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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 42, September 1998

On 17 April 1998 Phil and Adeline McWatters, members of the Paeroa and District Historical Society, and well known Paeroa residents, returned to the scene of their wedding 50 years previously, for a Thanksgiving Service and renewal of their Wedding Vows. The Service also included the Christening of their seven-months-old great grand-daughter, Tayla Smit of Hamilton. The Service was conducted by the Reverend Pat Scaife, Vicar of St Paul's Anglican Church, Paeroa.

Adeline (nee Lowry) was the daughter of Mr and Mrs R W (Bob) Lowry of Hikutaia and James Phillip (Phil) McWatters was the son of Mr and Mrs Dave McWatters of Paeroa. The Venerable Archdeacon W G H Weadon officiated at their Wedding.

Following are the summaries of talks given by Adeline and Phil McWatters at Paeroa and District Historical Society meetings.


MEMORIES OF MY POST OFFICE WORKING DAYS

By Adeline McWatters

I was born at the Maternity Home in Taylors Avenue, opposite the Railway Station. The Sister in Charge was Sister Clyme and her nurse was Miss Argyle.

Our family lived in Kennedy Street, where Alex Rogers lived for years. We grazed cows on Towers Hill and I delivered milk to Neibers, Cardens and Farrells on the way to school. Our section was large enough to contain a bowling green and it boarded the old Technical School, which is now the Miller Avenue School.

I was eight when we left Paeroa to return to our Maratoto Valley farm. Life was great on the farm. We had the pleasure of hosting the Maramarua Hunts and I still remember riding our pony with the Master of the Hunts.

School swimming sports were held in the stream behind the school. All the families in the Maratoto Valley got together for blackberry picnics and Guy Fawkes Bonfire nights and even the school master, Julian Bell, joined us.

In about 1940 I began my first job as Postmistress at Wharepoa. The Hikutaia Post Office would phone to say that the train was coming into Hikutaia Station and this was the warning for me to seal the Mail Bag and bike to Wharepoa Station. I missed the train once as I was talking to Jack McLeod. In those days Wharepoa had a school, Burkhart's Store, Hall, Post Office and Dairy Factory down the road. Now only the Hall remains.

During the War years I had a variety of duties to perform as Postmistress, including issuing permits for rationed goods such as sugar, tea, petrol, etc. I even remember putting in overseas toll calls to India for Jackie Puna, one of the local residents. In wet weather I was never allowed to bike home; the locals put me up over night and I stayed with the Bax's, Winders and Henwoods - no calling Dad to come and get me. With the closing down of the Wharepoa Post Office I was transferred to the Paeroa Post Office and boarded at Tirohia. We went to and from work on the train, which goes to show what good service the Railways offered in those days. We were walking to catch the train one afternoon when a business man, on his racing bike, called out, "Are you the girl who keeps my son out all night?" I said to Olive, "Who's that?" and she said, "That's Phil's Dad". Olive Fenton was the Rationing Officer at Paeroa Post Office and she married Arch Davies, an old identity, who later went on to be a Presbyterian Minister.

Phil and I were married in 1948 and we bought a section on Thames Road. Our first job on the section was to remove an old haybarn, which we later discovered had been the first Dairy Factory in Paeroa.


MEMORIES OF THE FAMILY MENSWEAR BUSINESS

By Phil McWatters

My father, Dave, arrived in Paeroa from Thames in 1903. The youngest of 13 children, he stayed with his brother, William, who owned a chain of general stores, selling groceries, bread, hardware, boots, etc. However Dave came to work in Mr Cullen's Drapery Store which was situated on the site now occupied by the National Bank.

In 1914 Dave attempted to join up for War service but he was not accepted as he only had 9 toes! About 1915 he bought the Men's section of Cullen's Business (having by this time had experience in managing the Karangahake Branch of the shop). After a long courtship he married Annie Phillips who was employed as a buyer in the Women's section of the business, and Mr Cullen then sold them the Women's section (later sold to Percy Williams). My parents built a new shop on the site now occupied by the Tui Coffee Lounge.

In 1922 I came along, starting school in 1928.

Our shop was very modern. I remember that the stock included striped blazers, worsted suits, Stetsons, Calf skin overcoats. Business went well until the Depression days of the 1930s, when I recall men out of work and living on the grandstand at the Racecourse. There was a cookhouse underneath. Banks were tough in those days and my parents had to close the shop but they started up again in a small shop next to Wallace Supplies. These were the days of work trousers 3/11, shirts from 1/11 and sox 1/3. Business was difficult but most people were working again and could afford new clothes on pay day.

I vividly remember Jim Shanaghan, P Williams and Dave McWatters leaning on their brooms, setting the town right, every morning from approximately 7 30 to 8 30. (In later years Bob Morrison, Bill Dixon, R & T Watt and I did the same.)

I spent 18 months at Paeroa College, 3 and a half years at Ngatea and then five years in the Army. These were hard times in business - there was nothing much to sell. Sports trousers and shirts were "under the counter". There were many empty boxes and Chas Webb, the carrier, was a welcome sight. Clothes were rationed.

I married Adeline in 1948, took 6 months leave and helped Adeline's father build our home.

Milestones in the next decade included "Keans" for Jeans, Pittsburg Supers, Wranglers. Levis (Deane) developed a great Warehouse in Parnell and retail outlets by the hundreds sold 1000s of pairs. Then came the big chop.

The "Jockey underwear story" is worth relating. Baggies to 'Y' fronts at 7/11 a pair for years until inflation of the '70s and '80s took them to $12.50 a pair. Who would have thought that the male population would have accepted the style so wholeheartedly? That is until the figleaf brief took a big slice of the sales - then, lo and behold - back to square one - the baggy boxer shorts. Fashion is a great thing. It never pays to cater too far ahead with large stocks of anything.

Business continued to be pretty good until the "crash" in 1987. It varied according to the sort of season enjoyed by the farming community. But inflation didn't seem to do the retail trade much harm. Most people had a dollar to spend and they usually dressed well. Then gradually the standard of dress fell. Cheap imports arrived on the scene. Unemployment rose higher and higher. Business got tougher and tougher. People shopped out of town at bargain outlets.

The Menswear Stores

Ourselves - for many years

J P Gamble - Eric Bygrave

Bill Tubman - Geo Morris & Son

E V Slyfield - Sybil & J Craig - L D Duff - again J Craig (1954) - Jim Kidd (1959) - T Carden (1962)

There were also many retail outlets, such as stock firms, Farmers Trading Co., etc. selling menswear and so we did well to survive. After 79 years of business, McWatters Menswear was sold at the end of March 1994 to Mr and Mrs Ross Mitchell trading as "Looking Sharp Menswear Ltd". This business closed in 1998 and the premises are now occupied by United Video.