Memories flood back from calendar photograph

ISOBEL EWING
Last updated 05:00 22/02/2014
Bill and Joan Loader
MEMORY LANE: Bill and Joan Loader recall events from 1935, sparked by a photo published in this year’s Daily News calendar.

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Bill and Joan Loader share a lifetime of memories - including the day in 1935 when floodwaters surged through New Plymouth's main street.

"We were 50 yards away from each other not knowing that one day we'd be married for 60 years," Mr Loader said.

He wrote a letter to the editor when he recognised a photograph of Devon St in 1935 showing New Plymouth CBD in flood, which was featured in the 2014 Taranaki Daily News calendar.

Mr Loader, 86, wasn't sure why he'd received the free calendar but thought it might have something to do with his loyalty to the paper.

"I've probably been a customer for about 70 years."

In February 1935 Taranaki was in the grip of drought when the deluge struck and a rising spring tide met with Huatoki and Mangaotuku Streams resulting in major flooding in the city centre.

A 6-year-old Bill was on his way to the dental clinic for the compulsory check-up for students on their first day of school on the flood day.

The tram from Moturoa had to stop just below the cenotaph where two lifesavers took Bill and another young boy along to Egmont St.

"The water was gushing that savage they picked us up and carried us.

"Outside the Opera House (now TSB Showplace) they put us in a boat and rowed down the main street of New Plymouth until we got to dry ground."

At the old Woolworths where Huatoki Plaza now stands, goods were drifting off the shelves, he said. "It washed all the toys into the street.

"Stuff was floating all over the place.

"We didn't get any of it though."

The surf life saving champs were on at the time and competitors were diving off the old Royal Hotel (now Icons) at the corner of Brougham and Gill streets.

Mrs Loader, then aged 5, ventured into the flooded streets with her sister who had to be pulled out of a drain grate.

"She slipped through and they couldn't get her out because she was a bit chubby.

"We were naughty girls, we weren't supposed to leave home."

Mr and Mrs Loader met some years later when Bill was riding his bike with a delivery of meat from the butchers he was working for and Joan on her delivery run as a telegram girl.

"Joan had come off her bike and it was stuck."

He freed her bike and finished his meat delivery with grease all over his hands.

The next week he met her at a dance.

Much had changed in the couple's time in New Plymouth, and not all for the better, Mrs Loader said.

Ngamotu Beach used to draw crowds from across the province, she said.

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"As many as 4 or 5 trains from all over Taranaki would be lined up with about 10 carriages each and people would pile out onto the beach.

"It's an industrial area now, but it was a beautiful spot."

Mr Loader recalled days when fishing boats filled the harbour and you were able to go down to the wharf to buy fresh snapper.

The couple have celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary and are soon to arrive at their platinum.

- Taranaki Daily News

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