Many people in Blockhouse Bay will know her as “Brown Owl”, but that’s just one of the many hats Yvonne Dabb has worn over the decades she has lived in Blockhouse Bay. In fact, she has never lived anywhere else.
Born in Taylor Street, Yvonne and her late husband Graeme began their married life in Margate Road, before spending twenty years in Heaphy Street and another thirty in Bolton Street.
Yvonne is a familiar figure in the village, often with her little dog Lexy by her side. To some she might also be known as “the jam lady” having manned the Blockhouse Bay Historic Society’s trading table on main street for many years. “The biscuit lady” is another moniker which some might recall her for, as an enthusiastic seller of Girl Guide biscuits in her time with Brownies and Girl Guides.
When Yvonne was 12 Girl Guides came to Blockhouse Bay and she joined up. “From then I was involved until I was just too old,” she reminisces. First a Brownie leader, then District Commissioner for nine years, a Pippin leader for a little while, and for fifty years she was known as “Brown Owl”.
Yvonne is a clever lady who used her knack for storytelling to great effect with her Brownies and Guides. One time, camping in her back yard, the girls were a bit excited and it was hard to get them to settle. Then the neighbour started practicing his drums. The wise Brown Owl told the girls the neighbour was playing his drums to help them all get to sleep. They were all soon sleeping soundly!
At some stage Yvonne found time to have two children and a career, managing several Modern Bags stores including Queen Street, K Road and St Lukes.
It’s hard to know how Yvonne has fitted so much into her life, and she is still involved in the Garden Club, Ladies Probus and the Historical Society. “If there’s a pie, I want to have a finger in it!” she jokes.
Recently made a Life Member of the Blockhouse Bay Historic Society, Yvonne says that when she first joined, they gave her the job of researching the history of the tennis club. With no sporting knowledge whatsoever, that wasn’t her cup of tea at all. However, she was asked to go on the committee and was given the job of running the trading table.
She recalls, “A lot of members at the time were downsizing so there was a lot of bric-a-brac which sold quite well. I thought I’d make some lemon honey to go with it and that sold quite well too. Then I started making jam which went well, and I had quite a big garden then, so took cuttings and grew them on, and they sold well too.”
“We’ve made friends with other people with stalls like the Lions Club. The market stopped for a couple of years, but we just kept on going.”
“Last time we sold 50 jars of jam!” Yvonne says enthusiastically. “People now come on the last Saturday of the month to buy jams, and they often bring back the jars. I get lots of requests for jams and pickles now as well”, she says with a grin.
“You’ve got to ‘sell’ your products, of course. You tell them this plant will do well in this situation. I also tell stories about the plants, how I came to acquire this one or that. To some people I will be the story in the garden.”
The profit from the trading table built up over time and the Historical Society was recently able to purchase a computer to use for archiving their records.
“I’ve had a happy life, and done a lot of things”, she says contentedly. “I’ve particularly enjoyed the contact I’ve had with children over the years as well, though it’s quite a shock when I have someone come and tell me I was their Brown Owl, and they have grandchildren!”