Roads, Children, Bicycles
In this piece, Massey creative nonfiction student Oscar Mein reflects on another 1950s collision in Mount Cook (see David Lee’s story on the tram crash). This time on Tasman Street at the corner by the Police Barracks, between a Ford truck and a Delage car.
I lived on Tasman Street for a year last year. Whenever I’d bike to the bottom where the old Police Barracks lies strong on the corner, I’d wait alongside cars and trucks as a road worker ushered us through with one of those stop and go paddles. I was often unsure about those paddles, waiting for the day the paddle-holder slipped up on his eight-hour shift of turning his wrist and I’d ride around the corner and into the unfortunate path of some colossal truck.
I’m stopped at the same corner now and there are automated traffic lights instead of people with paddles but the Barrack’s bricks still appear strong as ever. My back faces them as I lean on the seat of my bike beside a rubbish bin. Cars, bikes, and trucks come down from what used to be Buckle Street in front of the memorial tower turning right into Tasman. They wait for the red of a traffic light to turn green then flow past what used to be the Salvation Army in controlled order.
On the 24th of July, 1950, at that same corner, outside the same strong bricks and what was at the time the Salvation Army, a beautiful but expensive looking Delage car owned by John McMillan collided into a Ford truck that had ‘A J Walling, Eastbourne, Wellington Transport’ branded on the door. Judging from the picture taken by an Evening Post staff photographer, it seems McMillan was turning left up Tasman while whoever was driving the Ford truck with ‘A J Walling, Eastbourne, Wellington Transport’ branded on the door, was turning right. Maybe someone’s brakes weren’t working, maybe McMillan was looking around to see if anyone was admiring his beautiful but expensive looking Delage, or maybe he dropped ash on his lap. Either way it seems he slammed into the left side of the Ford truck with ‘A J Walling, Eastbourne, Wellington Transport’ branded on the door, wedging his beautiful but expensive-looking Delage beneath it. A crowd of rubberneckers stand amused around the crash site, and one young-looking man leaning on the seat of his bike could be talking to McMillan while the now broken door of his Delage traps him inside. I picture him saying something brilliantly patronising like: ‘That’s a beautiful but expensive looking car there sir,’ then, as he looks down at his untarnished bike, ‘I prefer two wheels myself.’