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An unknown old boy talks about games before the harbour bridge

When the good old Ferry days were in vogue, literally any­ thing connected with the 'city' was generally prescribed by 'Ferry Time'. By and large, we could not rely on our watch or GMT to catch the ferry at the appointed time. No. The old clock in the Ferry Buildings was the criteria, and by heck, the ferry boats sailed accordingly.

Yes, this also regulated our rugby, particularly transport to and from the city.

Do you remember the vehicular ferry queues at Birkenhead and Beaumont Street, City?

Do you remember some of the frolics in the after match vehicle queues and also some of the action on the ferries back to the North Shore?

Our recollections may be a little dim, so allow the pen to refresh the memory. Getting to the city matches, one either caught the passenger or the vehicular ferry, or travelled around the harbour head.

Should a match be scheduled at Eden Park for 1.30, then we had to join the vehicle queue at Birkenhead by say 11.30 to 12 noon. Yes, time consuming. But remember life was not so hectic then either.

We did not have TV, not all of us had cars, and the Pubs opened from 9 to 6. The vehicle queue was a time for reading or chatting with your mates. The passenger ferry offered similar relaxation. The fairer sex sometimes accompanied us, but really a rugby 'trip' to the city was in many ways, an all day effort, and so many times 'Mary' or 'Jane' declined the male invitation.

Then to the place and game itself. Apart from North Shore derbies, most of Cote's matches were played on the Eden Park No. 3 'home ground'. Remember there were not as many suburban fields as of today.

There have been rule changes since, and how those legislators (many with not much playing experience) have tampered with the rule book mainly it may be said, to try and cancel out the NZ style of hard forward play, and close mark tackling.

But the playing concept has not altered. All the modern talk of fiery play and injuries. My, my! Our rugby pre-bridge style was just as fiery, and the injuries were as bad. Now more people are playing, and perhaps the news media is a little more conscious of events.

And after the match. There were not the palatial head- quarters which now grace many clubs. Generally, it was a beer in some draughty 'tin' shed. The alternative was an arrangement with a friendly publican to gather in some hotel cellar.

Remember the Prince Arthur and thine host Robie Moorhead. The nine gallon was devoured with some gusto, and quite often we had time for another, before Robie decided we had better leave - generally well after the 6pm closing.

Such gatherings were always male only. The ladies who were brave enough to accompany their menfolk on the day, were forced to 'sit it out' in the cars outside. Can you imagine that happening now - not on your 'sweet nelly'. We were so 'barbarious' then. The feminine activists of today would have had a picnic!

And so back to the North Shore. Getting home was fun, whether it was by the passenger and vehicular ferries, or the late night head of the harbour trek after the last ferry for the day.

The vehicular ferry queue was quite a 'social' occasion, particularly if the ferry was behind schedule or the traffic heavy. Many a dozen did not reach home; nor the party for which it was intended.

Many the occasion centered on the like of Arthur Back-House Smith and his ukulele, or was highlighted by Norm MacLeod and his rendition of Shenandoah.

If the weather was fine, parties moved from car to car with the usual honking. When the rain fell, well everyone still got wet, or else the windscreens fogged up.

On the vehicular ferry, there was only one toilet - generally full (oh what the hell, where is that side! The sea air was far more embracing, particularly if the salt spray was in the right direction.

But what of the passenger ferry - this like the vehicular, sailed with no regard for weather. But if it was raining well never mind, one generally managed to get wet inside anyway.

Wet or dry, there was one redeeming feature of those days. Your dollar or should we say, your pound, bought a lot more beer per pay packet than of now. Fancy over the var, a jug or bottle at 25 cents, and by the glass, 5, 7 or 9 oz all the same price at 5 cents.

But back to the passenger ferry. There were some club members, who were firmly convinced the affairs of NBRFC were conducted by the funnel committee of the morning 7.15 to town, or the 5.15 back at night. If the business of our club was so managed, what of it. The affairs of State are often conducted behind closed doors - so what is the difference.

Oh yes, the passenger ferry. Time for fun or a quiet snooze if the night was late.

There was the time when Bill Henson endeavored to catch the grand old lady 'Kestrel' back to Northcote, after an all day venture to the south. Typically he arrived with his dozen, late, just as the ferry was pulling out. Late? Yes, remember the 'ferry clock'. There was only one decision. Jump aboard and join the team in the stern: but first the dozen. That was thrown across the ever widening gap and caught deftly by one Jim Pope. The gap? Too wide to follow. The dozen? That was not seen or heard of again. Jim and the team apparently laughed all the way to Northcote.

Yes the old ferry was relaxing - particularly late at night. Ask Colin McKnight. It is said, that sometimes he awoke in the grey hours of a Sunday morning, still aboard, shivering, to find the ferry tied up at Birkenhead. Of course, by then, Colin would be alone with no friends.

Then one Queen's Birthday weekend 1959, our way of life on the 'Shore' was rudely shattered. Who and what was to blame - the Harbour Bridge of course. With the Bridge opening, our best excuse to be late home had disappeared in the cutting of a ribbon. Suburbia had arrived with the Bridge, and no longer could we say to our ladies, 'blame it on the ferry'. How dare progress interfere with our way of life.

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