In the 59 years that Margaret Christie has lived in Orewa, she has played a key role in organisations as diverse as Centrestage Theatre, St John Ambulance and the Anglican Church in Orewa. Now aged 85, Margaret shows no signs of slowing down. She works tirelessly in her daughter’s florist shop, organises Centrestage’s bi-monthly garage sales and is also sexton of the Silverdale Cemetery, which is adjacent to Holy Trinity Church.
My family lived in Warkworth where my father, George Robertson, was the local policeman until his death in 1949. My parents built a holiday home in Orewa in 1948 and I later moved to Orewa permanently.
My late husband Max was born in Warkworth and moved to Orewa in 1948 where he started his electrical business known as Christie Electrical. He was the first electrician in Orewa and was kept very busy maintaining power lines, as there was no power supply authority in Orewa in those days, and undertaking large and small jobs in the area. He was a pioneer in bringing power to many of the outlying areas in the district.
Max and I were married in Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Silverdale, on March 28, 1953. This was the first marriage held in the church, after it became part of the Orewa parish. Prior to this, it was part of Helensville parish. My daughter Barbara was baptised and married in the same little church, my grandchildren Andrew and Victoria were also baptised in this church and Andrew and his fiancee Annemarie are to be married there in April next year.
I was an active member of St Chads Mothers Union, and participated in church life in general. The Anglican church held an annual dance in the early days and my mother and I were in charge of the catering, which was great fun. Max was sexton of the Silverdale Cemetery and I took over this job after his death 18 months ago. This involves making sure the grounds are kept tidy, allocating plots to families and also assisting people who are looking for family members. Graves date back to the 1800s and very precise records have been kept since this time. The Geneology and Historical Societies often refer to the records and it’s my job now to keep them up to date. Max’s remains lie at rest in a lovely spot in the cemetery, which looks upon the little church he cared about very much, and straight across to Orewa, a town he loved very much.
Max and I had our house built in 1953, and I am still living in the same place today. The population of Orewa was approximately 300 back in those days. There were not many houses in the district, no police station and very few shops. The site where the Council Offices stand was a dense thicket of pine trees where the local children loved to explore, and the Orewa camping ground was much smaller than it is today. My husband had his little electrical shop on the front of our section and it still stands today, many parts of the interior untouched and in its original state. The retail side of the business was later moved to new premises on the main street in Orewa, where is remained for many years selling large and small appliances and kitchenware and gift items. We retired from this 22 years ago.
There has been considerable growth in the area of the past 50 years. It seemed to happen so fast, especially in the 1970s and 80s, with considerable building and in recent years, a lot of infill housing. I don’t like all the subdivided sections. I have been told I could fit three units on my section, but I won’t be selling. I’m afraid they might end up like the 40 leaking apartments I have next door to me. The only good thing about those apartments, is that they provide shelter from the easterly winds.
I began volunteer work at Centrestage Theatre in 1968. I love theatre and it was one of the very few forms of entertainment around here in those days. I started by helping acquire props for the shows. The United players, as they were known then, performed in the old Orewa hall, which is no longer in existence. Things were pretty basic. The kitchen doubled as a dressing room and also a place to store scenery. In those days we had dinner shows and this was a major undertaking as the kitchen was small and the cast assembled there waiting to go on stage. Great things were achieved. I also organised lunches for members, including entertainment. Centrestage theatre was built in 1991 after much fund raising by members, and garage sales are held to help keep the theatre running. Basically I organise the donated goods for the garage sales, including collection. We have three days to set up everything for sale, transforming the Centrestage foyer. Putting things away after the sales is also a big job, but it is worthwhile as it provides much needed income for the theatre. We can raise $600–$1000 each time we have a garage sale. I also work in the front of house, which involves the booking office and organise suppers for the patrons and cast.
About 22 years ago, I started volunteering for the St John Ambulance service in Silverdale. At first I helped with first aid classes, after acquiring a first aid certificate and subsequent home nursing certificate. We had a very strong adult division in those days and many hours were spent at public duties. I later became the treasurer for the area committee, a position I still hold. This involves monthly meetings and quite a lot of paperwork, but I thoroughly enjoy working for such a worthwhile organisation. I was made a Serving Sister of St John a few years ago now. My daughter Barbara was a volunteer ambulance officer for many years, and is chairperson of the local area committee and her son Andrew is a fulltime paramedic and volunteer fire fighter based on the North Shore. It must be in our blood!
I’m a keen gardener and my daughter always loved gardening as well, which is no surprise as she owns Flowers by Joanne in Orewa. I work at the florist shop three days per week, helping to treat the flowers when they arrive from market and serving customers. It reminds me of the days spent in the family business. At busy times, such as Christmas, Valentines and Mothers Day, we transform Max’s old electrical workshop into an extra “flower shop”. I look after the team that treat the flowers and the florists who are busy putting bouquets together. I make sure they are fed and looked after and that all the flowers are processed correctly.
Along the way, I’ve been involved in many community activities. I used to handle all the bookings for the Orewa Community Centre and when Barbara was young I was quite active in Plunket. I orgainised catering for the Miss Hibiscus Coast and Bride of the year, when they were both held at Centrestage.
I was very privileged to have been awarded the Queens Service medal approximately nine years ago, for services to the community. I travelled to Wellington with my family and was invested by the Governor General. It was a great honour, but the reason that I work in the community is because I enjoy it so much.