I was thinking back to my initial visit to Queenstown recently. Then I was about 21 years of age, my father had arranged a holiday for me staying up there with the Strain Family who he was friendly with, they were also both in the Movie Theatre business. The Strain homestead was then situated on the shores of Lake Hayes. This would be in 1946. John their only son and I got along well, he soon introduced me to all the local hunting, legal, and some that wasn’t, but all available right from their front door. They farmed the western side of the Lake. While there, we made the occasional visits to Queenstown for stores. Queenstown then was still a small village in every respect, coming to life during the Holiday seasons, and during these periods it was bulging at the seams, but for only about three or four weeks. After this annual surge, it quickly reverted back to sleepy hollow. Apart from small increases in Easter, and School Holidays nothing changed. The ski industry was still in it’s infancy, apart from a few enthusiastic folk who lived close to hand, they had rigged basic rope tows, or did it all on foot.


Several factors contributed to the town being in this neglected state, there was no direct rail access, as well, all the roads then were very bad, potholed, and only gravel, none were sealed at that time. It could take a day to drive from Dunedin to Queenstown, or if you decided to travel by rail, this was also a day’s journey, and you had to finish the final twenty kilometres by the steamer ‘Earnslaw’ as there was no road access between Kingstown and Queenstown. I had enjoyed my initial visit so much I was anxious to have a repeat Holiday. So next Christmas and with companions Mick, and Herbie Ives, who were lucky enough to have relations in the area (A brother in law who was the captain of the Earnslaw, no less) we assembled all the camping gear required for a camping holiday, and set off for the Lake Wakatipu. Train to Dunedin, change for the train to the South, change train again to connect with the Kingston Flyer, which would then take us to the Southern edge of Wakatipu. Then finally by steamer. So on arrival at Kingstown we lugged all our gear to the wharf, boarding the Earnslaw, at last we would soon be safely ensconced on a camping site in the Queenstown Camping Ground. This was not to be, as we were turned away at the gate by the proprietor as potential trouble makers. He didn’t realise the danger he was in by being so belligerent. Herbie had been recently released from a three year stint in a German Prison camp. He was having a lot of trouble readjusting to civilian life again. As well, he was very anti authority, liable to lash out if he got upset, or ordered around. On this occasion he excepted the rebuff quietly and we decided to move on, only stopping as luck would have it, at the Butchers Shop in Rees Street to buy some steak for dinner. We were relating our appalling treatment by the local ‘Camp Commandant’, handed out to young Returned Soldiers. The Butcher, a Mr Davidson whose family are still resident in the area, suggested we camp in his ‘Butchers Paddock’ on the outskirts of the town, which is now the present site of the Terraces Hotel. He immediately restored our faith in the kindness of our fellow man. We enjoyed a wonderful holiday camped in his paddock where we enjoyed a constant stream of visitors to our nightly barbecue, completely free of the policing of ‘Hitler’s’ regime that prevailed at the Borough Camp


We had a wonderful holiday which was helped in no small way by fine weather. It was a step back into the past I can remember a visit to a dance at the Lower Shotover Hall where the only light was by kerosene lamps. I promised myself that I would return again one day, but never envisaged that it would be sooner rather than later and as a Bank Manager. When I arrived to live with my family, Mount Cook were busy developing the Air Port and a new Ski Field. Also some DC3’s were being pressed into service after being purchased from the Air Force as surplus as well the Air Port was under going the first of many developments including a sealed runway. Many streets then didn’t have footpaths or even a newspaper delivery. TV had just arrived due to the efforts of a local committee, and some luck that a signal was able to be picked up from one of the mountain peaks then bounced into town, much to the chagrin of the local Picture theatre operator who had declared that they would never manage to get a signal through the mountains. Even then Queenstown was regarded as a Party Town, some who came to work didn’t seem to realise that one big long party didn’t make a marriage work. Initially we had five immediate neighbours who suffered a marriage ‘breakup’. As a family the early days we enjoyed living in the Mountains, but I wouldn’t like to return back to it now as it has grown too big. Getting around by a motor vehicle is just about impossible as there is no longer anywhere left to park. Our stay lasted some thirty five years and I will relate more of this time in subsequent letters,


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