From Ngaire’s journal, 25th February 1959
‘At 3.45 pm we all left home and accompanied Carol to the Airport. She was very excited and looked beautiful in her crème colour coat, crème shoes, gloves and bag, apricot frock and pale green hat. The plane, piloted by Geoff White, left at 5pm and was due at Melbourne at 9.30 pm.’
I’m sticking with the aviation theme this week.
My parents met in Christchurch in 1958. Dad – an Australian – was there on a working holiday, and pursued Mum after spotting her in the Durham Street Methodist Church choir. In early 1959, my mother flew to Melbourne to be reunited with him and to see (with a view to marriage) what she thought of Australia. It was to be the first of many Tasman crossings, backwards and forwards between Christchurch and Melbourne.
My mother Carol and her brother Warwick at Essendon airport Melbourne, 1960
It’s hard not to feel a little envious of a time where passengers dressed so well and where you may know the pilot by name. Melbourne readers looking carefully at the photo of my mother and uncle at Essendon airport may also envy the helicopter service into town. For those of you not from here, getting to our city’s airport is a journey that is neither convenient nor glamorous.
Geoff White went on to become a distinguished pilot with Air New Zealand, flying their first DC-8 into Wellington for the initial trials. I think he may now live in Australia.
And a post script. My father was hours late to pick Mum up in 1959, and she was left sitting on her suitcase outside the shed that served as a terminal at Essendon. A cleaner, locking up for the night, told Mum he doubted her beau would show, but he did and the rest is history. He has never been on time for anything since.
Christchurch International Airport, C 1960
Source: Christchurch City Libraries
22 February, 1960
Opening of the new Christchurch Airport terminal, designed by Paul Pascoe.
Leaving Christchurch with my parents and brother Nigel, 1965
Yesterday, February 22nd, was the third anniversary of the devastating Christchurch earthquake. As is always the case with these sort of milestones, the time frame is hard to comprehend — it seems much more recent and far more distant all at once.
From Christchurch to Melbourne, 1960s
Coincidentally, February 22nd was also the date the new Christchurch airport terminal opened in 1960. The terminal building, designed by Christchurch-born architect Paul Pascoe, is a timely reminder of the very modern face of New Zealand design. While the building has now been replaced — its sleek and much-needed replacement opened last year — photographs reveal a design that reflected the confidence, optimism and glamour of the time.
My memories of the Christchurch airport are tied up entirely with my grandparents. Of finally seeing Granny after a year or more, and of saying goodbye again. In those innocent days, when passengers and those farewelling them wandered out to the tarmac, I could cling to her legs until the very last minute.
From Ngaire’s journal, 29th January, 1955 (holidaying in Waitomo)
‘This evening we visited the Waitomo Caves which are very beautiful, the highlight being the wonderful glow-worm caves which we saw from a boat which was taken along by the guide. It was like fairyland.
Ngaire’s sketch of Gerald in the hotel bath
The Waitomo Hotel is just luxurious and we only wish we could have stayed here a week. In a large cupboard in our room is a sitting bath. It is about 4 ft long and 2 ½ feet wide and shaped like a seat. It is very comfortable. A spray shower may be used in it as well.’
As far as I can tell, the Waitomo Hotel hasn’t changed very much since the Mottram family visited in 1955, though the rooms don’t feature baths in cupboards any more. There may be a reason for that. Apparently the hotel is the ‘fourth most haunted spot, and the most haunted hotel, in New Zealand’. Reported paranormal events include bathtubs dripping blood, the noise of a maid’s trolley in the hallway and the ghost of a Maori princess ‘stalking the corridors’.
All of which makes the sketch of my grandfather in a sitting bath seem rather ho-hum.