Dear Hamilton...

Last updated 05:00 30/08/2014
helen clark
Fairfax NZ

Hamilton was the birthplace of former Prime Minister Helen Clark; in her rural childhood, it provided her with city services such as an orthodontist (and braces), and later it was the venue for countless political meetings.

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I was born in the city in 1950, in the Campbell Johnstone maternity wing of Waikato Hospital, one of the baby boomer generation. My next time there wasn't quite so fortunate: I was admitted to the hospital in 1956 with a collapsed lung and pneumonia, and went home with chickenpox contracted from the boy in the next bed!

For us in Te Pahu around 30 kilometres away, where I grew up, Hamilton was the main urban centre. We did not travel in often - usually a trip to town, as we called it, was associated with a visit to the dental clinic at Frankton School, or, later, to the orthodontist to have the braces on my teeth fitted or tightened.

A highlight, however, was to visit the Claudelands Showgrounds for the Waikato Winter Show to see the exhibits, go around the fun fair, and ride on the ghost train. Pleasures were much simpler in the 1950s and 1960s!

Hamilton was the place where my parents came to see their lawyer, doctor and accountant, and to buy groceries and other essential supplies. As children, we would often wait what seemed like hours in the parking place behind a farmers' co-operative store while Mum and Dad stocked up.

Of many memories of Hamilton in those days, one in particular stands out. The bus stop for Whatawhata and other rural districts was on the corner of the oddly named Garden Place - with no garden in sight, but rather rows of parking meters and cars. On benches at the bus stop sat elderly ladies with moko -hardly a common sight today.

Over the years I've visited Hamilton many, many times in official and campaign capacities. I've addressed countless meetings large and small, visited the hospital, the university, many schools and early childhood facilities, community organisations, and businesses, and performed opening ceremonies.

On the main street, a large Housing Corporation of New Zealand building was prominent, with the initials HC blazened on it. The late David Lange used to joke that this was my handiwork.

I have many positive memories of Hamilton, and wish her a very happy 150th

Helen Clark

Former Prime Minister of New Zealand, 1999-2008.

Welsh rugby team coach Warren Gatland was recently awarded the honorary title of Ambassador of Hamilton.

This is one of your favourite sons, or so I've been touted as! I have so many things to be thankful for and I owe a lot of this to you, the City of Hamilton and the greater Waikato, for making my upbringing, education and sporting career a wonderful journey.

I remember playing rugby at Claudelands on frosty mornings in my bare feet wearing the black and white jersey of Eastern Suburbs. All the young Waikato lads were doing the same.

We would ride our bikes up and down our street and play safely in our neighbourhood. It was a very family orientated town then and has developed nicely into a city with the same emphasis on community and friendliness. 

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Having lived overseas for several years and raised my children in a couple of countries, it is great to come home to New Zealand and see that the Kiwi way of life is alive and well, especially in Hamilton.

We have some of the best schools in the country, the best sporting facilities and a thriving farming and horseracing industry and all within easy driving of each other. When locals talk of traffic problems, though, I have to laugh. You haven't experienced traffic until you've taken 30 minutes to drive two kilometres to drop the kids to school in London! This might sound funny, but Hamilton is a small big city.I love that I spent my early summers on the west coast beach of Raglan and now spend my breaks at Waihi Beach on the East Coast. Still all only 45 minutes one way and one hour 15 minutes the other.

I travel a lot and Auckland airport is now only one hour 20 minutes away and soon to be even closer when the expressway is completed. It's nice having Auckland on our doorstep but not having to live there!

You have done well, Hamilton, by keeping the green belt through the middle of the city. I'm referring to the Te Rapa Racecourse in the North, down past the Waikato Stadium and Seddon Park, then on to the lake and finishing at the beautiful Hamilton Gardens. All with the mighty Waikato River meandering through it.

I'm lucky enough to live on the magnificent Waikato River and have spent many relaxing hours further upstream on the banks of Lake Karapiro. I usually see the river when it's in a gentle mood and the rowers are gliding past, but I've also seen it surging past carrying fallen trees and breaching its banks. The intrepid kayakers battle upstream and I admire their bravery.

Hamilton has the most supportive and passionate people in the country and not just in sports. There are several really good Waikato families who are putting their hard-earned money back into the city of Hamilton and wider Waikato community. It is much appreciated.

My background is in sport, but I love hearing what other Hamilton and greater Waikato people are doing both nationally and internationally, sporting, culturally and educationally.My best memories are going to the old Rugby Park when Waikato was playing and the stand and terraces were full to capacity.

I loved being a spectator and then a player on that ground. Often substituted for Mooloo bells were Waikato cans being banged together or filled with stones and shaken like crazy. The Mooloo bells tradition  must continue.

