SPOTLIGHT ON MOTAT’S ORAL HISTORIES
Not generally well known is MOTAT’s considerable and growing oral history repository. Over the last twenty years the Walsh Memorial Library has been developing its collection of oral histories.
The library has over 400 hours of recordings archived, covering themes of aviation, transport, telecommunications, and more. Interviews with former MOTAT volunteers and staff members and others give an intimate and lively account of the museum and stories about our collections.
Members of the MOTAT Society are welcome to visit the library and listen to interviews. For this issue of Squeaky Wheel, we feature excerpts transcribed from two of these histories which we hope will give you a taste of what is available.
This one is from one of our valued volunteers, Nola Morgan, who spent many years working with her husband in the Pioneer (Victorian) Village. The other is an interview with Graham Voitre who worked with Auckland Tramways (and later Auckland's bus services) for over 40 years.
The MOTAT Library is open Monday to Friday 10am – 4pm (except public holidays). Contact via phone 09 845 3690 or email email@example.com.
I don't think I will ever forget the highlight of my first visit to MOTAT as a child in the 1970s - The Lolly Shop. Shelves stacked high with glass jars filled to the brim with copious quantities of handmade sweets. Lollipops and gobstoppers strewn across trays spread on counter-tops and a pocket weighed down with coins. This was kid heaven!
Nola Morgan remembers The Lolly Shop fondly, a part of the heritage saturated Live Days at the MOTAT Colonial Village.
“. . .my youngest daughter used to be with another lady in the . . . lolly shop. And she would be in there selling the lollies. . . . one time there was a man actually making the lollies. . . . People loved to watch that being made.”
Nola and her husband Ron were friends with Joyce and Ian Lush, founders of MOTAT and doyens of the Colonial Village. Joyce’s call for Nola to share her sewing skills sparked the beginning of an involvement encompassing three generations.
“And at the top of our road there was Joyce and Ian Lush which we were very, very fond of and great friends with them. And Joyce said 'Perhaps you'd like to come to MOTAT and do some sewing'. . . .I'd always sewn for the children so sewing – I was passionate about that. So I said 'Yes, I would love to do that.' And they [my daughter and son-in-law] came and they did croquet. And [their daughter] was pushed around in the big pram.
“. . . my second daughter, got married at MOTAT . . . And that was just so nice because of the history of the child as a child coming through, getting married there, then bringing her children back and then they were at MOTAT as well . . .”
While Nola contributed her time helping with repairs to dolls and clothes, Village Live Days were the main event, dressing in self-made colonial costume and demonstrating how women of the colonial era lived.
“. . . the bodices were all lined and there was about four metres in the skirts. And we had lots and lots of lovely petticoats with all lace . . . And our little mop caps on our heads. And we really looked the part I felt.
“Yes and we wore the long pantaloons. . . .you'd lift your skirt up and there you've got all these petticoats. They wanted to touch them; they wanted to see them, who'd made them, where had they come from?
“. . .I may well be sewing, demonstrating different old sewing techniques that people like to see. . . I would probably be doing embroidery or perhaps I did a bit of weaving. . .
“And quite often in Willow [Cottage] I sat there . . . quiet and I was just reading . . . and there was a whole lot of [people] came in . . . And they said 'Oh look at this old girl,' and I said 'Hello.' And they would just 'Oh! Oh! Oh!' they said 'Oh we're sorry! We're sorry! We didn't know you were alive!' . . . All the others were dummies. All through the corridor and either side. Then when of course they came to me and I was sitting there quiet and dressed in the appropriate clothes they got a fright.”
Breadmaking was very popular with MOTAT visitors and Nola's husband Ron was often called upon to bake the bread on Live Days.
“[Ron] would go in and he would do the baking of the bread. . . And some of them had never seen bread made. . . and people would come and see the bread being made and say 'When will it be out?' 'Oh half an hour.' . . .And they would come back in half an hour and they'd all be waiting to see it either coming out or getting it cut up.
“But the fire itself was really tricky because you didn't sort of turn it on and say 'Well I'll have 150.' . . . But when the embers went down and they had the hand test and if you put your hand over it and you could feel it coming hot under your hand quickly it was exactly right.”
Nola recalls that the Colonial Village Live Days at MOTAT were held around four times a year and were the highlight of her time with MOTAT.
Nola Morgan et al. 17 Sep 2004. MOTAT oral history interview with Nola Morgan, 07-510. Walsh Memorial Library, The Museum of Transport and Technology (MOTAT)