Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 38, September 1994
By Irene Hughes
I was born in Paeroa in the little house my parents rented from the Walls family on the corner of Arney and Willoughby Streets. In 1918 with my sister and mother we travelled to Ashburton where we met my father when he returned from the First World War. We had relatives there and we stayed awhile before my father took over his allotted small farm at Southbridge.
I was now four years old and have a few early recollections of Paeroa. I remember Maori ladies with the moko, the big red and blue glass bottles decorating the chemist shop of a Mr Thomas whose business was next door to the tea shop my mother ran while father was at the War. And a quite vivid memory of scrunches and rattles in the night - the night soil man. A school girl named Eileen Carthy used to walk me out and I believe even took me to the Convent School with her, and we went to a picnic in the paddock just below the Church beside the river.
At school in the South Island my friends had never heard of a place called Paeroa. I always had trouble pronouncing the name.
In 1929 my mother returned to Paeroa to remarry, so here I was back in my birthplace, the town which had always been in my memory, so this was it! A small country town with a sprinkling of cars in the street, Model A Fords, some of them, a few horse and gig outfits, riding horses, - some tethered outside shops, bicycles and pedestrians. Paeroa was quite an important railway junction with daily trains to Auckland, Thames and Taneatua, also steamer traffic to Thames and Auckland. We had arrived from Wellington via Frankton, such a hustle and bustle at the railway station in those days. We were met by my future step father. Bill Robson and escorted to Fathers Hotel where we stayed three weeks while mother's house was being finished.
We had a great opportunity to explore this new town. We spent lots of time leaning over the hotel balcony watching the passersby. The Innes twins, Ann and Tina walked by each morning as they went to Mr Butler's tailoring business. We made the acquaintance of Alan Fathers and Charlie Vincent, they showed us around a bit. We walked in the Domain and up Primrose Hill, sometimes spent a few pennies in Parkinson's sweet shop. De Castro's Chemist shop and Gamble's Store were handy, the Methodist Church was opposite.
Businesses I remember were Robon's [Robson? – E] Store, Dales Shoe Shop, William's Drapery, Self-Help Grocery (also Marriot's), the Farmers, Gee's Drapery, McWatters' Menswear, Vincent's Saddlery, Brenan's Carrying business. Leach's Bakery, Jasper's tea shop next to the Picture Theatre, the barber shop with its red, white and blue pole. Miss Marshall's Music shop. Hedge's Chemist shop, Brocket and Shand, Miss Lewis' Haberdashery, the lovely almost new Post Office, three banks, Mr Jones the solicitor, the Chinese Fruit shop, the Brewery and the Dairy Factory. There were probably as many shops in Paeroa then as now. The Dairy Factory was a centre of activity. The milk was separated on the farm - the "skim" was fed to pigs and the cream was poured into cans and carried by horse and wagon to the factory to be churned into butter.
Then we moved out to Thames Road to my step father's farm. It was 5 September and the wattle trees were in bloom. They were growing on the hills of Mr Marshall's farm, now Kelly's. Each year I looked at the same time for the blooming, until eventually, the trees disappeared. I was thrilled to hear the call of the morepork, to see and hear pheasants and pukeko and to explore the bush clad hills and to wander along the streams - all new to me from Canterbury. And I met up with lovely brown skinned people at Komata - the Royal family. At the two schools I had attended in the South Island there was not a single Maori. What I didn't like was the nauseating smell of barberry blossom - and still do not like it.
It was 1930 and I left High School. There are still people in, or connected with Paeroa with whom I went to school. Marie Marshall, nee Hughes and her late husband Trevor, Margy Higgins, nee Wight, Lola Tye, nee Buchanan, Kath Morrison, nee Waines, the Wiggins family, Jean Hayes, daughter of the dentist, Mr Talboys, the Charles-worth family. Jack Silcock and Huia Blyth. Joe Parry, Rangi Campbell and the Landfear boys, who gave their lives during World War II. The well known C W Malcolm was a teacher.
It was the era of the great depression and work was unavailable in Paeroa. I did try a couple of office jobs but both companies went bankrupt, for which I deny responsibility! So I left home to find work wherever I could. No unemployment benefit and my parents were struggling to make ends meet on six pence (five cents) per pound for butterfat and one shilling (ten cents) for a bobby calf.
In 1947, after the retirement of my parents, I returned to Paeroa to live on the farm withmyhusband, Reg, and three small sons - two more were to follow, sons, that is. Still the same husband. But that is another story.
This photograph was taken about 1917 from the footbridge across the Ohinemuri River. It shows the sand barges being unloaded at the Works. The story of the Extraction Works is recorded in Journal 30, page 13 (C W Malcolm) [see Journal 30: Paeroa's Own Gold from the River - E]; Journal 11, page 33 (Roy Turner) [see Journal 11: Waihi Paeroa Extraction Works - E]; and Journal 37, page 8 (C W Malcolm) [see Journal 37: Paeroa's Tramways and Tram-car - E]. It is also referred to in the article "Reminiscences of Mill Road Area" Journal 13, page 19 [see Journal 13: Reminiscences of Mill Road Area - E]. The recent clearing of the site is mentioned in Journal 36, page 41 [see Journal 36: Notes - E].
The photograph reproduced here has only just become available and was originally produced as a postcard.