LETTER FROM MAUDIE
The monthly jottings of a free-spirited Ponsonby dressmaker of the 1920s, as imagined by Angela Lassig
VERMONT STREET, PONSONBY 1st December, 1920
I can scarcely believe that it is December already! All the Ponsonby Road shop windows are brimming with glorious things. I swear the draperies are trying to outdo each other but they can’t compare with Mrs Wheatley’s Ladies’ Emporium. I’m positive that I shall find presents locally for everyone on my list! I’m using my daily walk to Hellabys as a window shopping expedition. By the way the butcher has taken a shine to Tiger who now receives a bone each visit! His halfhearted efforts to bury his treasure is making my garden appear quite bizarre. I have at least ten strange ‘plants’ sprouting at the moment! This week I paid a special visit to the Horticultural Society’s impressive marquee at the Auckland show and my, the flowers were a treat. Harry Goldie’s table showed the most exquisite stocks, roses, foxgloves, oriental poppies and snap dragons. But my absolute FAVOURITE display of the afternoon was that of Mr Brett which included the most gorgeous and fragrant sweet peas. He had some of a peculiar tint of lilac that has positively bewitched me! I have Shanly’s and all the local drapers on alert should they receive any new lilac silks as I have my heart now set on the colour for a New Year tea dress – for myself ! I must remember to shut all the windows when I’m out as we’ve got a sneak thief in the Ponsonby vicinity. Do you remember the Misses Miller of Trinity Street? I introduced you to them last summer during one of our too many visits to Mrs Taylors confectionery shop (she of the utterly delicious Turkish delight... now you remember, I’m sure!). Well. . . when they were out at the West End last Thursday afternoon - I can’t remember what picture they were seeing - the cheeky sneak thief ransacked the house. Apparently he was looking for money (but I fear he may have been barking up the wrong tree in that case).
He got in through the window on the front verandah that they leave open for Vera, their kitty. The sneaky devil even took the milk money! Gertie, I have to tell you about a meeting that Ivy has suggested we go to at the Union Office in the Tabernacle Buildings on the 9th. It seems there are more than fifty dressmakers and milliners who are interested in starting a union. Apparently they’ve started one in the South Island. I’m curious to hear more but will be sad to miss seeing cousin Fred play... the Ponsonby Boys Brass Band are at the top of Symonds Street the very same night. I have to tell you about this line in the Star that I found most amusing: “I always wanted to write,” said Miss Freda Sternberg. “Even when I was engaged in cultivating germs.” Do you find it funny too? I don’t know, everyone says I have the most peculiar sense of humour. Actually the interview was very interesting. Apparently before she became Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s publicity agent – did you know that he’s touring New Zealand presently – she studied bacteriology! I wonder if she assists the esteemed author with the more gruesome details of his horrible murder stories? Have you yet purchased your summer bathing suit? Milne and Choyce have some extremely smart styles just in. The one I really would like is a fine woollen Canadian two–piece in a striking heliotrope colour with heliotrope and white striped trimmings. It buttons at the shoulders which is a very sensible idea don’t you think? However, at 55/8 it’s a lot more than the 20 shillings I’ve budgeted for a new suit. A similar – but not so striking – version at only 19/6 will have to do. Did you read about the French airman who tried to decapitate pedestrians in Marseilles? Apparently he suddenly went insane and started making sweeping plunges on the crowd. Only frantic dashes enabled them to avoid the machine. He would have made a fair tally on Ponsonby Road on a sale day! Perhaps I should wear my tallest hat during the next airshow! I also read something about the world’s ugliest woman, but I can’t remember where she was from.
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56 PONSONBY NEWS+ December 2010
PUBLISHED FIRST FRIDAY EACH MONTH (except January)