The Upper Hutt Library and me

The delivery of crated books to the new library, September 1956

Since leaving my last post unfinished, I have been travelling in the South Island, and look forward to sharing those exploits next time. To recap, the last library photo shown was the disassembling of the old upstairs library in September 1956. The image above is the relocation of the new library in the main street: it is this reincarnation I would visit for many years to come.

My most vivid memories of the library were during my teenage years. I used to catch the local Runciman’s bus to Upper Hutt, four miles north of my hometown Silverstream, so I could visit the library. I was an avid reader, and already a keen borrower of books from my high school library, but loved the excuse (I gave to my mother) of needing to visit the public one on Friday evenings. Fridays shops were open late – the only night shops were open late! Exciting stuff. On reflection, book-borrowing was likely secondary to enabling me to meet the boy I had a crush on there. Yes indeed – Friday night at the library was special.  How I would have loved to give my author’s talk in that library. Alas, it was no more.

The latest library incarnation, reopened in 2019 following seismic strengthening.

I was a little nervous as I walked into the very smart new library and shook hands with the head librarian Rhea Fohs. She had been a terrific help in making arrangements for the talk and I really appreciated that effort. Oh, there I was in a poster, advertising the afternoon’s talk. Assistant Neil ushered me into a room filled with seats, and utensils set for tea-making. I busied myself arranging my books and notes, waiting for people to arrive. The room soon filled and my talk began. The Q&A session was great, with people interested in my father’s story, and the processes I had used in its writing. After, I sat signing books.

Sketch of Anita

Then a woman stepped up (one who’d asked many questions) and reminded me that I had hired her as an artist’s model about twenty years earlier. It was lovely to meet Anita again. We met after for coffee to catch up on each others’ lives, with promises to keep in touch.

Two close friends had also come, books were sold, and I was happy. I had a super time, that’s for sure, in the Upper Hutt Library, discussing The (Almost) True Story of a Man called Jack.

A postscript. While on holiday I received an email from a man called Jim, who had been given the book soon after the library talk by a friend. I was stunned, for I remembered him from childhood; a friend of my Dad’s, I couldn’t believe he was still around. He had been a publisher for 25 years, and sang high praises for my story. I shall be visiting him on my next trip to Silverstream, to reminisce I guess, and to peruse his extensive library. 

Thanks to you Dad, for being such an interesting man and introducing me to your love of life, books, libraries – and friends.

Dad and his library truck, circa 1950s

4 thoughts on “The Upper Hutt Library and me

  1. How utterly cool you got to speak at the same library, even if it was revamped beyond recognition. It sounds like your book talk was well received, too. Well done!

  2. Libraries are such wonderful places. I remember well the excitement of going to our very small public library and the excitement of finding a good book to read. Most particularly, I remember going with my mother and finding Little Women and the many hours of reading enjoyment contained within that well known classic. I remember the heft of that book, the smell of it as I turned the fragile pages…so many sensory pleasures!

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