Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 23, June 1979
By TUI MURDOCK
The crack of stock whips, barking dogs, droves of milling and bellowing cattle and grunting pigs carried in carts or a split sack over a horse's back. Farmers clad in riding pants, blucher boots, leggings and black bowlers, that hailed from both sides of the Waihou River, the Coromandel Ranges and all surrounding districts, and perched on the rails sizing up the cattle and hoping for bargains, or better still, good prices, or just talking about who had a new arrival at their house. That was Hikutaia Sale in the very early days of this century.
Established in Ferry Road by the Farmers Auctioneering Co., a firm no longer in operation under that name, they held sales in the district until 31st March 1966. Stock of all kinds were driven to the yards in those days, by the farmers themselves, but in later years, drovers, (characters, they were, everyone of them), brought the cattle to and from sales or to the railway station. Mounted on seasoned horses, these men, to mention just a few, Fred Jackson, George Lunfear, brothers Dave and Fred Clotworthy and Horrie Martin who did a lot of long distance droving, made their leisurely way, with the cattle spread across the whole road on which there was, compared to to-day's standards, virtually no traffic. So heavy was the congestion around the yards that an asphalt footpath with a high wooden railing was built opposite them to give residents of the district safe passage to and from the station and the shopping centre. This path remained there long after the sale was abandoned, till one night all the rails disappeared, the mystery was never solved though various ideas were mooted and the grass took over, as another memory passed.
For this largest and best sale in and around the lower Thames Valley, all stock was brought from the western side of the Waihou River, firstly by swimming them across and then by manual and later motorised ferries, driven by such well-known figures as: Jack Tonkins, Bill Ludwig, Bill Crosby and Jack Thompson. The Netherton ferry as it was called, plied between that centre and the bottom of Ferry Road, Hikutaia, while the Wharepoa ferry unloaded on the Innis farm where descendants still live and the animals were driven via Townsend Road to the sale yards. All purchases made for that area did the homeward journey in the same fashion and sales to the Waikato or further up the line was the term used to describe anywhere south of Hikutaia, was transported by rail from the Hikutaia station which was a very busy place for many a year. An extra attraction was the twice yearly Horse Fair where high class beasts of all types could be seen on the horseline and were eagerly sought after by buyers from as far south as Hamilton.
So large was the attendance at all the sales, both buyers and sellers being human, needed food and more food and to satisfy the inner man, the local hotel, the Pioneer, run by the well-known and popular Corbett family served sitting after sitting of dinners at midday and their hitching rail was always full. As well, Hill's Bakery supplied pies, tea and cakes at their premises and brought supplies by basket to the yard. This custom was then continued down the years by Rehms Bakery and later still by Walter Veddar who took over the service and business from them. Walter in later years made a further change when owing to falling numbers, he took similar food to the yards and dispensed it from a lean-to attached to the company's office where he was assisted by three well-known women of the district, (two of whom still live in Hikutaia), Mrs. E. Miller, Mrs. F. Clotworthy and Miss Madge Smith, now Mrs. J.J. Goonan.