Fri 27 Oct 2017

Emma's our winner

WITT tutor Emma Collins was among the winners at South Taranaki's annual Ronald Hugh Morrieson Literary awards last night. (October 25).

The awards, open to Taranaki residents, celebrate the life of Morrieson who wrote four novels -  The Scarecrow, Came A Hot Friday, Predicament and Pallet on the Floor.

He died aged 50 in 1972. Wednesday's awards at the TSB Hub were the 30th and were judged by Apirana Taylor, Rachel Stedmen and Matt Rilkoff.

Emma Collins (pictured with South Taranaki major Ross Dulop) won the Open Story section with a piece which unashamedly mentioned WITT's training care, The Study Break, and the home of WITT's Hawera campus, Union St.

It dipped into an anecdotal history of the Central Hotel through the eyes of former customers as they watched it being pulled down.

Emma, who has lived at Pukengahu, east of Ngaere,  for 30 years and has had a long career in adult education has been a tertiary studies tutor at WITT for two years .

She has been writing for about seven years, and has been a regular entrant in the annual awards – managing at least a placing every time.

The full results are at the foot of this item.

This is Emma's winning piece…

Union Street

The day after the Kaikoura earthquake the men from the council walked up Union Street, with their HighViz jackets and clipboards, and decided that the tatty old shell of the Central Hotel had to come down. They didn't go inside. Bits of its concrete façade had fallen into the street. This part of Hawera was passed its use by date and had to go to make way for progress. Or another car park. The pigeons would just have to find somewhere else to have sex.

The absentee land owners were duly notified and the consent process was started. Christmas came and went and by the middle of winter the forms were at last filled in correctly and the contractors engaged. The landowners only wanted to save the wrought iron posts and lacework.

"Knock it down" they said

Traffic cones and temporary barriers went around the derelict building and the digger arrived. Then the trucks with "Asbestos removal" came and freaked out the people working at the WINZ office, next door to the Central. Nothing happened for a few more weeks until the extra paperwork had been completed.

The best view of the proceedings was from the Study Break café, where Tamzin was learning how to make a good coffee. There were short periods of action and long periods of nothing on the demolition site, but there was a hot young guy that was in charge of the Stop/Go sign outside the Café, so at least she had something interesting to look at. Most of the time there were groups of old dudes with beards and orange vests standing around smoking and talking and eating pies. The Café was doing a roaring trade.

Tamzin listened in on the old dudes when she went down to the corner in the middle of town for a smoke.

"Yeah, some crowd from Auckland offered fifty k for two weeks to salvage the native timber from the floors and stuff, but the council says it has to come down within the agreed timeframe" said one "No time to get the consents"

"I bet that old pub could tell some stories" said another.

But it wasn't the old pub telling the stories. A crowd gathered, rather like the WINZ office on a Tuesday morning, when the digger finally started in on the Central.

"I remember…" was how they started, it was quite social watching the digger at work. Rather like Quinn's Auction on a Thursday.

Tamzin was slightly disappointed when she realised there was to be no wrecking ball smashing it down, she had visions of posing like Miley. Instead, the digger took well-mannered bites out of the old building and brought them down carefully to the waiting trucks. It wasn't even that noisy.

The most popular table in the Café was the front one with the view of the old hotel coming down. Tamzin listened to some of the conversations.

"Of course there was full employment in those days" one old tart was telling her friend

"The Central was where the freezing workers from Walkers drank, and the factory workers from Kiwi. The Dominion was the teachers and trades men's watering hole. The White Hart is still the same though"

"Yes" agreed her mate" I remember when they pulled the Egmont down and built the bank on the corner. The Furlong was only new then, back in the 80's"

"And there was the Wine Bar on the Main Street" said the first woman "And the Home and Colonial back towards the park. Did you ever go on the Push Bike Pub Crawl?" she asked her friend

"Oh yes! Starting at the Railway Pub at 9am, we were trolleyed by the second Normanby Pub. Those were the days" and they laughed

"The Central had a band playing every weekend, the lounge bar was always packed" said the first woman "Happy days" she smiled

Tamzin thought the two old birds looked like they had never been young. Old Nanas, they have to be at least fifty. It was impossible to imagine them at her age, out on the town in Hawera on a Friday night. They would have been wearing retro, before it was even retro!

When Tamzin got her break she saw the young Stop/Go man sitting by himself next to the art gallery. She smiled at him and sat down and lit a cigarette.

"Can I borrow your light?" he said and moved over to her

"Sure" she said

"I've seen you" he told her "You work in that Café, don't you?"

"That's right" she answered "I'm studying for my City and Guilds Level 3"

"And you work for ABC don't you?" It was written in big letters on his back.

They chatted for a bit then it was time to get back to work.

After that, they kept bumping into each other on the corner. His name was Blake and he was going for his HT licence. The boss said he could start learning permitting next. Blake was saving up to buy a car. She told him about her plans to start her own café.

