A (Park) Pony Tale

A (Park) Pony Tale

Friday, April 15, 2016

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It’s an unlikely colour, a little tattered around the edges, but the purple rocking horse is still one of King Edward Park’s most popular playthings.Well-worn from a half century of use the old iron steed with its five coloured saddles nods patiently as entire families urge it through its paces. Spurred on by young riders it bucks gently, perhaps thrillingly, but never unseats. Pressed harder by older and more aggressive youth it groans reluctantly, bucks higher, but any fall is of their own making.

Like the illustrious Phar lap our Park horse started life in the South Island, foaled in the workshop of Mr R Graham somewhere in Southland. Like all horses of pedigree its birthday was in August, August 1963 in fact and like all good horses of pedigree it hit the ground running when it arrived in Hawera later that year.Originally a fiery red its colour gradually faded and when, a decade or so later, an aged tractor, pipework giraffe and pirate ship came to share its playground, it transformed into a zebra.Unfazed by this insult to its pedigree, the horse, still unnamed, rocked on.

The old Bronco had celebrated its 35th birthday when rumours circulated that it was to be retired and put out to pasture.

In 1998 a new broom swept through its playground. New safety rules spelled the end of older playthings, Rusty the Tractor was towed away, the giraffe and rocket were sold at auction and the old horse loaded up and taken away.Bright and shiny new generation playthings filled the vacuum left by their going.Cushionedby woodchip (called softfall) new generation children would seesaw on an exotic quadropus, swing from exercise themedclimbing framesand a cobweb of rope and chain. A toe eating roundabout was replaced by a lunar orbiter, the tractor by a pair of spring loaded surfboards.New generation swings with rubber seats and infant-sized buckets replaced the trusty wooden swings. Not even the old toilet block was spared, the digger moved in and turned it to rubble in readiness for the new.

But when it was all finished, bright and shiny, there was something missing.The Rocking horse had not come back! But not for long!Hawera’s youngsters clamoured for its return and in due course, with a little bit of careful grooming and a few transplants, it did.However it had changed colour again, this time to a subdued shade of purple.

Even that has faded now.Eighteen years on it is time for the old galloper to be spelled again, freshened up, re plated and re-saddled . But what colours to wear for the next season? The answer lies in the imaginations of the young riders of Hawera.