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
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
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
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
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!
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