Friday, April 3, 2009

Carrying history up Station Hill

Back on Thursday, 26 March, I received an email from the local library where they were looking after this for me. Redecorating was about to happen down there, and the aerial photo had to be relocated. I came to the conclusion that the best place for it was at my place. So, I headed to the library, uplifted it, and carried it up the top part of Rosebank Road to Blockhouse Bay Road, the old Station Hill route, and headed for base.

Now, the aerial is mine, bought from a local dealer. It is a shot from somewhere over New Lynn way, looking NNE (or so) out over the Avondale Racecourse (centre foreground), with Great North Road snaking its way on the right, and Ash Street and the top part of Rosebank Peninsula on the left. It's a White's Aviation photo (the original is at the Alexander Turnbull today) from December 1958 -- 50 years ago. It stands around 6 feet wide by around 3.5 feet -- odd but true, it's bigger than I am. It was interesting carrying it up the hill that day. I'd stop both for breathers (me? Fit? Nah ...) and also so passers-by could halt, gasp, and start pointing at landmarks they remembered. All races, all creeds, all ages. One bloke chatted about days gone by at the racecourse. Had a bit of sore right arm for a while afterward, but -- it was a very, very good morning for local heritage. Toots and thumbs up from passing truck drivers was a welcome thing as well.

The small image here does not do this thing justice. For anyone 40 years and older , and who grew up here or lived a long time in Avondale -- they stop, stare, and can't help starting to discuss the features, both sharp and those blurred by the distance from the lens. If I can, I'll try to organise a public display this year in Avondale of heritage images and other stuff, with this humungous beauty as a star for the occasion. All I have to do now is sort out the logistics of getting it back down Station Hill ...


  1. My first job out of school, in the early 1960s, was with Whites Aviation. Although the offices were on the sixth floor of Dilworth Building on the corner of Customs and Queen St, their photo lab was on Darby Street, where they were capable of making much larger pictures than this. The 5x7-inch (as I remember) negatives were shot on ex-military aerial cameras and were of superb quality. The main enlarger was on rails and murals like this were projected onto paper positioned on the wall. Many were also hand coloured by a team of women - this was when colour photography was still extremely expensive. Chief photographer Snow Stewart, Leo White and to a lesser extent his son Ross (later chief photographer with the NZ Herald) did the aerial photography around Auckland from Piper Super Cubs of the Auckland Aero Club.

  2. Thanks for the information, Phil -- how cool! I've always been interested in how Whites did these spectacular photographs. I'm glad this one isn't one of those huge ones you mentioned -- I'd never have got it home!

    I showed it to the Avondale-Waterview Historical Society meeting yesterday, and the members there were rapt. (Under a magnifying glass, some of the detail, even at distance, is extraordinary.) AWHS now owns the photo, and it looks like the July exhibition is on. More info as it comes to hand.