Thursday, 14 December 2017

Women’s suffrage and temperance as seen by the New Zealand Graphic

Some political cartoons published by the 'New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Journal' dealt with women’s suffrage and temperance. Interestingly, for a ladies’ journal, sometimes the attitudes to women’s issues are portrayed from a wistfully cynical male viewpoint of female foibles. Perhaps this is explained by the fact that the Graphic’s principal cartoonist was one Mr Ashley John Barsby Hunter. Have a look at his view of ‘The Political Woman.’

Ref: New Zealand Graphic. The political woman. 2 July 1898.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZG-18980702-17-1
The next cartoon shows the Women’s Franchise Bill about to be committed before the Legislative Council after passing through the House of Representatives with half-hearted, devious Liberal support. Now a reluctant and scheming Seddon is about to commit the Bill to the Upper House. The clerks (other politicians) are laying odds that they will throw it out.

Ref: New Zealand Graphic. Committed. 26 August 1893.
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZG-18930826-129-1

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Jane Austen 200

Jane Austen fans will probably already know that 2017 marks two hundred years since the death of the novelist on 18 July 1817 at the early age of 41.

Ref: Screenshot from the Jane Austen 200 website
Since then her six completed novels have been among the most loved in the English language, with a steady surge in popularity following their adaptations into film and TV versions.

After Jane’s death her brother Henry Austen organised the publication of her last book in 1818. It includes her earliest novel, Northanger Abbey, and her final completed novel, Persuasion, printed as a set in four small volumes.

Ref: Haruhiko Sameshima, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion volumes,
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-C1939

Monday, 20 November 2017

Waikowhai Park

“As Auckland grows every open space which is preserved for the use of the public is an asset of incalculable value,” a writer said in the NZ Herald in 1914. “Every city, in order to keep its inhabitants healthy, must have breathing spaces for the adults and playing grounds for the children.” Few of those spaces, it seemed, compared with Waikōwhai Park, Auckland’s newest, beautiful reserve on the shores of the Manukau Harbour.

General view of Waikawai Bay, showing Onehunga channel and portion of Manukau Harbour. Auckland Weekly News, 1902. Sir George Grey Special Collections, AWNS-19020227-8-2
The land had been purchased from Māori in the 1840s, and a decade later, nearly 500 acres was granted to the Wesleyan Mission. Used for camping and fishing, its location on the outskirts of the isthmus was perfect for a public reserve. In 1911, the Waikōwhai Park Act was passed: a collaboration between the Mt Roskill Roads Board and the Wesleyans (who gifted a portion of the land for the park). Both the central Government and the Roads Board came up with the finances to create it, including grading the roads for motor vehicles to use, and laying a two-mile long water main for picnickers. On February 28, 1914 the Park was officially and ceremoniously opened.

The Hon, F.W. Lang, speaker of the House of Representatives and member for the Manukau Electorate, opening the Waikowhai Park, adjoining Manakau Harbour, on February 28. Auckland Weekly News, 1914. Sir George Grey Special Collections, AWNS-19140305-39-1.
With its profusion of Kōwhai, Waikōwhai Park covered 50 acres and offered much for Aucklanders to enjoy. The NZ Herald summed it up: “Patches of bush alternate with undulating grass which is here and there cut up by picturesque creeks. Sheltered picnic spots are numerous and there is a special area laid out for camping and games. The sea frontage extends for three-quarters of a mile. Bold, rocky promontories alternating with pretty sheltered coves, make an attractive coast line.” Day trippers could fish and gather shellfish, swim in the harbour (changing sheds provided) and from all points take in the magnificent view over the placid water of the Manukau Harbour.

Transportation to get to the park was catered for as well. While one could catch a launch from Onehunga Harbour, there were bus services. A regular service ran from Customs Street in the city, via the Domain and Cornwall Park, and on one occasion, staff from Rendells department store travelled by buses to the park for an afternoon sports event where the beauty of the new park was commented on with pleased surprise. And there were, of course, motor vehicles, able to drive close to the beach while passing through beautiful portions of the park.

Beauties of Waikowhai Park. View taken from just inside the gates of the recently-opened park at Mount Roskill, Auckland. Auckland Weekly News, 1914.  Sir George Grey Special Collections, AWNS-19140312-44-2. 

However, the downside to public spaces eventually became a problem. In 1924 the Roads Board were concerned enough to suggest that greater supervision was needed to prevent the damage caused by careless campers; campers were also taking advantage of loose firewood and it was suggested greater controls needed to be put in place to preserve the native bush, “lest the trees be used also.”

