Waihi Borough Council Diamond Jubilee Booklet 1902-1962
The first to discover Waihi was the Moa, who was attracted to the glistening white outcrops on the Martha Hill, not by reason of their gold content, but because the sharp and very hard quartz fragments made excellent gizzard stones. On the slopes of the hill have been found numerous pockets of smooth quartz pebbles which the birds disgorged before gathering a fresh supply of more efficient rough ones.
Although there is now no evidence of its existence, there was in the early days of Waihi, a sawmill owned by Mr "Val" Brown, at the corner of Seddon Avenue and Martin Road, and extending down one slope to the Mangatoetoe stream. At this mill many kauri and rimu logs were cut into timber for use in the building of houses and business premises in the growing mining township. — J.B.B.
Originally, Waihi was without shelter of any kind from wind and dust storms. Shop doors were kept closed, frequently with a notice thereon, "Please open the door." There were no trees, or shrubs, and not many fences, and the wind had free course. A member of an early Borough Council, Mr Joseph Foster, many times urged that trees should be planted for purposes of shelter. After repeated failure to get support in the council, Mr Foster's persistence was rewarded. A sum of £50 was voted to be expended on such trees as he thought fit, and he was appointed to buy the trees and to attend to the planting of them. This proved to be a good long-term investment, many of the trees, principally the pines in Seddon Avenue, having served their intended purpose until recently. — J.B.B.
On an occasion many years ago, an attempt was made to bribe the members of the Waihi Borough Council with a bottle of whiskey. An old, and somewhat unscrupulous ratepayer, desired to obtain a favour from the Council and supported his request in person by production of the bottle. The Town Clerk, Mr H. D. Morpeth, emphatically told him to go and take his bottle with him. — J.B.B.
THE MINERS' UNION
The Waihi branch of the Thames Miners' Union was formed in 1892, when a building opposite the Bank of New Zealand was used as a meeting hall, secretary's office and reading room, being open three nights a week.
A few years later the Waihi Miners formed a Union of their own, and this carried on actively till the mines closed down. It had its own hall on the site of the new Memorial Hall. The unselfish nature of the few remaining members persisted to the end, when they gave their hall to the Borough Council for the people of Waihi.
Even the tea-tree was stunted, lying almost flat on the ground. There was a clump of pines in Corbett's paddock (near the site of the old Silverton battery), and some native trees at Hollis' bush, but that was all. It was considered a waste of time and money to try to grow anything — the soil was so poor and the winds so severe.
There was no formed road between the rise from Waitete Creek Ford and the small creek, also unbridged, at the foot of Seddon Street. The heavy traffic churned up the plains in the winter, and deviated at the will of the drivers. The whole area, even to the site of the hospital became a sea of mud — axle deep.
Then, winter over, the mud dried out, the ruts were ground to powder by the wheels, and the wind had full play. Over the town for days, even weeks, was a yellow pall of dust. In hotels, houses and shops, everything possible was protected, windows were sealed, and doors closed to try to keep out the awful dust. Shopping was a nightmare, and people peered out hopelessly waiting for the storm to rattle past. They became inured to dust grinding between their teeth and building up pellets to block their nostrils. Yet a better day dawned, ushered in by metalled roads, fortified soil, and nature's bulwark trees — and more trees.
Fifty years ago, and later, there were many vacant houses in Waihi. Around several of these the legend developed that they were haunted and that on dark nights ghosts walked abroad. One of these buildings was an old boarding-house, which stood right on the corner of Seddon Avenue and Victoria Street. This site is now included in a children's playground and upon part of it the Waihi Fire Brigade now conducts its exercises. So fearful were some people that they would not walk that way after dark. Eventually the old building was pulled down and removed, and not until then were the fears of some superstitious people allayed.— J.B.B.
MINERS' PENSIONERS' ASSOCIATION
This was formed in 1933. Sick miners worked as long as possible before going on the pension because it was roughly only £7 per month for married and £3/15/- for single. The association was formed with a view to augmenting this in order to help the more necessitous cases by raising money in various ways. The first Executive was Hugh Fagan, George Leather, Ted Fury, J. Pearce and Sam McClung.
COMMUNITY ARTS SERVICE
The first meeting to organise C.A.S. activities in Waihi was held on May 5th., 1947, when seven people met at the residence of Mr H. Cooper to discuss a suggestion made by an Adult Education tutor when he passed through Waihi.
