What was your neighbourhood like growing up?
We moved around quite a bit while I was growing up. I'm not really sure why. I do remember Dad "fixing" the houses up before we moved on, so maybe that was his thing. He liked fixer-uppers. We lived in some REALLY cool neighbourhoods for kids to grow up in though.
2/50 Muir Avenue, Mangere Bridge, Auckland
This is the first place we lived in that I have memories of. This is the place that Mum and Dad and I moved in to when I was just under 1 year old. It is a little two (or maybe three) bedroom unit. It had a long driveway with a single family home at the front and another unit attached to ours at the back. The first neighbours I remember being in the front house were a couple. He was REALLY tall and thin and she was short and incredibly over weight. I remember Stephen and I called them fatty and skinny and we thought it was hilarious when they got married, to us they were an odd couple. Then there was a lady Lillian and her son Damian who moved in. Damian was a few years older than me and I remember thinking he was SO COOL!! He was allowed to be home by himself after school and rode a bike with an awesome seat. He even let off firecrackers ... which caught a pile of newspapers in the garage on fire! I'm pretty sure he thought we were a nuisance. I witnessed some crazy things living in this house, things that made my dad a hero in my young eyes. Damian started an oil fire in the kitchen and my dad rushed in and put it out and saved their house from burning down, I'm pretty sure that Dad got some nasty burns too. Then another time I was over at another friends house, I think her name was Nicole, she was a lot older than me too, she kicked a glass door shut, missing the door frame and put her foot through the glass and then her wrist when she tried to steady herself, Dad came rushing over and saved the day on that front too.
Mum tells a story about me when we lived in this house that sometimes really disgusts me. She was out weeding the vege garden when I was about 18 months old. I was tottering around playing in the dirt. Mum said that at one point she stopped what she was doing to check on me and saw something hanging out of my mouth. She came over to where I was playing and reached out and pulled, and pulled, and pulled the "thing" out of my mouth to find that it was an enormous WORM! Disgusting!!
I remember loving Saturday mornings when I was a kid living in this house. We would start at the top of the driveway and ride our bikes down the hill all the while giggling and screaming as we went. It used to drive our back neighbours NUTTY. Mr. Hayes would almost always come out and yell at us to be quiet, he was kinda weird and gave me the Hebe jeebies. I did ask mum one time what time it was that we would go out there and I'm pretty sure she told me it was before 8am. LOL! It's no wonder Mr. Hayes went nutso at us.
We also had a really good friend who lived up the street from us. Our families were super close, so close in fact that we called her mum and dad Uncle Pete and Auntie Perina. I'm still in contact with Katie to this day. Her family was an important part of our family growing up. We loved to go to Katie's house and play in their pool, or with their dog. Almost every Summer I would go away camping with their family, in fact when they moved away to Devonport I memorised their phone number and address in case of an emergency and still know it to this day.
On one side of the driveway was an enormous hedge. We used to pick off the big orange flowers and suck the honey suckle out of them. It's also the hedge where I lost Mum's wedding ring and spent hours looking for it until it was found.
I made some really great friends living in this house and my first years at school were full of fun times with these great kids. I am still in contact with MANY of them. It's so great to have life long friends. We used to go and play and play at the skateboard park - an open park with concrete sidewalk that went down into a skateboard bowl. It was a great time. Then there was Mangere Mountain that we would go and slide down inside cardboard boxes. Then there was "the pond" and Ambury farm where we weren't allowed to play, but boy was the pull great. I never did go, though it was certainly difficult to be obedient.
When I was about 8 years old my dad got a job working as the caretaker of a camp on Mototapu Island which is just off the coast of Auckland City. The camp was open for school groups to come to. There were all sorts of amazing activities they would do; Confidence Course, Repelling, Sailing, Swimming, and so on. It used to be an army camp so there were bunk houses for the kids to sleep in and a mess hall as well, which was turned into a dance hall on the last night of the students stay. Our little house was just off the beach and I remember being able to listen to the ocean as I fell asleep at night. It is an amazing and really soothing sound to me.
There are a few things that really stand out about living here. First, there weren't any stores on the island. Mum would haul my brother, sister and I on a ferry to town do her grocery shopping and then haul us and all the groceries back to the island on the ferry. As a mother now, I honestly don't have a clue how she ever managed to do it!! It must have been a CRAZY experience for her.
