Among the precious things Barbara Carr will take from her brick and tile bungalow in Botany Road is the sign her late husband, Verdun, had made after he named the property Botany Downs. It used to hang on the gate to the cowshed.
In 1994, the Howick and Pakuranga Times reported on a ruckus caused when the retail development, now known as Botany Town Centre, was marketed as the Botany Downs District Centre.
Verdun accused the developers of “pinching” the name and, along with others living in the “real” Botany Downs, worried the area would lose its identity if the name spread.
The last straw came when, in 2002, it was announced the new school in Chapel Road would be named Botany Downs Secondary College. The Carrs “bitterly” objected because the school was miles from the Botany Downs area.
In 1953, Verdun leased 80 acres of the Wilson brothers’ farm (between Mirrabooka Avenue and Andrew Road) and named it Botany Downs. He milked 60 cows for the town supply market and farmed it until 1967, when it was subdivided into residential lots and the Botany Downs community was created.
Meanwhile, Barbara’s dad milked about six cows on a few acres he rented off Union Road. She met Verdun “being neighbourly”.
“We all helped out with neighbourly things, such as at haymaking time,” she says. “The whole area was farmland as far as Otara.
“Our property was the first over the boundary between Howick and Manukau and was in a green belt to Whitford Road. We would get together with trucks and trailers to help each other. It was lovely, rural country living at its best.”
“We lived in an old condemned house on the farm,” Barbara says. “The cowshed was at the back and the old house faced the metal road. Botany Road took a dog-leg around to where the lights are now on the intersection of Ti Rakau Drive and Chapel Road, which was East Tamaki Road then.”
The family lived in the old kauri colonial house until October 1962, when they moved to the new bungalow they had built next door.
“Brick and tile was the thing then,” Barbara says. “The best thing was the twin tub washing machine and spinner. We had electricity at the old house, but a ringer washing machine.
“I was just happy to have a new house. The other one had rats and mice, open shelves with no wardrobes.”
Since then, the main change to the three-bedroom house has been a revamp of the kitchen in 1996, when it was remodelled to give more space.
“It was a narrow, tiny kitchenette before.” Also, a laundry and extra toilet and shower unit has been built on the basement floor.
Barbara will move to a house on the original cowshed site next to the bungalow.
“It will be nostalgic after 50 years,” she says. “I’m still here, but there is too much lawn to mow now. I will miss the open space [the property is 1421 square metres including extensive gardens and orchard], but it’s time to let it go.
“When we first married, we knew every car that went past the front gate. It was a dead end and only the people who lived here used it. It wasn’t a through road like now.”
Verdun died at the end of 2007, just shy of his 90th birthday, and his Austin 35 led a guard of honour of other vehicles at his funeral service.
Barbara still drives the Austin 35 at Auckland Austin Flying A Club events.