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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 54, September 2010

Paeroa Order of St John Ambulance celebrated its 75th jubilee last November, with a special dinner to mark the occasion and the opportunity was undertake to unveil a large building programme.

There was a large gathering of present and former members for the celebratory dinner at the Paeroa racecourse, where memorabilia and photographs brought back memories of yesteryear.

While the current administration was formed and incorporated in 1934, the roots of the organisation in Paeroa go way back to April, 1897, when Mr A. B. Parker, a Certified Member of the St. John Association, called for support to form an Ambulance Corp or Civil Ambulance Brigade as was operating in Sydney and Brisbane.

In July of the same year the English Life Saving Society members formed a Paeroa branch and held classes of instruction in the Band Room.

Later the same month the Ohinemuri Gazette reported that a St. John Ambulance Society was formed when a well-attended public meeting was held in the Band Hall. The Patron was Mr G. Burgess; president Mr J. McAndrew, honorary medical officers Drs Forbes and Buckley (both of Paeroa), and secretary, Mr H. E. Allen. After the meeting a number of those present enrolled and were put through their first lesson in the course of instruction.

However, Mr Allen, in the next issue of the Gazette, pointed out it was not St. John Ambulance Society branch formed, but should be a branch of the English Life Saving Society. Instructions were for swimmers with rescue and release drill and also respiration of the apparent drowned.

In May, 1905, a move was made to form a St. John Ambulance branch in Paeroa, and this came into existence 12 months later in August, 1906, when a public meeting approved the setting up of an association for both gentlemen and ladies. The president was Mr W. G. Nicholls and secretary Mr E. V. Daldy.

First aid classes were held separately for both ladies and gentlemen and were conducted by Dr G. Smith. In the first year 19 sat the end-of-course examination and 17 passed.

At the annual meeting in 1907 Mr E. W. Porritt was elected president with Mr L Sanderson secretary. Approval was given for purchase a Furley stretcher which was place in the public library in Belmont Road for accidents cases only—it was not be used for infectious disease cases.

The association continued to serve the district through the First World War with Dr Smith conducting classes in first aid, nursing and home aid.

In 1915 the residents of Karangahake, who did not have the services of a doctor, formed a St John Association with Dr Hyde of Waihi being the lecturer. There were 72 candidates for the examination of which only two failed.

The Paeroa association continued to provide a service to the district and also conduct first aid courses.

However, like many organisations in the district, as the Great Depression start made itself felt and the association's activities were reduced and went into recess.

The association was rejuvenated in June, 1934, when the then Mayor of Paeroa, Mr W. Marshall, chaired a public meeting of eight young men which decided to proceed with the formation of a branch.

Mr Marshall was elected president, the vice-president was Mr E. Edwards and committee Messrs C. N. O'Loughlin, W. E. Tubman, W. Smith; secretary Rev C. J. Bush-King. Dr D. L. Davis offered to lecture and Dr W. W. Little to be the examiner.

The newly formed association gathered pace and become an incorporated society in November, 1934.

By 1938 the association had a thriving cadet division of 14 boys under Superintendent B. Gwilliam. By now Dr S. L.Haslett had taken over the instruction.

One Cadet Jack Whitmore won the District Shield in South Auckland competition at Hamilton—it was first time a Paeroa cadet had achieved this distinction.

The association continued to serve the district through the Second World War, but again it was real battle to keep going, but with sound administration started to gather speed again in the late 1940s.

By now there was increasing pressure for an ambulance based in Paeroa. Finally after several years the first ambulance was delivered to the Paeroa association in 1952. The first vehicle was a Chevrolet and there has been Austins, Leylands, Bedfords, and Dodges and now Mercedes.

Paeroa committee chairman Les Cullerne, a 47-year veteran of the association, launched a $300,000 fundraising campaign to refurbish and extend the present station, the former Thames Valley Electric Power Board building, the first of which was erected in the early 1920s. Hauraki District Mayor John Tregidga, congratulated the association on reaching the milestone. He presented certificated of appreciation to the association and to St. John volunteer of 22 years Helen Te Moananui.