Ashburton historical page sharing stories of times gone by

CONTRIBUTORS: Ashburton historians Connor Lysaght and Michael Hanrahan (above) enjoy being part of the page.
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Through the modern-age phenomenon of social media, Ashburton’s history is coming to life. Editor Susan Sandys delves into a Facebook page which is providing a forum for thousands to share pictures and memories of times gone by.

It’s a Facebook page with a long name

– Ashburton NZ: History plus, Photos of Places & Groups, Classes to 1980.

Delving into the posts and comments on the page is to take a journey back in time.

With about 5000 members, the page is the pride of its creator and sole administrator Belinda Cimino.

‘‘I am just simply amazed. Now 10 to 20 join per day. Hundreds have all contributed, new photos pour in daily,” Cimino said.

“My favourite thing is all the reunions and meet-ups that have happened due to this group. Lots of family trees filled in.”

Cimino grew up in Ashburton and today lives in Melbourne. She said she decided to start the page, originally called The Graduating Class of 1966 from Allenton Primary School, in order to share school photos from the time she attended the school.

“It was easier to create a Facebook and send the link to all the former pupils to share the photos.”

Belinda Cimino.

One of the page’s members, Ashburton historian Michael Hanrahan, suggested to her she change the name to better reflect what the page was becoming – a hub for people to share history.

‘‘Since it was changed to have the word ‘history’, all these under 35s have joined,’’ Cimino said.

Another one who helped in this regard was Ashburton Museum archivist Connor Lysaght, who supports the page on behalf of the museum.

Cimino said it was wonderful having knowledgeable people such as Hanrahan and Lysaght as members, as they could post historic information themselves or comment on other posts to provide factual information.

Hanrahan said he was finding people were posting two types of history on the page, being nostalgia and historical research.

‘‘I just like when someone puts new information, or new photos in particular, that haven’t been seen before,’’ he said.

Posts on the Ashburton NZ: History plus, Photos of Places & Groups, Classes to 1980 page have included:

OLD SCHOOL: Lined up on Pole Rd to catch their Education Board bus to Methven High School in 1963 are (from left) Susan Winn, unknown, Ann Brooker and Robert Totty.

Methven school bus photo from 1963

In June this year, Ashburton resident Allan Lill posted the photo, showing Methven High School students lined up to get on their school bus, an Education Board red Bedford, on Pole Rd, Methven. Lill told The Ashburton Courier the image came from a slide, in a family collection of photos. The boy pictured in the line of students was his brother-in-law Robert Totty. He knew the names of two of the three girls in the line, being Susan Winn to the left and Ann Brooker to the right, with the other girl, in the middle, being unidentified. He wrote with the post – “Rode the bike to catch the bus, hard seats, dusty roads…home to milk the cow, feed the dogs and hens. The life of a babyboomer was good.” There were more than 80 comments, with many people sharing similar memories of cycling many kilometres to their school bus stop, sometimes into fierce nor’westers or in the freezing cold.

Ashburton history Facebook page

Ashburton 1901 post office, original library, and rotunda

Posts with photos of these structures have stirred people’s sentiments. One man commented he had been told by his father that his grandfather Fred built the rotunda. The rotunda was established in Baring Square west, then moved to the Ashburton Domain, where remnants of the structure remain today. Dozens commented on the beauty of the 1901 post office, rueing the loss of historic buildings in Ashburton. Many recalled the clockface from the post office tower was retained after the building’s demolition, and is now the town’s current clock at Baring Square east. For the post about the library building, comments revealed it was Ashburton’s first library. This was located on Havelock St, where the district council administration building is located today.

Ashburton history Facebook page

Sherwood railway sign

A photo of this sign was posted to the page by a man who said he noticed the sign at a farm near Lauriston he delivers firewood to. It is believed to be from the former Sherwood railway station, which was on the former railway line to Methven. Some commenting recalled the railway line and a large farm in the area by the same name. The railway line from Rakaia to Methven was closed in 1976. ‘‘I remember when there was still a small shed beside the railway line,’’ one commenter said.