Farewell to familiar faces after 26 years of parking

After 26 years working as a car park attendant, Joan Howell can dispel the notion that car parks are just like men.

"I don’t think so. The good ones aren’t all taken and the rest are not too small — at least, not in this car park," she joked.

The 73-year-old and her husband Maurice (72) have owned City-Wide Services Ltd and have had the contract to manage the Centre City New World car park for the past 27 years.

During the past 26 years, Mrs Howell has been the friendly face behind the window in the parking booth.

But as of Monday, Wilson Parking will take over the contract for the car park.

Mrs Howell said the booth had been the scene of a lot of "trauma" over the years, from break-ins, thefts, threats and vandalism, and was also the place where she had a stroke while working.

On that day, she felt unwell and phoned her husband who identified she was having a stroke.

After she was rushed to hospital, the diagnosis was confirmed.

Joan Howell works the parking booth at  Centre City New World  for the last time. Photo: Gerard O...
Joan Howell works the parking booth at Centre City New World for the last time. Photo: Gerard O'Brien
She said she was lucky to recover with minimal ongoing effects.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the job was the contact and the rapport she had established with mothers and young children.

Some children visiting the car park would fight over who got to hand the parking ticket over because Mrs Howell would often give sweets to them.

She said it was interesting to see the young children grow up and have children of their own.

Now that she has officially retired, she said it was the people that she would miss most.

"I’m sad because all the people I have met — and they still come through — I’ll miss them. I always get a friendly wave."

She said sometimes drivers handed her a packet of biscuits through the window, which she appreciated when it came time for her cups of tea.

Mr and Mrs Howell said they were looking forward to a quieter life, and planned to travel more extensively.

Tomorrow, the entry barrier arms and the manned booth will disappear and will be replaced by a foot patrol service.

The 90-minute free parking service will continue.

john.lewis@odt.co.nz

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