Two nonagenerians living in a Napier rest home watched the region break into pieces and then heal itself in front of them. Roger Moroney tells their story for the first time.
Joan Murray was seven years old and had missed going to school on February 3, 1931 because she had just got home from hospital after having her tonsils out.
She was sitting in the kitchen of the family house in Mahora when there was a shaking.
She looked at her mother slightly bewildered and her mother shrugged it off.
"Mum said it was just the milk truck going past," Joan said as she recalled the events of the day the Hawke's Bay earthquake struck and changed so many lives and landscapes.
But the shaking worsened and a cabinet by the door collapsed.
Then bottles and jars tumbled and broke and the reality of a disaster unfolding emerged — although Joan said she was more confused than scared.
When the violent shaking eased off and briefly ceased, before the aftershocks stepped in, she and her mother dashed across to the nearby Mahora School.
"The power lines had come down and we didn't know if they were live or not, so we directed the children away from them."
As she recalled that moment she added that the hospital wing she had been housed in during the immediate days after her tonsil operation had crashed down in the earthquake.
The only light moment amidst the destructive darkness was when one of her four brothers arrived home.
"It was his first day of school and he'd lost his brand new cap... he was crying because he thought that would get him in trouble."
One of her friends at Radius Hampton Court in Greenmeadows, and like her a chipper 96-year-old, is Audrey Robinson.
She was at the old Hastings St School when the earthquake struck, and said that like all the other frightened children ended up "rolling down the steps to get out".
"We lived in Station St which wasn't far away but when I got there nobody was at home."
She knew where her dad was — he was in bed on a hospital veranda at the time but luckily escaped the tumbling walls there.
What she didn't know was that her mum was stuck in a damaged telephone box.
"And my brother was in the Tech' building and that was very dangerous."
She is not sure how, but she and her brother and sister, and their mum, were all tracked down and reunited after "somebody took me to Nelson Park where they put up tents".
"Trucks were coming round bringing food and water... we were well looked after," Audrey said, adding that everyone stood together and helped each other.
Although, she said with a frown, some helped themselves.
"A lot of looting went on," she said.
The great presents she and her sister had got at Christmas were among items stolen from their damaged and vacated house.
They stayed in the park for days before being taken to Wellington where they billeted for several months before being able to return home.
"They were very brave to put up with us," Audrey said with a laugh.
"I was too young to gauge just how bad it really was."
And like then, today she is not too rattled when an earthquake emerges.
"You can't do anything about them... just have to go with them."
Joan was not so sure.
"I don't like earthquakes at all — they do frighten me."
As children, both were left stunned by the damage which had been wreaked, but thankfully lost no relatives or friends in the disaster.
"Everything was damaged and there were huge holes in the roads ... you couldn't get to Hastings," Audrey said.
In the aftermath Joan was also taken away, to Palmerston North lodgings where she could continue her schooling.
"It was great to finally get back home though — it was a long time away."
Both could see the long road back to normality would be a long one.
"It was going to take years," Joan said.
There were some bright spots though.
The temporary shopping precinct in Napier dubbed Tin Town was a top spot for many youngsters.
"They had great lollies," Audrey said.
She remembers "all the people working" to rebuild the town of Napier as well as help piece the lives of those badly affected back together again the best they could, and seeing the inner-city landscape today brings back lots of memories.
As do the sights and fashions of the Art Deco era which emerge annually for the great festival, although both laughed and said it was unlikely they would don anything too glamorous for the occasion.
They both saw the rebuilding of their home towns Napier and Hastings, and love the Art Deco landscapes both can now boast.
Joan's favourite in Hastings is the old Municipal Theatre, now the Hawke's Bay Opera House.
And for Audrey it is the old T&G Building at the top of Emerson St, as its dome holds a few colourful memories.
"Dad was a tinsmith and he built the dome on the T&G... I think it was copper in those days."
She went up there several times as she was tasked with taking his lunch sandwiches to him.
"I'd sit up there with my legs dangling over the side while I ate my sandwiches," she said, adding that no, she had no fear of heights.
So, no question where she wanted to visit when she turned 90 six years ago.
"But I didn't dangle my legs over the side that time," she laughed.