Sunday 25 September 2005

The Historic Places Trust – Well, where were they when we needed them? They demolished the ‘Willows,’ terraced housing (opposite The Oval) owned by our very own Anthony Joseph Snr. Each unit was a beautiful, well built comfortable home. It was bulldozed to make way for a very unremarkable service station! Compare those terraced homes with the flimsy units they are now building in Auckland. The so-called builders up here use a stapling gun and a battery operated screw-driver to throw together a pile of junk that doesn’t last a couple of years.

A word about those so-called service stations. What service I would like to know? In my day (an expression used by those approaching senility) they greeted you, filled your tank, checked your water and oil without being asked, cleaned your windscreen and put air in your tyres if needed!

Another unwise demolition was that of Garden Terrace, owned by Joseph La Hood Snr. Each unit in this Georgian structure was a beautiful, character home. The La Hood family lived in No. 1 which had three storeys and featured a solarium running down one side. This too was demolished by the Dunedin City Council to make way for the Palmyra Housing development. The name ‘Palmyra’ was chosen because an early ship to reach Otago bore it, not because it had been the ancient Roman name for Syria.

Speaking of Garden Terrace, the home of the La Hood family, it was the only Lebanese house to be graced by the presence of Bishop James Whyte DD(Doctor of Divinity). His visit was occasioned by a major protest by the Lebanese Community over access to college education for their children. The event that triggered t;his event was the denial of entry to St Dominics College of two young girls on racial grounds. Their parents has been informed by a nun in authority ‘they would be better at St Josephs with their own people’. The Community responded by threatening to bring out nuns from Lebanon and set up our own school – and it was no idle threat. When Bishop Whyte came to Garden Terrace to discuss the situation, the people of the community attended in large numbers. The meeting was ‘chaired’ by Frank La Hood, then a young man in his early twenties. He challenged the Bishop with the question – “My Lord, doesn’t it say in our teachings – ‘Go ye and teach all nations?’ ”
The Bishop’s response was ‘My son, mistakes have been made and I will see to it.’
Now fast forward a few years. Lila Joseph was herself a pupil at St Dominics and she and her parents were hot satisfied with how she was being taught by the nuns. They opted to send Lila to Otago Girls High School directly opposite the Convent. In spite of intense pressure being put on the Joseph family from many quarters, they stuck to their guns – and good for them. It showed that not all of our people could be brow beaten. As for Lila, she prospered at Otago Girls and became a pharmacist when she left.
My aim is not to stir up old hurts, but just to remember. Please don’t get the impression I harbour bitterness against our Faith. I don’t. I didn’t leave the church. I feel it left me. I loved the Latin Mass and Benediction, with the rituals including a warm sermon that related to our very own parish. Today the priest sits down right through the Mass while everyone recites the words projected onto a far away wall I can’t read. The whole congregation seems to be on the move right through the ceremony and then I have to shake hands with complete strangers. I don’t think St Peter will ever have to make kubbee for me if you get my drift. Anymore letters like this and you will be asking me to stop writing.
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