Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001
By Irene Hughes
There is a new road off Thames Road, just outside the Paeroa Borough boundary, to serve the Harwood Heights subdivision. This is the latest of many changes I have seen during my seventy-year-long association with the main Paeroa to Thames road.
It was in 1929 when first I, with my mother and sister, walked out from Paeroa to view our new home - a four-roomed cottage with a coal range plus wash-house, coal shed and the "dike" - a seat over a hole variety. All brand new and built from the best of timbers by Roberts Brothers for £450 ($900). The house was two miles (3km) from the Paeroa Post Office with a sealed road going to the borough boundary (the northern edge of the race course) and then loose gravel the rest of the way.
Our only means of getting in and out of town was to walk, except that I had a rickety old bike to ride to the Paeroa Public School. Mother used to drive her horse and gig into town. After careful saving she invested in a small car, a Morris 8 I think. She learned to drive it on the old road to Whangamata where she and her husband had retired. She had lots of nerve and courage, my Mother!
In those early days when we walked from town, we turned off the main street into Arney Street. There was the Methodist Church on the left-hand corner, next door was John Walls' butchery shop and another small cottage which he owned next door. (This was, in recent years, the home of the Fennell family and then demolished for Lynch and Partners office and car park.)
On the corner of Willoughby Street and Arney Street was the Methodist Church hall, which had been moved there from Karangahake several years earlier.
Moving into the next block, on the left was the Paeroa Domain, with its bowling green and croquet lawns on the former tennis courts. Opposite was the Masonic Lodge Hall, built then about 1920 after their main street premises were destroyed by fire in August 1918. Next to this was the Anglican Church Vicarage, the entrance to Primrose Hill, two homes and then the old Pascoe home, the last of three homes on the rise, with its large persimmon tree with its mass of golden fruit in the winter.
On the corner of King Street and Arney Street there were the Methodist Church manse and five more homes, going down the hill. These were the only buildings on this side of the road until the corner of Thames Road and Station Road, where the well-known and colourful character stockman and drover, Freddy Jackson lived. His horse and buggy were regularly seen around the district.
On the right side of Arney Street there were no houses until the corner of Aorangi Road, where there was one on each corner. Most of the area was low-lying and in more recent years has been filled and built on. Staying on the right-hand side of Thames Road (this road commenced at the intersection of Arney Street and Aorangi Road), there was low-lying land until Harvey Evans' sawmill and his home on the corner of Raroa Road. The swamp land had been dug over for kauri gum and then filled with sawdust from the mill. The area is now owned by the Paeroa Racing Club and improved drainage in the area has eliminated most of the swamp.
Between Station Road and Claremont Avenue (left side), there was low lying swamp land (since filled and built on) to two small cottages on the corner (one of these remains).
Moving up the hill, there was the Ohinemuri Jockey Club's race course property (renamed the Paeroa Racing Club in the 1970s), which continues to the borough boundary at its northeastern corner. The race course was a really lively place with good training stables. Race day was very well patronised - people did not have lotto or casinos on which to lavish their spare cash.
On the left side, going out of town from Claremont Avenue, there were several nice homes on the rise. One is now occupied by Neil and Carlene Clarke and another by Anne Lang. John and Evelyn Tregidga live in the elegant home built by the successful local businessman, Mr Howard Hare.
Around the corner in Norwood Road was the home of the Beattie family, where Mrs Mona Townshend's first husband spent his early childhood days. Across Norwood Road, heading north, there was the Kennedy's property, a cream collecting depot used by the local farmers and Norman Miller also had property in this area. The Duff residence was next to the race course and it is still there today.
Rounding the corner and out of the borough we came across the awful smelling barberry hedge, which was on the left side of Thames Road. I was so pleased to see it removed some years ago. It screened the properties owned by the Millar and Wood family properties.
One of the Pennell family lived in a house on the rise and now it is the home of Barney and Muriel King. Nearby are the remains of the foundations of a butter factory.
