Avondale College - our stories

Auckland City libraries approached Avondale College with a concept.

To be involved in a writing competition where students produced a piece of writing based on a family story.
  •  Two categories. Junior, Year 9 and 10; Senior, year 11, 12, 13
  • 10 finalists in each category
  • All finalists invited (with 2 support people) to a celebration and  prizegiving in the Central Library
  • All finalists received a booklet containing all the finalists entries.
  • The winners in each category won an iPod touch
  • two runners up in each category won an iPod Nano
What the judges were looking for:Stories needed to convey a sense of the experiences of the people and the time period. As diverse as:
  •   Grand-dad's war experiences
  • What an ancestor did for a living
  • A special family memory.
What we were looking for was the human aspect rather than a dry recounting of facts; a sense of why the story is special to the author.

This competition was designed to introduce children to their identity. We wanted young people to appreciate and value their own family stories and form a stronger attachment to their culture and to their community.

This competition has exceeded my wildest expectations. Some of the entries made me laugh and some of the entries made me cry. They were all without a doubt stunning.

I have added the winners of the junior and the senior categories so that you can judge for yourself.
Ist prize. Junior competition
Memory Tea
By Lucy Chen 1001
It was summer; the air was warm and scented with flowers. I was staying with my grandparents for a week. I was six years old then. We often went to the park down the road. On Sunday afternoon, my grandfather was taking a nap so Grandma asked me to join her for tea on the veranda. It was wonderful sitting in the sun and looking at all the flowers that Grandma had planted – she loved to be close to the earth. I poured some tea into my favourite cup, white and traditionally patterned with clouds and mountains. It made me feel grown up.
“Grandma,” I asked. “What was China like when you were little?”
She looked at me, and her eyes were very dark and kind.
“Well,” she said, taking a sip of tea. “it was very different to how things are now. But I do not think you would understand.”
I tried to imitate her by taking her a sip, but the tea was too hot and scalded my tongue.
“Why not?”
“Because it is a little sad.”
“Tell Me! Please, Grandma.”
Grandma told me about her childhood. I had to listen carefully, because my Chinese wasn’t very good. She lived in a rural town, and liked to look after the cattle on her family’s farm. She and her friends would have fun in the river and the woods.
“For a while life was good and simple.”
Then she talked about what happened when she was only three years older. She said that bombs fell out of the sky and strange people with huge guns decided to take over the country. That when they came her family and some others from her town escaped into the mountains.
“I was in the paddock and did not know that they were coming. When I heard them and ran, pulling my favourite cow along, because she was my friend also. It snowed in the mountains, there was hardly anything to eat, a few people did not make it. And for a week there was nothing to do except wait. Then the invaders left. We slowly crept back into the town. All the animals were gone, the houses broken into, the people who couldn’t run away were dead. The only animal left was the cow I saved.”
“But why?” I asked.
I had listened to her story, a frown etching deeper and deeper on my face. I was confused. What she told me was alien, strange. It was years later that I realized that she had not told me the whole truth, that she thought I was too young. I realised that their animals had been slaughtered, their houses burned to the ground, and their people massacred.
My grandmother smiled at my round childish face, but it was a melancholy smile; the expression that she wore was close to pity.
“I knew you would not understand.”
I pouted and picked up my cup again. The tea was cold.
Note: A true story, China was invaded in WW2
1st prize. Senior competition
More than just a story
By Alison Officer 1101
 Mum made us come. She said it might be our last chance to say goodbye, so we humoured her. Great Nana Joyce Hooper (We usually just called her Nana) was on her last legs. She was approaching 98 and still lived at home. Once she remembered who we all were she asked us “little ‘un’s” to come closer.
“Let me tell you about the adventure I had when I was not much older than you,” she whispered to us.
Her eyelids fluttered shut as her mind wandered through her memories.
“Most of us left school to work when we were about 14 years old. Ah yes, I was lucky to find a material shop to work in, right in my hometown Napier. It was an ordinary day at work, now what year was it? Let’s see, 1931 yes, my best friend Joyce and I-“
“Two Joyce’s?” My sister questioned.
“Yes dear, we had just come back from our break when it began.” She seemed to drift off, but the tale continued.
A deep rumbling sound could be heard at about 10:45 in the morning. It seemed to come from the depths of the earth and one could only stop and listen. Next began the shaking, jolting, shuddering, quivering tremors that rolled like waves across the ground.
