Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 47, September 2003
By B R Thorp
Every New Zealand country town has its identities. Paeroa has had its share.
The Last of the "Family" Grocers
Bill was a family grocer in the real meaning of the word as he knew all his customers by name, and also the various members of their families.
His shop was Wallace Supplies, a shop which had been trading as grocers on the same site since at least 1931. Bill was manager for several decades. He had two female assistants and the one male assistant was Lionel Adams who doubled as the van driver. Later, two replacements were Ken and Connie. All were long serving and part of the Bill Dixon team.
Around 9 00am each morning the phone would start to ring - customers placing their orders for delivery that afternoon. This was done in a small glassed-in office off the main shop. This was a full time job as often ham would need to be sliced and weighed, plus other items gathered and weighed. Cartons were loaded into the Wallace Supplies van for delivery by Lionel, not only in Paeroa, but surrounding districts as well. The van in the forties and fifties was a long bonnet American Diamond T, painted in the popular colour of the day, olive green with a gold pinstripe.
Bill Dixon believed in providing real service, so was always a march ahead of his competitors, which numbered four at that time. Competitor Marriots, could only provide a bicycle, albeit specially designed for the work; the young apprentice delivery boy was a keen Dick Hubbard. (This bicycle is in the Paeroa Museum - Ed.)
Delivery was essential in those days as many families did not have cars. For those that did, the car would be used for transport to work.
Bill went out of his way to accommodate all customers, so that "buy now, pay later" was the custom. This of course entailed the arduous task of mailing out accounts. Because he was obliging, his shop attracted those who never had enough money to pay for their purchases. If a customer got into debt, Bill would visit the employer, and it was arranged to deduct the grocery order from the weekly pay packet. These folk actually welcomed the idea and fell into the routine as it left them mentally free from having to manage their own money. Incidentally, this system had been in vogue at Wallace Supplies from earlier times.
Bill was not always at his shop and every Wednesday night he was busy at the Park as an official of the well patronised Paeroa Athletic Club.
Wallace Supplies is no more but a grocer's shop still operates from the site.
Frank owned a shop on the main road north from Paeroa, known as Puke Road, for many years.
At least it started up as a shop. It had one door and a display window, with a sign, "Healtheries Products". These were the usual health foods and fibre additives. Inside was a counter behind which was an array of paraphernalia. In the 50s and 60s health foods were definitely not in vogue, so business was very slim. So Frank took on the agency for re-refined oil and some special fertilisers, such as dolomite. We soon discovered that Frank's oil was very clean burning and did not foul spark plugs as the proprietary oils did. We also found it was superior in 4 stroke motors, so tractors and trucks used it as well. So began a long association with Frank. It wasn't too long before the oil companies began to produce and market their own specialty oils for mowers, chainsaws and outboards - so Frank's business gradually fell into decline. Similarly, the fertiliser companies found cheaper sources of magnesium than dolomite.
But Frank was a loser (in the material sense) and he was not fond of work, so his shop became the repository for all manner of junk as he was a great hoarder. Finally there was only room inside the door for one or two oil drums. Business had become slack and I would often have to rouse him from his bed during the day for service. (He lived behind the shop.)
One of his activities was to run his own religious road show, sponsored by his church group, which he would take to various marae in the district. Here he met a compatible lady and a friendship developed. As with all things, nature took its course and the lady moved into the Puke Road house. The church elders were not impressed and so held a meeting behind closed doors to discuss Frank's future.
Frank had always wanted a family, so now he had it and that was all that mattered.
Frank, his shop and house have long since gone, replaced by the modernisation of car yards and petrol pumps.
JOCK (DR J W BARTRUM)
FAMILY DOCTOR, PAEROA 1949 - 1965
I knew him as a family doctor, friend, Rotarian, rugby supporter, churchman and a gracious host. While he only spent sixteen years in Paeroa, he left his mark in many ways. His surgery was attached to his home alongside the Ohinemuri River (at the Criterion Bridge).
