NEW ZEALAND DURING THE ’60S
LAST YEAR, IN ISSUE #323, TREVOR RECALLED THE STOCK CARS AT THE ARANUI SPEEDWAY IN CHRISTCHURCH DURING THE 1950 S. THIS ISSUE, HE EXPLAINS SOME OF THE SIGNIFICANT HAPPENINGS IN AOTEAROA DURING THE 1960 S, AND NEXT MONTH LOOK SAT LIFE IN CHRISTCHURCH FROM
SIGNIFICANT HAPPENINGS IN AOTEAROA FIVE DECADES AGO
The seventh New Zealand International Grand Prix was held at the Ardmore Circuit on January 9, 1960. The winner was Jack Brabham, driving a Cooper Climax. Best-placed New Zealander was Johnny Mansel in a 250F Maserati, in fifth. Even some New Zealand–built specials were entered. They included the now-legendary 4733cc Lycoming, driven then by Malcolm Gill. Jack Weaver entered in the Citroën Special, while Christchurchbased engineer supreme Hector Green drove his home-built RA Vanguard of 2100cc, and Steadman Kilgour entered his 4.5-litre Maserati Special. Was that a New Zealand–built special too? Perhaps a New Zealand–built special on an oldish Maserati rolling chassis?
Where were you in ’62?
If you were living in Aotearoa, The Land of the Long White Cloud, your governorgeneral was Sir Bernard Fergusson. If you lived in Auckland, your mayor would have been Dove-myer Robinson; Hamilton, Dennis Rogers; Wellington, Frank Kitts; Christchurch, George Manning; and Dunedin, Thomas Kay Stuart Sidey. The new Dunedin airport at Momona was opened. On May 10, the first intake of a new national service scheme began training in the army. Also on this day, a huge earthquake centred at Westport caused enormous damage and disruption. The open-road speed limit was raised from 50 to 55mph (80 to 88kph). The rail ferry Aramoana ushered in a new era in inter-island freight across Cook Strait. Barrie Devenport became the first to swim across Cook Strait; Peter Snell broke the world mile running record; television began in December; and, on the first day of that month, Whakatane airport began operations. On December 31, New Zealand’s estimated population was 2,515,000.
The first Datsun Bluebird 312 arrived. The Austin and Morris 1100s arrived here also. They sold well and became family favourites. We saw the first Ford Cortina MKI, in both four-door and two-door form. The Public Service Garage received many base-model two-doors, in, of course, that depressing colour of Post Office Grey: that was the lowest-priced model of all, but is now eagerly sought-after for conversion into a Lotus-cortina or Cortina GT.
Graham Kerr cooked on TV. Have-a-shot was a national television talent quest compered by Murray Forgie. TV programmes
included I Love Lucy; The Flintstones; Rawhide; Doctor Kildare; Maverick; Hancock’s Half Hour; and one of my favourites, Mr Ed — about the eponymous talking horse. The notorious smalltime burglar George Wilder became almost an idol to the New Zealand public. He left apology notes to the householders he burgled and even washed their dishes! The Howard Morrison Quartet contributed to his high profile by recording the comedy song Wild Colonial Boy. Wilder was eventually caught and jailed. However, he escaped three times and was once free for 172 days. Unemployment in 1962 was so low that a standard joke was that the prime minister, Keith Holyoake, knew all the names of the unemployed. In 1962, that tally was 6898 (around one per cent of the workforce).
And what about me? Well, after being married for four years with no car, I purchased my first one in my married life: a 1936 Vauxhall DX 14/6.