Terrified, I burrowed beneath boxes, clambering, aiming to get underneath the great Kauri tree counter which was my workstation. Uttering prayers to God in heaven I prayed he would look after me and my family. Then I felt as though there were two arms around me like a child in a loving embrace. I was meant to survive. God would protect me.
Crashing down around me came reels of thread that were stored on the high shelves in the store. Then the clash of brass ornaments, the shattering glass and falling debris. Looking up, great bolts of material that were displayed around the shop swung from the ceiling. Next to go were the shelves themselves, before the walls around them crumbled. Dust was everywhere, choking whatever life was left in me.
My hair was caught so I hacked it free of the rubble. I had beautiful long hair, the talk of the town, but it was a small price to pay. Screaming in shock I shouted out to Joyce, was she okay? No reply and I feared the worst. Crouching under the kauri counter, tears tumbled out of my eyes, and I hoped she had merely been knocked unconscious.
I struggled to find my way through the store I knew so well. Massive concrete blocks had dropped from the ceiling, crushing all those underneath. The kauri table had saved me. I was lucky to be alive. I found my dear friend looking so serene, so peaceful, against the stark contrast of the collapsed store. Her black frock, our work clothes, were smothered in the white dust. Her body was rigid and I could feel the heat from her body disappear. Tears once more streaked my face as I looked around in hope of finding someone alive.
Running down Main Street, fleeting looks left and right showed the same tragedy had befallen us all. I slowed to a walk; it was much too dangerous to run for there were live wires everywhere, shooting out blue sparks from fallen power poles. A chemist store was ablaze, but there were no fire engines and no available water to put it out. Parked cars were crushed and roads were blocked by falling buildings.
Fires had begun to spread. Water mains had burst and the water was bubbling up through cracks in the footpath. I continued to avoid potholes in the road, noticing more fires spring up, whole buildings alight.
I reached the lagoon and stopped. I just stood staring at it along with everyone else. You could do nothing but stare. The lagoon I once paddled in as a child, it was gone, only shattered rock remained! Tiny creeks of water trickled out to the sea now far away. Some people were claiming that the island in the distance jumped. And the sky was an eerie yellow from the rising dust. Shivers ran down my spine.
I shook my head; I couldn’t take it any longer. I had to find my family. Looking up at the hill I saw enormous cracks in the surface, like it was a clay figurine that had dried unevenly. Darting past the school, I tried to avert my eyes. It was a concrete school and during the ‘quake the whole roof had collapsed in. I feared for the lives of my babysitting charges. Were they safe? I was too scared to look. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw lots of children, all huddled together. They had survived it! It looked like they were still at recess.
I heard a voice coming down the street, “Joyce! Is that you?” my father yelled desperately.
Sprinting towards him, I cried, “Yes Papa! It’s me, it’s me!”
I hadn’t called him Papa since I was a child.
“Oh Joyce, my darling daughter. I heard that Bestall’s collapsed and that a Joyce had died. I thought it was you.” He broke down.
We walked back to our house hand in hand and he told me everyone was safe. Mother had been cooking dinner in the oven when the earthquake struck. The door flew open and dinner went all over the floor. My sister had just had an operation but she was fine also. Her bed skidded from one end of the verandah to the other, but thankfully she was not injured. We were awaiting letters from my brothers who were not living in Napier any longer, they were journalists. Father wasn’t sure if the earthquake spread very far, so they might not even have felt it!
Then the spell was broken. Nana gazed into the distance.
“What happened next? Did you stay in Napier? What happened to the kauri table? The questions flew at her from us, her captivated audience.
Nana laughed, :”Just a minute, one at a time! A lot of families, including mine, went to Palmerston North for a little while until Napier was repaired. Once houses had power again we were allowed back. It was an adventure for everyone”.
“The kauri counter?” I prompted her.
“Ahh yes, and as for that, well its sitting right in the dining room over there” she said musing, “and if it weren’t for that strong kauri table and God, I wouldn’t be here today… and neither would you.” She drifted back into the past, her memories of life gone to her companions yet again. We left, still chattering, wondering, intrigued by what Nana had said, knowing it was more than just a story.
 We are planning next years event now, where we are rolling the competition out to other schools in the Auckland area.

This entry was posted on Friday, 12 December 2008. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

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