Frederick George Radcliffe. Looking south south west from Waikowhai Road across Manukau Harbour towards the Manukau Heads, 1915. Sir George Grey Special Collections, 35-R246.

By the 1960s, though, part of the park was reclaimed for use as a rubbish tip. From 1962 to 1972, it became the landfill for waste, not only from residents (including septic tank effluent) but also industrial waste from freezing works and tanneries. As a 2015 Heritage Study on the Waikōwhai  Coast noted: the tip would scar the bay for decades to come and contribute to the pollution of the Manukau Harbour.

Waikōwhai Park tip. Auckland Council Archives, MRB 009-243.

Today, while the park no longer has the prestige it once did, much is being done to resurrect it. Native bush is regenerating, the foreshore is undergoing restoration, and a project to construct a boardwalk has begun. Aucklanders can also admire the landscape and the Manukau from the 10km Waikōwhai Walkway, just one link in a chain of New Zealand-wide walks.

Author: Joanne Graves

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Toni Savage, entertainer and philantropist

Laura Joan 'Toni' Swan (née Savage) was an entertainer who began her career singing and dancing, mixed with some accordion playing and ventriloquism for New Zealand and American troops during the Second World War. She continued entertaining throughout her life, and after her death in 2011 her executors donated her archives (known as the Toni Swan papers, NZMS 1746) to Sir George Grey Special Collections at Auckland Central Library.

Ref: Toni performing for troops. From: Toni Swan. Papers. NZMS 1746, 4.3.1 (14)
Ref: The Kentucky Korn Kobs. From: Toni Swan. Papers. NZMS 1746, 4.3.1 (21).
Ref: The Mexicanos. From: Toni Swan. Papers. NZMS 1746, 4.3.1 (26)

Monday, 6 November 2017

Dr Grace Russell and the Dobie sisters

When I started researching New Zealand women who worked in the war effort overseas during the First World War, I realised much of the material I needed was in a cupboard in someone’s spare room – or in a box under the bed.

While the soldiers of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force and the nurses of the New Zealand Army Nursing Service all had numbers – and files at Archives New Zealand – women who paid their own fares and often worked with the British, the French and the Serbs were more or less untraceable.

Enter Kate de Courcy who contacted me when she saw a little plea for information under an article I wrote for North & South magazine on the World War 1 Oral History Archive interviews I did with Nicholas Boyack in the 1980s – when our veteran interviewees were between 86 and 99 years old.

Kate sent me transcriptions of letters from her grandmother, Dr Grace Russell from Auckland which are in her family’s possession.  Grace had been a port doctor at Port Said, largely dealing with quarantine matters, but when war broke out she had just been put in charge of the training of maternity nurses in Egypt.
Portrait of Grace Russell, later Grace de Courcy, the second New Zealand woman to qualify as a doctor, in graduation gown, photographed in Brussels in 1898. Sir George Grey Special Collections, 1050-2
After the Gallipoli landings, thousands of wounded soldiers were taken to Egypt. Grace’s nurses and premises were commandeered as buildings were turned into hospitals and every available woman was working in them.

Grace asked the military authorities for a role, and wrote to family members saying they were not giving her one because she was a woman. But the crisis was so huge that when she went to see the head of the British military medical operation, he sent her to the Egyptian Army Hospital, which had been lent to New Zealanders but was still run by Royal Army Medical Corps doctors.

She was given the infectious diseases ward – and was thrilled to be joined there by Dr Agnes Bennett, whom she had met in Wellington. Agnes is written up in British and Australian books as the first woman doctor in any British army unit, though she was not actually commissioned. Grace was there first – but she was a civilian being paid by the Egyptian government, and was soon reassigned.

Kate works in Sir George Grey Special Collections at Auckland Libraries and also alerted me to photographs that arrived there as a result of David Hastings’ research for The Many Deaths of Mary Dobie. (Auckland University Press, 2015).

Three of Mary Dobie’s nieces were volunteer nurses during the war. Beatrix, an artist, and Agatha, a music student, were on their OE in England in 1914. In August, when war broke out, they were in the Bay of Biscay. They stayed on for nine weeks, and the pair made a dozen shirts in two days – because the French wanted 2000 shirts for their soldiers and German prisoners.
Agatha Mary Dobie, 1915. Sir George Grey Special Collections, 1342-Album-244-100-1.
Beatrix, Agatha and Ellen all became British Red Cross VADs – volunteer nurse aides who did an increasing amount of actual nursing work as the war progressed because of a shortage of trained nurses. Ellen was in New Zealand when war began and saved hard from her job with a shipping company to be able to join her sisters.
Ellen Locker Dobie in nurse's uniform. Sir George Grey Special Collections, 1342-Album-244-136-3.

