Volume 4 Issue 20 November – December 2004

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

Tales of the Avondale Flat
Inside this issue: Tales of the Avondale Flat More on Avondale’s wells School Days Avondale’s Secret 1–2

by Bob Hume

The Howard Rotary Hoes
There was an overlap of the horse and tractor eras on the flat. Tractors took over cultivation with the arrival of the F series Farmall. Trucks took over the transport of produce to town even earlier. But many growers still kept a horse and sledge to cart produce up to the shed. The smaller blocks relied on the Howard Junior as the maid of all work. The first hoe came to the flat in the early 1930s with a salesman giving demonstrations. He arrived at 278 Rosebank Rd and Ted Bright told him to have a go at the horse paddock. It was a mixture of bare ground, twitch and clumps of anything the horse would not eat. It hadn’t been cultivated for years. When the job was finished it was pretty rough but Ted reckoned it was plantable and a lot better than he could do in a lot longer time. Although it was a demonstration machine he wouldn’t let it leave the place. In later years Howard Auto Cultivators in Australia informed him it was the fourth Howard Junior sold in New Zealand. For many years that hoe and its replacement was the only powered machine on eight acres of orchard and market garden. So that was the end of Nugget, Bright’s last horse. The Howard was not only a cultivator as it had a flat belt pulley to bolt on the side. This could drive a sawbench, a spray pump or anything needing about five horsepower. Dolphin’s hoe drove a maize kibbler at one time. The pulley was driven by the friction of the face of the gear it was bolted to and the bolt itself, no splines or keys. The bolt used to cut out, but an endless supply was available from the power board linesmen. The galvanised insulator bolts had the right thread on one end and a hacksaw converted them into a pto bolt. A couple of cabbages or some oranges was fair exchange for a few bolts. The spray pump could be mounted on top of the frame and belt driven. Rather unstable, but the ground was flat. One problem was that the hoe was no use for towing so the spray barrels had to be dragged round manually. The first Howards used an English Sturmey Archer motor then made their own single cylinder 5hp motor. When these died they were often replaced with an Austin 7hp engine ex the Baby Austin. Darby and Helm at Avondale did the conversions. continued on page 2

2 2–3 3–4

Due to the clash of dates with the Avondale Fun Day on Saturday December 4, we will not have another general meeting this year.

The December meeting has been cancelled. Next meeting of the
Avondale-Waterview Historical Society:

Saturday, 5 February 2005,
(day before Waitangi Day) 2.30 pm at the Lions Hall, corner Great North and Blockhouse Bay Roads, Avondale. Please contact the Society for details.

The Avondale Historical Journal Official Publication of the

Volume 4 Issue 20 Page 2

Les Handy was one of the contractors who used the larger 7-8hp model. It was a V twin, air cooled and very fast for the first hour. After that it had cooling problems in other than light work and had to be let cool down. Top of the range was the 12hp model. Powered by a twin cylinder water cooled motor, it was available in up to a 4 foot cut. It would handle gorse up to 3 feet high, but was very hard work to operate in those sorts of conditions. On steeper slopes it could run away propelled by the hoes. If it flipped over, as sometimes happened, the radiator which was mounted quite high was badly damaged. Jim Bright was one contractor who operated one of this model. One of the hardest jobs a contractor could get was hoeing horse ploughing out of grass. It had to be hoed across the ploughing to avoid bellying the machine on the large curling slabs left by horse ploughs. Jagger Lupton used two draught horses and a single furrow plough and so turned a large furrow. The hoe blades wore down, especially on heavier soils. If not let go too far, another use could be had by getting Tom Myers, the blacksmith, to draw them out. It cost about half the price of new blades. In about 1950 Howard completely redesigned the Junior. It was not a success and the English Gem took over that market. The heavier models had been discontinued. Nobody was going to struggle with a 4ft walk behind hoe when they could ride on a tractor with a hydraulic lift and rotary hoe. —– Editor’s Note: I found some information online about Arthur Clifford Howard (1893-1971) the inventor of the Howard Rotary Hoe. He studied engineering by correspondence while an apprentice at Moss Vale, and in 1912 began experiments in rotary tillage, which culminated in his rotary hoe invention. After World War I he tested and patented his rotary hoe cultivator, and formed Austral Auto Cultivators Pty. Ltd in 1922. His 1927 tractor started large-scale tractor production in Australia. After migrating to England in 1938, he formed Rotary Hoes Ltd with worldwide branches. He died in England. (From: http://www.sydney.ieaust.org.au/heritage/