Aunt Daisy: the housewife’s best friend
We must not forget New Zealand’s housewife’s best friend, Aunt Daisy. Even I liked listening to her programme on the radio whenever time permitted, on the ZB network, Canterbury’s 3ZB. Maud Ruby Basham, MBE, usually known as ‘Aunt Daisy’, was a well-known New Zealand radio broadcaster from 1930 to 1963. Daisy’s first radio work was for the 1YA station in Auckland. In 1929, she became a full-time announcer on 2YA. In 1932, she was fired when 2YA became nationalized and public service rules decreed that only one woman was allowed to be employed at each station in an attempt to provide more work for men. Daisy then moved to a small private station, 2ZW. In 1933, she began work at the private Friendly Road station. Her 30-minute daily morning show ran from 1933 to 1963, with her role primarily to promote household products and to boost morale during World War II. Her morning show opened to the song Daisy Bell and the greeting, “Good morning, good morning, good morning, everybody”. Due to her popularity, the government sent Daisy to navy, air force, and army stations to visit women and report back on them in her radio show. This
was part of the New Zealand government’s propaganda efforts during World War II. During 1944, Daisy went to the US to promote New Zealand. She was invited to a tea with the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt.
In the 1956 New Year’s Honour List, she was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire.
A recipe book, The Aunt Daisy Cookbook with Household Hints, was a natural result of the popularity of her show. Her most famous (or perhaps infamous) line on radio was uttered in about 1960, when she opened her show with, “Good morning, good morning, good morning, everybody. Well, what a lovely day it is this morning. When I left home, the sun was shining right up my front passage”. In 1963, on July 14, Maud Ruby Basham died at the age of 83. She was still broadcasting up to a few days beforehand.
1963 and beyond
Annual licensing, or registration, was introduced in 1963, with the annual licence period beginning July 1 each year. It was the end of an era, with service stations offering a variety of petrol brands no more; along with them went branded petrol vouchers. Campbell Motors established an assembly plant at Thames to build Ramblers, Toyotas, and Peugeots, with Hino Contessas and Isuzu Bellets soon to follow. The government imported three black Ford Zodiac MKII convertibles for the royal tour. Where are they now?
In 1964, the Lyttelton Road Tunnel opened, ending the long drive up and over the Port Hills from Christchurch, and the first Chrysler Valiant AP5 rolled off the Todd Motors, Petone, assembly line, bringing new levels of performance to the six-cylinder market. Henry Ford II visited New Zealand for the first time in 1965, and the Nelson assembly plant opened to build up Triumph, Jaguar, and Rover vehicles. In 1966, Bruce Mclaren and Chris Amon won the 24 Hours of Le Mans driving a Ford GT40 MKII. The next year, the Trekka was launched, based on a Skoda, and became New Zealand’s most successful homegrown car in terms of numbers built and sold.
In 1966, Bruce Mclaren and Chris Amon won the 24 Hours of Le Mans driving a Ford GT40 MKII. The next year, the Trekka was launched, based on a Skoda, and became New Zealand’s most successful homegrown car in terms of numbers built and sold
Mabel Howard, a high-profile minister during the 1950s and 1960s, was born in Adelaide, Australia, on April 18, 1894. She was a well-known New Zealand trade unionist and politician, and was a member of parliament for the Labour Party from 1943 to 1969. In 1947, she became New Zealand’s first female cabinet minister as Minister of Health and Minister in charge of Child Welfare. Mabel joined the Christchurch Socialist Party when still at the Christchurch Technical Institute. In 1933, aged 39, she became the first woman to become secretary of a predominantly male union in New Zealand. Between 1933 and 1968, Mabel was a councillor for Christchurch City Council for a total of 19 years. In parliament, in 1954, she waved two pairs of bloomers that were both labelled ‘OS’ in front of an astonished House. She demonstrated that although clothing was supposed to be in standard sizes and correctly labelled, much variation existed. She is quoted as saying, “I was in politics for a purpose — my very life was politics. I suppose this was because I was more manly than most women, that’s why I never married”.
On another occasion I remember, a member of the opposition was standing up talking about an MP seeming to have “one leg in Canterbury and another on the West Coast”. Mabel stood up and said, “That probably explains why they’ve had a lot of rain in Otira lately”. Mabel Howard retired from politics at the 1969 election, after a lifetime of service to her community. The Labour Party had introduced a compulsory retirement age for MPS, which applied to Mabel, who had already been showing signs of ageing. On a court order, she was eventually admitted to Sunnyside Hospital. She died there on June 23, 1972, having never married. Her little cottage on Pages Road, Sandilands, still stands today. I visited her home on many occasions during the period 1964–1969.
