Picnicking of the past
A PICNIC IS STILL the most delightful of all the simpler forms of recreation, and New Zealand has long been the land of them. Informal, outdoor fun centred very often around water, with families going to sit beside the sea, rivers, lakes, scenic reserves or into the mountains. When wartime petrol and travel restrictions were lifted, together with the increased ownership of cars and little to do on the weekends, families went on drives that very often ended in a picnic.
In colonial days, green saplings were used to suspend the billy over an open fire. Next came the thermette, invented in New Zealand in the 1930s, then the thermos, which was mostly imported from Britain and allowed picnickers to have hot drinks without a fire. The chilly bin, which arrived in the 1960s, kept the beer and the Fanta cold, the sandwiches from curling, and the icing from melting.
About this time, a plethora of picnic sets also came onto the market. Gone were the odd pieces of china – chipped, cracked and missmatched – the Marmite jars, the tablecloth jammed inside the handwoven basket. Tablecloths were soon replaced by woollen rugs from New Zealand’s many woollen mills, often featuring versions of Māori patterns.
The English-made Nally Ware Tea Set offered New Zealand picnickers bright red plastic cups and curved saucers, neatly contained in a cardboard box picturing well-mannered nuclear families enjoying leisure time together by the sea, on the golf course or in the countryside.
Lustroware, manufactured by Optoplast in Wellington, advertised its party pack as a must for barbecues, beach parties, garden parties and all outdoor occasions, but it was clearly not intended for families. Breakresistant mugs depicted silhouettes of shapely, prancing, bikini-clad women and equally fit-looking chaps standing arms akimbo alongside their surf boards. These were packaged alongside ruby red wine glasses that in turn surrounded a jigger, measuring one fluid ounce for whisky and other such beverages.
The Museum of the Everyday is the country’s leading collection of day-today things from the past century. See more at ehive.com
A wholesome family picnic courtesy of Brit company Nally Ware. (Below) A Lustoware drinks set, made in Wellington, and a rather saucy collection for the times.