The Auckland Harbour Bridge opened to traffic at 2:58pm on May 30 1959, and perhaps that was also the start of Mairangi Bay’s vibe, one that has changed and adapted over the years but one that has never been lost.  Over 20,000 vehicles crossed the then four-span bridge on that day, and by mid- August one million vehicles had made the journey. But although the new, easy access opened up the Shore in time for a new decade, it was still quite a big deal to go the other way. To go ‘to town’ in the Sixties was a formal occasion that called for shoes and socks, a tie, a good frock and gloves. It wasn’t something most people – especially women and children – did every day; everyone shopped local.

 

Mairangi Bay Beach in the 1960's

Dawn Wilks’ husband, Dick, was the general manager of the Auckland Harbour Bridge Authority and they settled in Aberdeen Road. Really, it was Takapuna that was the Big Smoke for Shore people, but villages like Mairangi Bay were holding their own.

“I loved Ward’s in particular,” she remembers. “I always liked fashion,and Ward’s had lovely clothing and undergarments. It also sold just about everything you could think of; it was a mini department store. There was also a beautiful shoe shop that some people actually crossed the Bridge to patronise. And the hardware store! In the days when hardware stores were just about wall-to-ceiling with shelves and cunning little drawers full of screws, nails, nuts and bolts, it was always busy. Just about everybody – mostly men; domestic duties were fairly well defined between the sexes then – was building a boat, a bach, a sleepout, adding a bedroom for each new arrival. Hardware stores were vital, and the Mairangi Bay one was a good one. We girls, of course,” she laughs, “hung around in and outside the supermarket, which was just about next door. Those gender-defined roles again! For a village the size of Mairangi, the supermarket was big for the time. There was also the butcher, fish shop and greengrocer.” “Everyone was so friendly although,of course, the Bays was still almost countryside and everyone knew everyone else because there was relatively few of us. Dick had to travel a lot for the Authority, studying bridges all around the world. People would know I was alone and would pop around and see me and our four children. Mairangi Bay is still like that – there is a real closeness of community, that is still quickly picked up by people moving in.”

“I loved living so close to Mairangi Bay. Although Aberdeen Road was just about equidistant to Milford and Mairangi, it was over the hill to Mairangi that we mostly went.”

Campbell’s Bay Primary School opened in 1925 and Murray’s Bay in 1958, but by 1967, there were enough children in the immediate area to call for the building of Mairangi Bay Primary. The Surf Lifesaving Club – formed in 1954 – was also making its mark nationally, and by the Sixties, had already developed the reputation it still holds today. In fact, the Sixties were probably the defining moment for Mairangi Bay Village as a commercial hub.