I was born in the early 1920's and spent much of my boyhood in a country settlement. I don't know what other name you could give to the locality which was located at a rural crossroads. There was a Post and Telegraph Office (Post 9 00am - 5 00pm, Telegraph 7 00am - 9 00pm and closed on Sundays); the cheese factory, the blacksmith shop, school, church and public hall with a "gaggle" of houses for the factory staff and one or two other non-farmers. The post office had, at one stage, also operated as a country store but that activity had ceased during the First World War. Our nearest village was three miles away, and significantly bigger than our settlement. As well as two general stores, a butcher shop, a bakehouse and tearooms, a Chinese greengrocer, wood and coal merchant and, good heavens! a bank, in addition to the mandatory dairy factory, school, churches (plural) and public hall (which also doubled as a picture theatre on a couple of nights a week AND SATURDAY AFTERNOONS). I'm sure there were a few other buildings but they don't come to mind at this stage.
There were few cars in our locality in the late '20's. I could probably have counted them all on the fingers of one hand - and maybe had my thumb left over. Several residents had what we called gigs - a two-wheeled vehicle drawn by one horse and capable of seating four people. Usually Mum and Dad facing forward and the children facing to the rear. At a squeeze a couple more children could be added.
But there seemed to be some residents who had no transport at all. And this is where the SERVICE came in, and, most surely, must have been the origin of the slogan, "Service with a Smile".
On Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings the butchers wagon called at our home at about 8 45am as part of a route which had him calling at many homes each day. The vehicle was an enclosed motor-van, not much bigger than one of today's large stationwagons. It was painted a particularly horrible creamy yellow which seemed to match the yellowish fat that was attached to some of the large beef cuts inside the wagon. The butcher would pull up at the front gate, toot his horn, and while Mother arrived with a meat plate under her arm, he would have opened two rear doors hinged like a cupboard, dropped a hinged "backboard" which had a 4 inch thick chopping board attached to it. From the ceiling of the van he hung a set of scales which looked like the "scales of justice". On rails down either side were hung quarters of sheep and large cuts of pork or beef. In large drawers were the small goods and items such as liver, kidneys, brains and sweetbreads. While Mother made her selection the occasional school child peered in or a roaming dog sneaked by, hoping to be offered a tit-bit. If a rare vehicle passed by, a cloud of dust settled on the meat, but I never heard anyone complain, nor hear of any consumer becoming ill.
Later on Mondays the order man from the general store would call at the door to solicit orders, mainly of groceries, for delivery on Wednesday. The grocer was a Mr Ciochetto who was of Italian origin but who had served with the NZEF during the War and risen to the rank of Major. He was greatly respected by those with whom he served in the Army.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays around the middle of the day, the baker's man, Mr Round, called at our home. His name suited him as he had a round fresh face. The cheeky children in the vicinity would sing "pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man". Mr Round carried a wicker basket with a bottom of crossed wires for the crumbs to fall through. In the basket would be a variety of loaves, "barracouta", "tank" and "vienna'', plus a selection of buns and a "Sally Lunn". The "barracouta" loaf comprised of two lumps of dough baked with one end of each lump pushed together. When the cooked loaf was pulled apart the bread at the join was very light and fluffly. This was called the "kissing crust" and was much sought after by us children. Mother was urged also to buy "penny" buns. A quite large currant bun with a shiny top. It genuinely cost one penny (slightly less than one cent) but 60 years later it costs something like 40 times its then cost!!
Other vendors who called around the district were an Indian greengrocer with an open horse-drawn vehicle who came once a week and an Assyrian clothing and material vendor who called about every two months. He had a big four-wheeled covered wagon drawn by a grey horse. The rig looked as though it had come straight out of a "wild west" movie. We children were quite apprehensive of this man with his gypsy-like appearance. Perhaps we had been threatened with "Behave, or I'll give you to the clothing man."
Though these years were supposed to be hard times it did not seem to be any great problem for businesses to provide top-rate service. Certainly the coming of the motor car made some rural services unnecessary but even in the late 1950's and early '60's two grocer shops, at least in Paeroa continued the tradition of "shop to door service". Many older Paeroa residents will recall Mr Tom Pye, the Manager of Marriotts Stores Ltd (now Central Bookshop) who used a bicycle to call on his customers to secure their orders which were delivered later in the day by the grocer boy on a specially made parcels bike. Mr Bill Dickson. Manager of Wallace Supplies (now Lindsays Four Square) also gave grand service to his customers. It seemed no problem to him to slip along the road to the mercers and buy 2 yards of elastic and a reel of cotton to send out to "Mrs B" with her grocery order.
Years pass, times change, but not always for the better, we should not forget the tremendous service and friendship given by many firms to their isolated or less able customers.
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