After a rigorous interview, I landed my first job at the then Diagnostic Laboratory, Symonds Street, Auckland in the 80’s. I was fresh faced, straight out of school, when I and two other girls, started our training in Bacteriology Department.
The laboratory was around the corner in Mount Street, just metres from Wakefield Maternity Hospital where I was born. I thought I was made…an income, freedom, new friends and my first motorbike; albeit a step-through!
I loved all the bacteria, Like these little ecoli – Aren’t they cute!
agar plates – swabbed, incubated and read a million of those!
peering down microscopes –
…and reading sensitivity of antibiotic discs –
Would have done it for free!!!
Let’s move on…
The pathologists and technicians were friendly and at tea and lunch breaks, we religiously played knock out whist and euchre.
Here we go…
It was one morning in the tearoom (above a typical New Zealand garage), half-way through an intense game of euchre that the door opened and a lady came in, excused herself, and asked if we had time to look at some of her artwork.
She had a series of old houses captured in pen and wash and her name was Katie Smith. I was very interested and we paused the game.
Being seventeen, I didn’t really understand that my love-affair with houses was already firmly established. But, I did know that I loved art – I’d taken it at school. I was talented with clay, loved sketching, and studied art history. So when Katie briefly entered the tearoom and my life, I was smitten at first glance. Her watercolours were just beautiful.
I didn’t earn a lot of money at the job and her paintings cost a bit, but I just had to get a couple…
Fast forward a few decades, and yes, I still have them –
Framed sketches of, long-demolished character houses in old Grafton, Auckland.
I remember, my dad and I found one of the houses still standing while we were driving through Grafton, a year or so after buying them. Paint peeling off and front balcony looking decidedly dodgy. Clearly, no one was living there anymore.
But, as we drove past, I am sure I caught a faint echo of happy voices that long-past had resided.
I love these water colours and so did my parents. For nearly ten years they graced the hall way of the family house I grew up in, in Remuera.
When I married a Devonport boy, they graced the walls of our dining room. When we escaped to the country – they came too and were proudly hung in the lounge, where they still hang. And if I listen quietly I can still hear the chatter!
Where Katie Smith is today? I do not know!
I have google trolled her and her art to no avail. Have you heard of her? Have you seen her water colours?
One thing I found out, was that she also recorded old houses in Australia. Does she live there?
If you have any friends in Oz, do ask them if they know of her and what became of her.
I have studied many artists and as many as I have come to know, have assorted life stories. Often, they struggle in the pursuit of a dream. Is she still alive?
Thank you, Katie Smith, for your pen and wash. They bless my heart as much today as they did when I was young.