Mount Maunganui, circa 1950-60 - by Bonnie Leonard
SummaryA 2009 Memoir and Local History Competition entry.Main Body
Fifty odd years or more ago, the 'Mount' was a small seaside village made up of tiny shell-paved streets, fibrolite holiday shacks, cabins to rent, the Oceanside Hotel, and a handful of small local businesses who eked out a living servicing the needs of the locals.
Population about 900; in summer 20,000!
Tauranga sparkled across the waters of Pilot Bay, accessible by a ferry from Salisbury Wharf or braving the gravel road through Kairua/ Welcome Bay with more bends than a corkscrew. Even back then, there was a rivalry and independence about the Mount, which did not include needing Tauranga.
The locals included more than their fair share of characters. It seemed that like the beach that dominated the town, the tide of human life washed up its detritus at the end of this idyllic peninsula. Alcoholics, the war-damaged, the crazed, deluded and eccentric all added their splash of colour to the fabric of the small community and were accepted, not judged, and labelled accordingly.
One such character was 'Dog Tits', a crude but apt name for a short, elderly lady who had the habit of keeping her Chihuahuas stuffed down the front of her dress. She spoke in a very refined English accent, was always seen in dun-coloured shapeless dresses, with a large handbag under her arm, and shuffling along in backless slippers, a crocheted hair netover her greying, once-auburn locks pulled down to eyebrow level, and a magnificent amber necklace adorning her ample chest.
Fact became blurred with fiction as to the number of dogs she owned, but my only encounter with her vouched for three. She entered the local dairy to buy milk, depositing her large bag on the counter, and disturbed by this action, a tiny head popped out of the abyss of her bosom, followed by two others in quick succession. I was riveted, as she calmly stuffed them back out of sight, counted out her pennies and shuffled out to the battered little Austin car where her husband waited as he always did when they went shopping.
I never knew who she was, her history or where she lived but I can see her still as part of the colouful Mount mosaic. As the dairy owner said to me, noting my blatant curiosity, “She's a lovely lady, just a bit concentric!”