There wasn't any main's power on the island either, everything was run by generator power. I remember a couple of times the generator running out of fuel or breaking down and not having any lights or power to be able to do anything. Mum would light candles and we would have a flashlight each. I remember coming home from somewhere one night and it being really dark, and there was a possum in the house. It had pooped all over everything and was hiding in the bathroom cupboard under the sink. I can remember screaming and running around while dad chased it out of the house with a broom stick.
Going to school on the Mototapu Island was pretty cool too. I don't remember much about it except that it was a one room school house with kids from New Entrants all the way up to High School. I remember the teacher was a guy. I also remember that we had an army jeep or an army truck as our school bus. Mum or Dad would drive us up to the top of the road from the camp where we waited for the "bus" to pick us up. It was never on time which always gave Stephen and I ample opportunity to get into trouble. Because it Mototapu Island was used predominantly as an army base, there were plenty of training bunkers and the like around the island. There were a couple right where we waited for the bus. Stephen and I would always climb on and around in the while we waited. A couple of times we even hid inside and waited for the truck to go by so we could walk back down the road and skip out on school. I specifically remember one time we were waiting for the bus and Stephen was tormenting the bulls in the paddock across the dirt road from where we were supposed to be waiting. He had a stick and was running along the length of the fence line, clattering the stick against the fence posts. The bulls were getting really annoyed with the noise and started charging the fence. Steve thought he was pretty well protected by the fence so acted the tough guy and kept tormenting the bulls who were running up the fence line with him, until he and I, AND the bulls realised that the gate was open! We both ran towards the bunkers as fast as our little legs could carry us, followed in close pursuit by the bulls. We were in the for so long! The bus didn't even stop to look for us, the driver saw that we weren't where we were supposed to be and just kept on driving. We had to wait for the farmer to come and put the bulls back into the paddock before we could walk the long and embarrassing trek home to explain to Mum what we had done and that we weren't at school again!
I remember Dad going out fishing really early in the morning and coming back with piper and flounder which mum would sometimes cook up for breakfast. Mum also used to make the most incredible homemade Ginger Beer from scratch!! It was divine! I can still remember the smell and the taste. I have never tasted anything like it since then.
Victory Road, Laingholm, West Auckland
This was another amazing place to live. Laingholm is a quiet little community nestled in a little valley amongst beautiful native bush. As a kid it was so much fun. We had really great friends and an incredible yard to play in. Summers were the best time because all the neighbourhood kids would come around to our place and we would play Go Home Stay Home or Spotlight until really late. Man it was fun. Dad also hung a rope swing from this huge tree that swung out and up really high. We had an aviary with 15 zebra finches, 2 quails, and a dove. In the middle of the aviary was also a fish pond that had 24 gold fish in it. Outside in the yard were Pat and Marge our two bantam hens ... who were visited by a gigolo rooster ... and ended up producing little chicks for a total of FIFTY-FOUR chickens at one time, and our dog Barron and two cats. We were a five minute walk from the beach and the rock pools and mangroves where my friend Tania and I would spend all summer kayaking and exploring. I do remember one time Tania and I kayaked to the end of the mangrove trail and one of our or's broke and we ended up walking through the sludge pulling the boat behind us. We didn't think it was so much fun after that. We did spend a lot of time playing in the bush and going for bush walks, in fact we walked up the bush trail in the warmer months to get to school. I had another really close friend Sarah (Ed) King. She was always more quiet and subdued than everyone else in the neighbourhood, but I loved hanging out with her at her place. I would often go to her place after school. I remember one time she was locked out of her house and was so tiny then that I managed to squeeze my way through the cat door to unlock the door from the inside. Her mum was a teacher at the local primary school. I remember being a little intimidated by Sarah and her intellectualism. Her place was always so calming and welcoming. I remember Sarah's brother always bugging us and teasing us about silly things the way big brothers do.
So these were my three favourite places to live as a kid, it was great being a kid and playing the way we did. I really wish my kids could have the same opportunity, but I think lifestyles have changed too much and kids aren't the same as they used to be ... at least not here in Utah. Life is so much more fast paced now, and kids aren't kids for as long. SAD!! I think growing up I lived int he best neighbourhoods, and I feel so lucky to have had the experiences I did.