The great years of speedway bikes
Turning the clock back just a few years for a moment, let me take you back to the late 1950s. This was a period of what I recall as the golden years of Speedway Solo riding. At the Christchurch Speedway, Aranui, the public flocked in every Saturday night from November to April. This was the time and place that solo motorcycle racers Ivan Mauger, Barry Briggs, Ronnie Moore, and Geoff Mardon learned their skills and went on to be world-class riders, with Ivan going on to win the world champion crown six times — in 1968–’ 70, and ’ 72, ’ 77, and ’ 79. I don’t think Ivan received the recognition he rightly deserved.
Barry Briggs became world individual champion four times, in 1957, ’58, ’64 and ’68. Ronnie Moore became world individual champion twice — in 1954 and again in 1959. He was always a wee bit of a showman, but a likeable chap nevertheless. I remember him well from the Aranui speedway days, wearing a long silk red scarf around his neck that blew back in the wind. Ronnie has taught many young men to ride speedway bikes, including my nephew, Bryce Stuart. The Ronnie Moore racing school ran for many decades. In recognition of this and his personal achievements on the track, there is now a dedicated track solely for speedway bikes and sidecars. The complex is named the ‘Ronnie Moore Stadium’ and is located at West Melton, west of Christchurch city.
Geoff Mardon qualified for the world final in 1959. Later, in his ‘speedway retirement years’, he became the ‘works’ driver of the famous Christchurch-built Stanton Corvette, a Can-am Mclaren-lookalike sports racer. Brian Mckeown, a North New Brighton resident, gained the highest achievement in the New Zealand test side in 1955. In latter years, Brian was the proprietor of a chainsaw and motor mower shop in North New Brighton, where I had many dealings with him. Brian was a real
gentleman, if ever there was one, both in business and private life.
There were other Christchurch riders who were almost as good as the four just mentioned, sometimes giving them a good run for their money, and, on occasion, crossing the line within those top four. They were Trevor Redmond, Windy Rees, Brian Mckeown, and Craig Jones. My late brother Jim was also racing with these riders at the time, but in the junior class, so you can understand my interest in these motorcycle races. I think all bikes were powered by a 500cc single-cylinder JAP motor; however, I do stand to be corrected on this.
Burt Munro and Theworld’s Fastestindian
Now back to the ’60s but staying with the motorcycle theme for a moment. Born on March 25, 1899, Herbert James Munro, better known as ‘Burt’, was a much admired and respected southern man from Invercargill and now synonymous with the Kiwi ‘ have-a-go’ attitude.
At America’s Bonneville Salt Flats on August 26, 1967, the 68-year-old self-taught engineer defied all reasonable expectations by setting a land speed record that still stands to this day. Film director Roger Donaldson’s initial 1972 short documentary was followed much later, in 2005, with a full-length film, The World’s Fastest Indian, with Burt played by Sir Anthony Hopkins, and this brought Munro’s fantastic achievement to public attention. He set the under 1000cc motorcycle world record, at 183.59mph (295.453kph), after decades of tinkering with and refining his 950cc 1920 Indian Scout. This was his third attempt on the salt, and, even after 50 years, his achievement is still a subject of much interest at the Salt Flats today.
Surely modern technology has long overridden this 50-year-old record? I guess the fact that no one, to my knowledge, has even attempted to break Burt’s speed of almost 300kph shows the huge amount of respect and admiration people have for the gentleman. Herbert James Munro died on January 6, 1978.
Into the late ’60s
Decimal currency replaced the old pounds, shillings, and pence on July 10, 1967. In the same year, Denis Hulme became New Zealand’s first and only Formula 1 world champion. The open-road speed limit was again increased, to 60mph (96.5kph).
