An Apple a Day….

By Sarah Johnston (Client Services Coordinator – Radio, Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision)
Image: New Zealand apples; Kidds O. Red 16. Good [Apple case label. 1940-60s]. Ref: Eph-B-FRUIT-1940/60-08. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23016982
Image: New Zealand apples; Kidds O. Red 16. Good [Apple case label. 1940-60s]. Ref: Eph-B-FRUIT-1940/60-08. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23016982

The early months of the year are harvest time in the Hawke’s Bay, Nelson, and other apple-growing regions of New Zealand – and there are several recordings in the Radio Collection of Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision that tell the story of our favourite fruit and the huge export industry that has grown up around it. You can hear me talking to RNZ’s Jesse Mulligan about the recordings or you can listen to the full recordings below.

In 1940, during World War II, the New Zealand apple harvest was unable to be exported in such quantities as usual, because of the war affecting international shipping.  So there were something close to a million extra cases of apples that needed to be consumed domestically! To get Kiwis eating more apples, radio promotions such as a national apple-pie recipe competition were held and school children were encouraged to take at least one apple with them to school every day. Another competition was held to find a song to promote apples, and it was won by Ivan Perrin, who came came up with new lyrics to an old tune [1].  Here is one version of his winning “New Zealand Apple Song,” performed by Theo Walters’ Personality Band. The female vocalist is not identified on the disc, but may be Jean McPherson, New Zealand’s “Sweetheart of the Forces.” 

The New Zealand Apple Song, Theo Walters’ Personality Band, 1940

A rendition of Perrin’s “Apple Song” was also recorded by the children of Wellington’s Lyall Bay School and became hugely popular. An article in The Listener in March 1940 printed the lyrics “in response to many requests” and noted the daily playing of the song at 8.15am on commercial ZB radio stations, along with the ringing of a school bell, had become “a Dominion-wide signal for school kiddies to be on their way” [2]. Sadly, the original Lyall Bay School recording no longer exists, although a performance was re-recorded for a school reunion in 2002.

Any time is apple time
Whether you’re 9 or 99
Here’s a healthy golden rule
Take an apple each day to school
Munch it, crunch it
Call for more
Crunch it, munch it
Eat it right down ‘til you reach the core
Any time is apple time
Whether it’s wet or whether it’s fine
Don’t neglect this daily rule
Take some apples with you to school.

Primary school children eating apples. Pascoe, John Dobree, 1908-1972 :Photographic albums, prints and negatives. Ref: 1/4-001007-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23113216
Primary school children eating apples. Pascoe, John Dobree, 1908-1972: Photographic albums, prints and negatives. Ref: 1/4-001007-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/23113216

Later in the 1950s,  a “New Apple Song” was also commissioned as a radio promotion to keep up apple consumption. Here it is sung by New Zealand baritone Stewart Harvey.

The New Apple Song,  Stewart Harvey, 1950s

Today an international army of backpackers, travellers and Pacific workers on temporary permits help to pick, sort and pack the apple harvest. But back in the 1950s it was an all-Kiwi workforce. In those days, apples were individually wrapped in tissue paper and packed into wooden crates for shipping. Apple-packing was quite an art and in 1955 a National Apple Packing Contest was held to highlight this skill. It was covered in a weekly radio news programme called Radio Digest:

Radio Digest no. 313, 1955

NZRailways
New Zealand Railways. Publicity Branch. New Zealand Railways. Publicity Branch: For health & economy, buy your apples by the case. Order from any stationmaster or fruiterer, fresh from the orchard / Railways Studios. [ca 1935]. Ref: Eph-E-FRUIT-1935-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. http://natlib.govt.nz/records/22835846

In 1992 RNZ’s Spectrum programme visited the apple harvest in Hawke’s Bay and producer Jerome Cvitanovich interviewed growers, pickers and packers. Despite the hard work and ever-present danger of frost and hail destroying the crop, most of the interviewees seemed very enthusiastic about the lifestyle.

Spectrum 759 – It’s all go now, 1992

Sources

1. Peter Downes and Peter Harcourt. Voices in the Air: Radio Broadcasting in New Zealand. Methuen: Radio New Zealand, 1976. p. 129. 

2. The New Zealand Listener, 29 March 1940. p. 47

3. Audio clips are from Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s Radio Collection, all rights reserved. To enquire about re-use of these items please contact sound@ngataonga.org.nz