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Always ready for adventure


Pam Hall's children remember their mother always saying, “Let's just see what is around the next corner.,” when they were out tramping.

She was usually wearing her trademark green shorts and a straw hat.

Pam Hall, nee Cocks, was remembered for her adventurous spirit at her funeral earlier this month.

She passed away on January 30, aged 93.

Pam could row, sail, and owned more than one motorbike over her life.

Her sense of adventure meant words like “can't” or “won't” were not in her vocabulary.

She got on with life and gave everything a go.

Pam was president of the Mangapapa Playcentre, and then chair of the Tairawhiti Playcentre Association when her children were young. She was a Brownie leader, a volunteer archivist at Tairawhiti Museum, and in the late 1980s spent a stint as librarian at Lytton High School. She became honorary archivist at the city's museum, a position she held for about 18 years. She was also recognised nationally for her contribution to preserving this country's historical records.

In 1952, Pam was working on the top storeys of the Hope Gibbons Building in Dixon St, Wellington. At the age of 25, she was acting head of the national archives — at that time stored at a number of different buildings in the capital — because the senior officer was overseas.

On the afternoon of July 29, a massive fire engulfed the old building. It was due for demolition but not before Pam and a colleague searched through ashes and rubble to save what documents they could.

While some were wet and scorched on the outside, the inside pages were salvageable and Pam dried them out in a kiln.

“Many records were saved because of Pam,” said her husband of 52 years, Allan.

The couple married in 1968.

Allan said Pam was his best friend, supporter and encourager.

“I will miss her.”

Allan was supported by their daughters Veronica and Rosemary when he spoke at her funeral.

He told a story of when Pam was in hospital, shortly before she died.

Asked by one of the doctors if she wished to be revived if she became unconscious, Pam said firmly, “No, I've had a good life”.

That good life started in Christchurch where Pam was born on March 29, 1927. She returned there often with Allan and the children to visit the boat sheds by the Rakaia river mouth.

She attended Canterbury University, where she obtained a masters in history.

In 1950 she moved to Wellington to attend library school.

Pam was qualified in both archive and library work.

In 1953 Pam went on a Fulbright scholarship to study archives in the United States.

She returned to Wellington and worked in the National Archive. She also volunteered at the Catacombs, a drop-in social and welfare centre, established in 1959 at St Peter's Church, in Willis St.

It was there she met fellow volunteer and young lawyer Allan Hall in 1960.

After they married, the couple moved to Gisborne, where Allan had landed a job.

Pam found a position at HB Williams Memorial Library where she stayed until the first of the couple's two daughters, Veronica, was born in 1970. Two years later her sister Rosemary was born.

Their mother immersed herself in the Playcentre movement. Pam would drive a Playcentre van up the Coast, and inland to Patutahi and Matawai, to the children who did not have access to play centres, and the van became a mobile play centre for those children.

Allan remembered during this time going to bed and his wife staying up late to work on Playcentre business.

“Pam showed diligence and dedication. She saw this work as part of her Christian vocation,” he said.

Pam had always been a woman of faith.

Daughter Rosemary said her mother was delighted to reach an age where she could see her six grandchildren grow.

Pam loved the telephone, and always kept a list next to it, and could talk for hours to friends and family.

She was a regular at school events, helping the community.

“Mum was a mad beachgoer who could whip up a picnic in no time.

And at the funeral, Pam's green shorts, which she wore from the early 60s through into the 80s, were remembered more than once.

Pam also had strong friendships.

The Friday Ladies are a group of friends who meet every Friday for a coffee and a catch up.

The last Friday Pam was alive, they met at her bedside.

Every week they would share their ups and downs, achievements and news of their growing families.

They discussed books, plays, politics and travel.

Pam loved the colour orange, and she loved coffee.

Veronica and Rosemary each spoke about their mother, who they said “always liked a party”.

Veronica said she was thankful for someone who had lived to be so old yet had suffered little heartbreak.

“She still had so many of her close friends and Dad who looked after her so lovingly and diligently.”

Veronica spoke about her mother's love of the outdoors, and of adventure.

“Mum was a fourth generation New Zealander and she was proud of that.”

She had a brother called Allan, who coincidentally married a woman named Pam. “Mum was a huge fan of getting into the outdoors.”

Their childhood was full of visits to the fishing hut built by her grandfather at the mouth of the Rakaia River in Canterbury. It had an outdoor loo and you had to pump the drinking water for use.

“She lived through the great depression, and always remembered her father telling her at the start of it, ‘Well Pamela, you can have dripping or jam on toast but not both',” said Veronica.

Her mother's “frugality” was legendary among the family.

Pam made her own sleeping bag by sourcing the feathers locally, and it was still stored in the family home.

She would oil her own raincoat and made her own waterproof bags.

Towels would be sewn on to other towels to extend their life, and if there were ladders in pantyhose, Pam could combine the good leg from each pair to have a new set.

Every piece of fruit was stewed, bottled or made into marmalade.

She would take her children to pick-your-own onions. Veronica remembered the dusty fields, with their mum telling them to make sure they picked enough for the entire year.

She taught her daughters to sew, cook, ride a bike and always made sure they went to the local theatre productions.

From the memories of her family, to the saved historical records of New Zealand, there are shades of Pam still everywhere.

by Sophie Rishworth

SAVED VITAL MATERIAL: A young Pam Hall working as an archivist in the National archives in Wellington. After fire broke out in 1952, she and a colleague sifted through rubble and ash to retrieve many historical records. Picture supplied
REMEMBERED: Pam Hall was remembered for her adventurous spirit, and how she gave everything a go, earlier this month at her funeral. She passed away aged 93 on January 30. Picture supplied