One of the great pleasures of a long drive is stopping in small towns. This time we stopped in Mangaweka. You actually have to turn off SH1 to go to Mangaweka which is now mostly a deserted main street. The motorway by-passed it in the 80s. Like a river that changes course a diverted State Highway simply kills a small town and leaves it behind like a stagnant back water pool.
Mangaweka now has a handful of mostly empty old buildings along a street called Broadway which used to be its main road. There is a memorial gate to remember the Mangaweka men who left their town and died in war, and there is a building that Robin White turned into art.
On the opposite corner from this building is an old Bank of New Zealand Building.
Empty now of course, but its entrance still – a long time after it ceased to be a bank – exuding confidence and classicism.
I have a deep love for forgotten places, and people and the like. Things that were once popular or full of life that are now deserted or abandoned move me a great deal. My rambling through the annals of pop culture from 1982 is just one manifestation of this.
I of course know nothing of the planning that determined that the State Highway should bypass and not go through Mangaweka but the consequences of that decision are obvious. A town died. Who could have thought it would? It had a nice set of buildings, a wide main street populated with shops, and a school, some churches, a two-storey stone bank, and at least two crops of young men who marched off to war from amongst its people.
But we are all going.
Who now remembers the boys from Mangaweka of 1914? Some of them, the ones who died in Turkey and France, have their initial and surname chiselled into a memorial gate on a side street off a former main road. And who now remembers Mangaweka, that once prosperous little town where bankers went to work each morning in suit and tie?
For those people the now has passed. But not for us. Which is something I realised again on Broadway in Mangaweka taking a photo of the old bank. Now’s fierce urgency is here, and a holiday reminds me to appreciate it. Appreciate now.