Pam Eede, 85, was a founding member of the Sandspit Residents and Ratepayers Association and the first woman Commodore of the Sandspit Yacht Club. Earlier this year, she reluctantly left Sandspit to come to Warkworth. She spoke to James Addis about the community she came to love.
When I left school, I trained as a laboratory technician at Abels in Newmarket – a margarine manufacturer. I was there for about three-and-half-years and was lucky enough to do my training under a very good chief chemist. From there I went to work at the Ruakura Animal Research Station. I was in charge of a small animal colony – dubbed the Rat House – which comprised rats, mice, guinea pigs, rabbits and so forth. Some of the experiments were conducted on these small animals before being attempted on farm animals. I met and married my husband, Ray, who was also on the staff at Ruakura. We spent the first night of our honeymoon at the Warkworth Hotel – the one that has just been renovated. My daughter and son-in-law were later married under the Norfolk pine at the front of the pub, and we had the reception in the dining room.
During our honeymoon we were fishing off the Ti Point Wharf, and met a couple who were farmers in Matakana. We were interested in going farming ourselves, so we got along very well and kept in touch. Sometime later they told us there was this dairy farm coming up for sale on Woodcocks Road that would suit us just nicely. So we bought it and moved in. I suppose that’s how I first came to really start to know the Mahurangi area. Unfortunately, Ray’s back gave up – the usual story with farmers. Ray was lucky enough to get a position with the New Zealand Milk Board in Wellington – responsible for town milk supply throughout New Zealand. Afterwards, we moved to Hamilton and I joined the staff of Hamilton Teacher’s College as a technician in charge of the science department’s laboratories.
Sadly, after 28 years my marriage to Ray came to an end, and I decided to move up north to Sandspit and back into the Mahurangi area. I’d always said that I would like to come back. I bought a section in Kanuka Road, which had an old cottage on it – a dilapidated house that was not liveable. I demolished it and built a new one among the pohutukawa trees. During that time, I worked on the boats going to Kawau Island. I was hostess on the boat Matata. We had uniforms, and we were all very smart and it was a lot of fun. We served morning and afternoon tea and lunch as we cruised all around Kawau. The boat took about 30 people and was nearly always full – running almost every day in summer and perhaps three times a week in winter. It taught me to admire airline hostesses. When people say they have got a cushy job, I always say “no way”, having tried doing the same thing on a boat. I did once accidentally spill coffee all over a passenger. They were not impressed. After a while, you learn to not fill the cups right to the top.
The cottage next door came on the market and I thought it would be ideal for my elderly father, who was living alone in Russell. I went out and bought it without telling him, then had the tricky job of persuading him that it was time he moved to be closer to me. He ummed and ahhed and insisted he did not want to shift. In the end he said he would come on one condition: “I will put my cat and dog in the car and my clothes and you can move everything else.” So he came. He was in his eighties at the time and continued to remain active and look after himself until he passed away at 93.
A few of us on Kanuka Road were keen to beautify the Sandspit area and decided we ought to have a residents and ratepayers association. I was one of the founding members about 36 years ago and served two terms as president. We were responsible for the children’s playground, opposite the Sandspit Holiday Park, and the pathway that runs from the playground down to the wharf. I had money from Rodney District Council and we raised some more from local residents who also volunteered their labour. I remember going down there the day the contractors came. I said I don’t want just a straight path – that’s uninteresting. I want something with bends in it. Consequently, if you go down there now you will see the bends and that was my doing. We were responsible for getting the boardwalk over the estuary, too. When that was first done there were no sides on it. But more recently the health and safety people became concerned and insisted it had wooden sides all the way down. I think that’s a shame. It was nice to walk along it without being closed in. To my knowledge, nobody ever fell in the water.
Sheepworld opened in the mid-1980s, and I left the ferry company to work in their wool shop. In those days we used to have a tremendous number of tourists coming through – it was just the right distance from Auckland to make it the perfect stop for morning teas. It was nothing to have five or six coaches lined up outside. I also became publicity officer for the Sandspit Yacht Club. My background in sailing goes back a long way. It started when my husband and I won an aluminium dinghy with an outboard in a Lions Club raffle. We were still living in Hamilton at the time, so we used to zoom up and down the Waikato River. Eventually my husband wanted something bigger and bought a trailer yacht. When I came back up to Mahurangi a number of friends were boaties and I loved going out on the water with them. I’ve been up and down to the Bay of Islands many times. Much later, I went in to a partnership to buy a Lidgard Demon 10, which we often sailed to Kawau Island.
I was heavily involved in the yacht club during the construction of their club building and rose to become vice-commodore and, finally Commodore in 2001 – the first woman to do so. Nobody objected to a woman – I guess they felt there was nobody else. I was Commodore when the Sandspit Marina was first mooted. It was very controversial and I was against it at first. Not against it in principle, but I worried about the division that it would bring. In fact there is still a lot of bad feeling around among some older people. But in the end, I was proven wrong. The marina has proved to be a great asset to the Sandspit community.
If I wasn’t hard at work at the yacht club, I continued to be very active with the Sandspit Residents and Ratepayers Association. I’ve organised the SRRA Christmas barbecue for more than 20 years, which traditionally has always been the first Sunday in December. Father Christmas used to turn up on a ride-on lawnmower and hand out lollies for the kids, and we’d invite local representatives on Council. I enjoy organising – I don’t know what drives me to do that, I suppose I am a people person. Every organisation I’ve belonged to I’ve enjoyed being the one to organise social functions.
Eventually age catches up with you. My house in Sandspit needed quite a bit doing to it and the garden was getting a bit too much for me. I hate to see the gardens not looked after properly and my family kept saying to me, “Time for you to move before you have to”. I put the house on the market this year and got a very good price. At the moment, I’m living in a flat in the basement of my daughter’s house in Omaha, but soon I will move to one of six units my son is building in Warkworth.
I’ll miss Sandspit – there’s lots of lovely people there. It’s a changing population of course – not so many young children or teenagers there now. It will be a different world for me in Warkworth, but I’ll stay active. I’m a member of the Mahurangi Friendship Club – formerly Probus – and also a member of Rebus. I plan to continue volunteering at the Hospice Shop in Warkworth for a day or two a week. And I’m sure I’ll pop in for a drink now and again at one of the yacht club’s Thirsty Thursdays.