Some memories of the man remain with me over the years. His sense of humour was outrageous and often penetrating, which did not go down well with the stuffy and over-sensitive.
He often attended after-match functions (rugby) and could be the life of the party, but he never "shouted" the players unless we had won that day. At another function in his front garden, a visiting player teased him - about a sore leg - and was promptly jabbed with a long needle in the adjacent surgery.
As a single man, he had a series of housekeepers, but none were able to lure him into any amorous adventure. The man was married to his work and all the ladies that went with it but he later married Marjorie Noble, the District Nurse. Many of his patients were Maori and there was often no charge but, in return, more than one child was named after him.
He lived life in the fast lane. This was reflected by his driving habits - applying the brakes at each corner, rather than slowing down. Doctors, at that time, spent considerable time on the road. Jock's garage was situated right on the roadside, door always open, ready for a fast get-away. All this took its toll and his time at Paeroa was cut short by health problems.
He was also devoted to his church - the Anglican Church, both St. Paul's in Paeroa and St. John's Maori Church. He had been brought up into "High Church Anglicanism" and as this was not catered for locally, he often made trips to St. Peter's Cathedral in Hamilton.
A serious stroke did not deter this man. He learnt to talk and read again and to walk with a leg brace and stick, and made further visits to Paeroa. He would sit for hours discussing the private lives of his patients and their families - some thing he could never do while practising.
Only two rimu trees and a soccer field remain where his house once stood by the river bridge - a living tribute to a man devoted to people's welfare.
This memory represents only a short interlude in the life of Dr Bartrum. The following article was published in the NZ Herald on Saturday, 26 April 1975 and details some of his earlier life, specifically as Commander of a NZ Medical Unit during the Second World War, as Major Bartrum. For younger readers, that is equivalent to Major Burns in the M.A.S.H. 4077 television series, but not as zany, of course! A German prisoner becomes his batman - equivalent to "Radar" in the T V series. Read on . . .
FOES BECOME FIRM FRIENDS
(By Iain Macdonald)
The recent death of a New Zealand doctor and the presence at his funeral of a former German Paratroop officer ended 30 years of friendship between the two men. It also closed the final chapter of an unusual story to emerge from the Second World War.
When Major J W (Jock) Bartrum, then of the New Zealand Medical Corps first met Lieutenant Heinz Puschmann, of the 2nd German Paratroop Division, in 1945, neither could speak the other's language. But Major Bartrum spoke Italian and Lt. Puschmann had a fair command of Latin, and somehow they communicated.
Despite the linguistic handicap the two former foes liked each other instinctively and from this there developed a deep and lasting friendship. As a result of this chance meeting between victor and vanquished, the former Lieutenant Puschmann is now Mr Puschmann, a naturalised New Zealander who has raised a family of young New Zealanders.
The story of Jock Bartrum and Heinz Puschmann began late in 1945 in the small town of San Spirito, near Bari, in southern Italy. There, No. 1 New Zealand Convalescent Depot was tending a few remaining soldier patients before packing up and heading for home. The officer commanding this New Zealand Army medical unit was Major Jock Bartrum, an old boy of Takapuna Grammar School and a graduate of Otago Medical School. Second-in-command of the unit was Captain P P E Savage, now medical superintendent of Oakley Psychiatric Hospital, Auckland.
One day there arrived at the New Zealand depot a party of former German prisoners of war, among them Heinz Puschmann. They had been sent to San Spirito to boost the labour force.
Because the war had ended, the Germans had, under the terms of the Geneva Convention, changed their status from "prisoners" to "internees". This meant that former officers could, if they wished, work for their erstwhile captors.
So it was that 22-year-old Lieutenant Puschmann became Major Bartrum's batman. And so it was that Puschmann had his first peaceful encounter with New Zealanders, the men from a country which was to become his adopted home.
