My Auckland – by Lyn Potter

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“To celebrate Auckland’s 175th year, Auckland Museum brings you a special home-grown exhibition about the city – Taku Tamaki – Auckland Stories. As part of the exhibition they are collecting stories from the public about their memories and experiences of Auckland. Our columnist Lyn Potter shares her story below, share yours at for your chance to win an exclusive after hours experience at the museum.”

Memories of Three Historic Buildings in Auckland

Auckland’s old buildings add so much to its special character. Over the years successive generations have played their parts in them. Here are three of my stories:

Oakley Hospital: Repurposed
When I was at University in the sixties I flatted in a small pink house on Meola Rd in Point Chevalier. Just up the road was Oakley hospital housed in an imposing Victorian Building. It had started its life as the Whau Lunatic Asylum then one of the largest asylums in the Colony. Over the years and after several other name changes it became Oakley Hospital.

Those were the days before student loans so it was essential to find a summer holiday job. I was fortunate to land a job there as a research assistant, for which you had to dress up in white coat. I spent many hours perusing very old patient records for a research project which though of slight historical interest was, as far as I could see, of no benefit to the patients at all.

One of the more practical of the student research projects was a simulated car in which the extent to which the medication patients were on affected their ability to drive safely could be tested.

Oakley hospital was a sad and rather forbidding place. Many of the patients were held there for a long time and had little privacy. Some could be seen wandering around the spacious grounds in a zombie like state, and appeared to be over medicated. It went on to become Carrington Hospital and went through some troubled times.

It is good that it was repurposed and became part of the UNITEC campus. The students have made it a happier space although some say it is still haunted by the ghosts of the past!

652b_lgSt Stephen’s Church: A Survivor
In the 1960’s I sometimes went to St Stephen’s church (on the corner of Jervois Rd and Shelley Beach Rd in Ponsonby ). This lovely old timber church with its lofty spire was originally built in a Gothic Revival Style with some Edwardian later additions. It was opened in 1879.

After the service there would be a get together of the Bible Class members in the adjoining hall at which many friendships were forged. One evening a young man asked me out for a most unusual date. His hobby was fire engines so he drove me around various fire stations in Auckland the following weekend hoping for an emergency call out.

My passion for fire engine spotting soon waned, but not before I had persuaded him to come and give a talk on fire engines to the class of infants I was teaching. The children were totally entranced especially as he had taken the trouble to put on a real fireman’s hat. Where he acquired it remained a mystery.

It was still a thriving congregation when I was there but eventually the parishioners dwindled to about 40. In 2012 the parish was suddenly faced with a $500,000 bill for earthquake strengthening. This was totally unaffordable for such a small number of people. It looked as if St Stephen’s would come to an end. Fortunately a Presbytery Commission came to the rescue and announced it would remain open. So thankfully one of Auckland’s landmarks is safe for now.

Grey Lynn Primary School Infant Block: Demolished
One of my first teaching jobs was at Grey Lynn Primary School. A few years ago I was invited to return to take part in the centennial celebrations but we were overseas at the time. I drove over some weeks later to pick up my copy of the special edition of the centennial magazine ‘100 Years of Learning 1910-2010’.

In there I found a picture of my much younger self in a handmade crocheted waistcoat and mini skirt standing alongside my class for the annual school photograph in 1970.

A wave of Pasifika immigrants had been arriving in Auckland from the Pacific Islands and many had settled in Grey Lynn where the rents were low. About eighty percent of my students were Pasifika. It was a challenge to teach so many newly arrived non-English speaking children but they were a vibrant and creative bunch who were keen to learn.

The curriculum was firmly based on the 3 Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic. Art at that time was not seen as an essential or important part of the curriculum but I loved doing it with them and the walls were soon filled with the children’s beautiful artworks. One day an elderly male school inspector walked in and commented, “I can see you’re an arty farty teacher!

I was not to be deterred. These talented youngsters motivated me to become a full time art teacher later on.

After my time there the school had undergone major changes. My high ceilinged classroom (spacious but cold in winter) used to be in a large old brick building which had stood there since 1911. But as it was in need of repair and had become an earthquake risk this building had been demolished and been replaced by more modern classrooms.

It does make you feel a bit like a dinosaur when you discover that a historical building you once worked in has gone forever!

Read thoughts from 3 other GrownUps columnists…
David Hartnell, Allison Lamont & our Editor.

Akl Museum Image Aug 2015Taku Tāmaki – Auckland Stories at Auckland Museum

Share your story for the chance to win!
Share your own story, and picture if you have one, about Auckland and be in to WIN an exclusive after-hours guided tour with one of our curators, followed by a private dinner at the museum for you and 3 friends!

Enter here 
Entries close 5pm Monday 14th September 2015 and are subject to the official rules.

About the exhibition:
As Auckland marks its 175th year, this special home-grown exhibition invites you to become explorers of the city. Full of inspiring and curious things to see and do, you’ll discover what the city is about, what shaped it and where it might be headed.

Highlights include never-before-seen collection items and images, an interactive game that allows you to connect the dots as a museum curator, and a nostalgic journey back to a 1980s’ dairy.

Check out Peter Madden’s stunning art installation, watch a selection of fun films, and a display which honours heroes of our city.

Exhibition open daily until Sunday 18th October 2015 in the Auckland Museum Special Exhibitions Hall.
Free entry for Auckland residents.