Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 36, September 1992


EDITOR'S NOTE: The following extract was handed to Mrs Noeline Reid of Paeroa by Miss Lee Inglis Chapman in November 1990. Miss Chapman from Winnetha, Illinois, USA, was on holiday in New Zealand and was visiting Paeroa to look for the homes of her Great Grandfather, D T Inglis, mentioned in her Grandfather's Autobiography. Mrs Reid was able to take Miss Chapman around the areas mentioned in the autobiography and the National Bank gave Miss Chapman a photocopy of the photo of the old National Bank as it was when her Great Grandfather, D T Inglis was Manager.

My father and mother lived in Paeroa from 1902 till the end of 1913 and my two sisters were born there; Agnes, on July 31, 1903, who died on July 29, 1912. and Lorna, who was born on May 5, 1905. My earliest recollections of my home life in Paeroa were living in a large two storey house at the junction of the Waihou and Ohinemuri rivers where my parents were joined by my paternal grandparents who had come out from Scotland. My grandfather Inglis had been a civil engineer in India with the British civil service and in accordance with custom had retired early. They had come out to be near my mother and father and also my father's half-brother, Hartley who was the only surviving child of my grandfathers first marriage. They had with them my fathers sister, Shena - a young unmarried lady. I recall my grandfather as a very prim and meticulous person with a neat grey beard and always neatly dressed. I remember my grandmother as a fine looking lady who seemed interested in me and always had something for me to play with. My fathers sister, Shena - my aunt - paid very little attention to me.

The arrangement of my grandparents living in the same house with my parents was not a happy experience for either party. My grandparents did not like New Zealand. They could not get the servants they had been used to in India or Scotland. Even more important, my grandfather felt that as a distinguished engineer he was not treated with sufficient deference by the New Zealanders. An unfortunate result was that relations between my parents and grandparents were estranged for the rest of their days. While large families of Chinese manage to live amicably together, comprising parents and married members of their family and their children, it was evidently impossible for two families of Scots. In 1903, my grandparents, therefore, returned to Edinburgh where they lived the rest of their days.

My family then moved to another very pleasant but smaller house, which unfortunately was on low lying land and subject to floods from the river. I can remember two occasions when as a result of heavy rainstorms all our furniture had to be lifted high off the floor in anticipation of the flood waters. The family was then taken by a vehicle we called a "drag" to a local hotel on higher ground. My sisters and I thought the hotel the ultimate in luxury but it was a very simple country hotel which I would not stay at by choice today. The drag was drawn by two horses and was an enclosed type of wagon in which the passengers sat inside opposite each other and the driver outside in front. After the flood waters receded we returned home where my parents had the job of cleaning up the mess resulting from the flood waters. I can still remember, after one of these floods seeing the high water mark eighteen inches above the floor on the wallpaper.

After three years in this house, we moved opposite the school, to a house on higher ground, where we lived until we moved from Paeroa in 1913. Except for the tragic loss of my sister Agnes I have the happiest memories of the years we spent in that house.

The school had a primary department and all grades up to and including, the first two years in high school. Children were lined up outdoors by classes in the morning and marched into their classrooms in order. Discipline was strict. Pupils were caned for infractions of discipline and failure to perform in their studies. Every teacher had authority to cane pupils. When a severe punishment was thought to be required, the caning was done by the headmaster. The girls were caned less severely than the boys.Ofcourse, there were other punishments besides caning. While I did well at school, I did not like school and was always glad when the school day ended and the holidays came. Therefore, when in the middle of one night my parents wakened me to tell me that the school was on fire, I quickly put on my clothes to go out to witness the sight. Some of the cabinets of things which were movable were carried out by the firemen but the school was largely destroyed. My friends and I hoped that the canes would be destroyed in the flames. Our visions of a long vacation while the school was being rebuilt were rudely shattered when in a week school was resumed in the local drill hall.

