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Snow and Dot Mercier

Posted by SC Comments Off on Snow and Dot Mercier

Snow Mercier on Anzac Day

“Snow Mercier was actually Eric Horace Leopold Mercier. He and his wife, Dot, were well-known personalities at Piha for decades.  Predictably, Snow got his name from his sandy hair and colouring. Snow and Dot lived at 25 Te Ahuahu Road, the seaward side of the road in a modest house with a view to the distant coast.

She was born Doris Elva Wales Lightband, descended from an old Nelson family. Her parents, Mabel and Norman Wales Lightband, were living in Pt Chevalier, her father working as an accountant, when Dot and Snow married in 1934. He was the son of John Francis and Frances Fanny Mercier, born in 1904. For the first years of their  married life, they lived with Dot’s parents at 15 Joan Street, which is a collection of old flats and cabins right on beautiful Pt Chevalier Beach, so not a  bad place to live. Snow had a job as a storeman. Then they moved to their own home in Wainui Avenue, still in Pt Chevalier and not far from Dot’s parents.

The Merciers came to Piha in the late 1940s. What got them there is unclear, Jan Barnes thinks her father told Snow about sections for sale, and has a memory that relatives of Dot’s owned the bach next door. At Piha, Snow worked on the roads as a surfaceman. Of course there was constant work to be done on the dusty, metalled Piha roads.

Country Women’s Institute, Piha. Dot is second from the right in the back row.

By 1963, Snow had been elevated to the role of foreman, and he was frequently to be seen on the back of a bulldozer or grader when work needed to be done on the road.

The road was regularly widened, winding parts were straightened and repairs were needed when there were slips.

Snow was accompanied everywhere by a small black dog (name as yet unknown) and his usual uniform was strong working boots, rolled down woollen socks and shorts.

Dot is standing behind Myra Crichton outside the Piha Store. That’s Les Crichton on the right.

The couple had no children, and Dot was fully involved in the affairs of Piha. While the Crichtons ran the Piha Store, she was the telephonist who kept the telephones running, at that time a party line system.  Les Crichton called Dot “the local Chronicle” because she always knew what was going on at Piha. Dot apparently couldn’t help listening when putting through calls.

It was Dot who took the telegram for Jim Rose that said Ed Hillary had scaled Mt Everest. She also for some years had a job ferrying the Hettig children to the Piha school from where they emerged on North Piha Road, having tramped down from Anawhata where they lived.

Dot was a large broad-faced genial woman, with dark curly hair and a cheery manner. She was a leading light in the establishment of the Piha Country Women’s Institute. John Crichton can remember Snow leaving instructions for Dot on how to look after their car,once when he was going away, including keeping the oil topped up. Dot said it took her hours and hours to get the oil in, then it was found she had been doing it through the dipstick hole!

Both Dot and Snow were regulars at the RSA, and Snow took part in the Anzac Parades with his medals on his chest. It was Dot who, with Mrs Otto, got the women’s division of the Piha Bowling Club off the ground. She and Mrs Otto took turn and turn about being president or secretary for at least a decade.

Snow died on 29 October 1969 aged 65  and Dot continued living at their Te Ahuahu Road house for another decade or more. She had a congenial widowhood as she was friends with all the other grande dames of Piha – Mrs Ketterer and so on. Jan Barnes remembers Dot from journeys out to Piha  on the bus of a Friday night, Dot after a day in town shopping. “Porpy” Neale would be drunk and singing in the back seat. Bus driver, Jack, would call out” “We’re not going too well on the corners. Dot, can you shift to the other side?” – a reference to Dot being a well-rounded woman.

One day in 1982 Dot opened her door and found an injured seagull on her lawn. She nursed it back to health and then set it free, watching it fly off down the coast. But “Gully” as she dubbed him, returned to become a permanent roof-top tenant and friend. He came at Dot’s call, kept an eye on the back door and sometimes brought a friend.

Dot died in 1987 aged 80. Both she and Snow are buried in the Waikumete Cemetery.

Snow Mercier (left) with his dog, enjoys smoko with other workers on Seaview Road

The Merciers’ house, 25 Te Ahuahu Road

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