Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 21, June 1977
By EILEEN MATHIESON
Paeroa has seen many changes since boats berthed at the end of Wharf Street, boats and horses then being the main sources of transport. Now, in 1977, you will find McIndoe and Guernier's new "Motor Show Room" occupying the site of the old "Civic Theatre", recently used as the "Old Boys Football Club", and earlier as the R.S.A. Hall.
Only a few feet to the left of the "Civic", there once stood a larger Hall known as the "Central" and then as the "Gaiety Theatre", before it became the "Regent" Dance Hall. It occupied land later acquired for Marshall Street. This was after the Hall, which had become a Doll Factory, and was destroyed by fire in 1948.
Thirty years previously, in 1918, the large Criterion Theatre had been burned down, after which the Gaiety assumed greater importance not only for Balls and Socials (when supper was served in the small nearby hall) but for the showing of "Silent Films", before the advent of "Talkies". It wasn't nearly as large as the "Criterion", but the seats were movable and could be shifted along the walls for Socials. The front rows had new tip-up seats which we thought were wonderful but the back rows were just like kitchen chairs, all very hard and fastened together in rows.
When the Theatre first showed Pictures Mr. Hugh Woods, a cripple in a wheel chair, was the Proprietor. He had a beautiful Scottish Tenor voice and often entertained the audience during the interval, his efforts being much appreciated. There was also a wonderful pianist, Mrs. Cook who adapted her music to every scene change. When she was absent a gramaphone [gramophone – E] was resorted to and those in charge of it (my brother being one) would get so interested in the picture that the "winding" was forgotten.
The films also had to be wound by hand and when one broke there would be quite an uproar from the patrons until it was mended. A covered wagon drawn by horses conveyed films on a country circuit during the week. They returned to Paeroa in time for the Saturday afternoon Matinee. On Saturday night half the programme was shown at Paeroa and half at Karangahake, followed by a rush to "change over". Mr. W. Larsen and Mr. H. Hamilton showed the pictures and went on the circuit. They boarded with our family so we were privileged to see a lot of films. My Mother (Mrs. H. Sorensen) sewed a new screen for the Theatre and it was fascinating to see her in the hall surrounded by many yards of heavy canvas which she joined up on her treadle sewing machine that had been taken there for the purpose.
We loved also watching the slides being prepared for advertisements. They were squares (about 6 in.) of glass, and were smoked over a candle before the writing was done with a nail. When the slides were placed in front of the projector the writing showed up on the screen. - I still have this little card -
H. A. HAMILTON
Operator and Engineer
Paeroa and Circuit
What happy days they were!
Later a more up-to-date Picture Theatre was built in Belmont Road - but that is another story.