Pic Picot, New Zealand’s “Peanut Butter” tycoon grew up in Pakuranga – previously called ‘Cabbage Tree Swamp’. Already established as a young settlement by both Maori and Europeans who were developing farms in the area. In the 1960’s growth took on a major spurt.
“We bought a house in an established corner of Pakuranga, a new suburb that, at that time, was a 40-minute drive from downtown. Pakuranga’s farms were being ripped apart by an army of earth movers, and the rumble of heavy machinery was a constant backdrop to my primary school years.
The land developments of Pakuranga were touted as ‘executive subdivisions’: three-bedroom homes intended for commuting office workers, their wives, and young children. Clay-tolerant silver-dollar gum trees struggled out of front and back yards. On Saturday mornings, freshly washed Holdens and Vauxhalls dripped soap suds and oil on to pristine concrete driveways.
My grandmother, Hilda, lived in a tiny Fibrolite cottage on the Pakuranga Highway, halfway between school and home. She always found a little garden chore out by her letter box at quarter to nine and again at three o’clock if she weren’t playing bridge. “Narnie”, as we knew her, was our on-call babysitter. She took a much more relaxed view of the world than her daughter. Her prefab was furnished in what would now be considered post-war plywood chic, but which was then just cheap stuff. She kept a small stack of five-year-old Vogue magazines in a crackle finished magazine rack as a nod to style. The swimsuit edition became my particular favourite as adolescence approached.
The Pakuranga Sailing Club had not yet been formed and with no room for a friend or even a fishing rod, the appeal of sailing for the sake of it palled. The St Kents College library included a set of American how-to-do-it encyclopaedias. I became very interested in a chapter that included the plans and photos of an easy-to-build wooden cabin boat.
Friday and Saturday nights began with parties in Howick or Remuera. Most were scheduled to coincide with parental absence, and Friday lunchtimes supplied a range of locations where a “good time” might be had. I had acquired my driver’s licence soon after my fifteenth birthday. Like many of my schoolmates, I was given limited use of my mother’s car during the weekends, so there was always someone with wheels! A typical Saturday involved a whip around for beer, with the oldest looking boy fronting up to the wholesaler. There would be a number of parties to check out, and if there were no chicks to chat up, there was always fighting or talking tough with guys from other schools to ensure a night to remember.
Jobs were easy to come by in the late 1960s and early 1970s. As a 14-year-old, I had had occasional after-school work as a carry-out boy at the Pakuranga Foodtown, which my dad managed. As the cost of my amusements increased, I took holiday jobs in the nearby Mount Wellington Industrial area.
Pic’s Book “Adventures in Sailing, Business and Love” which tells a very real story of East Auckland’s move into the vibrant community which Pakuranga hosts today. Books are available for purchase at Paper Plus Howick and Poppies Howick; also available via audible online, Audible NZ | Getting started from New Zealand | Audible.com.au.