Friday, February 1, 2013

The Back Yard

The back yard

We had a great back yard when we were kids. We lived on a quarter-acre section, the standard yard-of-envy or achievement. That's not actually that unusual in a small town in rural NZ, but ours was pretty special I think. We had playground equipment in it that made it our own private park. 

I've arranged the photos clockwise, from east to west. 

Peter, Jolene, Rachel and Maria on the swings. The swings were made out of old tyres, typical in those days. In this photo someone's stuck a plank across so we can all swing together. I'm the little one, I can remember feeling just a little unsure about this, hence my being the only one holding on for dear life while the girls whoop and Peter does all the work, you hero! 

Behind us is the line of trees and a low corrugated iron 'fence' that separated us from our neighbors, the Holloways. A little birdie is telling me that the proper fence built later on just might have been to prevent snot-nosed little Greenwoods from crawling into Mr. Holloway's vegetable garden and stealing his carrots. Apple tree to the right. More about that later...

Many years later, this is me on the scooter. I got my scooter license years before I got a car license, but this photo is years before I got the license. We just loved riding round and round the house on the scooter. Speed freaks at 30kmph! Ignore the photo on the right, it's the front yard, which deserves its own post! On the left, there's that apple tree again, and the swing set with the tyre swings. The windows on the right are from what I will always think of as 'Maria's room', and on the left, 'Peter's room'. The rest of us just squeezed in wherever, lol! 

Back to May 1976, as the photo says, so I am 4 and Bec is 1. And yes, she is eating the sand off the spade. Beech trees, grass and presumably that bit of corrugated iron fence behind us. We are sitting in a huge old tractor tyre, otherwise known as the sandpit. Grab a tractor tyre, plonk it on the lawn, get some guy to bring you some sand from the beach - only Taranaki black sand, thank you - dump it in the tyre, and you have a sandpit! 

This sandpit was in the triangle of lawn between the fence, the shed and the path that led from the east side of the house to the entrance of the shed, and the clothesline. The jungle gym was there too at first, right in front of the french windows on the shed that we pushed Maud through. I remember that vividly, because I fell off that jungle gym and broke my arm. I was attempting a bar to bar transfer in the high part (I can remember the inner geography of that jungle gym, I assume my siblings can too, so I think you know what I mean), but my hands were still wet because I'd just gone to the toilet and washed my hands. I was five. I remember landing, and the shock, and running into the house, and hiding under the sofa in the dining room because it HURT, and Mum having to drag me out, then take me across the street to the hospital, the x-ray, the cast being put on...

This photo is much later on, in the 80's, Mum, with her tape measure around her neck (she was always sewing something!), putting out the laundry. Where the garden is behind her, is where that triangle of grass with the sandpit and jungle gym used to be. You can see the white of the shed, the french doors are on the side facing the garden. And there is Peter's banana seat bike!!! We were supposed to keep our bikes in the shed, but they often ended up just about anywhere on that path that led out to the side door and front garden. We used to steal Peter's banana seat bike and ride it down the concrete ramp that led to the shed door.

And see that grey box at the base of the clothes line? That's a state-of-the-art automatic electric Hill's Hoist generator. Yep, and electrically rotating clothes line. Turn that dial there on the side, and the clothesline would rotate automatically! I don't recall ever having seen it in action. Maybe it broke early on. More likely, it became obvious that in south Taranaki, in the path of the Roaring Forties, your average Hill's Hoist was pretty much going for broke on a slow day, and like lightning when the south-westers picked up. BUT the gleeful, gorgeous secret of this crazy contraption was the fact that it had a PLUG in it - we could plug in our radio/tape decks and listen to music out here, either on the trampoline (during that period adolescence when you were as interested in jumping on a trampoline as you were listening to pop music), or to fuel parties in the secret garden behind the shed.

Rebecca posing for me in the garden in the triangle, right where she was eating dirt in the photo above.

Chris posing for me now. This was not long after I got my first camera, so I was doing some family portraits that day! I'm facing south now, with the house behind me, the shed and fence to the left, and you can see the clothesline behind the tree. Behind that is the vegetable garden, and behind that, you can see the roof of the Swainsons' house.  Just to the right of the frame was the trampoline. When we first got it, for Christmas, it was in the front yard, but soon it came into the back yard, and there it stayed, between the apple and feijoa trees.

This is Jo doing a handstand. Go girl!! And the famous jungle gym behind her, finally getting on film. That's the Bourkes' house behind the fence, and the wall behind Mum and Dad's bedroom behind the jungle gym.

More trampoline and jungle gym photos! We are soooooo cool, aren't we, Jo?



  1. I think it is worthy of note that the playground equipment mentioned in this post lives on, it has all had a second life (with a few modifications) at Jo's house and with any luck may soon make the move to New Plymouth to start its third life in our backyard.
    The corrugated iron fence was long gone by the time I came around, hence I have no memory of ever stealing carrots from the Holloways garden, in fact I don't recall Mr Holloway at all, only Mrs Holloway who was the sweetest little old lady you could ever meet. She would pretend to be happy and surprised when we (us and the McLincheys) showed up on her doorstep with flowers (picked from HER garden) and graciously give us lollies in return! I think the fence needs a separate post too and I will try to do that sometime soon.
    The scooter! what incredible fun that was, I remember very well standing in front of the rider being driven round and round the house at what seemed like death defying speeds. As I remember the only way to get up to 30km was to back right up to the back of the back yard by the Feijoa trees and go past the tramp and jungle jim, past mum and dads room, the pool room, then through the car port and down the dirveway on to the footpath.
    The sandpit: By the time I got to it alas it was more of a gravel pit than a sand pit but it was still fun, I remember playing with the Fun-Ho cast iron toys that must have been around since the early 20th century and lived permanently outside in the pit. I have actually considered making my girls a sand pit in exactly the same way, a bit of nostalgia on my part I guess??
    Thanks for the awesome work on this blog Rach, it is great to sit down and relive your youth for a few minutes. To see it from your perspective gives it a whole new angle for me, so keep it up!

  2. Thrilled to hear that old jungle gym may still have some life in it! Can't wait to see Erica on it at your house (I might have a hard time getting the other two to 'play'). Mrs Holloway was the sweetest person ever, wasn't she? Mr H. wasn't bad either, just loved his garden more than the neighbor's brats.

    NOW I remember taking you for rides on the scooter! How dangerous, I guess Mum was inside studiously NOT watching! Whatever happened to the the iron toys? Maybe they are buried under the garden there and someone will dig them up one day. If you ever do fling an old tractor tyre in the back yard for the kids, make sure you pop into that toy museum in Inglewood and pick up a few iron toys to throw in there. They seem to last forever.