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Newsletter for the Point Chevalier Historical Society

No. 60 August 2018

A raft of Tenth Anniversaries:

Point Chevalier Times, the Point Chevalier History Group (later
Society), and Pt Chevalier Memories
This year, 25 September, marks the tenth anniversary of the
meeting at the Pt Chevalier Library which inspired the
formation of the Pt Chevalier History Group. This meeting
in turn was inspired by Padmini Raj’s work in compiling
Point Chevalier Memories, the work beginning during
2008 (my earliest surviving email about this from Padmini
dates from July 2008) and launched in November 2009.

The gathering at the Pt Chevalier Library led directly to the

establishment of a movement towards founding the Point
Chevalier History Group, and the first publication of Point
Chevalier Times the following month. This allowed commu-
nication to open up between the small group of instigators
and the general public — the first public meeting of the
History Group took place at 11am, 15 January 2009, at the
Point Chevalier Library. We are, therefore approaching our

tenth anniversary early next year as a heritage organisa-

tion in Point Chevalier.

All during 2009, a steering committee worked toward set-

ting up a bank account, regular meetings of members, and
a constitution — until finally we applied for incorporation
23 March 2010, and it was granted in 1 April that year
(registered at 2.24 pm, so it wasn’t April Fools!)

All meetings 10.30 at 990 Great North Road, Western Springs (Horticultural Centre)
16 August 2018 — Russell Stone on "Memories of early Auckland"
18 October 2018 - Julie Benjamin on "Gladys Cunningham-a serious amateur photographer"
15 November 2018—Tim Carter on "The flu epidemic of 1918 and its effects"
Pt Chevalier Historical Society President’s Report for 2018,
Minutes of meeting presented at the
Thursday 21 June 2018 Annual General Meeting, 21 June 2018
Auckland Horticultural Council Rooms by Margaret O’Connor

Meeting started at 10.30 am. Present: 33 people It is my pleasure to present this report to the Point
Chevalier Historical Society Inc.
Apologies and Correspondence
The Society is incorporated under the Incorporated
Societies Act 1908, dated 1st April 2010.
President’s Report (see next column)
The President discussed approaches made by the In presenting this report I must first acknowledge the
assistance given by Lisa Truttman who has continued
Auckland City Council and Mt Albert Historical Society to supply our members with interesting and informa-
that we jointly lease rooms in Ferndale House to provide tive stories and facts about our area.
safe storage of historically important documents. I must also acknowledge the continuing assistance of
The following motion was put: our Secretary, Jenny Wilton, who has arranged our
speakers as well as coping with secretarial tasks and
“The Point Chevalier Historical Society continues to sundry other problems.
pursue the lease of rooms in Ferndale House for use as
Special thanks are also due to Alison Turner who has
safe storage of important materials” (Jenny Wilton / continued to keep the finances of the Society in order
Marilyn) and arranged for the completion of our annual state-
ment, and organised our morning teas.
Voting: for-0, against 32, abstentions 0
It should also be mentioned that the Society is affiliat-
Treasurer: Pr esented annual accounts. ed with the New Zealand History Federation.

I must also acknowledge the continuing support we

Election of officers receive from Heather Hannah.
The following were elected unanimously and
We are currently involved in negotiations with the
unopposed. Auckland Council Community Lease Advisor regard-
ing the possibility of leasing, in conjunction with the
President: Mar gar et O’Connor
Mount Albert Historical Society, two vacant rooms at
Vice-presidents: Elaine Fox, Mar k McVeigh, Lisa the back of Ferndale House. Assistance from members
with business and/or legal experience would be appre-
ciated in these negotiations.
Secretary: J enny Wilton
Whether this lease becomes available or not, some
Treasurer: Alison Tur ner
changes in the committee’s roles are needed. In partic-
Convener of speakers: Alison Tur ner ular, one change is needed immediately. As Jenny has
decided that she can no longer continue to arrange
General Business: A brief presentation to the members speakers for our meetings, we need to appoint a
member, or elect a sub-committee to undertake the
by Debra Miller of Point Publishing, on her upcoming arrangements for speakers.
book on Point Chevalier.
Secondly, if we proceed with the Ferndale House
proposal, we need a sub-committee of people who are
Guest speaker: Lisa Tr uttman on the Dixieland willing to collect and file papers, documents, leaflets
Cabaret at Point Chevalier Beach etc. in the storage places. This will also involve some
expenses eg for filing boxes etc. this sub-committee
Meeting closed at 11.45am would have the responsibility for decisions on the se-
lection and filing of documents and sundry other items.
Next meeting
Thursday 16th August 10.30am. Finally I wish to extend my thanks to both Alison and
Jenny and to all the members who assist with various
Dr Russell Stone will talk on memories of early tasks during and after the meetings.
The Dazzling Dixieland – Pt Chevalier’s
Jazz Centre by the Sea (Part 1)
by Lisa J Truttman

