A transcript is an exact copy of the things said during an interview. These interviews are with people who lived in our area during the 1970s.
What was the Birkdale area like in the 1970s?
Interview with Carol Rogers
What was shopping like in the 1970s?
Shopping. Well we had a supermarket, one supermarket in Birkenhead in Highbury, had a 4-Square store in Highbury but the supermarkets didn’t get built, like New World is the Chelsea Supermarket, didn’t get built until a bit later, probably in the, this is probably the beginning of the 70s, probably built later on in the 70s early 80s those supermarkets and we had corner stores. We had corner dairies and little grocery shops that we went to and a bit old fashionery looking, not even like dairies as such, we had a milk bar at Verrans Corner. Do you know where Verrans Corner is? We had a milk bar up there and a fruit shop and a butcher and at the various little places around Birkdale there tended to be little grocer shops and little butchers and little vege shops dotted all around so you didn’t have to go very far, not quite so many supermarkets around.
What was schooling like back then?
What was schooling like? Well in the 1960s the Housing, have you heard of the Housing Corporation moved into Birkdale and they bought up all the land right down the middle of Birkdale and around, some around the edges and they built quite inexpensive housing but lots and lots and lots of it and so many people moved into Birkdale that they had to build lots more schools because all the people who moved into these cheaper housing areas had four or five children or six or lots sometimes so they built Kauri Park Primary and Beach Haven Primary in the 60s mainly probably late 60s early 70s Beach Haven Primary, Birkdale North. Birkdale Primary was the only one that was there when I was going to school because I grew up in Beach Road (now Island Bay Road), we moved over here in 1946 so we grew up with only one or two primary schools. Kauri Park was another one. They built all these primary schools so that the kids would have somewhere to go and I used to help run the lunch room down at the Beach Haven Primary School because there were so many children and so many kiddies would come to school really early that often if their parents had to go a long way to go to work they didn’t have much breakfast and they had to get to school pretty early so we sometimes had breakfast at school for the children who came with no food at all and then we had a big lunch room that we provided food, they had to pay but provided food for the children. Birkdale College was built in 1970. One of my sons, my eldest son was the second intake at the school so he was a 3rd former when there were only 4th formers at the school. The Intermediate school was built before the college. What else about the schools. They were pretty casual schools. Not a lot of facilities in schools in those days because having just been built and very new a lot of the playgrounds weren’t properly finished. There weren’t a lot of swimming pools or anything like that. You haven’t got a swimming pool here have you? No. I came and worked here in 1976. I was doing what Mrs Cramond does and worked in the office and helped in the sick bay and helped doing operettas. We used to do lots and lots of operettas at school every year. We had a big operetta. Do you still have operettas here?
I’m not sure.
Are you a first former or second? First so you don’t know about operettas but it was like a show and Mrs Pring was the deputy head teacher and would put the operetta on and about 120 children would be involved in the operetta. Big, lots and lots of things in those days. Uniforms were still blue and grey. They are still blue and grey now but there wasn’t any, you didn’t wear any long trousers like you are wearing at the moment. Everybody had short shorts. The boys had short shorts and long socks up to their knees, with Nomad shoes. What sort of school shoes do you wear? Soft like that but Nomads had a seam up the middle there with thick soles and so forth and Lizard jumpers, not sweatshirting jumpers because sweatshirting really didn’t come into fashion until a bit later, at the end of the 70s. At the beginning of the 70s everybody had Lizard jumpers, woollen jumpers. OK? What else do you want to know about the schools?
You mentioned jumpers and fashion which happens to be another one of my questions. What was fashion like?
What was fashion like? Well in the early 70s it was still carrying on from the 60s which was all psychedelic, short skirts and bell sleeves and crochet, the girls wore lots of crocheted jumpers because everybody’s mum knitted and crocheted and sewed things in those days, where lots of people’s mums don’t sew any more so we tended to have a lot more home made things on our children. Long boots up to the knees and in the summer beach shorts, with all psychedelic colours but not terribly long and baggy like you have these days, they were all a bit tighter. T-Shirts and skivvys up to here in the winter to keep you warm and then flares, the boys. It’s a bit like today, the boys wore flared jeans and big leather belts around their middles and bomber jackets like denim jackets. Have you got a denim jacket? No? Denim, the short, short denim jackets you know. Do you know what a poncho is? A thing that comes down to a point and goes right over with no sleeves. Your arms just keep more cozy and warm underneath. The girls wore lots of ponchos. The boys didn’t of course. They had bomber jackets and jackets of some sort and raincoats. ??? had just been invented and sandshoes like basketball shoes. The boys wore lots of basketball shoes with lots of laces up quite high up around the ankle. The hair was long. Lots of the boys wore their hair quite long. At the end of the 70s they all decided to get their hair cut off short and went from really long to being really short so we had everything in the 70s right through to punk, you know, have you heard of punks? The coloured hair, the very short spiky hair and safety pins in their clothes and things like that. They wore things like that right up till the end of the 70s, not to school of course but in their days off they were allowed to do things like that. 1973, that’s a picture of Beach Haven Primary School. There’s a poncho see like that and the little boots and things. That’s Standard One at Beach Haven Primary.