In August 1915, Beatrix sailed with two New Zealand friends and about 200 British VADs to Malta where she helped nurse sick and wounded soldiers from the Gallipoli campaign, including New Zealanders.

In 1916, Beatrix worked at a canteen near the No. 3 New Zealand General Hospital at Codford, England – again with her artist friends, Kitty Mair and Esther Barker.

Beatrix Dobie (left) and friend Esther Barker at Codford, England. Private Collection. 

Kitty Mair, Beatrix Dobie, Esther Barker, an unknown woman, and Maud Wilder at Codford. Private Collection.
Ellen and Beatrix returned home at the beginning of 1918 while Agatha worked for two years in France and returned in 1920 - like many of our soldiers.
Agatha Dobie in nurse's uniform at Rouen. 1917. Sir George Grey Special Collections, 1342-Album-244-148-3.
How many Auckland women worked in the war effort overseas is unknown – and can never be known for sure. But one thing is abundantly clear: their role has been massively under-reported in our history. Institutions such as Auckland Libraries and relatives of those who served, like Kate de Courcy, are playing a role in resurrecting the stories of these women.

Author: Jane Tolerton

Jane Tolerton is the author of Make Her Praises Heard Afar: New Zealand women overseas in World War One, published by Booklovers Books, available from Potton & Burton. $59.99.

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Auckland’s Jazzy nightlife

Whenever I tell people what I research - the history of jazz in New Zealand - the first response I get is: ‘there was jazz in New Zealand?’ The second response is usually something along the lines of: ‘but we didn’t really have any nightlife…did we?’ The answer to both is emphatically yes! New Zealand, and in particular Auckland, certainly had a nightlife, and jazz invaded New Zealand about mid-1917. Auckland percussionist and saxophonist Bob Adams created New Zealand’s first jazz band in about 1918, and there were already plenty of dance halls, cabarets, and theatres ready and willing to get in on the new craze that soldiers brought back from the First World War.

As the 2016-2017 Auckland Library Heritage Trust Scholarship winner my project was to investigate the Jazz Age in Auckland (1918-1930). Yes, Auckland, and more broadly New Zealand, did have a Jazz Age commensurate with other Western nations. When we think of the Jazz Age what comes to mind are images that could be out of a Miss Fisher mystery or an F. Scott Fitzgerald story like The Great Gatsby: fast-paced music, dancing, drinking, debauchery, daring fashions, new technologies, and entertainments. In other words, the Jazz Age is more than just jazz as music. And this was at the heart of my project - what, asides from jazz music, went into making the Jazz Age in Auckland?

To start: New Zealand did not ‘close at 5’. Yes, shops closed at 5pm (and, infamously for much of the twentieth century, pubs at 6), but as I discovered when looking at advertising ephemera held in the Sir George Grey Special Collections, restaurants began dinner service at 5pm. Additionally, beauty parlours were open until 8 or 9pm for that essential hair styling (for women and men) or a last minute manicure before heading off to the theatre or cabaret at 8pm, and cafes, grills, and confectionery stores remained open for post cabaret, dance hall, or theatre supper and dessert - frequently until 1 or 2am.

Ref: Advertisement. From: Rio Rita Programme 1929. John Fuller Theatre Ephemera, Sir George Grey Special Collections.
Ref: Advertisement. From: Gold Diggers Film Programme, 1929. Ephemera Collection, Sir George Grey Special Collections. 
But how was jazz defined in Auckland’s Jazz Age? In the 1920s the term jazz was used to mean a variety of things to people: music, dance (both a specific dance and a general style), and it denoted bright colours, or combinations of colours (such as green-black-gold) and abstract geometric patterns in fashion. It was also a fashionable buzzword in advertising - to describe an item as jazz was to imply that it was the latest, best, and brightest. The term jazz was also used to confer the idea of fun and excitement to items or activities.

Ref: Page 7 Advertisements Column 1, Auckland Star, Volume LI, Issue 255, 25 October 1920.
Ref: Page 20 Advertisements Column 7, Auckland Star, Volume LVII, Issue 194, 17 August 1926
It’s also worth noting that most of the slang involving the word ‘jazz’ originates in this period. To say that you were jazzed about something was to be excited, or the classic ‘and all that jazz’ for ‘and everything else’.

