Monday, April 30, 2012

War, water and birds at Western Springs

Seeing as I was in the vicinity on Saturday, heading for MOTAT, I took a detour in search of a plaque in the park.

The Council put this plaque up, actually next to the main area which had been a motor camp from 1933, an American rest base 1942-44, and an emergency house transit camp from 1944-1961. A pity only the rest base is commemorated -- the Western Springs transit camp was the first of the areas set up from 1944 by the Council to address the chronic need for emergency, intermediate shelter for the city's citizens (the one at Titoki Street at the Domain started later).

Anyway, here's a plaque at least. A bit sad for the wear, corroded in places, and right next to a loo.

There are still patrols here, in a way. These days, a black rooster strolls past, utterly unconcerned by either people of proximity to a children's playground. Nice bird -- I wondered where he came from. An escapee from the zoo?

Motion's Creek Weir, at the edge of Western Springs lake. No fishing.

Peering out from the green ...

... a pair of painted pukekos on the back of another loo.

The men's have cormorants ...

... while the ladies have another pukeko and black swans.

The day's weather wasn't all that clement, the feathered residents going to ground just before the showers broke. I thus headed off, back to my route to MOTAT.

McKenzie's: variety store of my memory

Wide Range of Articles From Which To Choose 
"WHAT to give?" is the puzzling problem of the moment, but for the wise shopper, all worry is eliminated by a visit to any store of J. R. McKenzie. There the problem is solved and the search ends! ALL tastes and all ages are catered for, and there are a thousand and one gifts, designed to please, from which a choice can be made. Whether it be for father, for mother, for sister or brother, or somebody else's sister or brother, at McKenzie's will be found the very thing that is wanted. Established throughout the length and breadth of the Dominion, J. R. McKenzie's have been able through mass buying to land in New Zealand probably a more comprehensive range of toys, general fancy goods, and other suitable gifts, than has ever been imported into this country, and these represent the very latest from the overseas markets. Value and genuine bargains, together with prompt and smiling service, are the features for which the J. R. McKenzie Stores have gained a reputation.
NZ Truth 11 December 1930

Leigh Kennaway sent the above image the other day, a photo he took of a piece of the past of Auckland's retail history, this one in Takapuna. Instant nostlagia for me, as I remember being entranced by the variety on the shelves at the Queen Street store, with the barker rallying up the customers to buy-buy-buy this or that special item. To me as a wee nipper at my mum's side, the place just seemed wonderful. A smaller version of the giant multi-storey Farmers. All just memories, now, lost to corporate takeover and changing times.

The stores began with one man: Sir John Robert MacKenzie, knighted in 1949. Born in Victoria, Australia 5 August 1876, he began his business career in Melbourne, after serving in the 2nd Boer War with the Third Victorian Bushmen's Contingent. In 1910, he moved to New Zealand after being impressed by the country while taking a cycling holiday in 1909. He started a shop in Dunedin which was to be the first of a chain of 75 stores nationwide by 1980.
In 1910 Mr. McKenzie opened the first McKenzie fancy goods shop in George Street, Dunedin, to be followed shortly afterwards by a similar shop in Christchurch. The first Wellington store opened in Willis Street in 1913, Wanganui branch being next in 1915. By 1929 the [firm] had 18 fancy goods shops in the various towns of New Zealand, from Auckland to Invercargill. During 1929 Mr. McKenzie decided to adopt the more modern trend of retail business by converting the business into the modern self-serving department stores. Today there are 21 McKenzie department stores in every large town, from Whangarei to Invercargill, and a total staff of over 650 is employed by the company throughout the Dominion. To commemorate the occasion of the firm's silver jubilee, Mr. J. E. McKenzie has authorised that one extra week's salary be paid to every member of the staff, this gift involving payment of approximately £1400. Last year the company donated £500 to charity, and this year the directors have allocated £1600 to this cause. 

Evening Post 24 October 1933

Evening Post 12 December 1913

Always on the lookout for improvements and developments, Si John's observations during a trip overseas led him to the revolutionary decision to change his fancy goods stores to the department type of store which was proving so successful overseas, and which would provide the average family with many of their main needs at reasonable prices.

The first experimental department store was initiated shortly afterwards in Cuba Street, Wellington. The change was completed in three years ...

Auckland Star 3 November 1962

In 1938, the business was registered as a public company. Sir John died in 1955, renowned as a philanthropist (the name living on in the J R McKenzie Trust) and a successful businessman.

View of High Street Lower Hutt, November 1956, from the footpath beside Hill Brothers grocery store. Three women can be seen on the pavement, one of whom wheels a baby pram towards the camera. Photographed by Morrie Hill. Ref 1/2-177164-F, Alexander Turnbull Library.

By 1979, however, the business came to be controlled by a company called Rangatira Ltd, holding 52% of the shares. In July that year, Rangatira accepted a takeover bid by L D Nathan & Co, Ltd, owners of the Woolworths brand of variety stores in the country.  With "an air of quiet acceptance", although with unfavourable comments nonetheless from a shareholder and former McKenzies employee, the final meeting of McKenzies (NZ) Ltd was held on 20 July 1979. The stores all became part of Woolworths (a chain established here in 1929) -- I remember them as well, but they didn't hold the same magic for me. "Woolies" drifted away during the late 1980s-early 1990s.

I took this photo in June last year, the upper Symonds Street branch of McKenzies, which opened in late 1938.