My father and mother were enthusiastic horticulturalists and laid out and planted a beautiful garden round that house. The rose garden was perfectly beautiful with more than a hundred roses of all kinds. My parents became expert in the care of roses and their propagation. Carnations of all colours grew to perfection and I have never seen such beautiful sweet peas. My father imported sweet pea seed from England and encouraged many of his friends to grow sweet peas. There were many other varieties of flowers in the garden. We also had a large vegetable garden in which we were able to grow all the vegetables we needed all year. My father was able to spend a great deal of time in the garden because the bank was only five minutes walk away so he did not leave home before nine each morning and as the bank officially closed at three o'clock he was generally home in time for afternoon tea at three-thirty. Of course, he came home for the mid-day meal which was always a hot dinner. The late evening meal was a lighter meal we called tea.

My parents interest in horticulture led them into organizing a flower show in November of each year when the flowers were at their best. There were competitions and judgings of the best types and blooms of roses, carnations, sweet peas, pansies and other flowers, as well as floral table arrangements, flower decorated hats and children decorated with flowers. It evoked wide general interest and keen competition.

Like many other New Zealanders at the time, my father became interested in raising poultry for the table and eggs for household use. The chicken house and run were well concealed from the garden by climbing roses which covered the wire netting surrounding the chicken run. It was always my job as a boy to feed the chickens night and morning and collect the eggs.

My parents were deeply religious and took an active part in the life of the local Presbyterian Church and the religious life of the community in general. My father was superintendent of the Sunday School from the time I was a very small boy until we left Paeroa in 1913. He carefully studied the most modern Sunday School syllabuses, books and methods then being followed in Britain and the United States and used those he thought best in the local Sunday School. Every year the Presbyterian Church in New Zealand conducted written examinations for the various classes in the Sunday Schools. These examinations were designed to test the pupils' knowledge in the lessons studied during the year. I was fortunate in obtaining some wonderful books which I still treasure as prizes for my successinthese examinations.

My father was selective in his choice of teachers and insisted there should be discipline in the Sunday School. I can remember one occasion which caused some controversy when my father asked a parent to remove his son from Sunday School because he was a trouble maker. My father was an elder and also a lay preacher in the Presbyterian Church. The local church was responsible for several smaller churches in the general area and as there was only one ordained minister for the area, lay preachers conducted services in the smaller churches or substituted for the minister at the church in Paeroa. My father prepared himself very carefully for these services. Occasionally, he wrote his own sermon but more often, he would read an outstanding sermon from a book of sermons or one recently published in a church magazine. The principal means of reaching the other churches, where services were held, was to walk anywhere from four to eight miles each way. The minister had no other means of transportation. In Paeroa up to 1913, everyone walked everywhere. The principal owners of horses and buggies were farmers who needed them to go to town, and the local livery company which had carriages and other vehicles for hire. A few automobiles which began to appear in 1912 were regarded as an uncertain and expensive means of transportation.

Sunday in our home in Paeroa was a day when all daily cares were laid aside. It was dedicated to religious devotions and rest. There was the eleven o'clock church service which the whole family and all families attended, followed by Sunday School at three o'clock and after I was about eleven years of age the seven o'clock church service in the evening. We were dressed in our Sunday best all day Sunday. We were not allowed to play any games and any exercise was restricted to a sedate Sunday afternoon walk. We children were permitted to read only Bible stories or religious books. Household work was reduced to a minimum with as little cooking as possible. One of my chores as a small boy on Saturday was to clean my parents', my sisters' and my own shoes and in winter to cut the kindling and lay the fires in the fireplaces for Sunday.

Chores of this kind were not permitted on Sunday. In accordance with his strict views as to how Sunday should be observed, my father resigned from the small local golf club when Sunday play was permitted.

As a result of my parents interest in the church, we frequently had visiting ministers staying with us in our home. As a small boy I enjoyed meeting these ministers. I particularly rememberoneSalvation Army officer who told us a lot about the work of the Army. One thing I disliked about these ministerial visits was that family prayers, which they led, were frequently too long. We had family worship every morning after breakfast and again after evening tea, before going to bed.Myfather would read a passage from scripture after which we knelt down at our chairs while my father led in prayer. Of course, each of us children also said his or her prayers before going to bed. On Sunday evening, before church service there was family hymn singing around the piano, which my mother played and each of us had a favourite which had to be sung, followed by requests for other hymns. My father, like myself, was unable to hold a tune.