The connotations surrounding jazz were not always positive, however. ‘Jazzy nerves’ was considered to be a psychiatric disease, with descriptions ranging from what we would now describe as manic-depression or bipolar spectrum through to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is perhaps unsurprising in this post-war period with many people greatly affected physically, mentally, and emotionally by the war. A jazz person was someone who was untrustworthy, or outright criminal, with a sub-category of flappers for untrustworthy young women. Finally, in the early years of the 1920s, jazz was inextricably linked to the influenza pandemic as they both arrived at the same time, and jazz ‘encouraged’ people to go out at night, in the cold and catch the ‘flu.

Ref: Page 7 Advertisements Column 5, Auckland Star, Volume LII, Issue 223, 19 September 1921.

Ref: Page 2 Advertisements Column 3, Pukekohe & Waiuku Times, Volume 11, Issue 839, 7 September 1923.
Ref: Page 12 Advertisements Column 2, Auckland Star, Volume LV, Issue 214, 9 September 1924.

Cabarets, dance halls, theatres, and cinemas formed the backbone of Auckland’s nightlife and jazz scene in the 1920s. The Opera House (and later the St James) was the home base of Fullers’ theatrical operations, while His Majesty’s was J.C. Williamson’s.

Ref: A montage of interior views of St James Theatre. From: The New Zealand Sporting and Dramatic Review, July 1928. Sir George Grey Special Collections, 7-A1180.

Ref: James Richardson. Looking north east from the corner of Bledisloe Street, later Elliott Street (left) and Wellesley Street West towards Fullers Opera House, destroyed by fire 3 December 1926. Sir George Grey Special Collections, 4-4785.

Ref: Auckland City Council. Showing a full view of the stage (curtains closed) at His Majesty's Theatre, with the painted monogram J C W (relating to J C Williamson Theatres Limited) above. 1987/1988. Sir George Grey Special Collections, 994-80
These two companies were responsible for most of the professional theatre in Auckland in the 1920s, with vaudeville, revues, musical comedies, and dramatics. They were also responsible for bringing many jazz bands from overseas to Auckland on their vaudeville circuits. Through vaudeville people could hear and see bands such as Linn Smith’s Royal Jazz Band from Australia, Bert Ralton and his World Famous Savoy Havana Band (from the Savoy Hotel in London- favourite band of the Prince of Wales), the Tully Sisters Jazz Band - one of the first ‘all-girl’ jazz bands from the United States, and many others who influenced how local musicians played jazz, and how the audience, perceived jazz. 

Ref: J.C Williamson Programme for Bert Ralton's Havana Band. Ephemera Collection, Sir George Grey Special Collections. 
Ref: Page 16 Advertisements Column 8, Auckland Star, Volume LV, Issue 288, 4 December 1924.

In the cabarets and dance halls we heard local iterations of jazz. One of the first sophisticated dance venues of the 1920s was Rush-Munro’s (of ice cream fame) Conservatoire de Danse on K’ Road, an extension of his tearooms, cafeteria, and ice cream parlour operations.

Ref: Page 10 Advertisements Column 8, New Zealand Herald, Volume LVIII, Issue 17869, 25 August 1921.

The Conservatoire was one of the first venues in the city to have jazz bands playing on a regular basis. By 1922 the city was jazzing, and was ready for its first dedicated jazz venue: The Dixieland Cabaret.

Page 12 Advertisements Column 2, Auckland Star, Volume LIII, Issue 83, 7 April 1922.
The Dixieland was the brainchild of Canadian heiress Ethel Rayner and her husband, dentist and entrepreneur Dr Frederick Rayner, who wanted to bring to Auckland the sophisticated entertainment they saw in New York, London, and Paris. It quickly became the place to go for the young sophisticate crowd, and was considered the best place to go to dance to jazz. I’ve written extensively about the Dixieland over at if you want to read more about the venue, the music and its scandals.

This is just the briefest of overviews of Auckland’s Jazz Age. While the concept of jazz in advertising died out by the end of the decade, jazz music and dance increased in popularity. As the 1920s continued the number of venues for entertainment increased in both the suburbs and in the central city, with new theatres, dance venues and other entertainments such as roller-skating rinks (which usually had live jazz bands playing) opening frequently. Despite increasing economic worries, and the impending global economic depression, 1920s Auckland continued to have something of an entertainment boom that centred on jazz. Until 1931 it seemed that nothing would get in the way of Aucklanders desiring new entertainment venues - as witnessed by the opening of both the Crystal Palace and Civic Theatre in 1929, and the Peter Pan Cabaret in mid-1930. All these venues became noted jazz hubs in the 1930s and beyond.

