 580-7643) shows the intersection of Great North and Rosebank Road, 9 August 1963, a wet wintry August day, a traffic officer on points duty, and what appears to be the installation of traffic lights (look at the traffic queue up Great North Road towards the bowling club). Does anyone recall a flagpole atop the Fearon Building? Probably removed in the late 1960s/1970s when the buildings faade was altered. Copies of Avondale Historical Journal and AWHS Newsletter produced for us by Words Incorporated, 557 Blockhouse Bay Road, Blockhouse Bay. The Society and AHJ editorial staff thank

Next meeting of the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society: At St Ninians, St Georges Road (opp. Hollywood Cinema) SATURDAY , 3 August 2013, 2.00 pm This is our Annual General Meeting

Avondale Business Association

for their continued support and sponsorship of this publication.

The Avondale Historical Journal

Volume 12 Issue 72 Page 2

Not that I actually paid every time. Having spent more at the pictures or in buying an un-budgeted pie in town, one chose a packed tram, squeezed onto the rear platform with the smokers, slipped into the out-of-bounds empty driver's cab and went as far as you could before the conductor got suspicious. Mostly I could get right home, but a walk from Mt Albert wasn't a hardship. But I wasn't often in the situation of cribbing a ride, happily paying for the fares were reasonable. A Saturday afternoon at the Olympic Pool cost 4d each way and 4d for the pool. A Sunday outing for the whole family figured one and six or at most two and six. I mentioned the platforms at the ends of the tram. These were the entry spaces between the driver's cabs and the car proper, made safe with substantial steel gates, the one on the centre of the road side always being closed. When chocker block with passengers both gates were closed by the people on the platform so no one fell off. I think the sign said seven standing if full up inside. Often there were more out there than that, especially at the rear where extras spilled over into the empty cab. At the front one wasn't allowed to talk to the driver. At least so said the sign. Still, some fellows always seemed to know the driver, and someone leaning into the cab and yarning wasn't unusual. On the platforms in later years honesty boxes were mounted and did get used. Getting along the aisle of a packed tram full of strap hangers or folk holding onto seat handles was difficult so the conductor sometimes simply couldn't collect from everyone. Remember he or she also had responsibility for checking everyone was off or on the tram at each frequent stop before jerking the starting bell cord along the tram length and which also hung down in each platform. Remember too that trams ran in the centre of the road on two sets of tracks, one for each direction. A stop meant the cars, which were always to the left of the tram, also had to halt so passengers could walk to or from the kerb. Modem tram promoters have forgotten all that. In town there were safety islands in the roadway so passengers could get on and off or wait right beside the tram tracks. Yet another road narrowing which interfered with the increasing motor traffic flow. Traffic lights began to appear whilst the trams were still running and I had a car licence by then. Just who gave way to whom at the lights, or even the ordinary intersections, is lost to me now. I can't remember 'hooked turns' like Melbourne people are used to. There was another complication at major intersections like Wellesley Street or Customs Street where the tram points had to be controlled. Elevated signal boxes were at such places and I suppose small semaphore signals or lights told the driver that his line points were now correctly set for his route.

A Transport of Delight
First time visitors to our Rosebank Rd house sometimes remarked on hearing thunder on a cloudless day. Not so. Just a tram rumbling across the Blockhouse Bay Road railway overbridge. That and the iron-wheeled roar; the hissing grinding brake blocks dusting the street with iron filings; the teb, teb, tebbing of a trolley pole counting off each overhead wire clip as the pole slid by; or droning electric motors and gears dragging a tram up the hill, were an un-noticed part of life at our place. Even a stationary tram couldn't be quiet for long. Waiting at the terminus the brake pump chattered away, doonk, doonk, doonk beneath the floor, every now and then shutting off with a hiss and sudden silence. But only for moments. Add the clatter clatter as the conductor, both arms outstretched strode the length of the aisle flipping the two way seats over for the return journey ... Changing the trolley pole was noisy too. One of the crew had to heave all his or her weight on the rope to release the unruly pole from its hook, overcoming powerful springs to do it. And those springs could take control, flailing the pole about and jiggling the person on the rope right off the ground like a dancing doll. All to loud booming noises in the tram and rude words outside. Eventually the pole was on the wire, and the trammie went to the other end and did it all again in reverse to heave the other pole down. A sparky electric fireworks performance even when things went well. Once re-connected with energy the tram came noisily to life again. Finally the double destination indicators would be set by cranking handles in the cabs, and once it was properly showing the adventure could begin. At the appointed minute for departure from Avondale the motorman keyed the roadside cast-iron time clock and clambered back into his cab. He clipped the dead man's handle onto the controller and when the conductor yanked the bell cord to signal clear to go, wound on some power. Brakes hissed off, things electric-arc popped and spat under the floor and away it all went. A slow grind up to the points for a lurch-lurch as squealing wheels binding on the rails set the tram on the correct side of the road for a journey to 'Remuera via Town Hall', or 'Meadowbank' which were the usual routes from Avondale. Barely a hundred yards on came a slow to a crawl whilst the conductor leapt momentarily off to return the tea billy to Mrs Seymonds before resuming duties collecting fares and clipping tickets. Stops were frequent and followed by the call, "All fares" from whatever the last stop had been. Smart people who knew the stops asked for so many 'sections' for the route was broken into fare blocks. I never learned all that. My youngster fare was 3d to town or 4d to Newmarket.

