CHAPTER 8 – Bishopdale’s Nappy Lane 1967-72
Our Own Home
Aubynne, God bless her, had fully recovered. We were still poor but my prospects were getting better. I was now a fully-fledged proofreader and earning enough money for us to just get by without much savings. Her friendship with Judy Maloney introduced us to a new future – to own our own house. Judy and Peter were newly married, and both of them were very practical. They knew the ropes, the bargains, the deals. One deal was that the Government would lend a married couple a sizeable loan for a new house, if one could purchase the land. The Government would help in purchasing the land if a couple were prepared to exchange the 16 years of Family Benefit payments from each child for the deposit on the section. A great idea. But how to get a section? The Lands and Survey department would hold a raffle every month, where couples would enter the raffle for a section in a new housing area. If your name came up, you used the Family Benefit to pay for the section, and with 100 pounds of your own you could put a deposit down on a new house.
Aubynne entered the raffle. We won a section at 7 Martbern Cres in Bishopdale, which was to become known as “Nappy Lane” – a row of 3-bedroom new brick and concrete block suburban houses, filled with young families. Six months later we shifted into our new home: a concrete block house, no garage, no paths, no fence, but with a huge open-plan living area and a panoramic view of the Southern Alps. The State Advances Loan mortgage payments were four pounds a week. Simon started school right next door at Bishopdale School. And for the next two years, we both worked to save up enough for a fence and paths, and to buy a reasonable car.
Cars Scooters and Bikes
It was almost impossible to purchase a car. One could only buy on hire purchase and a 66% down payment was required. Which meant we could only buy the worst kind of car. My first car, in 1965 was a 1948 six-cylinder Wolseley 6/80, famous as the British policecar, lasted all of three weeks: the big end bearings blew, leaving us in debt. This put paid to our having a car until we had our house. We bought a Vespa 150cc and it took us on holiday to Nelson – a long trip in the north west sun, burning Aubynne’s mini-skirted legs. We spent a night in Kaikoura, bathing her thighs with butter, and supping on bluebone fish using a screwdriver for a fork.
We got a Honda 50 for Aubynne to use for her travelling to work at Sunnyside Mental Hospital. I was later able to buy a Suzuki 50.
We managed to save enough to buy a car again in 1969: a six-cylinder 1938 Chevrolet with knee-action suspension, rawhide leather seats, but weak half-shafts. This took us on holiday to Nelson, but coming home the exhaust pipe blew near the manifold and I had to bandage it all the way back to Christchurch, with all the windows open through the Lewis Pass in the heat of a north-westerly gale. Aubynne learnt to drive in this Chevvie, which had very little synchromesh left on the gears, so she learnt also to double declutch. Twice we noticed our back wheel pass us in busy town intersections when the half-shaft broke. It was difficult to get a warrant of fitness so it had to go.
The next car we got for 100 pounds in 1970: a 1938 four-door Morris 8 – a sweet little car we called Cecily. It was black with a little red body trimline. We all loved this car. But it again had problems with the spring shanks and we could not afford to fix them, but we sold it for a profit.
By 1971 I was able to get a loan from the Press Provident Fund, and we purchased our first post-war car: a 1956 Morris Oxford, which we called Charlotte. It had a lovely sweeping dashboard, it was easy to drive, and we carefully maintained it as best we could. It took us on memorable trips to Nelson, to the West Coast and to Dunedin.
As finances improved, our next was a 6-cylinder 1961 Vauxhall Velox – uncomfortable, sloppy, but it uncomplainingly took us on great holidays touring the North Island.
In the meantime, our unmarried friends at the Press were buying cars like pre-War Rovers and Rileys, which by the late 1960s were becoming collectibles. I dreamed one day of having a Riley Pathfinder.