I even have some outdoor furniture at the beach made out of the original terraces when they were dismantled. We call it 'Mooloolabar'. A great spot for a beer at the end of a beautiful summer's day looking out to Mayor Island.

I'll sign off now, Hamilton, but just want you to know that no matter where I go in the world, I nearly always see a Waikato jersey and can't stop myself winding down the window and screaming out, ''Go Waikato'' much to my children's dismay!

All my best wishes.

The Hamilton Boys' High School headmaster Susan Hassall has spent more than half her life in the city.

Thirty-five years ago, I moved from Auckland as a new graduate, to make this city my home and to begin my career as a secondary school teacher of English. My first position was at Hamilton Boys' High School.

All of these years later, I am still at the school, still a part of Hamilton. 

I love the city, I love the school and I love my life.  And I recognise the very clear truth that it is you, the City of Hamilton, which I must thank for the joys of my world, for the happiness that I have felt and have shared, for more than half of my lifetime. 

They are years in which I have experienced the rewards of teaching, the privilege of becoming the headmaster of a very special school, the delights of marriage and family, and the pleasure of meeting and sharing the years with so many wonderful friends. 

My life in Hamilton is inextricably linked to the life and world of Hamilton Boys' High School, a school that has been a part of the growth and development of this city for more than a century. 

It is a world of boys, whose lives I share for five special years, until they leave the school as wonderful young men, beginning their adult lives ready to be a part of your future success as the city. 

It is this, their shared time in my world, for which I am most grateful; it has been a privilege to receive this gift from the family of each graduate of our school, the gift of the opportunity to experience these years together. Thousands of unique and special young men have begun their adult lives at Hamilton Boys' High School; it is their successes, their triumphs, their fulfilment of their individual and combined hopes and aspirations, which are Hamilton's strength and future. There have been so many special times through my years as a Hamiltonian. 

I have been fortunate to be headmaster of Hamilton Boys' High School for 15 years. In my role, I am supported and helped by our Old Boys who have become friends, by our families who give so much to the school, by the boys  who care for our world, who care for each other, and who take such genuine pride in their world. And I am supported by you, Hamilton, our city.

Why am I grateful for the life I have spent? Each year I welcome a new group of Year 9 students to our school family. And I say to the group , with genuine sincerity, that meeting them, and welcoming their families, is for me just like opening a Christmas gift - each time is just as special, just as wondrous, as the first. I cherish each new generation, because it brings added joy and added hope to our world, to our school, and brings fulfilment to my life and to the city.

When I consider what, for me, is a special moment in my life in Hamilton, I recognise a simple truth. For me, the reason I have remained here, as a part of our community, is that every moment is special. Every year is as special as the first. Hamilton has changed, grown, improved, and come of age, but it is still a place I am proud to call my world. And for that, Hamilton, I thank you.

Mark Houlahan is a senior lecturer in the English department at Waikato University, an expert on Shakespeare and a stalwart of the city's arts community.

Oh Hamiltron, how shall I love thee? Let me count the ways (but first let me acknowledge the quote from Elizabeth Barrett Browning).

I loved you first in the late 1960s, when the family Christmas was a tent on a lawn in Bankwood Road, with cousins, aunts and uncles from Marton, Reporoa, and Australia. This was sit-down retro Christmas to the max: Nana's boiled pudding with the sixpences, carefully hoarded after the change to decimal currency in 1967. For a long time I kept mine.

Through the 1970s and 1980s I loved Te Rapa races. Raceday always justified a day off school. There was a Royal Race meeting in 1977 and several Waikato Cups. Bigger crowds, then, but I still love the racetrack, one of the best in the country. The long wide straight and so many swooping finishes down the outside.

I love Te Rapa most on a slow race day. Small crowds. Sit where you like. Bet when you please, or not at all. Almost empty, a little sad, but it makes me serene.

Since the 1990s, when I moved to the Tron for work, I've loved it in new ways. I love it that the term Tron is now in wide circulation, years after being invented by Greg Page and Dean Ballinger on student radio. They are two of the cleverest Hamiltonians you could ever meet.

I love the energy of Hamiltonians. Dawn Shakespeare? Just do it - sounds bonkers, yet hundreds come! Robot band? Just build it. If you want to paint or draw, sing or dance, run your own letter press (printing and inking by hand), well, you can. People do - check them out.

Walk on stilts or run for Parliament. Get on with it.

I love it, too, that so much of this is beyond the view of outsiders. Speeding through the Tron on increasingly excellent expressways, they still see sleepy town. Well, let them. If they stopped on a bridge (can't we be bridge city?) they'd see our lovely river paths or find the fantastical gardens. They would find the people of the Tron, having a great time.

- Waikato Times

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