Donkey rides on the beach and dances at the Peter Pan Hall
“It’s too rough. I’m not getting on,” my mother called out to one of the Faulkner brothers who owned the ferry.
“You’ll be fine, girl – it’s as safe as houses,” he assured her, but Mum wasn’t having a bar of it.
“The whole ferry was rocking, and sitting so low in the water...and on a lean.” Mum recalled the incident, this morning, as if it were yesterday, and not, in fact over sixty years ago.
Today, I visited my eighty-year old mother at her home in Mount Maunganui. Though it was icy cold and miserable outside, she opened the door with her usual sunshine smile. We sat by the open fire, drinking coffee, eating chocolate cake (homemade of course) and looking through boxes of old family photos.
Scotty, her thirteen-year-old fox terrier, was sprawled out on the mat, contentedly snoring and twitching, to the crackle of the fire – obviously in dog heaven.
Mum was a Mount girl. Her name was Martha Friis, and at twenty-one she married my father, Alex Edwards – he was a local, too.
Her parents were Margaret and Bert Friis, retired farmers from Reporoa, who lived at 5 Pacific Avenue, Mount Maunganui. Surprisingly, the house is still there. Martha went to Mount Maunganui Primary School, which at the time was situated in Puriri Street (now transported to The Historic Village in Tauranga – her classroom is, anyway).
After finishing Standard Six (now known as Year Eight) she attended Tauranga District High School, at 31 Fifth Avenue, Tauranga, now Tauranga Primary School. Her mode of transport to andfrom school each day was by ferry. (So, that day, when Mum refused to get on the ferry, the conditions must have been atrocious, as she was a well-seasoned ferry traveller by then.)
It’s so interesting listening to stories about her childhood and teenage years at the Mount. Like the donkey rides on the beach, from the Surf Club to the rocks at the foot of the Mount and back again. The business was owned and operated by the Davies family, who lived in a cottage at the foot of the Mount where the camping ground is now. The donkeys were kept in a paddock close to the Davies’ cottage.
And, apparently, there used to be a skating rink on Adams Avenue, where the hot-spot building is now. It operated out of The Lea Mount Hall and they’d skate on wooden floors. I found the fact that you could skate on wooden floors quite remarkable.
The Rugby Ball was held every year in the (then) RSA Hall on the corner of Maunganui Road and Leinster Avenue. Mum remembers helping decorate the hall on a few occasions.
She said The Miss Mount Maunganui contest used to be held on the Harbourside, for a short time.
Mum has many fond memories of the Peter Pan Hall in Pacific Avenue – the venue for Saturday night dances, and other functions, like balls, wedding receptions, etc. It’s still there, a surf shop now, I think. Actually, I can even remember going to dances there myself, back in the 1970s.
Mum and Dad married at St Peter’s Anglican Church, 11 Victoria Street, Mount Maunganui, on 20 May 1950. Their reception was held at (you guessed it) the Peter Pan Hall. Mum showed me a cutting of a write-up the local paper ran about their marriage.
Dad was also one of six children who lived at the Mount, so I believe our forebears singlehandedly contributed to the population increase of this once small coastal community of Mount Maunganui – but no-one has named a street after us yet!
My parents had four children, and even though we were born and raised in the Waikato, all our holidays were spent at the Mount. It was like a second home, a place of immense happiness and fun. I remember Mum packing our car for our big journey over the Kaimais (a bit like Sir Ed’s trip over that other mountain). Mum seemed to be the one doing all the organizing at these times, as all I can remember Dad doing was sitting in the car, honking the horn, so mum would hurry up, and not be late getting him to The Oceanside Hotel on Marine Parade before closing time at 6 pm – in the days before the six o’clock swill was over.
When we were a young family, we stayed with Mum’s parents for holidays. We’d have heaps of cousins and children to play with, we’d swim all day (and I mean all day) and picnic on the beach.
In the evenings, when my parents got together with their friends, all the children would play. Our favourite game was rolling down sand hills (I’m sure they were higher then) and we’d run back up the loose sand, and rolling down, time and time again. We must have been so fit, and a bit insane.
I remember us climbing the Mount constantly then running down the other side. On one occasion my sister ran so fast she couldn’t stop – she ran straight into a rock and received several stitches.
We’d be treated to one Tip-Top vanilla ice-cream a day. I think the ice-creams were used as a behavioural tool, with Mum threatening, “If you don’t behave you won’t get your ice-cream.” I think we always managed to be just good enough to get one each, every day.
We’d collect pipis, huge fat ones, at low tide. Mum would make fritters with them – her pipi fritters were delicious, especially smothered with large dollops of Wattie's tomato sauce.
They say one should write a gratitude list occasionally, to record all the special moments in your life. If I were to write one today, I’d put at the top of my list Mum’s house this morning in the middle of winter, sitting by the fire looking through photos of our family holidays, and listening to her tell stories of her wonderful childhood at Mount Maunganui.