Lateral thinking often circumvented scheme

A thick frost on Warrington Beach was not going to stop Greta Mutch from heading out to catch a...
A thick frost on Warrington Beach was not going to stop Greta Mutch from heading out to catch a few waves last week. Photo: John Leslie
Imagine a government edict now to stop running one of your cars on the same day each week.

I’m sure people were less obsessed with, and tied to, their vehicles when the Muldoon government brought in  its brief and unsuccessful carless days scheme in 1979-80. Today, many families have at least two cars, often three or even more, and so I wonder if the point of such a strategy would be lost.

I’ve been getting some good feedback on what you recall about carless days, getting on for 40 years ago.

Lynne Hill, of Mosgiel, says they had two cars, stickered for different days.

"There was always the possibility that my eldest child would be sick or injured at school and need collecting by car to bring him home or get him to the health centre.

"My preschooler was only 2, and I was pregnant with the third child. I had made up my mind that if car transport was needed for any emergency, I would simply use the car which shouldn’t be on the road, and hope that any medical help I needed would supply me with enough support to get me off a fine.

"I can’t remember what the fine was, but it was definitely an expense which a single-income family did not want. The problem never arose, though the new baby arrived on one of the one-car days.

"I was most relieved when the scheme ended. As I recall, it didn’t save much petrol across the country, and extra stickers for week days had to be printed, the authorities having assumed that most motorists would want carless days at the weekend.

Zosterops lateralis, to call them by a different name for a change, take over a shrub in the...
Zosterops lateralis, to call them by a different name for a change, take over a shrub in the Harwood garden of Ted Fox. "I wired some large pieces of trimmed fat and hung them in a bush. More squabbling than eating,’’ he says. Photo: Ted Fox
"Looking at the number of children who are taken to school by car, and the number of people who need to use cars to get to work because public transport does not go where they need to be, I suspect that such a scheme now would bring parts of the country to a longer standstill than present queues in our large cities."

Terry Lake, of Oamaru, explains the difficulties the scheme brought to young families.

"I had a 10-speed road-bike to go to work on, so was not that bothered about not being able to drive on one day a week. My carless day was Tuesday (I cannot remember what colour sticker I was given to display).

"On Monday October 8, [1979], my wife went into labour with our second child. I drove her to the maternity annex at the old Oamaru Hospital and, as nothing was happening that night, went home and biked to work the next day (Tuesday being my carless day).

"At 1pm the boss came and told me the hospital had rung, things were moving and I had better get going fast. So off I pedalled.

"On the way I met up with a friend and stopped to chat for a while.  After about 15 minutes he asked why I wasn’t at work. I told him my wife was due to give birth soon and he told me, quite succinctly, I had better get going then.

"I struggled up the hill to the annex and arrived just before the doctor (no Call the Midwife here). The doctor in his turn arrived just before the baby — perhaps he had a couple of holes to play at the golf course?

"Mother and son were kept at the annex for the next week and I was to bring them home on the following Tuesday, but this time I was not able to fit us all on the bike.

They breed ’em big on the Peninsula. I’m not sure how this silvereye/wax-eye gets off the ground....
They breed ’em big on the Peninsula. I’m not sure how this silvereye/wax-eye gets off the ground. But he or she is very cute. Photo: Ted Fox
"Luckily my mother-in-law, who was looking after son number one at home, lent me her car which had a different carless day, so I had no problem getting them both home.

"Other than that time, carless days were not a problem."

Lynda Hall has a similar memory.

"I remember that year well. Our first child was due on August 6 and we worked with family so all days of the week were covered!"

Vapour trail

Thank you for all the photos of the amazing contrail generated by the Qantas Boeing 747 flying between Santiago and Sydney on Saturday a bit over a week back.I will try to run a couple of these next week to provide some relief from the flock of bird photos that are now nesting on my desk.

John Oskam writes about his grandson’s vivid imagination.

"My grandson and I saw that Saturday vapour trail but at first look thought it was a meteor and had exploded in the distance.

"Well, actually, that’s what my grandson Greyson wanted to see. ‘Cool’, he said."

I’m sure Greyson will see a meteor one day. And jump out of his skin at the bang they make when they explode in the atmosphere.

Barbers and cable cars

Ross Grimmett tells me we had the spelling of Mornington barber Ted Pitches  spelt incorrectly as "Pitchers". Ted was the man who started a petition when authorities decided to withdraw the cable-car service.

Ross says: "Ted was almost a devotee of the pudding-basin haircut, but a lovely man very much involved with the community. He was an especially keen supporter of the Zingari Richmond rugby club.

"My great-uncle Dave Henderson was gripman on the Maryhill car for years. He was a tall bald man with an impenetrable Scottish accent. He always seemed gruff, especially to children.

"He and his wife Minnie — a professional tartar who also terrified most people — came out from Scotland after 1919 to look after my step-grandfather’s two children.

"His wife had succumbed to the flu. But he soon married my mother’s mother, whose husband had also died in the flu epidemic . . . leaving Minnie out of her surrogate mothering job. No wonder she always seemed bitter."

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