The other denominations which had churches in Paeroa were Wesleyan, Anglican and Roman Catholic. I can still well remember Father Hackett, the Catholic priest, when he visited our home after a trip to Rome. He showed us pictures, projected on a screen through a device called a "magic lantern", of the Vatican and the Holy Father. My father, who was an excellent photographer, was a member of the local camera club and became interested in the use of the magic lantern through his photography.

On Saturday afternoons in the spring and summer, my father played tennis while my mother played croquet. The ladies always had a sumptuous afternoon tea for the players, after which the children were permitted to have a good time in demolishing what was left of the tea.

Paeroa at that time was a very small town with only 1500 people. It had an interesting mixture of people. The owner of the dry goods store was a German by the name of Keller who rolled marbles along the sidewalk which he gave to passing small boys. The Bank of New Zealand which was a competitor of the National Bank of New Zealand where my father was manager, also had a branch in the town. The managers of that bank - Corkill, followed by Brodie and Bush and his family were good friends of our family.

My closest friend was Athol Porritt, son of the local lawyer. We were the same age and spent all the time together we could. There were beautiful patches of bush not too far away from our homes which we loved exploring and got to know well, and a wonderful local creek in which we swam since we were not allowed to swim in the river.

Paeroa was at that time the centre of a large and growing dairy industry. Farmers started to go in for pure bred herds and there was great debate among them as to what was the best paying breed. The milking of cows, even large herds, was done by hand with all members of the family assisting both very early in the morning and in the late afternoon. Milking machines were slowly becoming available but there were grave doubts among the farmers over the effect of the milk machines on the cows.

The New Zealand government encouraged farmers to improve their herds and have the milk tested periodically for butter fat content. In the upper grades of the school I attended, we were taught the rudiments of dairy farming and were taken to the local dairy factory to see how milk testing and other operations were carried out. The principal product of the dairy factory was butter for export.

My fathers bank was, among other things, engaged in the purchase and forwarding to Auckland of gold bullion and bars of silver. The bank had the necessary equipment to check the assay of the gold bullion. Occasionally, my father let me in the bank vault to see the bars of gold bullion and silver. The gold bullion bars were too heavy for me to lift, and, I always stood in awe of such great wealth. In those days, gold currency was still in circulation and every gentleman had his "sovereign case" in which he carried his gold sovereigns.

There were not the household conveniences we have today. Cooking was practically all done on a coal stove which also heated hot water and the oven. We had a small gas cooking apparatus but the gas supply generated from coal was not satisfactory. Ironing was done by flat irons heated on the stove. Washing clothes was a regular Monday ritual. Every home had an outdoor "wash house" which had a large copper boiler encased in brick, heated by a fire underneath. The first job on wash day was to light this fire, fill the boiler with water and get it boiling. All clothes except woollens had to be boiled. Also in the wash house were two set tubs in which the clothes were further processed - rubbed on a wash board in one and rinsed in the other, after which the clothes were hung out on the clothes line. My mother was firmly convinced clothes had to be boiled and then hung to dry in the sun to do the job properly.

There were no ice boxes or mechanical refrigerators in which to store food. To keep food cool, it was kept in a meat-safe, which was a screened small cupboard on the cool side of the house and through which air circulated. My mother was an excellent seamstress and made most of my sisters clothes and many of mine. She always kept us very well dressed. She was a first class cook and every summer canned fruit and made wonderful jams and jellies. In spite of all her activities in the home and with us children, she had time for church and other activities. Apart from being interested in church and garden, my father was greatly interested in various local affairs. He also took a deep interest in the education and upbringing of his family.

Every summer we went away on holiday oftentoTapu and also to Auckland and Wellington.