Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 31, September 1987
By C J Gwilliam
On receipt of the latest Historical issue, it struck me that there seem to be not so many of the ancients left to write of the early days, so, since the year 2000 is not too far away I had better take a look back a yearor two.
In going back so far in memories one realises that there is so much that has never been recorded fully, merely bits and pieces from here and there.
Though I only actually lived in the old town for the first eight years of my life, it is still my home town, as it were. I never pass through it without a stop and gaze and remember it as it was. To me it still is as it was, with all those homes up on the hill behind the present hall on the road which the coaches from Paeroa to Te Aroha used to traverse after picking up passengers from Karangahake, which in those early days was much bigger than Paeroa. You see, Paeroa was merely the port which delivered all our heavy machinery, coal, flour, all the necessary bulk items from as far as Auckland until the railway came in 1905. By then we had obtained all our heavy stuff.
Those homes could only be seen by the traveller as he passed by. And those old homes were fine looking places, not square boxes of the fashion that began around the 1930's and were styled "bungalows". "Bungal - ohs" would be a better term. Perhaps the name arrived because they were bungled close together with low ceilings!
I well remember your old street - the Hamiltons lived almost at the end and later, in 1918-19, I taught some of them in the old school. There were quite a number of children around the area even then. That street originally went right down across a ford to the area where old Mackay delivered the Proclamation of the Opening.
Rahu Road was another well populated area unseen by the later travellers to Waihi once the road from Doherty's Creek rose up along the hillside towards the School and Butler's Track, and later when the Gorge road was chiselled through, Yes! "Chiselled" suits it, for it was all hammer and drill work, assisted by barrows and sweat-soaked men clad in dungarees and bowyangs. (Dungarees have the name of "jeans" today, and the bowyangs were like tied garters to keep the mud from reaching your knees.)
What a difference in that Gorge now! No beautiful wet fern fronds to brush against the old coach sides or cool the sweating horses as they rattled through towards Waihi.
I mentioned mud a moment ago. Are there any folk left who can remember the stretch of road from the combined rail and road bridge along and into the lower end of the present rest area?
I remember well the great dray loads of coal en route from the railway station to the "Woodstock" and "Talisman" boiler-rooms as they rounded that stretch through over a foot of slurry. Why, even a Model T Ford would have "reached" [retched? – E] at the sight, but they weren't born then! Thank goodness for that long wooden walkway that hung on the very edge of the river bank!
I wonder if it was one of those four-legged nags who suggested Karangahake be called a borough, because they were tired of burrowing through all that mud.
Speaking of walkways. How thrilling to have that tramp along the old rail-line, and am I looking forward to the proposed walk down through the Gorge and to follow the old pipeline from opposite the bluff and down past the old "Woodstock" battery. What memories! The old swing bridge across to that battery from the single mens quarters, just past the old Post Office. Well, who knows but that at sometime in the future we might even be able to walk the old tramline up the Waitawheta past the site of Cherry's small battery opposite the entrance to the old "Woodstock" mine with its shaft inside. I worked for a time for the Cherry's in 5A, which is up above the river-level entrance of the Crown mine and shaft....
....Though I've seen 86 years disappear into the past I'm still plain Cyril, the kid from Karangahake. So come on all you Standard 1 and 2s, lets have a race to the top of the Trig in 1989, lets all be there.
I wonder if any of my old pupils of 1918-19 have become Historians?
Fred and Edna Hayward, Marguerite and Lucille Mourante, Evyline and little Doffie Nelson, Fred Pool, Walter Dutton, my little left-handed Lionel Gloyn, whose father was my desk-mate at Paeroa District High.
Little Lionel used to sit directly in front of my desk and one day the head, old "Bend down" he was commonly referred to as, grabbed a ruler from my table and brought it down across Lionel's knuckles. Then he turned to me and demanded that I make that boy use his right hand. I immediately opened the door and asked old "Bend down" out into the corridor, and I blew up with the statement that I would never force a naturally left-handed child to change over. Then I went back inside and told the tearful little fellow to carry on.
A very short time later I was transferred to Te Kuiti where I had a class of over 80 in Standard 1. Fancy that sized class today! Kids were disciplined at home before they started school in those days.