Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 17, June 1973


Many changes were brought to Paeroa's business area in 1972 and I have been asked to relate the story of the 80 year old building in Normanby Road recently owned by Mr. N.C. Davies and now demolished. I lived in it when I first came from Thames in 1903 to work for Mr. W. Cullen whose Drapery Shop was on the corner section (now National Bank) but was later shifted to the present site of the Waikato Savings Bank).

My much older brother, William McWatters, had already been in Paeroa for several years before he established his own business there in 1893. Having served for 4 years with W. Scott, then a celebrated Baker at Thames he later worked for Phillips and Son in Paeroa. (Their large store was on the site of the old Ministry of Works Building.) By this time Willie was married and had a family so the 5 roomed living quarters were included in the upstairs portion of the large premises that catered for not only groceries but also general stores such as bread, crockery, clothing and "boots". (No one wore "shoes" in those days!)

Built of kauri, the block had many interesting features of the old craftsman, including wall studs dove-tailed into the bottom and top plates and a fine staircase. My brother whose baker was John Casley, established branches of his business in other centres:- Waihi 1895 (Manager Mr. R. Holmes) Karangahake, 1898 (Mr. McGregor), and Waitekauri, 1900 (Mr. J. Mines).

About 1916 the building was sold to a builder - Mr. Chester, who did not occupy it but lived in Paeroa and later at Netherton for some years. (His son, Hugh now lives in Waihi where Mrs. Chester (nee Isobel [Isabel – E] Thornton) is noted for her very beautiful garden. The shops in the old building were let over the years, some of the tenants being Fred Blyth (for whom the late Maurice Beattie worked) Wallace Supplies (Tom Black) and Mr. Searle had the boot shop. The Masters family conducted this business from 1924. They lived "up-stairs", and Mr. and Mrs. George Masters carried on the shop till 1938 when Mr. John Turnbull took it over and lived on the premises for a few years until his other shop was built.

During the 30's the building was sold to Mr. J.H. Batson and Mr. N.C. Davies - (Plumbers) and Mr. Davies was still the owner when it was pulled down. From time to time other tenants occupied part of it but its useful life had come to an end.

N.B. In this business section of Paeroa (east side of Normanby Road, from Mackay Street to Arney Street) very few of the original premises remain. There have been moves, fires and demolitions but also considerable re-construction e.g. the Waikato Savings Bank now occupies the site of the old Cullen & Co. (Drapery) later McWatters, Williams and Gregson. Further along other names remembered are: Craig (Land Agent) Donnelly, Shananan, Beattie (Shoes) Law (Jeweller) Munro (Fish) Andrews, Nelson (Tailors) Wynwards (Hardware) Jones (Saddler) Gads (Sweets) Kellar, Gamble (Drapery) and Jackson (Barber). The Farmers are on the site of Mrs. Capills Boarding House and new shops replaced Todds, formerly De Castro (Chemists).