“The Jazz” comes to Auckland

The "jazz" is the latest dance craze. Since the clergy
have denounced it from the pulpits it has become im-
mensely popular.
-- Observer, 31 May 1919

Just as the guns of the First World War began to fall

silent, and while world leaders met to argue over new
boundaries and old scores, “the jazz” made the transi-
tion from music and dancing only heard and seen in
places where African-Americans gathered in the segre-
gated atmosphere of that country at the time, to a popu-
larity amongst those who survived the war and those
just half-a-generation too young to have served. As with
most fashion trends then, it came our way first via the
astounded press reports from London (where it spawned
the modern nightclubbing trend), then Australia, and
finally, in 1920, with jazz dance schools advertising
their tuition sessions for the brand new dance here. In
August 1920, Auckland’s first “jazz club” was an-
nounced, in the rooms of the Power Boat Association
on Tamaki Drive – but considering it included provision
of bridge tables and chaperones, I don’t think the organ-
isers quite got into the spirit of things. “Bachelors Jazz
Evenings” were held at the Society of Arts Hall on
Kitchener Street in November 1920, “Flannels or even-
ing dress optional.” That new fad jazz-thing was being
well and truly tamed, set to be just another series of spe-
cial dance steps, like the foxtrot, or the waltz. There
was even, in some notices, an option for a “jazz-waltz”.
Again, I think they missed the point.

The first time “jazz” was linked to “cabaret” here in

Auckland was in December 1920, when a “jazz caba-
ret” was set to take place at the Town Hall. This was
organised by Lewis R Eady, the music shop proprietors,
which would make sense. “Jazz” was still just a rather
odd new word, folks never too sure exactly how to use
it or when. There were even “jazz scarfs” of silk with
fringe ends. “Jazz” came to mean happy, upbeat. Those
who liked to dance, or “jazz” to the new dance music
were known for a time as “jazzers.”

Frederick C Rush-Munro offered what he called Auck-

land’s first cabaret from 19 July 1921, at his
“Conservatoire De Danse”, at what was then 181-187
Karangahape Road (today around where the motorway
is) opposite the Newton Post Office, telling Auck-
landers in his ads, “You want to Jazz!” His business
started out as a confectioner’s on Ponsonby Road, be-
fore he set up a soda fountain in 1919 at the site he later
transformed into his cabaret. The final night for Rush-
Munro’s “Jazz Mecca” was in October 1923 – and part
of the reason may have been the success of the first,
Queen Street, Dixieland.

