1950s Memories of The Esplanade, Palmerston North, NZ

Place names didn’t mean much to me as a child. The Esplanade was a park we went to on family outings at the weekend. We usually walked there from our home a few blocks away.

In recent times I’ve wondered about it’s name, Victoria Esplanade, to discover it was planned to commemorate the 60th jubilee of Queen Victoria in the late 1900s. Something still didn’t seem right. In my mind an esplanade is something you walk along beside the sea. We’re an inland city, no sea in sight, but we do sit beside a river and, yes, the Esplanade gardens and walkway are situated beside the river.

The Esplanade has changed a lot since my childhood, but is still rather a special place in the city. My first memories are of the paddling pool. One warm summer Sunday my mother wheeled my new baby sister in her cane pram, while I pedalled along beside her on my new red trike delivered by Father Christmas. I still remember the delight of being able to splash to my heart’s content for what seemed like all afternoon as my mother sat and watched, chatting to the other mums.

Sometimes we went to listen to the local brass band playing in the rather grand bandstand, an impressive occasion to me as a child. Once the band had finished we were allowed to play in the bandstand, running around and around until we became quite dizzy.

A few years later, while attending the nearby school, our teacher took us to the Esplanade to study the native birds, listening to their bird song and hopefully snatching fleeting glances of the birds in the trees, those brave enough or curious enough to wonder about the mass of children on the path below.

Not long after that much of the luxurious bush was cut and cleared, but a small patch still remains, making the walk along the river path a pleasant one.

Now, more than 115 years later, we can be thankful for the foresight of the early city fathers who, having arrived from England and finding themselves in a landlocked community, may have missed walking along the esplanades of their seaside towns. By creating and naming this riverside space The Esplanade they could recreate some of the memories of home.

 The Esplanade remains a popular place for outings with both young and old.

 

Remembering the Reason Why

Sometimes life takes off on its own path. We start by paddling in a stream and before we realise we’re being swept along by a river current. This is not the journey we intended taking. Sometimes the new journey is an improvement, but often it means we’ve lost track of our original intentions.

I recently returned to part-time work. No regrets, I enjoy almost every minute of it. This commitment coincided with my fascinating immersion into research for my writing project about the contribution the local swimming baths made to my town during their short-lived life.

These two big projects fill my life in a positive way, but leaving me more drained of energy than I expected and with little time for other things, things such as blogging.

An e-mail this morning from a local writer, someone not known to me, suggested she’d read my blog and shared many of my memories. This started me thinking about my reasons for blogging in the first place. I looked back at my earlier entries, especially my first one written in February this year, Writing the Stories of Ordinary Lives.

Over recent months I’ve strayed from my original intentions, to use blogging as a platform to preserve stories, memories from the 1950s and 1960s, stories from the past to share with readers. I’m a believer in daily journal writing and the idea was my blog would encourage me to be a more prolific writer.

Instead, as I immersed myself in my research and memoir journey I turned back to writing in journals. I love writing with pencil and paper and find this a way of making connections and brainstorming my way into a story.

Another reason for the blog was to make connections with others interested in sharing their stories and I love this aspect of blogging. So, here I am again, making no promises, but determined to keep my blog alive and to make time to read the stories of other people.