Community Stories

Everyone pitched in

By Doug St George, 81, now of Te Puke

Barbara Haszard was to become a well-known figure in Howick community service and local politics. She was my aunt.

It would have been in the early 1950s that Barb and her husband Tony bought their section in Glenfern Road and set about building their home. I was at boarding school and sometimes spent my leave days with them.

I like to think I helped with building their house. If I remember rightly, the builder was a single man who lived on site and Tony worked with him on the weekends.

Long before the days of power tools, I remember cutting studs and nogs with a handsaw, using a jig to ensure they were of uniform length.

The timber was all rough-sawn native rimu, so different to work with than the gauged pine of today. Rimu is hard and learning to drive nails in it was quite an exercise. I was about 12.

In those days, a house was built with the roof on and the walls fully enclosed and weathertight before the flooring was laid.

The floorboards were of nicely-dressed tongue and groove timber, usually matai, and it was important to keep it clean and dry.

When all was ready, these boards were carefully laid across the floor joists and cramped up tight before nailing in place.

Many of the internal walls were not load-bearing and these were suspended from the roof structure, so the floorboards could be slid underneath.

The bottom plates of these wall frames were nailed down, once the flooring was in place.

On one occasion my cousin Tim was also there helping. Barb was not there and Tony decided we could have a bought lunch.

He went to the local dairy and came back with a solid block of Tip-Top ice cream. Young boys dream of heaven? It was hard, cold and overgenerous in quantity. I really struggled to finish mine!

The Haszard boys, Patrick, Richard and Martin, Doug St George’s cousins

A few years later my grandparents, Barb’s parents, Fred and Helen Hanan, also built in Howick, just a few doors down.

Their house was built in short order by a big contractor. No opportunity for weekend assistants this time.

Establishing their garden and section was an exercise in organised manpower. Their sons Mick and Peter were both farmers, arriving with trailers loaded down with everything needed, turf for the lawn cut from paddocks, heavily trimmed camellias, shrubs and plants of all descriptions.

In the space of a weekend the place looked as if it had been established for years.

Their home became my regular destination for leave days from boarding school. I rode my bike from Dilworth School in Epsom to Howick most Sundays.

It was 11 miles and I became pretty fit, always challenging myself to achieve a faster time for the trip.

What a different journey it was then. Most of the way it was through farmland. Ellerslie was a little township and it was open country to Panmure.

Farmland again from there to Howick. The one remaining thing that I recognise is the concrete road to Howick. It must have been very well built.