Monday, October 27, 2008

When the Lights came on in Avondale (1953)

Updated 19 July 2019.

I found this in the Auckland Scrapbook at the Research Centre, Central Library. From the NZ Herald, 28 November 1953:

“The Mayor of Auckland, Mr. Luxford, last night switched on community lighting systems for the shopping areas at Avondale and Remuera. At Avondale, hundreds packed the corner of Rosebank Road and the Great North Road, where two trucks parked end to end made an impromptu platform for the official party.

“Mr A E Bailey, president of the Avondale Businessmen's Association, introducing the Mayor, spoke of Avondale as the ‘Cinderella’ of the suburbs. Mr Luxford said that as long as Avondale had no direct representation on the City Council, residents could have direct access to him on any problem to be dealt with on a civic basis.

“Other speakers were Mrs Mary Wright and the Western Suburbs Birthday Carnival queen, Miss Barbara Walmsley. The City Pipe Band led marching girls in a procession and a free ice cream stall did a brisk business.”
The first reference to an Avondale Businessmen’s Association was in November 1927, with former mayor of the borough William John Tait, along with Arthur Morrish and Henry Burton pushed for better public transport links for Avondale. There seems to have been some sort of collective of business owners at the time, and likely some meetings, but there is no further mention of a business association in the township until some retailers met together on 11 November 1937, those present that day resolving (a) to incorporate, and (b) that the aim of the association was to be: “That the businessmen of Avondale form an incorporated association for the purpose of installing a community system of electric lighting of shops …” Incorporation came in June 1939, and on 4 August that year, the first community lighting scheme was switched on.

At this stage, I don't know what happened between 1939 and 1953, apart from the World War of course which may have had something to do with perhaps completing the scheme, but apparently while power was switched on at the former Avondale Town Hall (now the Hollywood Cinema) in 1939, in 1953 the switch was flicked at the intersection of Rosebank and Great North Roads.

Albert Bailey, by the way, was the owner of the Avoncourt Hotel, and became Avondale’s first City Councillor in the 1960s since Edward Copsey had a brief term in the late 1920s after amalgamation with the City. The site of the of the festivities in 1953 would have been that of the present-day Ray White’s building, then just an empty paddock before the National Bank bought the section (the Businessmen’s Association had a Christmas Tree on that site each year until then.)

Those community lights were to be Avondale Mainstreet’s main illumination until the 1990s and the installation of security lighting in 1996 (which was also inaugurated with a festival and parade). But, it can now be said that Avondale was well and truly “switched on” long before then!

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