Letter to the Editor
Your reference to wells in Issue 19 [Bob Hume’s Tales From the Avondale Flat] took me back to a very wet winter in Avondale contributing to a very frightening experience. My home in Avondale Road, like many homes before roof run off became a home water supply had wells of varying depths depending on the water table level. In those days backyards were play areas and location for the clothesline etc. This day we kids were running around the yard when with a loud roaring sound a huge water filled hole appeared and became bigger as the sides fell in. Fortunately the sides stabilised only inches from the rear wall of the house. This hidden menace had had a wooden cap on it which became overgrown and rotted. To think that we kids had run all over that area was a sickening thought. It probably crossed our minds that had anyone fallen in, rescue from that depth around six feet below ground level would have been doubtful. Eric Waterfield

School Days
By Rich Afford
Those of an older generation will no doubt have mixed recollections of starting school at the ripe old age of five, the traumatic transition from mother’s apron strings into the care of a formidable primers mistress as were my memories of Avondale School, slates and slate pencils and old time rote learning. We as tinies must have all thought alike as I recall clearly an incident when the said head mistress has occasion to enter the basement and we all quickly closed the large door upon her locking her into complete darkness and our united strength held her there for some time as she hammered and strove and shrieked at us to let her out which of course we did, scattering as confetti so that she was unable to pinpoint the culprit. I do not recall any retribution but the incident does highlight the changing status of teacher and pupil. I suppose there must have been happy times, as I remember when graduating to standards one and two being

Further Editor’s Note: For those interested in farm machinery history, there is a book just out called “Tractors Across New Zealand”, by John Wilson, which is quite a good study of the subject. $24.95 from Whitcoulls and PaperPlus.

The Avondale Historical Journal Official Publication of the

Volume 4 Issue 20 Page 3

teacher’s (Miss Buggie) pet and coming regularly top of the class and receiving little rewards as a consequence, but the next class followed with a Miss Taylor who was if nothing else a sadist who took a thorough dislike. She wielded her stick or strap over the knuckles whilst pulling hair and ears, with the consequence I plummeted to the bottom of the class, and she had great delight in failing me. So fortunes were if nothing else mixed and what with being waylaid by the district’s bullies, one cannot look back on schooldays with untrammeled delight. They were of course also days of the depression, saluting the flag, physical jerks, dental and medical care, teeth and tonsils checked, cooking classes for the girls and for the boys woodwork instructions from Mr. Burgess. Indeed after all these years we still have a small stepladder constructed at the time under his guidance, and whilst I would occasionally accompany Rosie Croul on the homeward journey I did not think much of her cooking efforts which she exhorted me to share. Alongside formal education, most families also shared a connection with one or other of the local churches so that there was a degree of religious instruction to mould character into the future citizenry. Our connection was with the parish of Saint Judes and I recall the Rev. Jecks making his calls by bicycle although I believe he earlier had a horse and trap. There was Sunday School, Bible Class, singing in the boys choir, serving at communion, joining in all the church activities, Christmas Nativity as Joseph, the Court Chamberlain in our performance of the light opera, Princess Chrysanthemum, Sunday School picnics at Tui Glen or Titirangi Beach, and celebrating King George’s 25th jubilee in full voice at St Matthew’s in the City with the bells in joyous peal over the town. There are those who pass this way unrewarded and unheralded so this may be the time to mention the man who over these formative years was the backbone of all these activities, who as lay preacher held the parish together during and after changes in incumbencies, who’s wife kept the church clean and flowered, who lived right next door to the Lion’s Hall where between services on a Sunday I would spend most of my time — Mr. Hoskings. It is the Mr. Hoskings of this world who set the standards upon which a stable society is built and maintained. The worker behind the scene – the salt of the earth. In the Avondale context he does not deserve to be forgotten. Then the war unceremoniously put a sudden end to the era. From schoolboys to men we were scattered far and wide, the lucky ones survived whilst others of my mates are simply recorded in stone on a little memorial in the church grounds where we once played and prayed.

