Scoreboards & brawls

Jenny Clarke gives us a run-down of recent celebrations of Paekākāriki’s sporting history with images by Mick Finn.

There is always plenty for Paekakariki residents to do and see. The History Day on September 15 was a splendid opportunity to gather in St Peter’s Hall to learn about the village, and to chat over afternoon tea.  Three community groups: The Paekākāriki Community Trust, the Station Museum Trust and the History Group joined forces to set up the day celebrating Paekākāriki’s past history.  

Community Trust member Graeme Browne, who coordinated the event, said that the Trust had hosted four historical events; two History Days, an Armistice Centenary, and a St Peter’s Village Hall Centenary. The particular focus of this one was on sports clubs, with a bit of general history thrown in.

Dave Johnson provided much of the material on display in St Peter’s Hall.  As a schoolboy, Dave used to travel by train from the Hutt Valley to Paekākāriki to visit his grandmother in Ames Street. He has been living here for the past 40 years, collecting, researching and piecing together the early history of the area. As Chair of the Station Museum Trust, Dave is overseeing the development of the Museum Archives Section.  He admits to having ‘several rooms’ at his home for storing artifacts and photographs in the meantime.  (And a lot of historical information is neatly stored in his head, as well.)  The Museum Trust’s collection of sports photographs was on display in the hall on Sunday, along with items lent by others.

Paekākāriki Bowling Club memorabilia

The Paekākāriki Bowling Club featured with photos of the site as a boating lake in the early 1900s, the opening day of the new clubrooms, and men’s and women’s tournaments.  Some splendid silver cups were on display, along with a letter expressing delight that Sir Charles Norwood had agreed to be the patron of the Paekākāriki Bowling Club.

Graeme Stevens, who visited the History Day with his wife, Sue, played and coached rugby in Paekākāriki. Sue said when he got too old for that and was tossing up between golf and bowls, she told him to join the bowling club.  “I said I’d join too.  I didn’t want to be a golf widow!”  The golf club, now defunct, was on land used for the expansion of housing in Paekākāriki in the 1950s and 60s.  

Tennis Club photos and honours board reflected the hard work put in to build good courts and club rooms for players ranging in age from juniors through to seniors.

Paekākāriki Cricket also had some beautiful cups, and the collection of scorebooks brought back plenty of memories of sunny days lying in the grass, writing dot balls or runs into the tiny squares as batsmen defied bowlers’ attempts to get them out.

A collection of cricket scorebooks

The best (or worst) story was from the Paekākāriki Rugby Club.  Aaron Richardson was there with fellow schoolmates on the terraces at Campbell Park on the day in 2003 when Paekākāriki played Shannon.  He said it was a niggly game, and then a small fight broke out on the field when a young player punched another.  A free‑for‑all developed and spectators were joining in as well.  The police soon appeared to break up the scrap.  The match was abandoned, and at a later hearing both teams were disqualified for the following season.  The club never recovered, and later the Paekākāriki Football Club came into existence in its place.  The footballers now use the former rugby clubrooms in the basement of the Memorial Hall.  Paekākāriki Football Club has two adult teams, with many enthusiastic young players.

Paekākāriki Rugby Club — a colourful history

One of the best‑known and earliest clubs in Paekākāriki is the Surf Lifesaving Club.  Dale Wills, the current President, showed off the club’s collection of awards and cups.  He had photos of the first club building (on the beach, and soon demolished by the waves), the second clubrooms (a grander building by the Sand Track), and the third building, which is now the Memorial Hall, built in 1930.  Dale’s father, a builder, built the current clubrooms at the end of The Parade.  Some photos showed huge carnivals and national competitions held at Paekākāriki , sadly no longer possible because of the narrowing of the beach.

Still going strong, Paekākāriki Surf Lifesaving Club

The Paekakariki Girls’ Netball team was sponsored by the Paekakariki Hotel, and framed uniforms and photos on display featured the pub’s logo. 

Other Paekākāriki residents at the History Day talked about tramping round the coast, or visiting Kāpiti Island. (There were also comments about coming to Paekakariki with boyfriends to ‘pash in the sand dunes’!) 

Reminiscences over a proper village afternoon tea were followed by films and newsclips from the past.

Organised by Graeme Browne and sourced from Nga Taonga Sound and Vision, the film show comprised some silent film footage from 1924 of motoring over Paekākāriki Hill Road — not much more than a dirt track, and very dusty for passengers in open‑top cars; the Thompson family Christmas of 1935; Trip to Kapiti Island 1937; the opening ceremony of the Centennial Highway along the Paekākāriki coast in November 1939; Golf in Paekakariki 1939; Kodak staff picnics 1952,1957,1959; and an ad for the Ford Cortina filmed on Paekākāriki Beach in 1967. 

Old National Film Unit newsreels showed the US troops arriving in Wellington, and then travelling to their camp at Queen Elizabeth Park, seemingly met by brass bands at every point in their journey!  Red Cross volunteers were in a news film clambering through Queen Elizabeth Park and rescuing people up cliffs and across streams.  And the new electric train from Paekākāriki to Wellington, top speed 60 miles per hour, was shown cutting travel time to 52 minutes and finishing off with the Marines return to Mckay’s Crossing in 1963.

The organisers were very pleased to have contributions of cups, letters, photographs, honours boards, club jackets and uniforms from Paekakariki’s sports clubs.

If anyone has memories or photographs they would like to add to the collection of Paekākāriki history, please email Graham Coe.