Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 38, September 1994
By Lola Tye
My parents George and Annie Buchanan brought their family of nine children to the home on Waihi Road in 1915. It had been bought in 1881 as a family home and other members of the family had lived there until then. I was the youngest child and aged six months so that the whole of my youth was spent there. My early memories are, of course, family ones.
The Buchanan family was very much involved with the Presbyterian Church. It was customary to have a Sunday School picnic where the ladies of the Church made and filled small bags with lollies, and these were sewn onto a man's jacket and the children would chase after the wearer and grab a bag of sweets. The picnic the first year I remember was held in Mr McAndrew's paddock on Puke Road. Our minister, Rev. Richard Morgan, ran off down the field and fell over and I secured my first bag of lollies from "the lolly man"! Church life at that time was full of social occasions for children with the exchanges visiting for Sunday School Anniversaries. We practised for weeks on songs and verses then we would dress in our Sunday best and do the rounds of the other churches. There were also Sunday School exams and essay competitions on different books of the Bible. We would go to church at 11 am then walk back to Sunday School at 2 pm and the teenagers would attend evening service at 7 pm. Waihi Road had a footpath out as far as the Cemetery as crowds of people would walk out there to attend the graves at weekends. There was also electric lighting on Waihi Road.
Electricity came early to Paeroa because of mining and was supplied from Horahora, well before most country districts were serviced. I remember sitting around the big kitchen table with a lamp and candles but they soon disappeared. Central School was the only school and we started in the old tiered primer room with the legendary Miss Shaw. I remember reciting tables by rote and the teacher pointing out the lines with her cane held in her crippled hand. There were also the Arbour Days, on one, each child planted a gum tree on Primrose Hill, on another each family planted a tree in Wood Street, later Edgar Preston, the high school teacher, planted the native grove behind the old science block. We walked over the hill to school but a lot of pupils rode horses, which were kept in the paddock across Naham [Nahum? – E] Street where the baths now are.
The arts were well catered for with ballet lessons from Miss Rae de Castro, music lessons from Tracy Moresby and St Joseph's Convent sisters, and a travelling theatre company - the Shatorqua - would come and train the local children for plays which were performed in the Gaiety Theatre in Wharf Street. Of course the Temperance Union had its children's section, "The Band of Hope". Ohinemuri was a "dry" area and the children were taught all the evils of drink in songs and poems and had concerts each month. We were encouraged to sign the pledge not to touch strong drink until we were 21 years old. I remember when prohibition was voted out. My sister, Marjorie and I were at Kay Waines birthday party in Junction Road and someone called in with the news that there was a drunk man in town and we were all scared to go home!
Another great attraction was the A&P Show which was held on the Domain, a major event. The Domain was always a great attraction with both bowls and croquet played there as well as rugby - it was the only rugby field in town.
The post office was by the Court House. At the corner of Victoria Street and Normanby Road, opposite the bridge, were the BNZ and Robson Bros. Store. It was more than a grocers shop. I remember a beautiful collection of Carnival Glassware being displayed. My mother's birthday was approaching and my sister and I chose a lovely plate with frilled edges and grapes moulded onto it but it was 1/9 (less than 20 cents) and we could only muster 1/3 however an older sister made up the difference for us. Pocket money was not easily come by in the early 1920's.
Life was simple and pleasant and ran smoothly and decorously until the big depression of the late 1920's and 30's. Then one had to work to eat! Swaggers would come to the door asking for food. Things were only coming right when the War started. Then all the emphasis was on the Patriotic Society - dances and cards and knitting bees - all to aid the comfort of the troops. The Women's War Service Auxiliary began. We marched and were called on for all sorts of jobs. We trained as truck drivers on the Waihi Transport buses, changing tyres and cleaning carburetters [carburettors - E] etc. Our numbers were always changing as some joined the forces or the Land Army.
By this time the BNZ had shifted to the square and a Northern District Signals unit was set up in the old building. I joined the Signals Unit but was posted to H.Q. in Auckland and was out of Paeroa for the rest of the War.