Right: Opening night ad from NZ Herald, 5 April 1922

Jazz and the Dixieland comes to Point Chevalier

Point Chevalier from the time of amalgamation with

Auckland City Council in 1921 until late 1925 was not
a place one would think of in terms of being part of
“the jazz age.” The two main halls in the area, the
Coronation Hall at the southern end of Pt Chevalier
Road, at “Hall Corner,” and Armstrong’s Hall at the
corner of Pt Chevalier Road and Oliver Street were
both used for community functions rather than jazzy
dancing into the wee small hours of the morning. The
Armstrong Hall, from 1923 until 1936, was used by
the local Anglican parish and scout groups. The
Auckland City Council owned Coronation Hall,
known by then as Pt Chevalier Hall. There were so-
cials put on by the Pt Chevalier Sailing Club there;
someone else putting on “popular dances” every
Thursday, with “good music” in 1921 to 1922, then
“Pleasure De Luxe with Taylor’s Perfect Dance
Orchestra and Lovely Floor” later that year. From
1926, the Grey Lynn Labour Party held fundraising
“Best of All – Old Time Dances … to the strains of Frederick John Rayner, dentist turned entertainment moghul.
Paltridge’s ‘Best of All’ Old-Time Dance Band”, bus- Auckland Star 29 September 1931
es coming from Pitt Street, dancing 8 to 11pm, ladies
1/-, gents 1/6. But this was hardly the jazz scene. here), Canadian by nationality, he set up the American
Dental Parlours in Auckland and in Christchurch. He
When the Dixieland shifted from its Queen Street lo- loved fast cars, built a home for himself in Epsom
cation to Point Chevalier in 1925, it was described on named Moose Lodge, and dabbled in timber and land
its opening day, 26 October, as having an afternoon investments, including the Piha Mill.
session from 2pm to 5pm, and an evening session
from 8pm to 1am. The former tea kiosk on the site was Eccles, the silent partner, was born in Northern Ireland.
shifted back and up above the extended building His pharmacy operated from His Majesty’s Arcade on
which stretched from Pt Chevalier Road and the bus Queen Street. He was what I term a serial company
turnaround down to the beach. The dance floor from director – involved with Mercantile and General Insur-
Queen Street was installed at the new premises, and ance Co, Tonson Garlick Ltd, Auckland Drug Co, NZ
enlarged to 3600 square feet, losing “none of its desir- Chemists Assoc, as well as a member of the Auckland
able qualities”. With a total of 15,000 square feet of Racing Club, Trotting Club and Takapuna Jockey Club.
space, accommodation was provided for 600 in the He and Rayner would have moved in pretty much the
vast complex, which included tea rooms and restau- same circles.
rant, the dance hall area, bathing sheds beneath, ice
cream counter, and even a bowling alley. It featured Another backer was James Campbell Craig, of the well-
electric lighting including flood lights, and the kitch- known J J Craig family – but his stint as a director was
ens were powered by electricity. fairly short-lived, and confined to the Queen Street
The seaward end of the Dixieland was dominated by
glass windows for viewing the harbour beyond. At The impetus to start the Dixieland, though, probably
each end of the dance floor were lounge areas, and at came from American Del S Foster (full name Adelbert
the other two sides were blue-trellised cubicles, the Stanley Foster), a minority shareholder in the original
trellis intertwined with red roses. Over the dance floor Dixieland company, a dance choreographer and teacher,
itself was a scarlet floral canopy, “through which a and the first manager of the City Dixieland in 1922. He
flood of coloured light is diffused.” Four hundred came over to Auckland from Sydney in December 1921
attended the opening night. with Southwoods Ideal Attractions Ltd, performing in
the concert chamber at the Town Hall. It may have been
