Mount Pleasant Oral History
The Mount Pleasant Community Centre Association commissioned an historic account of the Memorial Community Centre and Mount Pleasant development based primarily on oral histories in 2010. Participants shared a wealth of memories from over the years – since the first quarter of the 20th century in some cases. The following overview summarises some of the general findings of the research.
The Association welcomes any additional information you may have about Mt Pleasant’s history as we are seeking to have a written history completed about this topic within the next twelve months. Please contact email@example.com if you wish to share anything.
Interviews were conducted from 5 August to 14 October 2010 and were generally conducted in the participants’ homes. Susan Kornfeld, a Mount Pleasant resident, conducted all interviews.
Interviews ranged from one to nearly three hours. Follow-up interviews were conducted with most participants. Participants were not compensated in any way. All volunteered their time.
Many photographs were provided. Most came from participant scrapbooks, several were taken from the 75th Mount Pleasant School Jubilee DVD provided by Gillian Fox, and a few are available from the National Library or other public sources.
Overview of the Interviews
Several long-time participants reflected on the development of Mount Pleasant from a pastoral “distant” suburb to a well developed and fully integrated community:
- Large land holdings were subdivided into smaller and smaller sections. Four of the participants subdivided their own sections after retirement.
- Infrastructure and services such as sealed roads, sewerage, sufficient water supply and pressure, and reliable power were completed while several participants were living on the hill. Part of this was accomplished soon after Mount Pleasant switched from Heathcote County governance to Christchurch Council in the mid 1940s, while many areas took much longer, even into the 70s.
- Improved infrastructure increased the pace of development following WWII, boosted by low-interest loans. Better roads brought more buyers as the old shingled and often steep, winding roads had daunted many drivers used to city streets.
- The development of Cannon Hill estate and of Soleares Road completed the transformation of the hill from pastoral to residential. When Cannon Hill Crescent was completed it bridged the gap between the upper hill and St. Andrews hill. Soleares closed the gap from the flat to the top.
- Additionally, participants recounted how the Community Centre helped social cohesion, contributing to both functions and friendships:
- It provided a general-purpose central meeting place. Previously there had been a variety of other venues that had to be adapted for community and private parties (e.g., the Yacht Club, two churches, Stonycroft, and even the Ferrymead pub).
- Associated clubs and functions provided networking, support, and service functions. Women met at Plunket and the kindergarten, serving on committees and fundraisers and consequently forming friendships. Men helped out in construction projects, leadership roles, and formed many friendships over squash. Fundraisers such as fairs and dances brought everyone together, not only for the social event itself but in the planning and provisioning since catering services were not used.
- The increase in car ownership and the development of the Ferrymead commercial district brought the world to Mount Pleasant’s doorstep—and Mount Pleasant to the world. Merchant deliveries (Farmers, Ballentynes, local providers such as the butcher, fishmonger, vege man, and local store) gradually ceased and shoppers ventured inland for purchases rather than to Redcliffs and Sumner. This increased mobility also decreased the isolation of women on the upper hill, many of whom had depended on buses and trams to take them (often shepherding several children) on shopping or social excursions.
- When the Mount Pleasant School shifted from the upper hill to its present location, it drew from families lower on the hill who had previously sent their children to Redcliffs. It also helped unify the upper and lower hill districts.
Additional Developments and Milestones Noted in Interviews
- Before water services were provided, residents collected water from local springs and rainwater. Pipes would carry the water from the springs down to 44-gallon drums in the ground. Farmers used such drums for personal use and also for cattle.
- Scott Paddock gave the upper hill a great deal of its pastoral character. Cows wandered down Major Hornbrook and tussock and broom established a wild character.
- Returning WWII servicemen were assisted in establishing home sites by a building loan of two thousand pounds at three percent interest.
- In the mid forties, local children helped Ernie Parrish (Mt. Pleasant Rd.) and the Yacht Club rebuild the sod hut. They jumped in a big hole and mashed hay in with clay and water to make the sod. The roof was thatched with raupo reeds.
- Young Wives, sponsored by Mt. Pleasant Anglican Church AAW (Association of Anglican Women), provided an opportunity for young mothers in the 60s and 70s to meet and make friends with their peers as many were quite isolated. Women would meet on weekday mornings on a regular basis for tea, exchanging recipes, knitting and sewing patterns, and organising flowers or food baskets for those unwell or in need of cheering up.
- Growth of housing developments:
- Hedges planted
- Money was widely available in 70s
- Improved infrastructure after transfer from Heathcote County to Christchurch: proper sewer system, sealed roads, better water pressure from new reservoir.
- Mount Pleasant expanded provenance to Ferrymead/Linwood areas because of the Board’s concern over the impact of that side of the bridge on the estuary and coast. The development of shopping in Ferrymead homogenised the area (previously, crossing the bridge was ‘like a border crossing’) and improved the efficiency and economy of obtaining goods and services. Ferrymead development also meant the end of the dump and smelly industries (the ink factory was called the ‘stink factory’).
- During WWII, flowers (Icelandic poppies, daffodils, narcissus, etc.) were the main commercial crop on the hill. Before then, people grew food crops such as orchards and berries. The Chee family had a vegetable farm along Basil Place, and Lyell Nichols had a turkey farm near the juncture of Soleares Ave. and McCormacks Bay Rd.
- Many wives were rather isolated because of transport issues: children complicated tram-taking, the walk down and up the hill could be daunting, especially in the evening, and for years after WWII it was difficult to purchase a car without access to foreign funds. Consequently many women stayed home or walked.
- Tram service stopped in December 1952.
- The Roxborough dam on the Clutha River eliminated the previously routine brownouts scheduled to conserve power.
- Replacement of the old bridge reduced a bottleneck and improved ease of movement between both sides of the river—perhaps reducing the sense of separate community.
- Morten’s Jetty—a place where the children played and the yachters would gather—was damaged in the Wahine storm and never rebuilt.