Auckland in the 20s

16:00, Nov 29 2012
Picinc at Waiheke 1925
SUMMER FUN: Lance Rosser, second from left, at a picnic on Waiheke Island in 1925.

A young man's everyday Auckland adventures are coming back to life more than 80 years after his untimely death.

Childhood visits to his grandmother weren't complete for Greg Davies without her pulling out a big old biscuit tin of family photos from the top hall cupboard for them to look over together.

"Once, among the pile of pictures, I found an ancient leather-bound album filled with numerous little snaps of a sepia-toned Christchurch and Auckland," Mr Davies says.

Lance Rosser
THE WRITER: Lance Rosser wrote about his experiences in 1920s Auckland before dying tragically in 1928.

"My grandmother said they belonged to her brother Lance - I didn't even know she had a brother. She told me I could have them if I promised to take care of them. They didn't mean much at the time."

The album and the small hand-written diary that went with it belonged to Lance Rosser who moved to Auckland from Christchurch in 1923 with the hope that a better climate would help with his lung condition.

He was just 19 at the time and the excitement of the growing city prompted him to start a diary.


Greg Davies
EARLY TALES: Greg Davies has turned his great uncle Lance Rosser’s diary of life in 1920s Auckland into a book.

That diary is now the subject of a book put together by Mr Davies.

"It's the story of a young person living a full life in Auckland in the early 1920s. It's all very fascinating," he says.

Mr Rosser lived in a boarding house on Dominion Rd and worked at a grocery store on Grange Rd.

Most of the diary talks about his day trips around Auckland and outings.

He writes about going to the Auckland Zoo in its first year, concerts at the town hall, visiting royals and adventures to the beach.

He also talks a lot about his work.

"I don't think he liked his boss much. It's nothing too scandalous, just interesting."

In the diary Mr Rosser details major events for the city including Dominion Rd being developed and sealed.

From October 1924 he writes about the road being "upside down from one end to the other" and the work being "a great nuisance".

He comforts himself with the thought that "the road will be splendid when finished - one of the best in Auckland".

Mr Rosser died in 1928 at the age of 24 from tuberculosis which he likely contracted at the Dominion Rd boarding house where he lived.

"It's really tragic reading the diary when you know he died so young. He got out there and made the most of his life but you can sort of see the writing is on the wall for him," Mr Davies says.

After getting the diary as a child the Wellington resident stored it away until he was made redundant last year.

"As I got a bit older I got more of an appreciation for the past and I wanted to ensure it wasn't lost. I thought it would be a good time to start working on it."

Originally the book was just going to be for family but Mr Davies says his publisher seemed instantly excited by the project.

"They said there isn't really anything else out there like this. There are a lot of war-time diaries out there but not many that talk about everyday life."

Copies of Feet in Auckland Heart In Christchurch are available at Timeout Bookstore, at 432 Mt Eden Rd, or from the website

Central Leader