Musical Reminder

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs


A trip to the big smoke resulted in musical memories.

Submitted: September 16, 2018

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Submitted: September 16, 2018

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The other morning I heard a song that took me back to January 25 1964. Remembering dates is not all that important to me, and I forget more than I remember, which can be embarrassing at times. I have no idea why January 25 1964 sticks but it does.

There were six of us, all Canterbury lads, and some would even say ‘Canterbury’s finest’, mind you, there were only six who ever said that! We were based at Tuatapere, measuring the merchantable volume of indigenous trees because, tut, tut, those beautiful trees were going to be milled. That was then and they were the values of the time, but I have to say, I saw rare and endangered birds almost every day! Any wonder they are now rarer and more endangered! Anyway, Tuatapere was idyllic at the time for us because as young hard-up trainees we could pretty much live off the land; hunting, fishing, collecting shellfish and bartering what we caught for other food supplies.

The big smoke, Invercargill was just over an hour’s drive away, but most of the time, none of us had a particular urge to go there. I had the only vehicle among us and because on that day, there were a couple of our number who wanted to go to Invercargill, they all piled into my little Commer Cob. I called a stationwagon, but it hardly qualified with two bucket seats and no seats in the rear. We were a remarkably democratic bunch when deciding what to do at weekends, and I don’t remember any dissention. We had decided on an early start, because there would be a lot of traffic heading to the same spot.

We were heading for the Teretonga Raceway Park to watch car racing; the 1964 Tasman Series, described as an international motor racing series contested over eight races in New Zealand and Australia. The championship was open to cars using unsupercharged engines of under two and a half litre capacity. I think the programme said it was the seventh time the series was held.

I have to confess that I’m not much of a petrol-head but did go to The Lady Wigram version of the series in Christchurch the year before. I took a petrol-head mate to see it but became bored after the first couple of races and wanted to leave, but my vehicle was hemmed in, so I sat through the whole thing. There were significant guys racing at Teretonga this day, pretty much the same guys that were racing at Lady Wigram, but I didn’t apprciate the significance. I should have paid more attention. Of the overseas drivers there were: Graham Hill, John Sutrees and Jack Brabham and there were the Kiwis, some of them who turned out to be ledgends in their own right: Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme, and Chris Amon. These guys were important to followers of motor racing, but the only one of interest to me was Denny Hulme, who they claimed could divine water and minerals, even gold! I would’ve enjoyed a chat with him!

The traffic was thick and the carpark was dusty. Invercargill is the country’s southernmost city, if you like the closest to the South Pole, with the obvious reputation. It didn’t turn out that way, the day of the race. The sky was clear and blue with the sun looming large, the temperature was rising by the minute. As the day wore on, it became stinking hot and I wasn’t particularly excited about the cars whizzing round and round, and the loudspeakers roaring! The changing of leaves to their autumn colours would have been a more interesting watch. Two of my mates wanted to stay, and three wanted to join me in taking in the sights of merry Invercargill. So we split up.

Back then there was no Saturday shopping anywhere in the country, except in Brighton, Christchurch, so the town centre of Invercargill very quiet, perhaps because of the heat, or the car racing. I drove up and down the broad streets but there was nothing going on, so someone suggested we would cool down in a movie theatre where we might at least buy an ice cream. There were a few cars outside the Civic theatre, so we decided to park up and hoped there was a good movie showing. To our surprise it was a live show matinee.

There were photos of the performers plastered around the foyer, and one of them was a group of young guys with guitars and beneath them it said they were ‘The Beach Boys’! Of course we listened to The Lever Hit Parade on our radios, electric radios, we all had our own, but none of us knew what any of the singers looked like. The latest Beach Boys number was Be True to Your School, which was being pipped for top spot on the hit parade by The Beatles, I Want to Hold Your Hand. The show we were about to witness was called ‘Surfside ’64’.

By pure luck we saw some iconic performers of the time, we didn’t realise just how fortunate we were! The performers were: Roy Orbison, The Beach Boys, The Surfaris and Paul and Paula. Thinking back, the amazing thing was that the theatre was only about half full! I bought a programme, which sadly is long gone, but I recall it said how Roy Orbison had a remarkable octave range, which was a bit over my head. So the four of us bopped along with the young performers and we enjoyed our afternoon. All thoughts of the day’s heat were gone.

Sparked by the memory on the radio, I found them all on YouTube and enjoyed a little nostalgia.  Oh, the song that started this? Hey Paula, by Paul and Paula. Paula was the only female in the whole show and their song is a sweet one for the romantics.


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