The Dixieland company directors must have been de- that Rayner was looking for a good dance teacher, or
lighted with the response to their latest chapter of the that Foster thought a great way to earn money was to
venture. step, quite literally, into the jazz dance craze. However
it happened, by April 1922, the Dixieland enterprise
Two of the original directors from the 1922 opening of was up and running. Foster instituted the Dixieland
the Queen Street Dixieland were Frederick John Dancing System of classes for those wanting to master
Rayner (1875-1931) and Alexander Eccles (1861- the latest jazz steps.
1932). Rayner was always the more prominent of the
directors, the one the media latched onto. A dentist by By the end of the First World War, Rayner had already
profession (although apparently barred from practising constructed a building on Queen Street, between
Marmion and Waverley Streets, as part of his property
portfolio. The first Dixieland was set up there, in the which were directed towards “Infant Welfare Work”.
basement level below a car dealership, and lasted from They got in for 7/6 each, and headed for their reserved
1922 to 1925. By 1925, however, the directors (after table, from where they observed the following:
Del Foster left) felt they wanted a new site. Somewhere
with more room, and perhaps with the added attraction -- Booklets were on sale, for 2/6 and 5/- each, which
of being out of the central city and by the sea. contained voucher tickets for soft drinks, ice creams,
supper and dancing.
Back at Pt Chevalier, Norman William Loveridge as
owner of the tea kiosk and its site took on new partners -- The booked-up trellised cubicles (colourfully called
as a syndicate in November 1925: Raynor, Eccles, and “Cuddle Cubicles” later by NZ Truth) contained tables
a clerk named Frederick William Prouting. It was and chairs, and in some cases settees.
Prouting, rather than Loveridge, who was to be the first
manager of the Point Chevalier Dixieland – and -- Champagne, wine and whisky were openly displayed
Prouting who would have to weather the publicity on most of the tables, particularly at the far end of the
around a visit by the police to the Dixieland in May hall. Spot glasses were provided, for 6d a glass, by the
1926. waiting staff. Rayner testified that these were for soft
drinks, “some parties would often order a large jug or
The “Cuddle Cubicles” scandal pitcher of fruit drink. A small charge was made for the
Among the patrons of the cabaret are young jazz glasses because it had been found that they were taken
weeds, dashing sheiks, effeminate nincompoops, and away.” The sixpence was intended solely as a deposit to
frivolous flappers whose hysterical giggles punctuate be refunded on return of the glasses. Rayner had in-
the blare of the orchestra and help to make the night formed the judge, Mr F Hunt, that the elite of Auckland
hours hideous. frequented the Dixieland. Judge Hunt put in, “Then the
-- NZ Truth, 5 August 1926 elite of Auckland steal your glasses?” Yes, Rayner re-
plied, we have lost jugs too.
The court case came apparently almost entirely out of
the blue. There were no prior murmurings in the press -- By 11 pm many of the young women present were
about any goings-on at the Dixieland, no angry letters seen to be having trouble staying upright, “hanging on-
warning of impropriety taking place there by the sea to their dancing partners’ necks. Many of them were
and the beach. Suddenly in July 1926, in a splash of behaving in a disorderly manner.”
headlines, came the news that Rayner and Prouting
were being had up for breach of their alcohol licence, -- Around 11 pm, one young man in a cubicle took off
to whit: “Permitting liquor to be drunk in a restaurant at his jacket and seemed to be keen to have a fight, but
a time when licensed premises were required to be was calmed down by his friends. There seemed to be
closed.” next to no supervision from the staff.