As a final note on how much Aucklanders liked going out in the evening - even at the height of the Great Depression, most theatres, cabarets, dance halls and other entertainment venues didn’t close down entirely, rather they reduced their operating hours so there was still something to do after 5pm on any night of the week.

Author: Dr Aleisha Ward, 2016-17 Auckland Library Heritage Trust Researcher in Residence

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Thomas Mandeno Jackson, tenor and auctioneer

Recently while describing photographs from the 1893 New Zealand Graphic and Ladies Journal I came across a portrait simply entitled ‘Mr T.M. Jackson, the well known New Zealand tenor.’ I tried many Google and Wikipedia searches to try and find the forenames for Mr Jackson and a little about him. These searches were all unsuccessful. They led me to conclude that unless one is searching for a famous Australian singer like Dame Nellie Melba, Wikipedia and Google tend to be very much centred on the northern hemisphere. New Zealand opera singers before the twentieth century seem to be completely ignored by the internet. Perhaps librarians can take some comfort from the fact that the all-powerful Google is not, in fact, omniscient. Instead in this case I had to turn to New Zealand Papers Past to find out who Mr Jackson was, and then I discovered he was well known for his auctioneering day-job.

The New Zealand Illustrated Magazine for 1 March 1900 gives us a good early biography of Thomas Mandeno Jackson. He was born in 1863 and was the son of Samuel Jackson, a well-known lawyer in early Auckland.

Ref: Hanna/New Zealand Graphic, Mr T.M. Jackson, the New Zealand tenor, 11 February 1893. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZG-18930211-122-1
According to Thomas Mandeno Jackson’s obituary, he began working as an auctioneer about 1883. By 1887 he was conducting his auctions at his Dunblane Auction Mart in Queen Street, Auckland. In his spare time, singing in amateur opera was his hobby.

Thomas Mandeno Jackson first came to public notice when he sang at the Remuera Public Hall. Soon he was noticed by a touring Australian opera singer and musical examiner, Madame Steinhauer Bahnson, who often performed in New Zealand during the 1880s and 1890s.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Take a walk along the Puhinui Stream

On 28 October 2017 the second annual Puhinui Stream Challenge Fun Walk takes place (see details here). The six-kilometre walk begins in Hayman Park, near Manukau City Centre, and ends in Totara Park. In some stretches the route follows the course of the upper Puhinui Stream. It offers a chance not only to get to know this beautiful but little-known waterway but also to observe the results of change in an area which as little as 60 years ago was almost entirely rural.

Ref: Puhinui Stream Challenge Route Map, Auckland Council, 2017.
A minor change to the route has been made just beyond the 4 km mark. The motorway underpass has been temporarily closed, so the route now follows the Orams Road bridge instead.

Hayman Park

In 1966 the newly formed Manukau City Council bought a 364-acre (147.3 ha) tract of farmland at Wiri to build a new city centre. The first commercial building (a hotel) went up in 1974. The same year, development of a 20-hectare park to the west of the planned city centre began. This was named Hayman Park to honour Mike Hayman, the council’s first City Planner.

Ref: Eileen Reyland. Aerial photograph of Hayman Park and Manukau City Centre, ca 1994.
Auckland Libraries Footprints 02890.
The tall white building at upper centre is the Manukau City Council administration building, now the Manukau Civic Centre. Across the fields to the right is the Rainbow’s End roller coaster. Part of the Puhinui Stream can be seen on the extreme upper right. 

Ref: Whites Aviation. Aerial view of Wiri, 1949.
White’s Aviation no. 20628 / Auckland Libraries Footprints 05949.
This shot covers much of the same area as the 1994 photograph above. Wiri Station Road is the road that crosses the middle foreground.

The original farm landscape was altered by the excavation of ponds along the course of a minor tributary of the Puhinui and the development of a small hill on the park’s south-western corner. However, existing stands of pine, macrocarpa and eucalyptus trees were preserved. In 1974 more pines and eucalyptus trees were planted, as well as poplar, willow, silver birch, spruce and cypress. Later planting included some natives such as puriri, kauri and kōwhai but mostly exotic species, including redwoods, liquid ambers and magnolias.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Gorgeous Girl Shows

For a brief time in the 1940s Auckland dancers performed Gorgeous Girl Shows wearing little more than G-strings, balloons and fans, to packed houses of appreciative American servicemen.