Three years after the first Ford Falcon X-series rolled off the New Zealand assembly line to begin a battle against the Holden EH and Chrysler AP6, the Falcon 500 XR and Fairmont 289 V8 sold well. The following year, 1968, saw the first Toyota Corollas — in KE10 four-door form — leave the Campbell Motors plant in Thames. A two-door version was sold, the KE11, in Australia. It is believed that only about four found their way back to New Zealand, via private owners bringing them ‘ back home’ when returning to New Zealand, which is how mine arrived. Unfortunately, my car was stolen in June of 2010, never to be seen or heard of again. But that’s another story!
Those golden years of the ’60s
The ’60s were the golden times in New Zealand, there’s no doubt about that,
The World’s Fastest Indian, with Burt played by Sir Anthony Hopkins … brought Munro’s fantastic achievement to public attention
and so were the ’50s and ’70s, to a lesser degree. I think that was also true in the US and Australia. One of my favourite things to do now that I’m in my ‘twilight years’ is to spend a few hours out in my built-in garage on a Saturday night, particularly in the winter, listening to a show on Newstalk ZB, which makes the time out there so much more pleasurable. The programme starts around 6.05pm and concludes at 11.56pm. The programme I refer to is In My Day, hosted by Bruce Russell. Each Saturday night, Bruce will choose a subject to focus on, such as the first car you owned; or your first job; or your memories of where you were at the moment you heard, whether from a friend, television, or radio, that Elvis had died — the same with Diana, Princess of Wales; President Kennedy; Peter Brook; Peter Blake; Norman Kirk; Possum Bourne; Michael Jackson; and so on. On another Saturday night, it might be your first day at school, or perhaps your childhood memories of the variety of ice creams you used to purchase. It’s always interesting listening to callers’ stories and comments about what I’ll just call the ‘golden years of days gone by’. On another night, Bruce may ask listeners to phone in if they still own and use some of their household appliances purchased several decades ago. It’s both interesting and amazing how many of the older generation phone in to say that they still have those well-made and reliable goods.
Lorraine and I have a little private museum out in our garage. Well, it’s more of a collection of our own things that we have kept rather than discarded. This includes our Phillips push-button Bakelite-bodied kitchen radio, which we purchased new in the late 1950s or early ’60s, our original white Ultimate twin pop-up toaster, and the Prestcold refrigerator in white and chrome that we purchased new in about 1973, still in daily use. We even have our blue-andwhite Kenwood cake mixer, purchased in the late ’60s, we think — still usable but not very often put into service these days. Parked on display in the hall is a white-and-chrome doll pram from the ’50s period, which Lorraine purchased at a Vintage Car Club swap meeting some years ago, in good original, but worn-out, condition. I restored it but, for a while, thought we may have lost it due to the fact that at the time of the earthquakes, it was in Wayne Patrick’s Auto-trim shop, having a new hood and lining installed. Three years later, I went back, and there it was, unscathed from the building damage, unmarked, and having had work done. Thanks, Wayne. In 1958 or ’59, I purchased a blond oak console Ultimate Courier radiogram for household use. It was later used for many decades just as a bench or shelf, out in the garage. I recently restored the exterior to as-new condition, and it now takes pride of place back in our new lounge. Perhaps the most spectacular item, though, is the orange, tan and chrome 12-inch Murphy television. These are just six of many, from days gone by. I think there are many readers who wish that they had kept private little items from their past days.
The ’60s were the golden times in New Zealand, there’s no doubt about that, and so were the ’50s and ’70s, to a lesser degree. I think that was also true in the US and Australia
Far left: Burt Munroe Left: Edmonds Cookery Book Opposite page: Mount Cook Airlines advertisment
Left: Bixies Toasted Wheat Flakes Right: Trade unionist Mabel Howard Below: A New Zealand–built special that was ahead of its time, in respect of its design, the Christchurch RA Vanguard was designed, built, and driven by Hector Green — it is shown...
Clockwise from above: Bruce Mclaren and Chris Amon, with Henry Ford II, acknowledge the crowd after winning the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans. There were no permanent racing circuits in the South Island post war — here, two New Zealand–built specials...
Left: Traffic in Worcester Street, Christchurch, 1960s
Top left: Auckland’s The Weekly News, May 12, 1962 Top right: Auto parts were cheap back then Right: Just the cure for the common cold