Constables Taylor and Waters visited the Dixieland on Constable Waters, so he testified, danced every dance
4 May in plain clothes, accompanying ladies, arriving that night.
at 8pm on the night of a charity ball, the proceeds of

One of a number of photos taken by Marine Department staff in 1927 of the foreshore around the Dixieland. This looks from the
beach east, towards the bus turnaround. M1-590, 4/2051, R19981032, Archives New Zealand (Wellington). Published by kind
Constable Spellman, based at Point Chevalier, testified
that he knew Prouting, who since Spellman took up his
post in December 1925 had always been quite keen for
Spellman to inspect the cabaret whenever he liked.
Spellman stated that he estimated that up to 13,000 peo-
ple visited the cabaret one Sunday, with 16 City Council
buses running, plus another 30 privately-owned buses
conveying people to and from the Point. The restaurant
there was open every day, and was (at that time) the
only sit-down restaurant in the area. But, Constable
Spellman did admit that he had seen people leaving
Dixieland “under the influence of liquor.”

Rayner and Prouting were each fined £20 and costs on

23 July 1926, with Judge Hunt warning that anyone
caught taking liquor to the Dixieland with them would
be fined £5 if they ever came before him.

Dixieland vs. Auckland City Council, part 1:

The Dance Hall Licence
Councillor F W Brinsden. 1093-ALBUM-214-29, Sir
To say that Rayner’s difficulties regarding the Dixieland George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries
from the time of the court case over the liquor and the
cubicles was down to one man in the Auckland City The earliest public contact Brinsden had with Rayner
Council is an immense over-simplification. After all, was in 1915, when Rayner invited the city councillors
there were a number on the Council who had their reser- to his Piha property to discuss the possibility of trans-
vations, a majority who supported the later swimming ferring some land for water reserve purposes. There
baths injunction, plus members of the community and was nothing about that meeting that pointed to any
representatives of churches and social and sports clubs future animosity between the two men.
who entered into the later campaign against what
Rayner had in mind for his business. Brinsden’s concerns about the moral risks to
Auckland’s youth seem to have stemmed from what
But Councillor Frederick William Henry Brinsden was happening in general in the early 1920s. On 15
(1868-1928) was one of the more vocal opponents of the May 1924, in honour of the visit to Auckland of the
Dixieland and what it appeared to represent in terms of British special service squadron, the Victoria and Navy
a danger to the morals of young women. Leagues, in conjunction with the Council, staged an
Empire Ball at the Town Hall. This sort of event had all
Born in Wellesley Street West, Brinsden was described the makings of being a very proper affair. Two weeks
as a self-made man, and would often tell the story of later though, when Mayor Gunson moved a vote of
carrying timber from Freeman’s Bay to Grey Lynn, in thanks to the various organisations who had organised
order for him to build his own ladder for his first con- the ball, Brinsden quickly rose to his feet, and
tract job as a painter. He was a member of the Grey denounced the behaviour of some:
Lynn Borough Council for six years, the Auckland City
Council for 14 years, and served as chairman on the in- “I want to say, your Worship, that the conduct of a
fluential committees of Parks and Reserves, Finance, section of those at the ball was not what it should have
and Works. At his final election the year before he died, been. Others are just as eager to stop this sort of thing
he came top of the polls. as I am. On leaving the council meeting that evening I
went to the gallery and saw young bits of girls with
Captain Thomas Atwood, the local Marine Department their feet on the seats smoking cigarettes. Now, I am a
Superintendent, referred to him in a memo to head member of the Northern Boxing Association and be-
office as “rather an extreme socialist” with whom the long to all sorts of clean sports. I am not a wowser of
Department had had dealings before (possibly regarding any sort, but I never saw women behave as they did
waterfront fixtures) prior to the Dixieland issues from that evening. Only a section of them of course … I saw
1927. Yet just months before he died, Brinsden had one girl pull a cigarette out of her mouth and drag it
been invited to run for Parliament on the Reform Party down the nice clean wall. I felt like asking her to go
ticket, had appeared to support Reform councillor Ellen and clean it. If these girls thought they were making
Melville in past local elections, and stood for his own themselves fast they were greatly mistaken, as they
seat on the Auckland City Council as part of the were making themselves loose. On the way home I
Protestant Political Association (part of the Loyal thanked God I had no daughter. Our property must be
Orange Institution). Far more conservative in standpoint looked after whether it is girls who use it or men."
