Book Review: Real Modern – Everyday life in New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s, by Bronwyn Labrum

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_real_modern.jpgWhat a wonderful piece of work this book is! For those of us who lived through these decades as kids and teenagers, every page has something which rings a bell. We did think we were the cat’s pyjamas in our ever-changing fashions, and so hip and cool with all the new music.

For Gen X and Y, and on, it’s a wonderful way to get an idea of what your parents and grandparents read, listened to, watched, ate, played and so much more. As a social commentary, it works very well indeed. The layout and the gazillion photographs really bring the years to life.

I found that so many of the entries and comments triggered great memories – the section on Manual Training which happened in Intermediate schools in the late 50s reminded me of my fearsome cooking and sewing teacher who, being of vitriolic temperament, would hurl kitchen implements at us when we did not get things right. Once, even more memorably, she chased a friend around the cooking room with a carving knife for some perceived act of insubordination.

I remember the revolting dental chair – as a preschooler I had terrible teeth and spent far too much time in that horrible chair, with the foot-driver grinding drill.

As a student, I visited Wellington, and delighted in the Monde Marie coffee bar which was the heart of the folk music scene.

I “managed” a group of school students from Christchurch to Auckland  on the Interisland overnight ferry and the overnight train and can vouch for the sections on those modes of transport. The clothes, the shoes, the picnics beside cars on the side of the road, all so true of NZ “way back when!”

It’s a book to return to, with delight, and recognition, and amusement if you are old enough to remember 40-50 years back. And if you’re not, it’s still a great delight. I recommend it hugely – will make a wonderful talking point for family occasions, too!

Reviewed by Sue Esterman

Real Modern: Everyday life in New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s
by Bronwyn Labrum
Published by Te Papa Press
ISBN 9780994104175

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One thought on “Book Review: Real Modern – Everyday life in New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s, by Bronwyn Labrum

  1. Pingback: Reviews of the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards finalists |

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