Home' Greymouth Star : March 11th 2014 Contents Greymouth Star
Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 5
Aslight breeze brushes past
Nita Soster as she relaxes
outside her home at Dixon
House in the warmth of the
West Coast afternoon sun.
"Really, we do pretty good
with the weather here on the West Coast,"
she smiles. "On a day like this, where would
you get a better place?"
Nita was the eldest child of Chrissy and
Jack Reid and is proud to have been raised
in Waiuta with her sisters Ethel and Irene,
and brothers Stan and Ted.
"My grandparents came out from
Cornwall with nine children, and my
mother, Chrissy, was one of them. Mum
married Jack Reid, who was working in
"Dad worked in the Blackwater Mine,
which was in the middle of town. He used
to go down each day in the cage, down the
shaft, and I remember many times watching
him go down that shaft."
Times were tough in Waiuta. While the
mines provided employment and the only
income for the families, working conditions
were harsh and health and safety
"Dad died when he was 39, the mine had
a ected his lungs. He went on a pension
when he was 36 years old and died three
years later from the stone dust. A lot of
young men died long before their time
working in the Waiuta mines."
Nita went to school at Waiuta but did not
go on to high school, instead leaving school
to work so as to provide income and help
support her mother and family.
"I went to school until standard six, then
went out to work at 13 years old as I was
the oldest in the family. I worked in the
kitchen at the big boarding house, and I
used to cut lunches there for the miners.
Dorothy Myall, a friend of mine, was a
waitress. e single men from all the red
huts would come and have meals at the
boarding house --- the place would be
packed at meal time."
Waiuta township was self-contained and
there was never a shortage of something to
do for recreation.
"It was a great town. It had a beautiful
bowling green and tennis courts. You didn't
have to go anywhere. We had some nice
shops --- Dellaca's, old Mr Collins had a
general store and we would go to the movies
at the Miners' Hall.
"My uncle Stan and uncle Curly worked
at the stamping battery, down below at the
Snowy River, where all the quartz would be
Eventually, the Reid family moved to
Blaketown when Nita was 16, and soon
after that she went to Auckland where she
worked in a fabric cutting factory for a year
before returning home and starting a career
with Lane Walker Rudkin.
"Lane Walker Rudkin was on Mawhera
Quay at the time (next to the Railway
Hotel), it was a great place to work with
the production line and the cutting room.
e steam trains were a problem going up
and down, shunting on the quay with black
smoke billowing out."
Boarding with her aunty in Runanga was
the forerunner to romance for the young
Nita, who fell head over heels for local lad
and violinist, the striking Joe Soster.
"I used to see Joe around when I was
boarding at Aunty Elsie's. He'd pull up on
his bike and double me out to Rapahoe,
that's how it all started. A group of us would
all go swimming --- the beach was very
popular out there then. Eventually we were
married and had our reception at Harker's,
then lived in Runanga for a while before
moving to Greymouth."
Joe and Nita raised their four children
--- Kevin, Maria, Paul and David --- in the
Shakespeare Street family home, where
music was "a big part of life.
"Joe was a brilliant violinist and was
forever playing his music, it was just
beautiful --- Come back to Sorrento, Santa
Lucia, all those traditional Italian songs.
Kevin, our eldest son, played the piano as
well so there was always a family singalong.
"I spent time at home bringing up the
children, which women did back then, and
when they were old enough that's when I
went out to work."
After Lane Walker Rudkin, Nita worked
at Greymouth Hospital in the linen repair
section of the laundry, and remembers
the everyday whirr of machines and the
" ere were four of us --- me, Faye Tucker,
Mary Dixon and Cecily Osborne --- and
we all had a machine each. We would repair
all the linen that needed stitching, make
new pillow cases and such, do the repairs
on the nurses', theatre sta and doctors'
uniforms. I worked in the sewing section
for 15 years, and not long after the sewing
section eventually moved across to the
main hospital I left to play bowls. I'd had
Nita and Joe played for the Karoro
Bowling Club for many years, and Nita has
been a regular West Coast representative
in her time, winning many titles on the
"I loved playing bowls, it's a great game
and you meet many wonderful people and
make a lot of friends. I've spent a lot of
time out on the tennis courts competing
as well. Having the Star United courts just
down the road from where we lived was very
handy. Joe and I would go down early in the
mornings to play.
"I can't not mention rugby league as it is
a sport which has been part of the Soster
family. My boys played rugby league and
were very competitive. Joe was a very good
league player, playing fullback for Runanga,
West Coast and the South Island. Many say
he should have been a Kiwi international,
and I agree."
PICTURE: Paul McBride
Nita Soster relaxes in the afternoon sun, at home in Dixon House, Greymouth.
Nita Soster has lived all her life on the
West Coast. Born in the once thriving
goldmining town of Waiuta --- now a ghost
town --- she later settled in Greymouth
with her Italian husband Joe Soster.
PAUL McBRIDE listens as Nita re ects
on her life story so far.
Another view of the Blackwater Mine in Waiuta.
PICTURES: Jos Divis Collection
A photograph of Waiuta with the Blackwater Mine in the background.
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