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Early Surfdale

A Talk by Judith Phillips


Waiheke Island Historical Society
Membership meeting of 29 October 2007

Surfdale postcard

  1. Ferries

I have been coming to Waiheke since I was 1 year old in the early 1940's.

We used to get the ferry from Kings Wharf and it was either the Baroona or the Tangaroa.

The Baroona had rolled up canvas sides then which was lovely on a fine day as you could see the islands around. I can't remember it but I have heard my parents say that we had to go through a gate in the Harbour. What is now the breakwater at Oraki was once the fence across the Harbour for defence during the war. The gate was supposed to be kept shut when there was no shipping going through but because of the strong tides that didn't always happen.

On the Baroona all the luggage was stacked around the funnel on the top deck and the Tangaroa had a lovely salon with buttoned leather seats and the brass just glowed.


  1. Houses we stayed at in early years

At first we stayed in a couple of houses in Ocean Rd. just around the corner from the main road. I don't remember them except from what I have been told and photos.

One of them had high door knobs and as my mother went to go through a door it was pushed from the other side and split her eye lid. There was a taxi across the road at the store and they went to Nurse Tribe who stitched the eyelid. All she was offered before doing it was Brandy. I can remember seeing Nurse Tribe on her horse going through Surfdale. The roads in those days were mainly clay.


  1. House on corner

The 1st house I remember staying in was on the corner of Ocean Rd and the main road. It had a big room which was the kitchen and living area and off that a bedroom with an iron bedstead. There were 2 bedrooms at the front but 1 was locked. The hall was wide enough though to put a couple of mattresses down that would sleep 4 children.

My favorite places were the flax bush in the back yard and the moss around the tank stand. I used to use it to make beds for the fairies with blankets and pillows.

Of course there was no power then and the kerosene lamp was a curse to my mother when I got sick at night and she tried to get it lit in the dark. There was also a Pohutakawa tree which is still there today.


  1. Stores in Surfdale

In Surfdale at the time was a store across the road which was owned by Mrs Barnes and Jimmy Simmons worked there. She lived behind the shop and he lived over the road in a house on the other side of Ocean Rd. When the milk, bread and papers came down on the ferries everyone would gather and wait and chat together and then go into the shop and wait till they were served and usually bought all the groceries they needed at the same time hence there wasn't much buisness done after that. There was a door leading through to the milk bar where us kids would sit on the stools and get an ice cream or milk shake. I loved watching the steam rise from the dry ice that the ice cream came in.

Down near the beach was another store and it fascinated me as it was built below ground level and you walked in from path level. Attached to one end was the P.O. run by Mrs. Beacroft who used to scare me. She looked old to me but in later years when I met her she was the same age as my mother and she still looked the same. We would have to go there to see if there was any mail as there was no postal delivery in those days.

At the back of the store was a milk bar and I loved coming to it from the beach as we had to go over a little bridge to get to it.

Near here was also the local hall and next to it was the tennis courts (where the car park is today) and a children's play area with slide and swings.

They used to have flower shows in the hall and one year I won 1st prize for the sand dish. I wasn't as lucky for the vase of flowers though as there were supposed to be 6 flowers but I didn't want to waste all the flowers I had picked.

In Blake St just around the corner from the main road was a store owned by the Atkinsons but we didn't go there often.

At the other end of Ocean Rd. was a store owned by the Walkers and I used to go there to swap comics. Sometimes I would try to slip in a couple of extra ones but always got found out. I have heard from my parents that they used to sell beer on the side.

Walkers' store
Mrs Walker’s Grocery Shop, also known as “Tiny Town”.
The Animal Hospital is here now. Photo taken in June 1975.

Those stores were the only ones till the 50's when one was built where the Takeaway is now which was a drapery. Where the Ideal Electric shop is that was built as a general store and sold all sorts of things e.g. stationary and cards, things for the lamps and primness, spades, outdoor gear and lots more. Later next to it was built a butchers shop and in the 1970's was run by a Mr White. Around this time they drained the swampy area behind and the arum lilies went.


  1. Surfdale Beach

Where Seaside Sanctuary is now used to be a camping ground owned by the Browns and I would go there with the billy for milk till it came by boat. Sometimes I would go to the Hooks farm for the milk as well.

The beach was much the same as it is today except then there were beds of sea grass with pools on it full of sealife. I used to try and catch the baby flounders in them; they would only be an inch or two long. We never went along to the other end of the beach though because the Hooks family lived there. It wasn't till the 70's that I went there. The mother had died by that time but the 2 sons were still alive and one would come down to the beach with his white cat.