The Avondale Historical Journal

Volume 12 Issue 72 Page 3

Trams had an astonishing rate of acceleration. If a motorist wasn't quick enough he couldn't get past before the next stop, setting up a trail of irate following drivers. One of the silliest things I ever did was pass a tram on its right. Another tram was coming the other way. There is a memory of a tram coming head on, brakes locked, wheels sliding on the rails, the big under-floor bell hammering and the driver's eyes looking straight into mine. The van went through the closing gap barely by paint thickness. I told no one for thirty years. Given its head on a good clear straight a tram went excitingly fast, getting into a sort of winding swaying motion or a leaping surging gait. My friend George was full of bright ideas. Once he demonstrated how a thirteen or fourteen year old could crawl under the closed steel gate and sit tucked out of sight on the high step, head about level with the platform. An exhilarating ride just above the roadway. Trams going the other way hurtled by, missing you by inches, shocking the approaching motorman. George lived at a house numbered 128 and it was his firm belief that tram 128 was unquestionably the very best of the bunch. Great joy if it hove in sight. Once, going down Symonds Street, George dropped his swimming gear off the platform. He jumped off, grabbed the stuff and ran all the way following the tram to catch up at the bottom of Queen Street. Another boy at high school, we called him Tramway Larsen, was a dedicated tram enthusiast and had all the facts and figures. Most of us train and aeroplane fans couldn't quite figure out a bloke being keen on trams. Trams were gregarious, flocking together on race days in a line right up Rosebank Rd to the Blockhouse corner. All wore differing destinations and people wanting a seat would walk the line to find a place, nevermind a wee wait before departure. School picnics, too, often went by tram. Again the Saturday line and orderly boarding for hordes of mums, dads and kids. You can still ride on an Auckland tram at Motat. Smell the smells, hear the noises, feel the lurches, read the 'Smoking at the rear of this notice only' sign and pay the conductor and get a ticket from his shoulder strap mounted holder, change from the big leather bag. Dream too of a conductor, he or she, forcing through an overloaded tram as it struggled up the steep pinch of Queen Street. Try to catch No 248 if you can. That style is my favourite. Not that the 'Queen Marys' aren't special too. I'm beginning to sound like Tramway Larsen. In my mind a tram is slowing down hill for the bend near Adams Brothers' Four Square. I haven't rung the stop bell and I'm on the back step. No cars coming. I launch

off, hit Rosebank Rd running and by the time the tram is nearing the shops I'm through the gate at 42. Don Gwilliam 9th March 2013

AT THE BEACH Along the way for a long day to Long Bay
Don Gwilliam Firmly the midway tram sign puts us in our place. 'Smoking to the rear of this notice only' We obey. Seated, dad fingers Park Drive from his tin, Packs, rolls, lick-seals a Zig Zag Rice, Then flares a Beehive from the box. Tobacco out-fragrances mum's dab of 4711 lavender, And the once for the day thick swabbing Of sickly-sweet scented pink Q-Tol, Still drying on sister and I, sticky on legs, arms, backs. Holding all secure at this hillside terminus The tram underfloor brake pump counts off time With intermittent spasms of noisy beating Then hissing a sudden submissive shhh. Going quiet in a silence so abrupt That spoken secrets are known to all. On the appointed minute the roadside time clock Is keyed, a bell cord jerks and the Deadman's Handle, Wracked here, there and that place, allows trolley poled Electricity to pass and begrudging motors Haul us up railed Rosebank road and off to town.

The Avondale Historical Journal

Volume 12 Issue 72 Page 4

The conductor "all fares from Avondale", Dips in his sectioned leather bag, rummages change, Tears off and clips the one and six Sunday family ticket. For a twelve hour expedition we travel light. Women have hats. Sensible, straw, sun. Everyday felt fedora for dad. Eight year old boys stay barefooted, bareheaded. Dad's leather Gladstone work bag under the seat Conveys greaseproof wrapped tomato sandwiches, Enamel mugs, a teapot and two small bottles.

Milk and Ballard's ship's lime juice. Tight rolled, a small thin rug, towel, togs. Mum's kit has well-brandied fruit cake. Cut small. Bathers and threadbare towels travel Snugged beneath responsible childrens' arms. If adults stand children give up their seat. If ladies stand, men give up their seat. When the tram nosedives into Queen Street Sister and I, aisle crushed and people jostled. Cling tight to a seat handle and sense The Tabernacle, YWCA, Peoples' Palace, Myers Park , Sunday School Union, Bowlers Amusements, Town Hall and the Mighty Civic are slipping by. And within our knowing and beyond our seeing. The Wellesley Street box has shifted points and signaled An authority for the final lunge through theatre land. To the Customs Street safety zone where we spill out In a swell of humanity. Ferry Buildings bound.

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