Ref: The Pony Dancers. From: The New Zealand Herald, 9 August 1975. Auckland Libraries.

Over half a million GI’s arrived in New Zealand for rest and recuperation between June 1942 and the end of WW2. They were keen to be entertained in the city’s nightclubs and dance halls and made a beeline for The Civic Theatre’s Hollywood-style floor shows. The theatre’s 3,000 tickets often sold out within an hour. Patrons watched the latest movie then the Civic’s golden barge rose from the depths bearing an orchestra, dancing girls, and “star, Freda, in peacock-feathered headgear, posing as the stem of a huge champagne flute.”

Ref: Clifton Firth. Freda Stark, 1947. Sir George Grey Special Collections, 34-409.
Freda Stark became an overnight sensation after a costume malfunction left her topless whilst performing at the Civic’s Wintergarden Cabaret. Wearing only a fishnet halter and G-string, she’d knelt to buckle her shoe when her vest hooked itself around her bosom leaving her bare-breasted. “The night was a great success!” she said. The audience of GI’s were in an uproar and soon christened her “The Fever of the Fleet.”

The Civic’s dancers were the city’s first permanent ballet corps and included Da Katipa, Wilma Lockwood, Thelma Creamer and Lenore Upton; directed by ballet mistress Regina Raye. The dancers rehearsed for two hours each night before going on stage as “The Lucky Lovelies,” then changed costumes and appeared  downstairs at the Wintergarden as “The Pony Dancers.”

Ref: Advertisement for The Lucky Lovelies. From: The Auckland Star, 7 August 1943. Auckland Libraries.

Regina Raye said, “It was glamour such as we had never known, the officers uniforms, the long evening frocks of the girls set a scene which Auckland had seldom seen. We did Gypsy numbers, Can-Can, South American and Russian, the Americans loved them all.”

Due to wartime austerity Ms Raye had to be inventive when creating the showgirl’s outfits, making do with homely materials such as lambswool dusters, medical gauze, glue, glitter, “cardboard cones, patty cake cups, shiny paper, mutton cloth dyed black to make sexy tights, and stiffened baize to make wonderful flared skirts.”

Freda wore bunches of balloons over barely-there clothing in the exotic Balloon Dance. GI’s burst the balloons with their cigarettes as she danced around the Wintergarden’s tables. However, her pièce de résistance was appearing solo in the Ritual Fire Dance wearing a G-string, a feather headdress, and gold “paint” created by applying a silver powder mixed with glycerine which the spotlight’s amber filter turned gold. Lenore Upton was similarly near-naked when she performed the popular Fan Dance. She dexterously manipulated two large fans while dancing and managed to keep her body concealed. Lenore said the audience responded to this routine en masse singing the Andrews Sisters’ hit song “Strip Polka”:

Take it off! Take it off! cries a voice from the rear.
Down in front! Down in front! Soon it’s all you could hear.
But she’s always a lady even in pantomime,
So she stops! and always just in time.

“It used to make me laugh when they shouted it out. I know that they tried to embarrass you. But we took it in good part,” she said.

It was a hectic time for all members of the troupe. A new floor show had to be choreographed each week, new routines learned, and new costumes made. All the dancers had compulsory war-time work during the day, followed by six or seven hours rehearsing and performing at nights. Management then sent them home in taxis. Freda Stark recounts that “The Americans would follow us and we’d get out [of the taxis] and straight into their cars and go back to the cabaret. We had a lot of fun. It was a very exciting time, life was très gai, but it was also very sad because of the war.”

Ref: Meeting a Nightclub Showgirl. From:The Auckland Weekly News. 21 October 1942. Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19421021-17-1.
The Civic dancers entertained wounded soldiers at the GI hospital on Sundays, she said this brought home to them the horror and tragedy of the war. “Some of the boys had no legs and I’d be dancing before them, tears pouring down my face.”

The Civic spectaculars came to an end when the Americans left. Lenore Upton noted that “For three years we had all these men and it was an exciting time and then it was totally flat. Then, from 1945, our men started coming back and life slowly returned to normal.”

Freda Stark said dancing at the Civic when the Americans were in town was the happiest time of her life. “I was bored stiff after the war,” she said, and moved to London afterwards.