Heinz Puschmann (then a 17-year-old paratrooper) had first faced New Zealanders in battle during the Crete campaign of 1941 and later confronted them again in Italy. "The Germans had great respect for the New Zealanders as soldiers," he says. "They were very tough, resourceful and courageous. We always knew that we were in for some hard fighting if the New Zealanders were around." He remembers particularly the fighting qualities of the New Zealand soldiers during the bloody battle for Monte Casino in February 1944.
But by 1945, Heinz Puschmann discovered that he liked New Zealanders as men as much as he had admired them as soldiers. "They treated us Germans very well at that medical depot. We could hardly have been better treated if we had been New Zealanders ourselves." He describes the wartime Major Jock Bartrum as "A strict man - as a commanding officer should be - but also a very good man. I think he was the kindest and most humane man I have ever known. My family and I owe him a debt of gratitude that we can never hope to repay. When he died, I lost my closest and dearest friend."
When the time came for Heinz Puschmann and his comrades to be repatriated from Italy to Germany, Major Bartrum asked his batman for his home address. "But I told him that I could give no address because my home was in Silesia and was in the hands of the Russians. I certainly was not going back there."
The former paratrooper returned to a homeland devastated by war but eventually he managed to enrol at Frankfurt University (in the American zone of occupation) and began studying for an engineering degree.
From Frankfurt he wrote often to Dr Bartrum who offered to try to sponsor his German friend's emigration to New Zealand after he graduated. "It took him five years - from 1949 - 1954 - to persuade the New Zealand immigration authorities to allow us to come here," says Mr Puschmann, "But he was a very determined man and finally he succeeded."
In 1949 Dr Bartrum left Auckland for Paeroa where he worked as a general practitioner for 16 years until illness prematurely ended his medical career.
The townsfolk of Paeroa echo Heinz Puschmann's assessment of Dr Bartrum as a man and a doctor. Many of his former patients travelled to Auckland to attend his funeral on April 4. A few days later a special memorial service was held at St. Paul's Anglican Church in Paeroa.
Says Dr Bartrum's widow, Marjorie Bartrum: "He just loved humanity. He involved himself wholeheartedly in anything which he believed would benefit society. That was why people loved him."
Among the mourners at Dr Bartrum's funeral at Holy Trinity Church, Devonport, was Heinz Puschmann and his family. There were, says the tough ex-paratrooper, tears in his eyes as he stood to attention while a bugler sounded Last Post and Reveille.
"My wife and I were frequent visitors to the Bartrum home. We last saw him on Easter Sunday, only a few days before he died, and I thought he looked fairly well. His death was a terrible shock to us."
On leaving the church after the funeral service Mr Puschmann saw a face that he remembered from 30 years ago. It was that of Dr Savage, of Oakley Hospital, last seen by Heinz Puschmann when the doctor was a young Army medical officer in Italy.
"I was flattered to think that, despite the passing of so many years, Mr Puschmann could still recognise me," remarks Dr Savage. "But it was a very sad occasion on which to renew an acquaintanceship."
Heinz Puschmann is now an executive with an Auckland engineering firm. He and his family became naturalised New Zealanders in 1965. The two young children who he brought from Germany in 1954 have now grown up and married.
Does the family ever speak German at home? Mr Puschmann laughs. "Yes, sometimes - but my children speak German with a New Zealand accent." Mr Puschmann himself teaches German to night classes at Mt Roskill Grammar School. One of his students is his daughter.
Thirty years after he shed his wartime uniform there are still faint traces of the former German officer in Heinz Puschmann. His speech is accented but clipped and precise. There is a vestige of stiff correctness in his manner. Women are charmed by the brief bow and heel-click which accompanies an introduction.
As a German, he says, he could never get used to calling Dr Bartrum by his nickname, "Jock". On being told that it was the Scot's version of John or Jack, Mr Puschmann decided that the nearest German equivalent was "Hans".
"So to me he was always 'Hans' Bartrum - and he treated it as a great joke. But what does it matter what I called him? True friendship is the same in any language."