The Goodwin Marionettes were to play at Katikati and the suggestion was that they might play in Waihi provided financial backing was assured. Those present comprising Mesdames Cooper and Abel and Messrs Cooper, Stainton, C. Gracey, H. W. Black and Father von Rotter, agreed to stand guarantors. A committee was formed with Mr Black chairman and Mr Abel, secretary.
From that time onward, C.A.S. has provided Waihi with a great variety of cultural entertainment which would not otherwise have been presented in the town and has promoted the formation of a Choral Society and a Drama Group.
Among the very early Geologists who explored this district was Dr R. Hauesler, F.G.S. (Lon.), M.R.M.S (Belg.), M.G.S. (Switz.) etc., with whom we have a very interesting link today. Mr Hans Hauesler, of Ohope, recently presented to the Waihi Museum three microscopic slides, showing samples of pure gold. These were used by his father in the preparation of this work "The Microscopical Structure of Ohinemuri Gold, 1886".
The town of Waihi and the district generally are greatly indebted to the Danish people who have become established upon farming lands in the vicinity of Waihi, and who have proved themselves to be not only good farmers, but welcome settlers. The first to arrive was Mr Otto Bjerring, who, about forty years ago, took up a large block of unimproved land on the Whangamata road, and who, in spite of frustration's and disappointments, has achieved a high measure of success. Other Danish people followed by reason of his influence and example. — J.B.B.
To meet the publisher's dead-line, the final instalments of Norman Morton's article were written at a Motor Trade Conference in Dunedin and airmailed to the Editor. The cover was designed and drawn in a Blenheim hotel by the Rev. L. George, while on his way to a Methodist Ministers' Conference in Christchurch.
Mr J. Gallagher (Hobart Town Jack), raced the coach from Waihi to Thames and from Thames to Waihi with a 30 lb. swag up, winning both events for a wager of five gallons of beer.
It has been the experience of many people to find that their bank manager is not as optimistic as they have wished. On the other hand there have been bankers who were as optimistic as circumstances warranted. Among the latter was Mr A. T. Kenrick, who in the early days of farming at Waihi, gave encouragement and help to some who were endeavouring to convert barren plains into fertile farms. At a public farewell to him about forty years ago, Mr Kenrick was able to visualise the changes that would take place and the development that would be apparent to all a generation later.
—J. B. B.
The time was 1944. It was quiet in town that morning, but not for long. Suddenly the air was rent by an ear-shattering noise as an Air Force plane screamed at roof-top level up the centre of the street and lifted itself over the Seddon Monument. Much decorated Fighter Pilot Hank Miller was back home.
A recent radio broadcast of Waihi's history by N. F. Morton has been preserved for posterity in the archives of the N.Z.B.C.
BRICK YARDS AND BY-PATH
Possibly few people remember, or ever knew that there used to be brick yards and kilns in Waihi. (What a chance for a new industry. Please don't rush it and flood the market.)
The works were owned by Laurie Bros., and were situated between Seddon Street Extension and Kenny Street, on the flat land beyond Gilmour Street. There was a track through the tea-tree past the brick yards and recreation ground to the Waihi battery. A small creek ran across this track, crossed by a 12in plank, and one had to be reasonably sober to cross it. Many times the writer found fellows looking doubtfully at the plank and gave them a hand across. I remember one who never would accept help, but crossed by walking through the creek, using the plank as a hand-rail. Usually he was so happy that he didn't bother about wet feet and legs but I used to wonder what his wife had to say about it.
MRS AGNES O'NEIL
Agnes Colebrook, the daughter of an early settler, was a first day pupil of the Waihi School. She married Naylor O'Neil and they had one of Waihi's largest families, there being 18 children, 14 of whom are still living. Mrs O'Neil now resides in Auckland but was present at the School's Diamond Jubilee in 1950 and intends to be present at the Borough Jubilee also. The members of the family are now scattered throughout New Zealand, from Dunedin to the Bay of Islands, but one son, Dick, is still in Waihi.
Borough work nearing completion in Waihi today has resulted in seven miles of street being widened, strengthened and sealed, six miles of footpath reconstructed and sealed, and three miles renewed in concrete. A £59,000 loan, spread over two years, financed the work and the Council is providing ornamental shrubs to residents who keep their road frontages in good order.