"Thank you Malcolm for these emails. As a ratepayer in this area since 1945 and still living in the same property we built, I really appreciate hearing all the news. I am 91 now but still take a keen interest in our great area." That was my first contact with Beryl Reynolds in August 2007. I was pleased to know that we had at least one nonagenarian on Tawa's community emailing list! But it was two years later, early September 2009, before I met her in person. That was for this interview. She subsequently told me she'd enjoyed talking with me, and I know I enjoyed meeting her. And I'm always impressed with 'older seniors' who take the time to learn how to use a computer!
Beryl Reynolds is amongst the few who have resided in Tawa for more than 60 years.* "I take a great interest in everything [in the community]," she tells us. She is one of many wonderful older people with whom we are privileged to share this suburb we call home.
* See notes at bottom of the page.
Where were you born, Beryl?
Where did you grow up?
In Brooklyn, Wellington.
What about your education?
Brooklyn Primary, then Wellington Girls' College 1929-1933 (U.E. and Higher Leaving Certificate).
What was your line of work?
I was going to be a teacher, but Teachers' College in Wellington (and Dunedin) closed during the Depression. I went and worked for the government "pension department" (as it was then), but I had to resign when I got married in January 1946. I did part-time work before we moved out to Tawa.
What about family?
I was married to George who died five years ago when he was 90. We have two adult children, one in Perth and one in Kilbirnie.
What are your interests/hobbies?
Used to play tennis, badminton and indoor bowls. "I loved tennis." We had a great table tennis club out here. I used to be a gardener. "Everybody was a gardener in those days." We took part in a lot of things. "We certainly saw this place grow." I had a lot to do with my church parish, Our Lady of Fatima. "I used to take quite an active part in [church] things."
My interests now are computer (emails and the web), reading, radio - not a great TV fan. "I was 89 when I got a computer." I went off to lessons and did about three courses. "You've got to practise at it. You learn a lot by trial and error."
How long have you lived in Tawa?
We built our house in Linden in December 1947, the one I live in today. It was all farmland around us until 1958. We walked everywhere - it was 20 minutes to Porirua. When we moved out here from Wellington - "we wanted to get out of the city a bit" - there were no telephones, but there were septic tanks and tank water.
If we went into town, we had to go for the day because the train timetable didn't really suit. [And in those days the train went from Tawa into Wellington via Johnsonville, taking 50 minutes one way - Ed.] We, everybody, had to go to upper Willis St to take our kids to the dentist. We left our shoes in a little shed at the railway station. There was no proper platform at Linden [Station] then. [Apparently people wore their older shoes to walk to the station on the dusty roads, left them there and changed into better shoes for the trip into town. - Ed.]
What do you think is great about Tawa?
It has a great community spirit. It feels like a separate place, a complete little place. It's handy to town and handy to Porirua. There's a good variety of shops in Tawa. "I think it has a feeling about it - I've grown over the years to like it."
What, if anything, would improve Tawa?
"It's a very small thing ..." The disability park at the Library is out the back. We used to be able to go in the back door. There should be a disability park at the front of the Library. "I'm still driving."
What is your favourite dessert?
Favourite sports team?
I'm a sports addict - rugby, cricket, tennis, anything on TV but motorsports. My husband used to play cricket for a Porirua club. Favourite sports team is the Hurricanes. I was taken to the Sevens at Westpac Stadium for my 91st birthday. "I hadn't been to the Stadium before."
Favourite style of music?
I like classical, not anything jazz or rock and roll.
Favourite holiday destination in New Zealand?
"In the South Island of course." Golden Bay, it's a nice place. "I've been all around New Zealand."
If you could meet any two or three people (alive or dead), who would they be?
I would like to have met Martin Luther King, also Kate Sheppard.
What three things would you take with you if you were stuck on a desert island?
Depends on how long for! A radio, some sort of shelter, some mystery books. "I'm a great mystery book reader."
What is one talent or ability you would like that you do not have?
I'd like to have finished a physiotherapy course that I started during the War, but circumstances at the time prevented it.
What are one or two talents you have that you could not do without?
My memory which I still have. Also an outgoing nature, an ability to get on well with people - it does make a difference. "I know I'm good at talking!"
Any accomplishment/achievement in your life that gives you much satisfaction/pride?
"I've had a great life my whole life. I've enjoyed it. I've had a jolly good life - it's what you put into it."
Any thing or things you would like to do before you die?
To keep as well as I can as long as I can. "As long as your brain's working, that's the main thing!"
Compiled September 2009.
* In November 2010 Beryl reported that she was still living in her own home and had just organised her postal vote for the by-election in the Mana electorate.
In May 2011 Beryl moved into Longview Rest Home in Tawa at age 95.
Beryl passed away on 11 September 2011.