Memories captured in book


Last year, Kaitangata author Joyce Beck self-published her third book, 21 years after her first.

Now, less than a year later she will unveil a fourth.

Titled A Trip Down Memory Lane in Kaitangata: Volume 2, it mirrors last year’s journey through the history of the noted coal-mining township through the oral histories of its inhabitants.

‘‘My 2019 museum fund-raiser A Trip Down Memory Lane in Kaitangata awakened a deep interest in residents here about the stories of people who lived and worked in Kaitangata.

‘‘During the first Covid-19 lockdown people were calling me up saying it would be good to talk to this or that local identity as they were getting old and their stories might not be told again.

‘‘So over the past 102 days, I compiled the oral histories of 21 people who were born or lived here, and this gave me enough great copy to publish volume 2,’’ Mrs Beck said.

This time, she focused on the stories of those still alive or their family members.

‘‘People I wanted to talk to are getting older and I was worried some of their really good stories would die with them so I had to work quickly.’’

She said the book starts off with the town’s last remaining World War 2 veteran, Eric Bisset.

‘‘I had interviewed him in 2014 when I was researching for volume one. I knew I still had his great life story as he had told me about his World War 2 experiences in the Western Desert and Italy campaigns.

‘‘As he is now 99 I wanted to make sure his story would be told.

‘‘He talks about what Kai was like after the war.’’

The first part of her book covers experiences by Kaitangata townsfolk during the two world wars and then looks at the farming community surrounding the town.

‘‘There are stories about the McCrosties, Daumanns, Johnsons, Storers and Marshalls.

‘‘There are so many great stories there as these families have been on their farms for generations, some for almost 150 years.

‘‘They are the very fabric of our community,’’ she said

The rest of the book is filled with stories about current or former Kaitangata families, including a couple of sisters who holidayed every year there as children.

‘‘Most I talked to were over 70 years in age, everyone loved chatting to me about their history as they all had a story to tell.

‘‘One even told me about their time growing up in nearby Taratu — once a productive coal mine in Kaitangata hills, east of Lovells Flat. No trace of it remains as it has disappeared into history.’’

At 2pm this Saturday, Mrs Beck plans to unveil her book at the Kaitangata Community Centre.

Proceeds from the sale will go to the Kaitangata Museum project erecting info panels at the new memorial garden.

‘‘It’s a labour of love and there are still many more great stories out there,’’ she said.