Culture is the traditions and ways of a particular group of people and Heritage is the things we inherit from the past. How many times have you asked the question; why are you doing it this way, Johnny's mum does it differently, to be told, we always do it this way. Holidays were and are no exception.
In the late 1800's and early 1900's families would leave their homes and travel, usually by horse and cart, to their favourite holiday place. Often these places were by lakes or the sea, on a friendly farmers' field or a public ground. They would erect a tent, set up a fireplace and a much simpler lifestyle would be enjoyed until it was time to pack up and go back home to work and school.
As families returned to the same place each year they began to erect simple dwellings that could be left. These were one or two-roomed buildings with cooking still done outside and 'outhouse' or long drop further away. Having a building meant you could leave belongings behind and bring other things on the next trip - they started to become a home away from home. Building materials were scarce and money was tight in the early 1900's, so the buildings were often made from leftover materials and your holiday neighbours helped you put it all together. This was the beginning of the bach or crib and its holiday community.
As families returned each your and friends joined in, more building materials such as windows were scavenged, to add another room, verandah or kitchen lean to. The bach became quite sophisticated in later years with coal range, fireplace and if power was available - lights.
Family life revolved around basic chores such as collecting firewood, cooking meals and socializing. Children were often left to their own devices - fishing, swimming, boating, although never too far from a watchful parent; collecting treasures from the bush or coast, or inventing games with other children - no TV or Playstation, you were up with the sun and in bed when it went down.
As the bach communities became more stable with the same families visiting each year usually around Xmas and New Year, more organised activities were arranged, particularly for the children - swimming and dinghy races, sandcastle competitions, egg and spoon races, tug of war etc and fancy dress competitions. These usually involved using materials that were available although some of the more enterprising children bought things with them. The winners of the previous years competitions had to make the pennant or prize for the next years winner - these range from hand sewn flags to highly decorated toilet seats.
Bach Communities such as the ones described are fast disappearing from New Zealand's coastline and lakeshores and with it the simpler times of past holidays. Adults that were children then recall the fun and freedom of the times - that it was not necessary to dress up - a bag of weekend clothes was all you needed, shoes were optional you just used what was already there. Once you had done your chores the time was yours to do as you wished, even being on your own didn't seem lonely. Does your family still have a holiday tradition or has it moved on to a more sophisticated one?
Baches on the shore of Rangitoto Island
Children cooking cockles they have collected
using corrugated iron and a fire.
Children in a canoe.
A New Year's day fancy dress competion
based around the theme of storybooks and nature.
A New Year's day tug-of-war competition.
All the photos are from the
Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust archives
and show activities between 1930 and 1970.