Thinking about housing. I guess that puts us onto transportation.
Well a lot of the houses, I was just going to tell you. A lot of the houses were the cheaper type of houses, down the middle valley of Birkdale but in the 70s the housing boom really took off and houses were bigger and more expenses and went down the side roads of Birkdale like the main loop was very well catered for but then they put side roads down like Aeroview Drive and Mariners Cove. Have you heard of those places? And the houses were built right down. We built a house in 1973 up in Hatfield Street down towards Mariners Cove and the bulldozers all moved in down below us and carved up all the land and pulled down all the trees and made roads and then started building, and so about 1978 or 1979 that was all fully built up with houses as well. But before that our children had a wonderful time because they rode their trail bikes and things all down in amongst the bush and played in the drains when they were putting the roading in, putting the big drains and things in, so our children had a very free life and a free run of the country and all the beaches and lots more to do probably around the place. So the transport, Birkenhead Transport was of course going really well, that was the main transport around here and you have school buses now don’t you? You have special buses for school? Yeah. In the 70s the children tended to ride their bikes to school or walk to school. We always had to do an awful lot more walking and the roads were a lot safer those days. You didn’t have to worry so much so you rode your bike to school or walked and if you needed to go on the bus, which you could, you would catch the normal transport, the transport for public transport would go around the loop, not just school kids on it but adults and other people on it as well but mainly kids walked to school a lot more.
Most of Chatswood wasn’t built in those days but most of the kids would come on the bus from Chatswood or go down to Northcote. Cars, are you interested in what the cars were like? My husband was a builder and he had an old builder’s truck, we tended to have lots of English and American cars but not so many Japanese and Chinese cars. Have you heard of Jap imports, the cheap cars that they bring in from Japan. Well there was really never anything like that. We have Fords and we had Holdens from Australia and the young guys when they got to about 15 got their driving licence and they would either have a little old car that belonged to the family or they didn’t have much money so, may not have been able to afford to buy one but they had Dune Buggys. Have you heard of Dune Buggys, the little flat, no roof on them that the boys used to drive around in the sand dunes and on the roads sometimes, if they got away with it. One of my boys had a Dune Buggy and he drove around in the weekends and I think he might have taken it to school in the 7th form year at Birkdale College. It’s Birkenhead College now.
There wasn’t very much technology back then?
In the schools? In Birkdale.
In Birkdale. Not a very technical place, more a resettling for lots of people who didn’t have an awful lot of money in the 60s but then it boomed in the 70s and everybody became a bit more wealthy but not technologically, no, there weren’t many businesses apart from garages and food, little corner dairies and butchers and places like that, Shepherds Park was just being developed. We were really just developing the place at that stage. Lots of earthworks and movement around and lots of building going on but not a lot of high technology. We only just got television sets in the 60s so there wasn’t anything. Nobody had computers or anything like that. Young people had record players and you had virtually to make your own music because all the boys and girls seemed to learn music, the piano, and learnt virtually like they do these days but you had to make your own fun and make your own things to do rather than sit and watch television a lot because there was only television on in the evening and certainly no computers or anything. Play football and do all sorts of other things in your spare time.
Go to scouts and guides.
There weren’t any timber yards, only garages with mechanics that mended the cars. There were a few of those around. Not much in Birkdale.
What were some of the eating habits back then?
Not a lot of McDonalds. No McDonalds in fact.
Have you got McDonalds in Birkenhead?
No only Kentucky Fried Chicken.
There wasn’t so much junk food in those days. We had lunch rooms at the school and I don’t know what sort of things you can buy at your school lunch room at the moment, do you buy your lunch?
No but we had things like filled rolls and chicken, potato chip and marmite rolls and sandwiches and hot soup and apples and carrots and a packet of raisins if you wanted them. Sometimes there would be some sort of a cookie of some sort but not very often. We didn’t, there wasn’t junk food, you couldn’t go and buy potato crisps or anything like that. You could have them in a filled roll if you wanted.