The next property on the left belonged to Mr Wight and he had a fine old home just around the corner where Ian Wood and his family now live. Then came a block of land I believe was owned by the Maori lawyer, Willie Nicholls. James McGimpsy Robson, Paeroa's first storekeeper, bought property from him. Mr Robson leased extra land from Walter Wight and lived in the house on the leased land. Mr Robson planted the old oak trees and a camellia which still flowers in the backyard of the present house, the original building being burnt down.
This leased property is now owned by the Wood family and they are carrying out the new subdivision, named after their grandfather, Harold Wood - Harwood Heights. The land being subdivided was, in the early 1930s, owned by Mr and Mrs Lanfear. They had quite a large family with two of their boys giving their lives for the country in World War Two. Two daughters, Mrs Ngapo and Mrs Cooper, still live in Paeroa.
At one stage, part of this land was where the night soil was deposited, resulting in a magnificent crop of blackberries. During World War One, owing to the lack of labour, blackberry infected hundreds of acres of farmland, including that owned by Mr Wight and Mr Robson.
The Robson family gave up the lease and returned to live in Paeroa, but kept the land bought from Mr Nicholls further along the road. After World War One the land was divided among the three Robson brothers, Bill, Norman and Allan, where they farmed for many years. Bill married my mother and eventually her share of the land with the little house became the home for my husband, Reg and me, and where we have lived for fifty-four years. The house was enlarged in 1954 to accommodate our five sons and to improve our living conditions.
On the right-hand side of Thames Road, there was the home formerly owned by Phil and Rose Pennell, and on top of the hill, Mr Gee, who had a drapery business in town, built his home. Down on the flat there was the lovely two-storeyed home built by Mr W Marshall, one time Mayor of Paeroa, and now occupied by Brian and Trish Duggan and family.
The Shaw family were next door, where Howard and Margaret Levien have their home. One of the Shaws, Les, was also Mayor of Paeroa. Tragedy struck their family when one of the children was drowned in the Kapukapu Stream, which ran through the property. There was another old house occupied by the White family, but this has been demolished.
Then came Mr Rhyde's house and orchard and on the corner, "Pine Tree Corner", was the house built by the Nathan family and occupied for many years by Jack and Ethel Mitchell. (Their son, Gordon, was another Thames Road casualty in World War Two). The story of this house is recorded in Ohinemuri Journal No. 28, the article entitled "Black Rock".
The deep drain alongside the Thames Road, about half way down the slight hill, is the Kapukapu Stream. When Thames Road was constructed in Mr Nicholls' time, he objected to the stream meandering across his property, so it was diverted along the roadside and then went down the boundary of the Wight and Robson properties. Where the stream joins the roadside drain, the water turns at right angles and in flood times the water pours out across the road as it tries to follow the original watercourse.
Opposite the Robson home (where Reg and I live), was the old home of Mr Pat Morrison - a new home is now occupied by Mr and Mrs Gary Morrison and family, a grandson.
Allan Robson's home was the top storey of the Robson store in Paeroa and Norman's home was nearer to Hubbard's Road. There were only two more houses before the Komata Bridge, one is the Buchanan home, still owned by family members. I remember Bruce Buchanan as he used to ride by on his horse. Then there is the Hubbard home. Captain Hubbard was killed in World War One and in more recent times it was the home of Dick Hubbard, of cereal food fame. It is now the property of Ross Metcalf, who married Robyn Buchanan.
Most of the Thames Road farms are still occupied by descendants of the original owners, third and fourth generations. But farming methods are vastly different.
How the traffic has changed! In the 1930s, Mr Gibson from Komata used to drive his two-horse wagon into town, picking up the cream cans from suppliers of the New Zealand Dairy Company. The odd horseman would ride by, a few cyclists and pedestrians and just the occasional car - a Model T Ford or a baby Austin Seven. We could safely walk the road with a toddler and a baby in a pram. Never again though, as now there are several motor vehicles per minute, travelling at speed, in both directions.
The sounds are different too. No longer are there sounds of the drovers, with their dogs and stock going to and from the saleyards and farm properties, horses clip-clopping along the road pulling their drays and buggies; the songs of the native birds in early morning and the moreporks at night, or even a rooster crowing with his early-morning wake-up call. Now it is always the constant roar of more and more cars and large lorries, and occasionally a topdressing plane or helicopter.
But I guess that is called progress.