Nightclubs closed for a while after the troops departed. NZ Truth reported “there [was] no place where the party-minded can carry on till the cock crows.” In fact, Truth said “a visitor in search of a night out is likely to give up by 10 o’clock and retire to bed out of sheer boredom!”

After Freda died in 1999, The Civic Theatre renamed its cocktail bar “Stark’s” in her honour.

Author: Leanne, Central Research

Auckland Libraries references


Cherie Devliotis. 2005. Dancing with Delight: Footprints of the Past. Dance and Dancers in Early Twentieth Century Auckland.
Dianne Haworth & Diane Miller. 2000. Freda Stark: Her Extraordinary Life.
Harry Bioletti. 1989. The Yanks are Coming: The American Invastion of New Zealand 1942-1944.


Auckland Star, 22 March 1984, “Freda’s daring days.”
Auckland Star, 16 March 1989, “Civic’s beginnings echo down the years.”
NZ Herald, 9 August 1975, “Oh What a Lovely Lot.”
NZ Truth, 30 August 1944, “Capital’s Night Clubs – Where?”
NZ Woman’s Weekly, 17 January 1994, “Murder, Forbidden Love – What a Past!”
Otago Daily Times, 28 June 2008, “Dancing with the stars.”


Heritage Images, Sir George Grey Special Collections

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Heartfelt thanks from the mother and father of an HMS Orpheus survivor

The painting below features in a slideshow which is part of the Gatherings on the Manukau Exhibition. This travelling exhibition opens at the Waiuku Library on 17 October, closing on 4 November.

Ref: G.C. Beale, HMS Orpheus wrecked in the Manukau Harbour, February 1863. Auckland Libraries, Sir George Grey Special Collections, 7-C6.
In terms of lives lost, it still ranks as New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster. On 7 February 1863 the Royal Navy corvette HMS Orpheus had difficulty entering the Manukau Harbour in stormy weather, struck a sandbar near Whatipu Beach and rapidly began to sink.

Part of the Australia Squadron, the corvette was delivering reinforcements and supplies to assist British troops and settler volunteers in the Waikato War. There were 259 men on board. In the attempt to abandon ship many were dashed to their deaths in the sea’s powerful surge.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

William Eastwood (1821-1877) and his Manukau watercolours

We can trace the footsteps of local artist William Eastwood as he journeyed about the Manukau Harbour from 1866 to 1876. His wonderful watercolour paintings reveal various aspects of the landscape around the harbour during this decade. The tones and washes of colour reflected across the paintings are still present in the harbour today.

Born in London, England, Eastwood, his wife and their eight children immigrated to New Zealand, arriving in February 1863. Upon arrival he worked as a conveyancing clerk for law firms. Soon after arriving he joined the Mechanics Institute. He was one of the founders of the Society of Artists, Auckland and held the position of President. In 1875 he served as Chairman of the Onehunga Highway Board. William later inherited money from the estate of a wealthy relative in England, allowing him, from his base in Onehunga, to travel about New Zealand and to Australia. During these travels he painted and sketched many landscape scenes.

Ref: William Eastwood, Manukau Heads, 1874. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mr J Eastwood, 1900 1900/1/24. Permission of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
This selection of William Eastwood’s images starts on the Āwhitu Peninsula where he would have stood or sat while he sketched and painted this fine view across the harbour entrance.

Ref: Showing a watercolour sketch of Manukau Harbour with Puketutu Island at far left, 3 January 1866. William Eastwood, Album of drawings and paintings 1863-1877. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries. NZ Print 698.
This scene appears to have been painted from a viewpoint near the mouth of Oruarangi Creek, Māngere. Part of Puketutu Island can be seen to the left, and a stretch of the Māngere coastline towards the centre right (now part of Ambury Regional Park).

Ref: William Eastwood, The Manukau, Onehunga, March 1870. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mr J Eastwood, 1900 1900/1/23. Permission of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
This more intimate scene show logs lay scattered about on the foreshore at Onehunga, with the wharf to the right. The backdrop, an expansive view across the harbour towards the Manukau Heads, is lit with a rosy hue.

Ref: William Eastwood, Onehunga, 12 March 1876. Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mr J Eastwood, 1900 1900/1/27. Permission of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
Imposing storm clouds did not deter William Eastwood from his task when setting up his easel and paints on 12 March 1876. This view, from the other side of the wharf to the previous painting, affords the viewer the unusual sight of Māngere Mountain painted in shadow.

