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Taranaki Stories

These stories capture the very essence of Taranaki – the people and the landscape.
They record the achievements of those who live here, the struggles of the first settlers, the determination to overcome challenges, those who have made their mark on not only their own, but also future generations.
But the stories are not just about hardship – they are also inspiring, thrilling, mystifying, enlightening and entertaining.
 
 

 

Entertainment and Leisure

The New Zealand Ballet company perform in front of 2700 people at the Bowl in 1966. Image: Charters and Guthrie.

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Stars of stage and screen, toys that last a lifetime, Elvis, festivals, song, dance and the Greatest Show on Earth are all here. There are events to fill you with joy, shows to get you on your feet, stories that make you smile and suggestions for experiencing a more relaxing pace of life. When the daily toil is done, Taranaki people know how to enjoy themselves – come and join in the fun!

From Treasure to Tragedy – the Sad Tale of Blanche Halcombe

On 12 February 1961 fire fighters broke into a New Plymouth house and uncovered a fantastic story of treasure and tragedy. They revealed a sad tale of a woman who lived a strange and lonely existence guarding a collection of rubbish and rare and beautiful items.    Halcombe – Turton On the 22 January 1919 at St Mary's Church Battersea, by the Rev H. Foster. Pegg Norman... more
 

Arthur Fryer – Story Collector

People like to tell Arthur Fryer stories. Instead of a museum stuffed with artefacts the Hawera historian has books stuffed full of words, all stories on the town's past.   Arthur finds people telling him stories in all sorts of places and on many fascinating topics. "One day I was at the Hawera Park Bowling Club. I sat down in the shelter and Sid Brown said to me, 'You know Arthur I fired... more
 

Book, Book, Book – the fabulous, famous Opera House 24hr Booksale

In the early 1980s, the Regent Theatre in Dunedin started a small annual book sale primarily for the university students of the town. The first was held inside the theatre which is near the Octagon.   Bryan Robb, manager of New Plymouth Opera House since 1982, picks up the story: "The Regent Manager was a friend of mine and he said, 'It's a great money maker'."   At the time, Robb... more
 

Four at the Front Line – the insider’s guide to book fairs

It's Friday, 14 October, in New Plymouth. Katherine Mansfield's birthday. Outside the TSB Stadium, the clock is ticking, second by second, drawing closer to 12 o'clock. Soon the doors will be wrenched open and the 24 hr book sale will begin. It will stay open until exactly the same time tomorrow.   Four cheerful female friends head the snaking line of 200 book fair aficionados.... more
 

One Man’s Dream

Under a galaxy of stars, walled by trees and with a glittering lake as its floor - nothing beats the TSB Bowl of Brooklands on a good night. From the soaring voice of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa to the din of an REM gig, demure young ladies in white frocks to Army howitzers, the TSB Bowl of Brooklands has seen and heard it all.   A bright idea The Bowl is a result of one man's dream, thousands of... more
 

Preserving The Past for the Future

In 1977, when the Stratford County Council approached David Walter to be honorary county historian, the brief was wide, and aimed towards producing a publication for the looming 1990 centennial.   Despite his own concerns about his suitability for the job - not only did he come with no academic training, he'd been under-whelmed by history lessons at school - David quickly realised that much... more
 

Eltham Town Hall Has Good Friends

A restful silence. A whiff of grease paint; a waft of sawdust and old timber. A cavernous space, like a giant mouth open on a high note. If you stand in the centre of the Eltham Town Hall these are the things you may hear, smell, see and feel. Or imagine. Close your eyes and picture what spectacles have been seen by these soaring walls, swiftly hoisted up by handy men in six months from... more
 

Dance Band Man – Errol Taylor

Errol Taylor has been involved in the music scene in Taranaki for more than 55 years and his musical life is not over yet.   The seemingly indefatigable musician played in most of popular Taranaki dance bands of the 50s, 60s and 70s.   The Daltones, The Nite-Lites and The Nevadas were all names to set the feet flying at the Queens Hall and Star Gym, not to mention countless other... more
 

Fred Butler – eccentric man of mystery

Tucked away on a shelf in the archives of Puke Ariki are hundreds of wallpaper covered novels. The books are pasted with birth and death notices from local newspapers - covering decades.   This is a giant family tree of the early settlers in New Plymouth, carefully cut and pasted into the upside-down novels. The colourful books are a slice of New Plymouth history.   A set of drawers... more
 

Fred Cowling – the Pyramid Man

Not everyone has a pyramid in their back yard – but Fred Cowling was not everyone. The New Plymouth man built the five–step miniature pyramid, containing several tonne of concrete, as a lookout over his 30 hectare Hurdon farm. "He built it from a photo of a pyramid," says his daughter Dorice Cowling Holmes. "I don't know why he did - it just appealed I suppose. He'd climb it every morning to... more
 

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