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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 49, September 2005

In the 1950s, Marching Girls were very popular in New Zealand. A report published in the Hauraki Plains Gazette on Monday 24 January 1955, read as follows:

"NOT DETRIMENTAL

MARCHING FOR GIRLS

Doctor Gives Opinion

"A doctor was asked for his opinion for or against marching for girls. . .

"I am pleased to confirm my expressed opinion that marching can in no way prove detrimental to the health of girls, says the reply. Much to the contrary, I firmly believe that a girl's deportment, stature and general physical well-being must benefit from the regular training in the open air.

"I have witnessed marching events on many occasions and I believe that all concerned must feel proud of the marching achievements of the younger generation. This is, I believe, a further point in that discipline - so much needed in these times - is good, and in addition the control of the nervous system is enhanced."

Paeroa boasted five competing teams and these were:

Achilles: Colours, Navy blue and white

Instructor: F A Strange

Team: M Millar (Leader), M Bridge, J Dunwoodie, E Blackburn, P Gaylor, M Robinson, J Aitken, M Linn, C Dalziel, E Pope, J Neale, I Keutenius, M Lusby.

Zitelli: Colours, Blue and white

Instructor: R E Sims

Team: I Pett (Leader), O Christie, J Dent, L Duncan, L Neil, J Martin, K Brunt, F Anderson, B Flatt, E Tomlinson, G McNeil, E Vince.

Selettes: Colours, Black and white

Instructor: S Bridge

Team: L Stuart (Leader), J Millar, M Jones, J Shea, N Geddes, A Meyer, S O'Brien, D Mathieson, A Skinner, F Ballam, B Bartley, B Hayes.

Farmers Glengarry: Colours, Cyclamen and white

Instructor: W Waines

Team: L Foreman (Leader), J Birkenhead, ? Reddy, M Lally, O Hooper, L Morrison, M Mace, J Hooper, M Seymour, N Morrison, E Bancroft, H Cameron.

Ohinemuri Maori Girls: Colours, Nigger brown and mustard

Instructor: A Pakinga

Team: M Te Moananui (Leader), G Te Moananui, S Tukukino, R Williams, G Wilkinson, W Hautangi, W Pakinga, L Baggs, L Pakinga, P Williams, P Mita.

On 8 March 1952, the Selettes, along with their instructor, Mr S Bridge represented the Thames Valley in the National Marching Championships held in Nelson. Their departure was recorded in the Hauraki Plains Gazette on 7 March 1952 and named Mrs E Pett as their chaperone. The team comprised Misses Linda Stewart (Leader), June Millar, Ngari Geddes, Merle Jones, Annette Meyers, Shirley O'Brien, Jeanette O'Shea, Ellie Skinner, Dawn Mathieson, Fay Ballam, Beverly Bartley and Barbara Hayes. The Selettes were placed eleventh in the contest march and fifth in the display marching events. The team had only started contest marching during the latter part of the previous year, competing three times. The team was then reformed, with five new members and won its way to senior contest grade at Rotorua during the 1951/1952 Season.

The report of their success in the National Championships, published in the Hauraki Plains Gazette, concluded with the following words:

"The team left Nelson on Tuesday morning by air, arriving in Hamilton at 3 35pm, and in Paeroa by bus at 6 00pm, where they were met by an enthusiastic gathering of residents, who showered the girls with confetti as they alighted from the bus."

One feature of the Paeroa Marching Club was the holding of debutante balls. One such ball was reported in the Hauraki Plains Gazette of Wednesday 6 July 1955 as follows:

"PAEROA MARCHING GIRLS

"Seven Charming Young Ladies Are Presented

"The Druids' Hall was the scene of much gaiety when the Paeroa Marching Club recently held its third debutant ball.

"The hall had been prettily decorated in pastel coloured streamers, gold and silver stars and replicas of marching girls and the New Zealand Marching Association's badge by an energetic team of helpers.

"The guests of the evening, Mr and Mrs N C Davies (Mayor and Mayoress of Paeroa) and Mr A E Kinsella, Member for Hauraki and Mrs Kinsella, were welcomed on arrival by members of the committee and escorted into the hall.

"The presentation of the debutants at 10 00pm was the signal for the dancers to move forward and, to the strain of the 'Blue Danube', softly played in the background by Mr Geo Vercoe, the girls made their debut to Mr and Mrs Davies. They were:-

Miss Marie Bridge, in a frock of white French embroidered silk Anglaise with an inset panel of pleated tulle, was presented by Mrs Selwyn Bridge, who wore a floral brocade ballerina length gown.

Miss Elaine Pope, in a frock of white flocked nylon over organza and taffeta with a shawl collar, fitted bodice and full circular skirt, was presented by Mrs Walter Pope, wearing a rust tie [sic] silk frock.

Miss Isobel Keutenius, in a frock of embroidered nylon with a tulle yoke and overskirt, was presented by Mrs Selwyn Bridge.

Miss Melba Rackham, whose frock had a bodice of white embroidered nylon with a scalloped neckline and nylon tulle yoke and skirt over poult, [sic] was presented by Mrs Walter Pope.

Miss Margaret Taylor, whose gown was of white corded faille with the bodice having a frame collar embroidered in pearls and a gathered skirt finished at the back with a bustle bow, was presented by Mrs Ivan Taylor, wearing a black velvet gown with a square neckline and a pink stole and corsage of roses.

Miss Yvonne Roycroft of Waitakaruru, wore a chalk white frock of nylon lace and tulle over satin. The bodice of lace was fashioned with a tulle yoke outlined with pale pink daises. Her double skirts of tulle were made with full circle front with three full tiers at back. She was presented by Mrs W Roycroft, who wore black net, patterned in silver.

Miss Zoe Scott of Kerepehi, wore a white frock of tulle and lace over satin brocaded taffeta. The lace bodice featured a softly draped neck and shoulder line, the skirt having three tiers of fully gathered tulle at back and looked effective over the full flared lace skirt. Zoe was presented by her mother, Mrs F C Scott, who wore a frock of black lace over blue satin brocade.

"The seven girls made a pretty sight with their partners as they danced the Debutante waltz.

"A sumptuous supper of fruit salad, trifles and jellies, savouries, sandwiches and cakes was then served.

"The function closed with the last waltz at 2 am, with everyone tired but happy.

"The master of ceremonies was Mr O'Donoghue. Mr R Sims, Mrs Wheeler and Mr Wheeler were responsible for the training of the girls. The ball committee comprised Mesdames Wheeler, Stewart, Pope and Ballam, Miss L Neil and Mr R Sims."