Ref: Onehunga, 1870. William Eastwood, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, gift of Mr J Eastwood, 1900 1900/1/31. Permission of Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki must be obtained before any re-use of this image.
Our journey ends at Onehunga, looking north-west towards the Waitākere Ranges and the harbour’s northern shoreline. Once again the watercolour painting captures the light and atmosphere of these landscapes beautifully.

The exhibition Gatherings on the Manukau is on display at the Nathan Homestead during the Auckland Heritage Festival. Come along and see many more images and archives relating to the harbour.

Dates and locations:
30 September - 14 October 2017: Nathan Homestead, Manurewa.
17 October - 4 November 2017: Waiuku Library, Waiuku.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Passchendaele, Dave Gallaher & the All Blacks

As part of the ongoing centennial commemorations for the First World War, this week marks the centenary of the Battle of Passchendaele. It was during this battle that one of the most famous New Zealanders of the day, the ex-All Black captain, Dave Gallaher was killed.
The centenary of Passchendaele and Gallaher’s death seem an appropriate time to reflect on how his 1905 All Black team were viewed in Britain.  A colleague recently alerted me to the existence of the publication, Navy & army illustrated : A magazine illustrative of everyday life in the defensive services of the British Empire. Tracking Gallaher’s 1905 Originals tour through this weekly British Armed Forces publication we can see the mystique that Gallaher and his team created as well as the legacy they left.

One simple way to see the impression the team left is how they are referred to by the writers in Navy & army illustrated as the tour goes on.
The New Zealand Rugby Football Team. From: The king and his navy & army. A weekly illustrated journal for society, the salon and the services. 1905. Auckland Libraries.

This team photo is from 30 September 1905, near the beginning of the tour. The caption reads: “The New Zealand Rugby Football Team. The remarkable success which the New Zealand team achieved in their first match was followed up during last week by victories over Cornwall and Bristol. In all the New Zealanders have scored 137 points in the three games, and have only had a dropped goal scored against them."

It only took a few weeks for this to change to, “the ‘blacks’ as they are called” (October 14, p.35).
By mid-November the report reads:  “New Zealand v. Richmond. The “All Blacks” gained their eighteenth victory on Saturday last by 17 points to nil, bringing their total to 571 points for and 15 points against (November 18 1905, p.175).”

In what seems a familiar complaint about a recent All Black captain, Gallaher himself came under attack in the October 21 issue:

“One would-be critic, who to my certain knowledge has not yet seen the New Zealanders play, held forth two or three weeks ago upon the iniquities of the off-side play of the New Zealand captain and “wing-forward,” D. Gallaher, and poured forth libations of gratuitous advice to referees to stop him, etc. (p. 92)”
The All Blacks performing the haka. From: The king and his navy & army. A weekly illustrated journal for society, the salon and the services. 1905. Auckland Libraries.
This photograph is of the All Blacks performing the haka before the Scotland test. The King described the match, “For years to come the match between the New Zealanders and the elect of Scotland on November 18, on Inverleith Ground, Edinburgh, will be referred to by writers on the game.  It was, perhaps, the greatest contest under the rules of Rugby Union Football that has ever taken place (December 2 1905, p.237).”

The test against Wales on the 16 of December was to become an even more famous game: The New Zealand Defeat.
Match report. From: The king and his navy & army. A weekly illustrated journal for society, the salon and the services. 1905. Auckland Libraries.

The correspondent for the Navy & army illustrated must have seen enough of the All Blacks for that tour as his final sentence of the report says that, “there are still good referees in England, if not many good players (December 23 1905, p.319).”

After King Edward VII’s coronation the title of Navy & army illustrated changed to The king and his navy & army. A weekly illustrated journal for society, the salon and the services. Considering the frequency and extent of colonial wars for the British Empire it is not so surprising that there was publication dedicated to the services.  Initially it was solely focused on the Armed Forces and can be read as propaganda for the Empire however the scope changes as the new subtitle shows.

The first few volumes have a wonderful publisher’s binding and are in great condition.
Navy & army illustrated : A magazine illustrative of everyday life in the defensive services of the British Empire. Sir George Grey Special Collections. Auckland Libraries.

As the title suggests it is a heavily illustrated publication with high quality images printed on glossy paper. Each volume comes bound and includes an index which is very helpful.

It could be a very useful publication for family history researchers, for example it includes photographs of New Zealand troops involved in the South African war. The family history website The Genealogist digitised some copies and added them to their service earlier this year which can be accessed for free from within an Auckland Library. The hard copy editions are available through our reading room in the Central Library.

Author: Andrew Henry