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Remembering Christchurch – an important social history

In the words of Reg Miller “people count more than buildings, bricks and mortar”; this insight is indicative of the wealth of social history captured in the Ministry for Culture and Heritage’s new book Remembering Christchurch – Voices from Decades Past.

“Reg Miller is one of the 19 people interviewed for the book whose memories and personal stories bring to life the rich human history of Christchurch,” says Ministry for Culture and Heritage Chief Historian Neill Atkinson.  

“Written by the Ministry’s Senior Oral Historian Alison Parr, the book presents the precious memories of people from all walks of life, born in the 1920s through to the 1940s.  This is an insightful portrait of the city, its urban landscape and its people prior to the Canterbury earthquakes,” he says.

“Christchurch has lost many of its landmark heritage buildings, including the Miller’s Building in Tuam Street, established by Reg Miller’s father. But memories endure, and these older Christchurch citizens have documented for us what it was like to grow up and live in the pre-earthquake city.

“They recall a city of streets and avenues where bikes ruled the road and young people got together at the local milk bar and at the regular weekly dances held throughout the suburbs as well as the city centre.

“Disparities in class and wealth come through in several of the interviews, as well as changing attitudes to such things as pre-marital sex, women’s place in society and what it was like to be Māori in an overwhelmingly Pākehā city.

“The book also highlights the vital importance of the home garden through the depression and war years, the central place of the railway in the economy, and the role of the River Avon in sports and recreation.

“Alison Parr’s research has produced a genuine and moving account, making Remembering Christchurch – Voices from Decades Past a memorable read,” Neill Atkinson said.

Mayor Lianne Dalziel presenting copies of the book to the contributors at Friday's launch. More photos are available on our facebook page.

Published by Penguin Random House New Zealand, the book is launched in Christchurch on Friday and is available in bookshops now.

Alison Parr is the author of four other books based on oral history, including Home: Civilian New Zealanders Remember the Second World War and The Occupiers: New Zealand Veterans Remember Post-war Japan.

Check out the Ministry’s website for more information about its catalogue of books.


Updated on 20th September 2016