An Avondale Secret: The S. J. Best Varnish Works
by Eric Waterfield
As new arrivals in NZ in 1925 my family, due to the onset of the Depression got off to a less than auspicious start in a new country. Dad lost his job at the Farmers which led to the loss of our new home in Bollard Ave. This sad predicament forced the family to seek rental accomodation and after three house moves we found ourselves renting an old bungalow called “Burnley Villa”. This home was bereft of power or water but had a big old fashioned orchard which included a huge walnut tree which was the headquarters for dozens of Californian Quail which abounded on the Rosebank Flats. Actually the isolated home fronted a 500 metre long nameless lane leading off Avondale Roade, and which is now part of Maple Street. My brother Roy and myself being of a nosey nature soon set out on journeys of exploration. Our first discovery was a big red barn full of wire loops on which rabbit skins had been stretched, jno doubt a thriving industry at one time. Our second discovery was a far more exciting affair; some 300 metres from the house was a big stand of mature Radiata pine trees behind which was an old factory partly in ruins and covered in pine needles and blackberry bushes. Despite its dilapidated appearance and on subsequent visits we found out that it produced varnish from kauri gum. We met its owner, a white-haired old man who invited us in to a smoke-filled interior, where he introduced himself, and we were to spend many happy hours “helping” Mr. Best. To melt the gum, huge iron cauldrons were set in steel grating at floor level located over coke fires below. The cauldrons contained a syrup-like liquid which was the melted kauri gum. Little did we realise we were in NZ’s first gum varnish factory founded in the 1880s by Mr. Best’s father. One of Avondale’s first motorised carriers owned by a Mr. Hunter used to have to force his truck through the overgrown lane to deliver coke, gleaming empty tins and sacks of gum and take away tons of varnish which, incidentally, was amongst the world’s best varnishes at that time. Mr. Hunter delivered the varnish to Best’s warehouse in Airedale Street. Due to shortage of kauri gum and the development of synthetic paints etc. the little family industry closed down in the mid thirties. Mr Tait, son of Avondale’s second Mayor was involved continued on next page

Volume 4 Issue 20 Page 4
continued from page 3 in winding up the Best estate and said he’d given a cast iron tank to MOTAT as a souvenir of a unique industry. So one of the factory’s old cast iron cooling tanks can be seen at MOTAT and probably the only evidence that the factory ever existed in fact. Kauri historians doubted that gum was processed in NZ. The writer took pleasure in telling them that it was processed right here in little old Avondale for around forty years. — Editor’s Note: I did a bit of digging into the background of the Best’s Varnish Works in Avondale, but would dearly appreciate any further information. Eric Waterfield’s recollections are the main, and possibly only ones for this very important part of our history. Sealy James Best was born c.1830 in Yeovil, Somerset, England. He died on 3 August 1892, and his wife Mary died 15 September 1915, aged 83. They’re buried in Rosebank Cemetery. They arrived in Auckland on board the Kaikoura on 19 August 1885, along with 7 children. Apparently, according to oral histories and an article by the late Peter Buffet, the Government gave Best’s Varnish Factory a grant to expand their business in 1895, so it came into operation sometime between 1885 and 1895. (This ties in with Eric’s recollection). SJ Best & Co was definitely in operation in 1892/93, featuring as being a “varnish factory” in Avondale in the postal directories of the time. In 1907, Albert E. Best and Charles M. Best were listed as part of S J Best & Co in the directory, while Percy Best is listed as an engineer. The last listing for S J Best & Co, paint and varnish manufacturers, 5 Airedale St, is in 1930. Sometime after this, the warehouse must have closed. In 1936/37, Leighton’s Directory lists S J Best, varnish manufacturer in Avondale Road. That is the last listing for the company. Albert Best died 28 October 1936, aged 61. He was living in Riversdale Road, and was buried in Rosebank Cemetery. His brother Sealy James Best (named after their father) died 28 November 1938, aged 75. Their brother Charles was living in Melbourne at the time, and another brother P. C. (Percy?) Best was living in Auckland. Any further information would be most welcome.

Anyone remember …?
Max PERL, a Blockhouse Bay GP? A member of the Blockhouse Bay History Group is doing research on Dr. Perl. Anyone with any memories or information, please contact me so I can pass it on. Thanks! Lisa Truttman

The Society and AHJ editorial staff thank

The Avondale Historical Journal
Published by the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society Inc. Editor: Lisa J. Truttman, 19 Methuen Road, Avondale, Auckland Phone: (09) 828-8494, 027 4040 804 Fax: (09) 828-8497, email: historian@avondale.org.nz

Avondale Business Association
for their continued support and sponsorship of this publication.
Printed by

Website for the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society:

U{tÜà| ctàxÄ
Avondale Photo Centre, 1962 Great North Road, Avondale, Phone/Fax: 09-820 6030

Society information: Subscriptions: $10 individual $15 couple/family $30 corporate We meet once every two months, first Saturday of the month: February, April, June, August, October, December. The Journal and our Newsletter are published in those months.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful