When a friend said she remembered Cuba Street, Wellington as being “bohemian” in 97, and I laughed and said that by 97 it had already become a safe space for office dwellers to visit and pretend they were living dangerously.

And then I dug out my “Cuba Street 92” calendar from my treasure trove – all of these photos are from that and were taken in 91. When we opened our bike shop “Cycle Services” in 1991, Cuba Street was not just where you went for a grunty coffee or some second hand stuff, it was also the first place to go to for drugs and prostitutes.

Now I’ll go on about drugs a bit here. I was new to all this scene, and to me “drugs” basically meant smoking some pot or maybe spotting some oil.

As a cyclist I was pretty familiar with ephedrine which was actually still legal in NZ in 91 and was very popular, used as a sort of everyday speed. When it was outlawed it just went underground like all the other drugs.

Most people use coffee for the same purpose now. And coffee in Cuba St was said to be some of the strongest in the world.

The first time I walked in on a drug deal my eyes nearly popped out of my head. A respectable looking man in a suit with a large brief case had it open and was discussing bulk pricing with a couple of our bike shop customers on the huge range of drugs that he had samples of.

Apart from pot, the popular one in Wellington in those days was acid. But you could buy anything you wanted really, including heroin. I was told the cocaine was a rip off in NZ, and that was why nobody here was much into it.

What Wellington was infamous for in 91 was glue sniffers. And sometimes Cuba St was like zombie dawn of the dead. Bloody glue sniffers everywhere, staggering about, holding their plastic bags and drooling.

Some of the people on the street were fairly tough, and just up the road was the BP’s (Black Power) who ran a tinny house ($20 foil wrapped servings of pretty average pot). But you didn’t take photos of the BP’s, you casually crossed the road when you saw them coming, so there are no photos of them here!

This was in the days before digital cameras, and mobile phones had only just come out. They cost $3000 and were the size of a brick. This next photo was taken in front of the second hand book shop next door to us (note our Cycles Peloton sign in the top left). And the poor guy in the photo was stabbed to death a few months later…

Our neighbours on the other side were Midnight Espresso, the legendary coffee shop, and this is a young Geoff Marsland (Havana Coffee Works) in our doorway

Although I did have a camera, I didn’t take many photos because buying film and developing it was expensive. Part of why I started taking thousands of photos when I got my first digital camera a decade later is because I knew just what I had missed getting photos of back in the early 90’s. And some of them would have been quite something.

I guess this is all looks like a window back to an old forgotten time now, but as a young and impressionable goober, this was the environment that shaped me. And even now I’m partly still a guy from old time Cuba St, rather than an over the hill computer addict.

When I hear millennials getting offended by lame bullshit I wish I could push a button and transplant them to Cuba Street in 91. It was an amazing place, but some of them might just have gotten their whingeing faggy heads smacked in…

Those were awesome times back in the days before computers.

And getting “offended” wasn’t that viable an option

All photos taken by Barry Thomas