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The Pipi Road Tram

We’d never been in a tram before. But Mum & Dad thought it would be a good idea if my two younger brothers and I experienced how our parents got around on public transport. So, in 1962 Dad jacked it up with that most formidable of real estate agents, Mrs Iremonger, and we travelled to Whangamata in our FB two-tone blue Holden station wagon for our very first holiday there. It was at the Surf Club end of Pipi Road. An old tram sitting right on the beach opposite Clark Island.... I think there’s a rather bigger ‘tram’ there now.

On the day we turned up, so did the rain, and like us, it stayed for the whole week. But during that week my youngest brother learnt to walk. It was great because the tram was long and narrow, he would just bump off the sides and keep going. It was a walking style he was to replicate 15 years later on New Years Eve 1977 when he found dad’s stash of Crème de Menthe.

That tram changed our lives; it was the start of 46 years of annual holidays in Whanga, although the old man vowed never to stay in a bach with a long drop again... We were city people OK!

At the end of the week’s holiday, Dad had to empty it out and bury the waste in the sand; I wonder if the present big tram owners are aware that it was a pretty shitty section in those days?
From that holiday on, we journeyed to Whanga every year, renting baches from Iremongers, but eventually the time came for Mum & Dad to put a more permanent stake in the sand. In 1971 they bought 220 Philomel... and yes, Iremongers were the agents.

Now this place was flash! It had a proper toilet that flushed & my youngest bro was walking ok now so the deck steps weren’t an issue for him. It even had that most 70’s of improvements - a ranch slider!...yes this was a modern upmarket bach with all the mod-cons, except it had curtains instead of doors into the two bedrooms, but hey, who cares when you had a ranch slider!

It set Mum & Dad back $6,500 which was pretty steep, but then it was on a full quarter acre and did include the furniture, cutlery and a sugar bowl.... but it was the flushing toilet that clinched the deal.

So this abode was where us boys grew up and collected memories in the summer holidays. We brought our mates, which our parents knew about, and the odd “matess”, which they didn’t. We bought our beach baggies at Saltwater, fish and chips from the ‘White Sands’ takeaway bar, and launched my first surfboard, a 7’4” single fin Atlas Woods that was so heavy it was a shipping hazard.

Whanga beach is where we also learnt to skim board, you remember those round boards? Well Dad made ours, as fathers tended to do in those days, as well as handmade wooden Boogie boards... we were doing 360s before it was cool, even if we didn’t always mean to!

I remember the Whanga Pub in its heyday. The only way to get there was on that gravel road, I could always remember getting there but had difficulty remembering how we got back because we were “Pissed as”. No seatbelts and a quart bottle of Lion Red wedged between the legs in the VW, behaviour we now conveniently forget when warning our own teenage sons about drinking and driving. By God it was a popular spot back then, especially at New Year - even though they increased their margins outrageously by charging us youngsters 5 cents for a plastic cup, but we never argued.

Time moves on. The Delmonte boys are all married and we all own baches at Whanga. Our kids surf (in wetsuits now, the pussies!) We walk the beach with our wives, we still buy the paper from Achilles Store,  the local radio station still plays the same songs from 30 years ago, & we still play the 9 holer in our jandalls. The 3rd generation of Delmonte’s are enjoying Whanga now. Occasionally they leave their Rice Bubbles on the side of the road between Kopu and Whanga, just like we did, but some things have changed... they think a long drop is something invented by AJ Hackett, and they buy more Subways than fish and chips, but one day they’ll assume responsibility for paying the rates (locals will be pleased to know we’ve been paying these for 37 years now!)

And while there may be a lot of “Big Trams” in Whanga now, there’s still the best beach in New Zealand, and that will never change.



505 Port Road, Whangamata, New Zealand
Phone / Fax +64 7 865 8666
Email pfm@saltwater.co.nz