A person who had significant influence on me was my 1980 sixth-form English teacher at Havelock North High School, Patricia Frykberg.

Patricia, her husband Doug, and children Margaret and Eric left Cape Town, South Africa, in October 1953 aboard the Dominion Monarch to settle in New Zealand.

Two more children, Susan and Kate, would be born in New Zealand.

While the arrival of South Africans to live in this country is now commonplace, it wasn't so in the early 1950s.


It is now 64 years since Patricia and her late husband Doug, both teachers, arrived in New Zealand.

Patricia, who is in her 93rd year, has this week published a book called Many A Golden Afternoon which details her family life in New Zealand.

While books of this nature can have content probably of interest only to immediate families, not so this one. Being written by an English teacher, who has a remarkable memory and a love of history, means the narrative is amusing, lively and interesting.

The Frykbergs' story begins with the ocean voyage, from Cape Town and the quaintness of her family's experiences is amusing in an age before the world wide web.

On the sighting of land on November 20, 1953, the family heard, "Look, you can see both the North Island and South Island."

"Which is New Zealand, we ask?"

"All one, mate. All one. Three islands in one," was the loud reply from a man nearby.

Patricia writes, "Had we realised New Zealand was three islands? No. It didn't say anything about that in our geography books."

The family remarked the country looked so green.

"You gotta see Tarra-nackie. That's green for you."

"What's Tarra-nackie, we ask?"

Similar to New Zealand today, there was a housing shortage, and on Doug Frykberg securing a job at Hastings High School, the family bought a caravan as temporary shelter while they would look for a house.

They left the Lower Hutt camping ground and headed for Windsor Park Camping Hastings, with the caravan pulled by a Chevrolet.

Patricia's experiences of camping grounds, and cultural differences make for hilarious reading, although at the expense of herself.

Doug would not start his job until the new year, so he worked at Wattie's over Christmas as a packer.

The Frykbergs were told after Christmas it was illegal for them to stay at Windsor Park as Doug was a working man!

Fortunately, they were offered a place at a country residence to park the caravan, complete with a "loo" and shower facilities in the backyard.

Those who enjoy nostalgic reflection will relish these recollections.

Roach's, Westerman's, Bon Marche - all past large family-owned retail stores get a mention.

She recalls at one point that women had to pay to use a toilet at the Women's Rest in Russell St, while men had their own toilets across the railway line, which they could use free. A protest saw the women's toilets become free to use.

As with many immigrants, Patricia had no idea what many sayings meant, such as "I've got my golden queens. I'll get them done tonight."

Patricia would timidly ask "What's a golden queen and what on earth do you DO to them?"

The Frybergs eventually settled and built in Pufflet Rd, Havelock North, and there are some lovely photos of a largely unspoilt landscape towards the Peak.

A long-term Havelock North resident, she has many recollections of life in "the village" in the 1950s.

She recalls the legendary blacksmith Bob Given, in Middle Rd, and encounters with notable residents such as Joe Nimon, of Nimon's buses, and George Nelson, whose property became Keirunga Gardens.

Patricia would teach at Woodford College, then Hastings Girls' High, and her last job was at the newly opened Havelock North High School in 1975, where she was senior mistress - which in today's terms means assistant principal. Patricia retired at the end of 1980.

I was fortunate to be in her English class, where I was taught to think and question and come up with my own interpretations, which I believe helped me later in life immeasurably.

I never imagined she would make Shakespeare's Hamlet so interesting.

Many a Golden Afternoon is for those who have an interest in social and local history, and particularly for those who have settled here and can relate to the strangeness of it all.

It is extremely well-written, and at $25 wonderful value for the treasures it contains within its 190 pages.

The book can be ordered from Patricia at patricifrykberg@gmail.com for a cost of $25 and picked up at Summerset Village, Te Mata Rd, Havelock North.

• Michael Fowler (mfhistory@gmail.com) is an EIT accounting lecturer, and in his spare time a recorder of Hawke's Bay's history.