Friday, 14 November 2014

Tauranga’s Past Captured on Tape

In 1988 James Hartstonge, broadcaster, Village Radio volunteer, and founder of the Tauranga District Museum Oral History Unit, wrote:
Already too much time has elapsed for us to collect invaluable material firsthand, but that is all the more reason to press on and make sure we capture what still remains in the memories of our older citizens.”
The Oral History Unit consisted of a small group of volunteers: James Harstonge, Graham Birkett, Reg Spence and Kel Raine. Other interviewers included Maureen Wood and Gypsy McKenzie. This group did not work in isolation. An advisory panel including Jinty Rorke, E. Morris and Alan Bellamy guided the selection of suitable interviewees. The Unit's primary focus was recording the memories of Tauranga's older residents with the hope of capturing their unique account of the past.

Wynnton Poole as a baby with his father William and grandfather Duncan Poole
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library Ref. 04-065

From late 1988 to 1992 a total of 75 recordings were made - quite an achievement given the small team of volunteers and the amount of time needed to research an interviewee’s life and establish a rapport. Questions asked ranged from what they had eaten for breakfast as a child to their earliest recollections of Tauranga. Often personal stories would emerge. Reverend Wynnton Poole grew up in Tauranga and farmed in the area. When he retired he began a new path as an Anglican minister. In his recording he recalls stories from his childhood that have a uniquely Tauranga flavour.
You know I was an attractive child and the old ladies used to goo over me while I was in my pram. Later as I got a little bigger I became a terrible wanderer and finally my mother thought she had solved the problem. She put a belt on me with a ring at the back and a ring on the clothes line and a long line so I could play around the yard and not escape. I fairly quickly found out that if I removed my pants that I could slip off the belt and I didn’t necessarily stop to put my pants on again.”

The Faulkner family home in Beach Road, Otumoetai with Eric and Connie Faulkner standing at the front door
Image courtesy of Tauranga Heritage Collection

Topics such as local government and the Tauranga Harbour were also of interest. A good example of this is the interview with Eric Faulkner. Mr Faulkner was the great-grandson of trader John Lees Faulkner and was born and raised in Tauranga. His love of the town saw him become involved in local politics serving both as Deputy Mayor and Mayor of Tauranga. In his recording Mr Faulkner discusses the development of the harbour bridge.

The last interview was recorded in 1992 and the Tauranga Library was given copies of the tapes. The originals became part of the Tauranga Heritage Collection and have recently been digitized.

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