If anyone else has any images or memories of the stores they'd like to share, feel free to contact me.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

White elephant at the culvert

A quirky bit of street art down at the Oakley Creek culvert alongside Bollard Road between Mt Albert and Avondale.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Aether & Iron

I went along to check out MOTAT's "Aether & Iron" day today. Wasn't there too long (about an hour) as I had to get into the city afterwards, but -- saw some interesting stuff.

From the Auckland City Harbour News, 27 April:
"Steampunkers from across the upper North Island will descend on MOTAT for the Aether & Iron: a Time Traveller's Day Out. The neo-Victorian themed sub-culture has never been so popular ... The concept behind steampunk is that the Victorian era never ended but progressed through another time period. Steam, iron and corsets are big factors in the sub-culture which has a large focus on the beauty of the period."

I wrote here back in August 2009: "One of my favourite things at MOTAT -- the Baldwin Steamer, No. 100. Built in Philadelphia for the NSW Government Tramway in Sydney, it was brought to Wanganui in 1910. It was restored at MOTAT from 1971-1996." Over the past year it has been under refurbishment once again, and come back to the tracks just this month.

Two percheron horses and carriage were part of the attractions. Here are the horses being unloaded in the rain which hung around from just after 10 am today.

Then, fortunately, the rain lifted.

Coming out from the Pioneer Village.

And other stuff. They're working on the Otahuhu Railway Ambulance...

... and they have a 1937 "British Post Office Kiosk No. 6" phone box which, according to the interpretive panel inside, was designed in Britain by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott who "won a competition mounted by the British Post Office for a cast-iron kiosk. The design incorporated many improvements on the previous kiosk including  the perforated crown for ventilation." It was adopted by the NZ Post and Telegraph Department, and was the first to feature bright red "Post Office" livery.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Epsom substation

In amongst character villas and bungalows on The Drive in Epsom, stands this beauty-in-brick: the 1930 Epsom substation, built by the Auckland Electric Power Board.

The first substation in the district dated from 1917, on Manukau Road. But, according to the History of Epsom (Epsom & Eden District Historical Society, 2006), with increasing development in the area from the 1920s, it soon became imperative that a substation be built close to the main Balmoral Road.

The architect has yet to be determined, but my money would be on Wade & Bartley, designers of the power board's Queen Street offices also in 1930. It rates Cat II with NZ Historic Places Trust, and is scheduled B on the old Auckland City Council district plan.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Scandal in the RAW

Click to enlarge.

I've been asked to take part in the RAW (Records & Archives Week) event "Scandalous!" happening on May 1 at Archives New Zealand in Auckland.

After quite a bit of jaw-dropping and "oh, my gosh!" reactions from yours truly, I've plumped for the topic of dear old Mr Albert Potter.

Don't know how this will go, but -- I'll give it my best shot, folks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The will of Thomas Henderson, merchant

One thing kept coming up time and again while I was actively researching the Thomas Henderson saga for Timber's Fortune, a particular challenge, of sorts, laid down by West Auckland local historian, Ben Copedo: where is Thomas Henderson's will?

I had no idea. Normal avenues like the probates collection at Archives New Zealand came up duck's egg. There was a will in Wellington office for a Thomas Henderson dated 1892 (just in case the probate was late, as the Thomas I was looking for died in 1886), but -- no.

Another problem was that Thomas Henderson's most well-known estate, Henderson's Mill and environs was, by the time he left this mortal coil, the property of the bank which had unpaid loans and mortgages they needed to recoup. Lots of titles and deeds references like this:

With someone else already laying claim to title before Thomas Henderson's decease, there's therefore no copy of a will written into the deeds books for example.  Certainly, he probably did have land elsewhere, I thought -- but that would be like looking for the needle in the proverbial. It could have been Wellington, or anywhere.

The breakthrough actually happened much closer to home.

Back in 1852, the Crown Grantee Shortland transferred Lot 19 of Section 8 of the City of Auckland to flour miller Henry Dangar. This site, on the other side of Wynyard Pier from Carr's Platform, may well have been that of the steam flour mill Dangar operated. In 1862, however, he transferred the land to ... Henderson & Macfarlane (Deed Index 1A.96) Now, I can't remember what put me onto this in the first place, but -- while the Bank of New Zealand and their Assets Realisation Board got control of Lot 19, a sliver of land in front on the seaward side, just 5 perches, was surveyed as a result of Beach Road going through, numbered 22, and Thomas Henderson received title in 1876 (title NA 12.246 above). And, somehow -- that sliver of land, in Thomas Henderson's own name, not that of the company, escaped the bank's claims.

On page 2 of the title, this entry:

Reference to a will! I'd been contacted recently by a Macfarlane descendant who asked about Henderson's will. I said none had been found, but -- that transmission reference was my last slender hope. So -- I ordered the transmission file from Land Information New Zealand.

I received the file electronically today. That last slender hope paid off.

Made out in 1872, Thomas Henderson's last known will, (.pdf copy) providing a legacy for his second wife Emma, his children, and any grandchildren. Thomas Henderson Jr. used it as proof of transmission of the Beach Road property to his name in 1891 -- the bank already claiming title in 1890.

In terms of trying to track the will down, then -- I reckon I was lucky the bank hadn't quite caught up with Mr Henderson before he breathed his last.

I've passed on the info to the West Auckland Historical Society today.