than socialist.
"I think too much has been made of this matter by Mr member of the council who would not be glad to see
Brinsden," Navy League member and organiser of the the cabaret closed up altogether.” Ellen Melville said
ball, Mr A J Lunn, said. "His remarks make the affair “it was the duty of the council to see the place was
look like a hooligan's party, and for that reason they properly conducted and in a manner acceptable to the
would seem rather silly, if it were not that they reflect citizens.” G Knight referred to the Dixieland as an in-
not only on those responsible for the function, but on stitution “established on the principle of piracy on the
all who attended as well." high seas of life by turning into dollars the wreckage of
the fairest in our young life.” He went on to say that
Councillor Brinsden, then, was hardly one to have
much patience with the Dixieland directors after the cabarets were “dens of vice, the cesspools of immorali-
reports of the police constables’ observations at the ty,” and that their promoters were “vultures on society
cabaret. Two days after the verdict and fines imposed for dollars.”
on Raynor and Prouting, Brinsden gave notice of inten- The Council agreed to refer the matter to the Finance
tion to put the following motion to the next City
Council meeting, set for 5 August 1926: and Legal Committee. When the committee met,
Rayner was in attendance. Also there were representa-
''That Dixieland, Ltd, being the licensee of a tea room tives from the Council of Christian Congregations, the
and cabaret known as Dixieland, at Point Chevalier, Mothers Union, the Salvation Army, the Ministers
under the license issued by the Auckland City Council Association, the YMCA and the New Zealand
for the period 29th October 1925 to 28th October 1926, Alliance, who all called for the Dixieland’s license to
be called upon, in view of the recent Court proceedings be cancelled. Leading up to the meeting, the Epsom
and conviction recorded against the management, to Baptist Church asked the committee to “cleanse the
show cause why the said license should not be can- city of this social and moral menace,” the Pt Chevalier
celled or suspended under the provisions of section 312 Presbyterian Church expressed “pain and alarm at the
(1) of the Municipal Corporations Act 1920, which pro- perpetuation of any institution with such mischief-
vides: 'Upon being satisfied that any licensed building making possibilities,” the Richmond Ave Methodist
has become insecure, or is being used in a disorderly Church referred to the Dixieland as a “disgusting state
manner so as to be obnoxious to the neighbouring in- of affairs.” The Women’s Christian Temperance Union
habitants or to the public, or that it is being used for
commended Brinsden on his “courageous stand.”
other purposes than those stated in the license, the
Council may cancel or suspend such license, either The committee though simply recommended to the
wholly or for such period as it thinks fit, and shall Council that the Dixieland’s dance hall licence be sus-
forthwith give notice to the licensee of such cancella- pended for a month, and this was passed on 19 August
tion or suspension.'"
Michael J Coyle presented a petition to the Council Prouting was replaced as manager, after a reorganisa-
meeting, signed by 114 residents living within a quarter tion, by Major Leslie Haines, DSO in September 1926.
-mile of the Dixieland, stating that overall, despite the The cabaret remained closed until 20 September 1926,
bad behaviour from some of the customers, “taking Rayner denying in the press that any liquor had been
everything into consideration, the cabaret was conduct- supplied to customers at the cabaret, and agreeing that
ed in a decidedly decorous manner and in a way to some customers had brought in their own supply. But
which exception could not be reasonably taken.” Coyle adding that this would be prohibited in the future. The
added that “he had seen some of the leading people go- cabaret had its license renewed by Council on 11 No-
ing into the cabaret, and I one instance a father, mother vember 1926 (the Council by law had no other option),
and daughters together, which made him think the place but on condition that the lattice fronts to the trouble-
might not be so objectionable as some people imagined. some cubicles be removed.
Brinsden replied by saying, “Who had been in the best In May 1927, Rayner tried unsuccessfully to appeal the
position to judge what had been going on, these people earlier conviction, and received a bill for a further £7
(those who signed the petition) who were in bed by 11 7/- costs.
pm, or the police constable who was in the room at the
time.” He protested against the cabaret being allowed to
remain in business, “It was a menace to the young peo-
ple of the city, and particularly the young girls.” He
Part 2 in next issue — the great swimming baths
went on to say that he had received threatening tele-
skirmishes, a troublesome pontoon, and the fire.
phone calls over the matter, but stayed firm as to his

