For those under the age of 35 it may be hard to believe, but there was once a New Zealand devoid of McDonald's and KFC – and no such thing as a hamburger.

Kentucky Fried Chicken (now KFC) came to Hastings around 1974. When queues stretched around past the service station in Stortford Lodge at its opening, this made front-page news in the Hawke's Bay Herald Tribune (now Hawke's Bay Today).
Before the days of our American fast food giants – which are now well and truly at home on these shores, options for non-restaurant or takeaway food was quite limited.

There was, of course, the humble fish 'n' chip shop, and at a pie cart or diner - the trusty meat pie.

Six o'clock closing of public bars from 1917 to 1967 meant men who had consumed quantities of alcohol wanted sustenance after 6pm – and something faster than waiting for a fish 'n' chips order. And the pie cart and later street diners met this need.
In 1949, two Napier men, Keith Crabtree and Ray Single, purchased an old pie cart which was parked at Dickens St at nights.


The main meal was pie, pea and pud – which layered on top of a pie, peas and mashed potatoes – and even an egg might be added.

The pie cart had a curtain which was put up around the outside, so diners sat inside the curtain on a stool next to the serving counter.
Keith's son Wayne worked in the old pie cart part-time and recalled selling Wellington's Sports Post out the window on Sunday afternoons.
Keith and his wife Grace bought out Ray Single around 1953/54 and made plans to build a new diner.

Andy Dykes & Sons in Hastings St in 1955 built the diner, using alloy for the main frame.

A flat-deck Ford truck was used to shift the diner from Monroe to Dickens St daily. The old pie cart was sold and used in Bay View as a bach.
With hundreds of pies sold every evening, Keith had established a bakery in Wellesley Rd and later in Hastings St to keep the pie cart and then the diner supplied.

Keith's claim to fame was that he was the first to introduce in the late 1950s a food item to Hawke's Bay in the diner called the hamburger.
Keith's son Ron took over the diner in the early 1960s, after Keith established a coffee bar called the Four Winds and then later a restaurant in Clive Square East in 1966 called the Chef's Bar.

Around this time the diner became permanently parked just off the road in Dickens St.
Another son, Kevin, took over the diner when Ron left to work at the Chef's Bar in 1966 until 1971. Then the diner was leased by the Crabtrees and taken to Railway Rd, Hastings, opposite the police station - where it spent its remaining days.

Around 1989/90 the diner was damaged and towed back to Napier where an insurance company paid out the Crabtrees and took ownership.

The insurance company sold the diner, which was to have a similar fate to the original pie cart – as a bach at a Hawke's Bay beach.
• Michael Fowler ( is a freelance writer, contract researcher and speaker of Hawke's Bay's history.