The day The Beatles came to Wellington
Live Beatlemania hit New Zealand when 7000 screaming fans welcomed The Beatles to Wellington 50 years ago.
The Teal Electra plane bringing George Harrison, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr from Sydney landed at Rongotai airport at 4.30pm on Sunday, June 21, 1964.
The Fab Four were to perform two shows a night at the town hall on June 22 and 23.
After deciding which performance to attend, the next hard decision for fans was where to welcome their idols. Was it to be at the airport or outside the St George Hotel in Willis St?
Lorraine Williams spent more than seven hours waiting to see George Harrison at the airport on a cold, clear winter’s day, with only cheese sandwiches in her pocket to sustain her.
She was one of the first 30 fans there and realised later she could have got there two hours before The Beatles and got just as good a view.
Her mother had insisted she take her ‘‘old fashioned’’ blue and brown woollen scarf, which she normally wouldn’t have been seen dead in, until her ears stung from their battering by the southerly wind.
Some fans next to Williams threw a large blanket over the wire netting fence between the car park and the airfield to shelter them from the wind.
What Williams didn’t know was one had sneaked between the fence and the blanket to cut a hole in the wire netting with wire-cutters. The boys planned to run on to the tarmac to see The Beatles close up when the plane landed.
They went through the hole too soon after the plane’s arrival and got caught by the police, who thought Williams was with them. A policeman grabbed her and said she would be going back to town in a police car.
She was in tears, thinking her dream of seeing Harrison was over until a girl nearby told the policeman: ‘‘She’s by herself.’’
The policeman later redeemed himself for spoiling her day.
Williams got a wink and a smile from Harrison when the officer called out to him to say hello to the little lady.
A Maori welcoming party from Te Pataka concert group rubbed noses with The Beatles, gave them pois and hung plastic tiki around their necks.
The Beatles were then driven close to the fenceline on the tray of a small truck, waving to the shrieking fans before swiftly transferring to a police vehicle for their ride to the city.
Outside the St George, 3000 hysterical fans forced police to sneak The Beatles into the hotel by the bottlestore entrance.
They soon appeared on the hotel’s third floor balcony to a deafening roar from the crowd.
Radio 2ZB’s ‘‘Doreen’’ interviewed them from the balcony.
Starr said to her that he wouldn’t mind answering questions on his own – when they were together they couldn’t help themselves and always acted the goat because it was expected of them.
Doreen followed his advice and was glad she had. When she saw them interviewed on TV as a group, the scene was something of a riot, she said.
Patient fan: Lorraine Williams, who spent seven hours at Wellington airport waiting for The Beatles to arrive.