Brinsden was not alone in the chamber with his

opinion. A J Entrican said he was “sure there was not a
Vale: Neil Howard Bunt (Nick)
17 October 1934—3 June 2018

Over 400 people packed out the Pt Chevalier Rugby

League Club to pay their respects at the funeral and
memorial service to a gentleman and legend among the
Pt Chevalier community.

Nick provided a lifetime of nearly 70 years to his be-

loved Pt Chevalier Rugby League Club from player to
every job the club required; from cleaner to president,
and everything in between.

Being a gifted sign writer by trade, Nick’s years of

dedication extended to all clubs and organisations in
the district. He was a life member of the Pt Chevalier
Rugby League Club, the Pt Chevalier Memorial RSA
and the Pt Chevalier Rugby League Old Boys Associa-
tion. On his passing he was still serving as the Old
Boys’ secretary, a position he filled for the last 29
years. Portrait of John A Lee from the Auckland Weekly News, 20
October 1921. AWNS-19211020-34-5 , Sir George Grey
Nick expressed regret in hospital at missing the club’s Special Collections, Auckland Libraries
100th anniversary celebrations (2019) yet it turned out
he had his own preview as each decade was well repre- This man was John A Lee, one of New Zealand’s out-
sented among the 400 plus people attending the standing politicians and authors. He lived in Pt
service, while speaker after speaker rose to extol his Chevalier from at least 1943 when Wise’s Directory
virtues and community values. lists him at 269 Great North Road and from 1949 at 55
Pt Chevalier Road, next to the fire station. He was the
Finally it was time to part and while Nick’s pallbearers Labour MP for Grey Lynn from 1931 to 1943 and had
into the club were members of the Returned Services earlier been MP for Auckland East from 1922 to 1928.
Association, the egress were from the Pt Chevalier After he had been expelled from the Labour Party in
Rugby League Club along with his brother Gary and 1940 for attacking openly the Party leadership, includ-
nephew Darrin. The honour guard was so large it ing the leader Michael Joseph Savage who was mortally
closed Pt Chevalier Road as the hearse passed by to the ill, he established his own Democratic Labour Party. So
haunting Haka Tribute and club song performed with when I saw him in 1949, he was standing unsuccessful-
passion and respect by current day members. RIP. ly as an independent.
— Terry Ryan. As Undersecretary for Housing in Savage’s 1935 La-
bour Government, Lee was responsible for the huge
state housing programme in the 30s and 40s, giving Pt
John A Lee Chevalier, among many other areas of the country’s
cities and towns, the appearance which survives to this
by Helen Pearce day. It is also why the state house of that era was known
as “The house that Jack built.” Lee had established a
In the late 1950s I used to get the Pt Chevalier bus from partnership with James Fletcher of Fletcher Construc-
Dignan Street to go into university. At the Hall Corner tion to build thousands of houses throughout the coun-
(today’s shopping centre), a tall dark haired man in his try, beginning with Lower Hutt, Miramar and Orakei.
60s with his left coat sleeve pinned up over a lost arm Many of my contemporaries at Pt Chevalier School and
regularly boarded the bus. Often a passenger would ask Pasadena Intermediate grew up in those houses, now
this man what he thought of some political issue of the sought after as well built, attractive homes. The design-
day, calling him Jack. The man would then hold forth ers of the new housing areas included reserves to enable
lengthily with his opinions on the question in a loud children to walk to school, placed the streets to follow
voice which echoed down the bus until he got off at Pitt the natural contours of the land, grouped the houses in
Street to go to his bookshop, Vital Books, in Eden different patterns and ensured there were no more than
Terrace. This was the same man I had seen as a child, 4 units per acre. The results of these principles are very
about 10 years previously, standing outside the Pt evident in our suburb.
Chevalier Library campaigning for election to
Parliament with long, fluent speeches. That year was But John A Lee was much more than a committed and
1949. effective politician. He was also a great public speaker
and prolific writer, a lover of language with a great be- A “most turbulent” corner — the
lief in the power of the written word. Born in 1891in
Dunedin, the major industrial city of the country at the John A Lee Pensioner Flats
time, he was brought up by his hard working mother
after separating from his attractive but feckless father,
reputed to be part Romany. His early life is fictional-
ised in his first book, Children of the Poor, published in The site of the current John A Lee Pensioner Flats at the
1934 and later in another 6 editions. He also wrote of corner of Great North and Pt Chevalier Roads, soon to
his troubled teenage years in The Hunted in 1936 and be replaced by Housing New Zealand’s multi-storey 60
Delinquent Days in 1967 and books about his time as one-bedroom flats development, was once the property
a soldier in World War 1 in which he lost his arm in of blacksmith John Oliver. From 1913, after his death,
1918 and developed his socialist beliefs. In 1963, he the Pt Chevalier Road Board, and later in 1925
published an account of his political life, Simple on a Auckland City Council, took possession of the corner
Soapbox. In all, Lee wrote a total of 20 books as well which was right next to what was then a paper road.
as political pamphlets and magazines. He also ran his Until the early 1970s, the land was used for two houses
bookshop, Vital Books, in his post parliament years. (the one fronting Great North Road next to the post of-
fice building dated from before 1913, the other used by
John A Lee died in 1982 at the age of 90. His legacy to the Plunket Society) and a works depot (the depot
Pt Chevalier lies in the legacy of his state houses which northernmost on the site).
contribute greatly to its character, the layout of many of
its streets and reserves, his books still held in the After Pt Chevalier Road had been re-aligned to follow
Auckland Council’s libraries. He also gives us the ex- the old paper road to the junction with Great North and
ample of a fearless individualist who challenged ine- Carrington Roads, and the wooden post office building
quality and fought for social justice. We can very proud had been removed, in April 1972, the Council’s Policy
that he was a resident of Pt Chevalier. and Finance Committee recommended that tenders be
called on the basis of “design and build” for pensioner
Reference: John A Lee Erik Olssen 1977 flats at the Pt Chevalier site, as well as one on St Jude
street in Avondale. At the time, the waiting list for pen-
sioner units was just over 300. Plans were lodged with
the Council’s architectural division in October that year.
Ten single-storey pensioner bedsitting rooms with
kitchen and bathroom were planned, the two blocks be-
Below: John A Lee as President of the Auckland Rugby ing one with six units (to the north), and one with four
League, calling for cheers for Auckland members of a New (to the south). A memo from January 1973 stated that
Zealand team at Carlaw Park. From NZ Herald 24 July 1939 “It would appear from the location that the residents
could expect very noisy living conditions arising from
traffic movements at the intersection. However, the
bedsitting rooms are to be located on the north side of
the unit and therefore
not directly oriented to
the main traffic flows.
Alternatively, the occu-
pants will have the op-
portunity to sit out on
front or back porches to
view the scene, a pas-
time which is known to
be of considerable
interest to many elderly

