As typical of our Trammies, Valerie has not been bored since the city tramway was derailed following seismic events. Valerie was distinctive for being one of the shortest (in height) of the team. I used to joke telling tram passengers not to be deceived by her stature, or lack of it, when conducting. “You’ll get a fourpenny one if you need it.” It always got a laugh.
She had another, intriguing string to her bow. She was (still is) honorary Italian Consul for the region. Her consulate work has been slow owing to the decline of visitor numbers. But it will all happen again. I was able to chat with her about her Italian parents when researching a story for Latitude magazine. To ensure she keeps her hand in as a Trammie, she has become a member of the Tramway Historical Society, attending work days at Ferrymead Heritage Park and training to drive on the Ferrymead Tramway. This way, she will always meet someone from the City Tramway; Vern, Ken and Larry and others. She has also joined other “motormen” women from the tramway for after-dinner meetings.
“It’s lovely to be in touch with everyone,” Valerie says.
She has also had time to return to voluntary work at PEETO, a refugee and migrant centre. As a conversationalist, she chats to the students, encouraging them to pick up the New Zealand accent.
The gradual reopening of central city streets brings a lift to life. She is looking forward to driving down Durham Street. And the city trams running again cannot happen soon enough. “It will be different, but the challenge will be to build up the experience tourists enjoyed prior to the earthquakes.”