Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 35, September 1991
By Ian Parlane
My recollections stretch back a bit over 60 years and, for the most part, have been garnered outside metropolitan areas. Older people can take time to fall into a reverie and consider the changes that have occurred in their life times. When I contemplate the 60 years I'm surprised how well we have accommodated to those changes, although we shouldn't overlook the fact that there have been social casualties along the way.
My first contact with radio was in 1927. In the small rural settlement where I then lived the postmaster had a fairly primitive one valved radio which required headphones to hear music and speech through a background of static and scratching. I heard my first commercial radio in 1930 when there was a broadcast from the explorer Admiral Byrd at the South Pole. Shortly after that I heard the Napier earthquake casualty lists read over the air and received on a "wireless" at another neighbour's home.
My father "splashed out" in April 1931 and purchased a handsome piece of furniture called an "Ultimate" broadcast and shortwave radio. The cabinet incorporated four spindly but elaborately carved legs and a lift up top. (For the shortwave facility.) The unit stood about 1.2 metres high. An aerial system comprised two masts about eight metres tall set about 30 metres apart. The erection of this equipment was a full day's job for two men and it was completed in time for us to be able to "tune in" to the Anzac Day service in Wellington in 1931. This day marked the opening of the Carillon in front of the National Museum and this music was broadcast. From that time on radios have become smaller and smaller. The invention of the transistor to replace the glass valves was a very significant development, and with printed circuitry, has enabled us to buy a small hand held set for about $13 which is capable of doing almost the same as the large sets of 60 years ago.
When we shifted into rural Manawatu there were only four cars in the district of about 50 or 60 homes. All milk for the local cheese factory was carried on a variety of horse drawn wagons all owned by the individual farmers. I can remember the great excitement when one farmer bought a motor truck to carry his milk to the factory. For some years prior to this the cheese had been carted away to the port at Wanganui by motor lorry, but the arrival of these trucks at the factory was still something of an event - particularly to the boys of the neighbourhood. I suppose the biggest of these trucks might have been hard pressed to take a load of five tons. Cars in any number did not appear in the district until after the first Labour Government announced in 1936 its first "Guaranteed Price" for dairy products. Within the following 12 months there was a rash of ubiquitous Morris Eights, either red and black or green and black. These were available for about £212.
In the late 1920's and early '30's, aeroplaneswerevery rare visitors to the district and the sound of an engine up in the air was enough to have residents of all ages rushing for the door and peering into the skies. The cry of "There it is -over there!" was greeted with oohs and aahs as some tiny little buzzing plane passed overhead.
In the McRobertson Centennial Air Race in 1934 starting at Mildenhall, near London, and finishing in Melbourne, Australia, the interest was intense. The race started on October 24th and the winners, Scott and Black (Great Britain), were at the finish in 71 hours. Parmentier and Moll (Holland) in 90 hours 20 minutes and Turner and Pangborn (USA) were 3rd in 93 hours. Hewett, Kay and Stewart (N Z) in 143 hours 41 minutes and McGregor and Walker in a single engined plane, in 182 hours 58 minutes.
I remember being taken to Milson Airport (Palmerston North) in 1933 to see the Southern Cross and Kingsford Smith. Flights were being given at £1 per person (for about 10 minutes), or a bright yellow 3 or 4 seater Waco would give one the same treat for 10 shillings. I was terribly disappointed that the queues were so long that we couldn't go for a flight. In 1935 Kingsford Smith was lost in the Bay of Bengal on a flight from England to Australia, and the country was saddened. The progress of aviation was not to be deterred and it was not a great deal longer before I was at Milson Airport to see the commencement of the Union Airways Service from Palmerston North to Dunedin with intermediate landings at Wellington and Christchurch. The planes were de Havilland Dragon (DH 86) bi-planes with 4 engines, I seem to recall, and very beautifully designed - a most attractive aircraft. In fact it was the DH Dragon Rapide 2 engine model that Hewett, Kay and Stewart had flown in the Melbourne Air Race.
NZ aviation hearts were again lifted high when Miss Jean Batten, a 26 year old Aucklander, flew from England to NZ in a Percival Gull arriving on 16 October 1936. Later the following year Captain Musick of Pan-American arrived in Auckland with a commercial flying boat and, shortly after, the New Zealander, Captain P W Burgess arrived in Auckland in the flying boat "Centaurus" as part of a survey of possible air routes for BEA. I remember seeing the Centaurus in Auckland in early 1938 and being amazed at its size. From the commencement of the War, aviation development "exploded" on to the jet engine (Whittle) which has given us the magnificent flying machines of today.
But the "daddy of them all" for leaving one with the mouth hanging open in wonder was seeing the Russian Sputnik 1 whizzing through the night sky in 1957 and repassing every 90 or so minutes.
As far as Paeroa is concerned, the first aeroplane to land here arrived at 10 00am on 2 October 1929 [correction by C W Malcolm in Journal 36: "The first aeroplane to land in Paeroa did so in May 1922, not in October 1929. This is confirmed by an article on page 40 of the same Journal" See in this journal Paeroa's First Aeroplane - E]. Four planes belonging to the Auckland Aero Club landed at the race course. The Club were on a tour around the North Island, urging Local Authorities to get active in providing air fields. The group which left Mangere comprised, as pilots. Captain J C Seabrook, Major G A Cowper, Captain L Hewett and Mr I C Horton. Passengers were Mr L W Swann, Mr Spencer Mason, Mr EW Wright and the Mayor of Paeroa, Mr Wm Marshall. The accompanying photograph shows the D.H.60 Moth planes on the race course. The nearest is probably ZK-AAE and has painted on the side N Z Herald Gift Machine. ZK-AAO also has New Zealand Herald painted on it but the smaller lettering is unclear. School children were assembled at the race course to witness the arrival. The Aero Club delegation met the Borough Council at the Council Chambers after which there was a private lunch and the flight left at 2 30pm for Te Aroha with the Mayor of Te Aroha as passenger inMr Marshall's place.
The "Southern Cross" landed at Waihi Beach on 26 January 1933 and left for Auckland next day. The following year it arrived in Te Aroha from Whakatane on 30 January 1934 and left for Te Awamutu the next day. On 11 March it flew in again from Auckland and left next day for Takapuna.
May I remind readers of two previous articles in the Regional History Journal that elaborate on the foregoing:-
(a) "Motor Age Begins for Paeroa" pages 35 and 38, Number 12, October 1969.
(b) "Looking Back at Local Radio" page 38, Number 24, August 1980.
Other technological developments over the past 65 years could be considered under the following headings:
Agricultural: Tractors and agricultural machinery (hay balers, etc.)
Domestic Electrical Equipment: Electric Ranges, Refrigerators, Washers and driers. Kitchen "whizzes", etc, television sets.
Office equipment: Computers, word processors, copiers, "fax" machines.
Industrial: Robotics, milk tankers.
The list of items which were not in general use in 1925 or have been invented since is really quite staggering. What will our grandchildren have to learn to adapt to in the next 65 years?