Of interest are the con-

cerns at the time that the
proposed use in the
1970s was “in excess of
the density normally
permitted in the zone.”
Just goes to show how
Auckland’s urban plan-
ning has changed in
nearly 50 years.
The development obtained Town Planning Committee Councils shudder at redundant names. But in the Hall
approval in March 1973. A solid concrete wall was in- and on the green around behind the hall I have delivered
cluded in the plans along with heavy tree planting many a speech. I have, or rather my wife and self have
behind the wall to help reduce the traffic noise of the hundreds of friends around the corner, and if despite
corner. Council applied for permission to raise a Lee Gardens your council goes ahead with the name the
$33,500 loan toward the cost of building the units, and gesture you suggest will be appreciated as an honour
received this permission in January 1974. The winning indeed.
tender was that of Stephen Contractors Ltd, for
$84,106.50. Yours sincerely
John A Lee.
In 1975, the Pt Chevalier Community Committee wrote
to the Council suggesting that the new units be named The flats were officially opened by John A Lee on 1
after John A Lee. Council wrote to Mr Lee, and re- October 1975, and a plaque erected on the site. In 2003,
ceived this reply: the units were transferred over to Housing New Zea-
land, and soon after converted to one-bedroom units.
3 July 1975
Dear Mr Dunn The old units now are derelict, many boarded up. The
Your letter of 27th expressing a wish to bestow an hon- concrete wall today bears the words “John A Lee Cor-
our upon me by naming pensioners’ flats after me ner”, but these are mostly hidden by the foliage from
warms my heart. over the top of the wall. Enquiries made to Housing
New Zealand about the name of the corner led to the
However, there is ever a danger in naming a location verbal response that, while a wall doesn’t appear in the
after a living author of my type for as the hand holds artiosts impressions of the new development, it will be
pen if I give pleasure to some I will give annoyance as replaced with another wall, and the name of the corner
well. One fitting thought occurs to me, the corner is one retained.
of the most turbulent in the city. A name there will not
lay me to rest, as it were. — Lisa J Truttman

There is one other matter I should mention. I have been Below: Sir Keith Holyoake and John A Lee at the opening of
given to understand that a 27 pensioner unit in Richard- the John A Lee Pensioner Flats. From the NZ Herald 2 Oc-
son Road is to be called Lee Gardens. I know how tober 1975.
Left: 2017 aerial of the corner site, Auckland Coun-
cil website.
Above: photos of the flats as they are today,
courtesy Bill and Barbara Ellis.
Below: part of the plans from Housing New Zealand
for the new development.
Bus Trip to Packard Museum, 17 October 2018
Bill Mutch of New Lynn Probus has arranged a bus to take his group up to the Packard Museum, State Highway 14,
Maungatapere on 17 October 2018, and has very kindly set aside a limited number of seats to Avondale-Waterview
and Pt Chevalier Historical Society members.

The cost is $55 per person for the bus (includes light refreshment going up, and a filled roll and muffin at our
destination), plus $20 per person museum admission. Ther e is a café on the pr emises for coffees and teas.

The bus would leave New World at Clark Street, New Lynn at 9.45am, and returns around 5.20 pm.

Please be quick to book before 31 August if you’re interested! Please pay in advance to secur e your seat to:

Alison Turner
119C Hitchinson Ave

Or pay into the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society bank account. Let either Alison (825-0300) or Lisa (828-
8494, 0274040804) know you’ve paid!

Kiwibank 389000 0177261 00

Next issue due out October 2018

Contact Lisa Truttman (editor) : 19 Methuen Road, Avondale, Auckland 0600, phone (09) 828-8494
or email

Membership of the Point Chevalier Historical Society

Membership is open to all with an interest in our area’s history, and costs only $20 per person ($30 for two or more in
the same household). This entitles you to vote at our meetings, and to receive mailed copies of the Point Chevalier
Send cheques to: Pt Chevalier Histor ical Society, C/- 119C Hutchinson Avenue
New Lynn, Auckland 0600
or bank direct to our account: Kiwibank 38-9008-0749260-00 (make sure your name is included as a reference)
Your membership fees mean that we can keep publishing the Point Chevalier Times.
Your support would be appreciated.