Hooks' house
The Hooks brothers’ house. Burned down in the 1970s.
Photo: F. Rockel


  1. Wharf

On the point to the right of the beach was the wharf and built over the water was the waiting shed. Down the wharf were railway tracks for the trolley that took the luggage and cargo to and from the boat. I can remember when it collapsed and the trolley full of luggage went into the water.

Surfdale Wharf
Surfdale Wharf

At the end of the wharf used to be an old man called Ol Sol who had a horse and cart and for 3d or 6d he would take the luggage to where you were going to and the bags would be there when you got there. There was no other transport in Surfdale at the time. My father used to fish for piper from the wharf and in later years complained that they were decreasing because Lofty Blomfield used nets to catch them.

One Christmas I was given a rod but never got to use it because dad had left his tackle in Auckland and had to use mine.


  1. Little Oneroa & Oneroa

Sometimes we would go to Little Oneroa & I loved going over the bridge to get there. It was wooden and smaller in those days. I would go around the rocks and collect cat's eyes and I found out in later years that mum had kept them in oyster bottles. We would also go to Oneroa as the butcher was there and I can't remember a lot about it except that Lofty Blomfield had a milkbar down on the beach but I wasn't allowed to go into it. It was burnt down some years later.


  1. Areas out of Surfdale

My parents had friends who were building a house on the beach at Shelly Beach and we went there one day. I wanted to go to the toilet but was told to go around on the rock, but I came back screaming because I had seen something on the rocks. It turned out to be a dead sheep.

They used to have TT Races at Ostend and we would walk there via Wilma Rd and over the walkway. There was no causeway in those days. I can remember sitting up on a bank but I don't know where it was. Further along the road to Shelly Beach from Wilma Rd was the horse pound and there were always horses in it.

I knew Onetangi existed although I don’t remember going there. My mother used to tell the story of how I walked all the way except for the last 1/4 mile which was gravel because at the time she didn't know that I had a congenital heart problem.


  1. Houses around Surfdale and Army Hut

All the houses were built around the stores and the beach but there were some up in the hills behind. Hamilton Rd had quite a few going up to Ocean Rd. There were 3 Maori families there: the Koffes, Clarks & the Royals. The Clarks had a corrugated house with lots of fruit trees and lawns all well kept and a hedge out the front that arched over the gate. We stopped going to the house on the corner because I had been seen in the main road smoking a cigarette and it had got back to the owner. Friends were putting up an army hut further up Ocean Rd, so we went and stayed there till they sold it in the 60's. I have the memory of the layout inside and maybe it could be used when we get our one up and running. Outside was a 500 gal water tank which as children we were not allowed to go near. Mum would fill up bottles of water and we had to use that and when it had gone they were refilled. There were no tankers in those days. Sometimes we ran out of milk so we would have to use powder and I liked the powder but it would clog around my teeth. The toilet was up the hill and dad would dig the hole but mum had to empty the can.

There was only a small flat area around the hut but along with the other children nearby we would slide down the hill and have races. There were 3 other families close by that we would play with. Near the corner of Ocean Rd & Hamilton Rd was a couple who we used to visit and it was lovely going through the garden as there were bridges, winding paths and ponds with ducks on. She even made lovely gingerbread men. Later they got a generator and had power. Further up Ocean Rd was a house belonging to a friend of my father’s and I would go there to pick flowers. There was also another house where at night we would go and pick the Freesias and these weren't on the side of the road.


  1. Blackpool School

When I was 7 years old I went to Blackpool school for about 10 days and loved it. It was different to the convent I went to in Auckland. We would walk around the coast road to school. One time we went on a nature trip behind the Little Oneroa store and I got lost in the bush. I could hear voices but couldn't see anyone. I must have been found though. I had to leave because I became ill and we had to return to Auckland. Some nights we could hear the cows eating outside as there were no fences and they would roam.

Blackpool School
Blackpool School. Photo taken in May 1975,
by which time it was the Blackpool Community Centre.


  1. Years later on Waiheke

After our friends sold the army hut we would come down here on their launch and went to the pictures where the Red Cross is now. Of course there was power by then. I was staying with friends in Ocean Rd when the power came on and they had just got a stove with a window and the daughter & I sat in front and watched the cakes rise. I would come down on the Motonui.

After I came back from Australia in the 60's I stayed with friends in Junction Rd. It was the first time I had been past Walkers store and also discovered Palm Beach. I went to England in the 70's and when I came back decided to build on the sections, which my parents had bought in 1942. In those days there were no rates but 5/- to the hospital board for the nurse.