Bath House Days – Brian Potiki

Bath House Days – Brian Potiki

I’d cycle from Mead St, a long glide down Fenton St –

before roundabouts – past the railway yards, turning right

through the Government Gardens. Then passing through

the heavy rear doors, I’d hear clatter from the hall as Maxine

and Carol readied the counter, and John Perry’s deeper voice

as he sorted out the morning with Alex.

The Bath House – not yet jazzed-up as a provincial Te Papa Tongarewa –

was a mouldering, slightly creepy place. But the staff were lively and

museum director Ian Rockel was a fellow poet.

My job was to review the art exhibitions (which changed every
month) and to get people into the galleries on friday night

with a programme of films and poetry.

In my late-twenties, I still started the day with a fresh sense of

adventures to come.

Things were done differently.

For instance, when an exhibition was planned around Tuhoe prophet

Rua Kenana, I was tasked with fetching a tewhatewha (a type of

war spear-club) believed to have belonged to him, from the Whakatane

library. I had no car so I hitchhiked there and – with the tewhatewha over

my shoulder – back.

All in a day’s work.

A decade later Jill and I were first into the closed-up Tudor Towers

with our Travelling Tuataras story theatre shows. In a recent (August

11th) daily post article locals fondly recall the nightclub which came alive in

the weekend.

I remember the stink of beer and cigarettes in the carpet and broken

drum-sticks tossed onto the bar’s low ceiling, the huge boxy

dressing-rooms where the south wing is now, and the former

restaurant kitchen filthy with old grease.

I loved all of it.


Brian Potiki