The past was a blast for Puzzling World employees in the 1970s and ’80s.

Among the many people gathered at Puzzling World on Sunday evening to celebrate the award-winning tourism business’ 50th birthday were some who helped co-founders Stuart Landsborough and Jan Clark build up the business from barren ground.

Marg Galloway, Janice Dickey and Fe Howie worked for Puzzling World for between four and five years each in the 1980s and their memories were very happy ones.

‘‘I was here when they put the second layer on the Maze. That was what got Wānaka Tractor Services going,’’ Mrs Galloway said.

‘‘Bruno [her husband] was working in the business and everything went back into that business and I worked here to pay all the bills,’’ she recalled.

Puzzling World founders Jan Clark and Stuart Landsborough at the 50th anniversary celebrations 17 December 2023. PHOTO: MARJORIE COOK

Mrs Dickey and Mrs Howie said the Landsboroughs employed many locals and were lovely people to work for.

‘‘We used to make the scones, mow the lawns, everything,’’ Mrs Dickey said.

‘‘I built a retaining wall. I dug a trench and put in posts,’’ Mrs Galloway added.

‘‘In the winter, we had to regravel the maze using wheelbarrows and crusher dust. . . but the best job was the ride-on. We would race each other to get to the lawnmower first,’’ Mrs Howie said.

Dennis Schwarz was a ‘‘general factotum’’ for about six months before the second storey of the maze was built in the early ’80s.

‘‘I was holding down a job for a friend who never showed up. So I kept on working for a while. I quite enjoyed it and I learned all the puzzles. I also did a lot of roses, whatever needed doing,’’ he said.

Sculptor Derek Ball, formerly of Dunedin but now living in Nelson, created the Hall of Following Faces, an ‘‘impossible bench’’ and a 3-D vase, among other things.

‘‘I feel I should have a considerable stake in the place. Before I left Dunedin, I had quite a lot to do with Puzzling World,’’ Mr Ball said.

Puzzling World founders Jan Clark and Stuart Landsborough at the 50th anniversary celebrations 17 December 2023. PHOTO: MARJORIE COOK

The function included the opening of two new illusion rooms by Wellington designer Tim Christie. The light displays represented a change in the way people engaged with puzzles over half a century, moving from solving puzzles with hands and minds, to reinterpreting what you see when looking at things through a cellphone.

‘‘How amazingly surreal it is to be standing in front of this vision we have created,’’ he said, of the team effort to create the illusion rooms.

Mrs Clark said reaching the 50th anniversary was important to her because it was something she and her first husband had wanted to create together and it had survived to be passed on to their daughters Heidi and Kim.

Stuart Landsborough with Esmee McNamara, 7, Jemma Spear, 16, of Wanaka, Freya McNamara, 11,and Heidi Spear; listening to speeches at the Puzzling World 50th anniversary.

She hoped her grandchildren would also be interested in the business one day.

‘‘For me, it is about three generations. That is the highlight, three generations. This is something we started and something nobody thought would be a success,’’ Mrs Clark said.

Fast forward to 2023, the founders are happily divorced and remarried — Jan to Bob Clark and Stuart to Colleen Landsborough.

Their warmth for each other and love of their extended family was evident as they told many stories about building the maze in 1973 and operating a tourism business when people only visited at Christmas and at Easter.

Mrs Clark spoke of Mr Landsborough’s drive, belief and tenaciousness, while Mr Landsborough spoke of Mrs Clark’s energy and dedication operating on her own while raising children, while he worked at the THC Wānaka Hotel.

The maze opened on December 22, 1973.