"My parents had their wedding reception in the Central" he told her the next day

"They had a band on in the Lounge bar and spent their wedding night upstairs" he pointed them out to her "I'm going to save a bit of the fancy work for them as a souvenir"

Together they listened to the conversations on the corner.

"That was the oldest standing pub in Hawera" One man said "Built in 1913. Ronald Hugh Morrieson used to drink there"

"I think old Ronnie drank all over the place" his mate replied

One of the funniest ones was between a couple of old Maori guys.

"Remember old Dougie Patu?" one asked the other "One afternoon, we'd just knocked off the early shift I think, Doug says to me" Wanna smoke?" and I said yeah and we go outside to this car. Just parked down there it was. Broad daylight. Union Street was busy too, lots of these shops were open then. So Doug sparks up this joint and I'm sitting in the back seat, Meathead Murphy in the front, you remember old Meathead?  There were kids' toys and stuff lying around and I says to Doug "Didn't know you had kids Dougie?" and he says "I don't" So I says "Well whose car is this then?" and he says "Dunno, it was just unlocked"

The old Maori dudes laughed and laughed

"Those were the days" one said "Whatever happened to Dougie?"

"He died a few years ago, heart attack I think" his mate replied

The digger worked its way through the remains of the old pub quickly. The wooden floors were kindling in no time. There were a few tense moments when the concrete wall next to WINZ came down. The staff had moved away from the side being worked on, but nothing fell on them. Tamzin was slightly disappointed.

Blake started coming into the Café, and Tamzin elbowed the others aside to make him coffee, just the way he liked it, with extra marshmallows.

Sometimes Tamzin wandered over to the security fence and chatted to Blake through the mesh. She could have just stepped around it but Blake had told her that not even the boss's wife was allowed in the demolition site for a look. When he wasn't directing traffic and standing around he was pulling nails out of old chunks of timber the boss had stashed off to one side.

"Solid heart rimu, this is" he told her "The boss wants to make a table out of it. This would cost a fortune in the city"

They took selfies together in the street, with the wreckage in the back ground.

"I wonder what Hawera is going to look like when we are old" Tamzin said to Blake

Then one day there was nothing left except for an empty site. The Central Hotel had gone.

"What are you going to do now?" Tamzin asked Blake "Are you, like, going to move away?"

"Me? No!" he laughed "We're just going down the street" and he pointed down Union Street

"Those buildings on the end are coming down next, going to make way for the supermarket car park. After that the big old one on the corner of High Street is coming down too, going to be the library. I tell you, Hawera's really the place to be. Lots is going to happen"

"Wow" Tamzin tried not to sound too pleased "Sounds like you're going to be really busy" she smiled

"Never too busy for a good cup of coffee" and he smiled back.



Secondary School Short Story Category

1st - Sasha Finer, In Memoriam - Hawera High School

2nd - Heather Phillips, The Game - Hawera High School

3rd - Maddison Cossey, The Great War of the Wattie's Brand - Hawera High School

Secondary School Poetry Category

1st - Sasha Finer, Uprising - Hawera High School

2nd - Megan Jackson, Embers - St Mary's Diocesan School

3rd - Megan Jackson, Do you Remember Me - St Mary's Diocesan School

Highly Commended

Denzal Adlam, A Cold Winter Morning - Patea Area School

Ashley Harrop, Light in the Dark - Opunake High School

Megan Jackson, Mountain Man - St Mary's Diocesan School

Courtney Hatcher, Pen hits Paper - St Mary's Diocesan

Megan Jackson, The Moment Seen - St Mary's Diocesan School


Puaawai Meihana Eiffe, A Sad Flower - Opunake High School

Myah Kemsley, As it was Before - New Plymouth Girls' High

Courtney Hatcher, Crime Scene - St Mary's Diocesan

Georgia Sparks, Exhaustion - Hawera High School

Stevee-Jai Kelly, Ghost in the Skin - Opunake High School

Niall Clancy, Taranaki - Hawera High School

Noah Hunt, The Great Fire of Hawera - Hawera High School

Research Article Category

1st - Yani Remoto, Out of Sight, But not out of Mind - Hawera High School

2nd - Hope Baker, Transition - St Mary's Diocesan School

3rd - Nell Brown, A long way from Tipperary to Lepperton - Sacred Heart Girls' College

Open Short Story Category

1st - Emma Collins, Union Street - Stratford

2nd - Bruce Finer, Harry Rust - Hawera

3rd - Elizabeth Bridgeman, The World's Best Mother - New Plymouth

Highly Commended

Maria Cunningham, The Sign - Hawera

Stuart Greenhill, Dust - Stratford

Pip Harrison, The Lily - Hawera

Open Poetry Category

1st - Stuart Greenhill, West Coast Writer - Stratford

2nd - Stuart Greenhill, Mokau River - Stratford

3rd - Anya Darling, Secret Little Paradise - Sacred Heart Girls' College

Highly Commended

Janet Hunt, Meditation in a Country Churchyard – Inglewood

Nell Brown, Forgotten Shortcut - Sacred Heart Girls' College