Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 56, September 2012
(From the Hauraki Plains Gazette, February, 1957)
To have lived for 65 years in the Waihi District is the proud claim of Mr C. F. Butcher, who arrived here in 1892. He was 20 years old then.
There would be no trouble to fill a book were Mr Butcher's reminiscences jotted down. He is a fund of information on the district and in spite of his age has an excellent memory.
There was only one hotel then—the Waihi—where the Commercial stands today and in 1895 the Sterling Hotel was moved from Hikutaia, the licence and building, by a Mr J. L. Stevens.
In August 1895 Mr John Flett was successful in obtaining permission to transfer a licence from the Thames area to a new building, now known as the Rob Roy Hotel. Mr Doug Flett, of the Commercial Hotel is a grandson.
Mr Morris Power brought a licence from Paeroa and had it transferred, in 1907, to a hotel erected at the corner of Barry Road and Kenny Street and known as the Central Hotel.
When the 1908 no-licence poll was carried in the Ohinemuri County, which included the Waihi area, the Central Hotel building was removed to Rotorua where it is still used as a boarding house, known as the Princess Gate.
During the same period the Golden Cross Hotel was brought from Waitekauri to Waihi and used as a boarding house. When liquor licences were restore in 1925 it obtain the licence that had been forfeited by the Central Hotel.
So much for the hotels, they evidently played an important part in the early life of the town.
Mr Butcher relates that it was common for 200 vehicles to be on the road each day between Paeroa and Waihi. All the machinery for the mines was brought to the district by teams of horses. The teams would leave Paeroa at daylight, but it was sunset before they got to their destination. There was no road around the river and the teams had to pull their load over the hills.
In spite of his years, Mr Butcher enjoys good health. He smoked for years but gave up "when I had to go on my bended knees for tobacco". He enjoys a whisky, in fact two to four-finger mark. He enjoys his meals and still gets great kick out of life. His main hobby is his garden.
When Mr Butcher arrived in Waihi, Mr Hollis, now a resident of Waihi Beach, was three years old and another crony, Albert Harvey was a babe of three months.
"The oldest identity," Mr Butcher concluded, "is Harry Harley. He now lives at Bowentown. He was here before I was and is older than I am."
Wages in those days averaged between 7 shillings (70 cents) and 8 shillings (80 cents) a day but if one worked on contract they could make 9 shillings (90 cents) a day. Sheep sold at 8 shillings (80 cents) for a 65lb (29.5kgs) animal in the 1880s. Butter sold for 4d. (4 cents) a pound if you could get it to the grocer's before it melted into oil. Flour was 4 shillings and 9 pence (49 cents) for a 50lb (22.6kgs) sack. Wages were low and so was the cost of living.
Mr Butcher says that he landed in Waihi with a good hack, a saddle and bridle, riding breeches and a pair of spurs. He still has a good horse collar and hames, but no one wants them as there are no heavy horses about now—the work done by horses in the past is now done by tractors.
Recently Mr Butcher had the roof of his house painted green and as the job was finished on his birthday he took a ticket, in an Australian consultation, name the ticket "Green Roof Syndicate". It won ₤5 ($10).