Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 10, October 1968
By CLAUDE KENNEDY
When I was born in 1890 my father was the leasee of Buchanan's farm and home, on the Waihi Road. At that time he had two heavy five-horse teams with which he and an employee transported goods and machinery to the district mines.
Later he built a house on the corner of Princes Street and Queen Street where it still stands as Dr. Hall's Consulting Rooms. I lived there from the time I was one year old until the end of my school days but personal recollections begin about the year 1895. Princes Street had then taken the place of the Esplanade as the main street and Wharf Street continued to be the central depot for the arrival and departure of the Northern Steamship River Boats which carried both passengers and cargo for Paeroa and surrounding districts. From here, Te Aroha cargo was taken by small steam boats and barges. The busy scene provided unending interest to small boys who grew up with it.
To us, another important place was Mr. H. Moore's large Tobacco and Hairdressing shop which occupied the site of the present Bank of New Zealand. With its striped poles, two plate glass windows, and living quarters upstairs, it seemed almost palatial. Just south of it was a fish shop also with living rooms above, but it was a less substantial building, built to serve the rush of mining days. Mrs. Buckridge ran a boarding house on our property in Wharf Street. Flemming's Hardware store is much the same to-day as when it was built by my Father for an Auction Mart. He used to hold a sale there once a week selling every description of fruit by the case as well as bran, chaff, oats, wheat, maize and other commodities. Part of the building was a Butcher's Shop run by Jack Cassidy and afterwards for several years by my brother Jack. There were two empty sections between this and Wharf Street.
Where the Post Office Exchange and Borough Council now stand was a Hill Paddock on which cows were milked and buck jumping shows were held. It ran to where Mrs. Morris on lives (at the back of Fathers Hotel) and there was another old Hotel there. Beside it was a Boot Shop with dwelling attached, for many years owned and run by Mr. Bramley. Mr. Shaw was the proprietor of the Commercial Hotel (now Father's) with its 54 rooms and thirty-stall stable. Power's Hotel was on the vacant section next to Mrs. Martin's house which has been there as long as I can remember. It was part of the premises owned by Mr. Barrett whose son Tom later had a Hairdressing and Billiard Saloon. Mr. Porritt, Barrister and Solicitor then owned Mr. Broadbent's premises. The present Criterion Hotel, much the same as it is to-day but then owned by Mr. Asher Cassrels, looked very imposing at the entrance to the town.
Where Provincial Plumbers now stands was a Bake House complete with ovens and a shop that sold Bread, cakes, etc. It replaced the original one nearer the river and was owned and operated by Mr. Snodgrass, Charlie Vincents Grandfather, whose residence was beside it. Then there were three small cottages rented by the Snodgrass family. Later there were Timber Yards and then empty sections on which Lee Bros. recently built the Clothing Factory and Offices for Greer Ltd. In Queen Street there are still two old houses, the Buffalo Club Rooms, and an old dwelling now owned by the Catchment Board. As mentioned in a former article the old Paeroa Brewery (built about l890) was on the site of the Borough Work Shops and Yards. About 1900 my mother had two four-roomed cottages built on part of our old block and these remain, one owned by Mr. Norman Neil (Paeroa Borough Foreman) while I still own the other, now occupied by my stepson and daughter, (Mr. & Mrs. Simmons).
The "Paeroa Gas Syndicate Company" was founded in 1897 but in 1898 was incorporated under the title "Ohinemuri Light and Power Company". Its property consisted of 6½ acres on the Puke Road about where the Hauraki Concrete Works are now. A big street gas lamp on a concrete base was erected on the corner of Wharf Street. (There were of course many others and the late Dave McKee was an early lamp-lighter while Les Shaw, Vic Sherson and Joe Pennell were later ones. Gas mains were laid as far as the Karangahake township and the Company had a work shop and Show Rooms at Mackaytown - on the main road opposite Albert Road. I worked there for 3 years and my brother for 5 years).
Another land mark near our home before the turn of the century was the Firebell Tower which was just about where the Town Clock stands now. (The Band Rotunda was there later and the present Post Office was not built till 1926, after the removal of Fisher's Hill.) The Royal Mail Hotel was, as now, on the corner of Wharf Street and Belmont Road and the Proprietor I remember was Mr. George Crosby who also ran large Livery and Coaching Stables. A whole article could be written about this business. On the opposite side of Belmont Road was Mrs. Spry's Stationery Shop (later Mr. Blythe) and a Boot and Shoe Store where Mr. Spry did repairs for many years. There were various vacant sections but Mr. Ellis had a Blacksmith's Shop and lived nearby, and there was a Butcher's Shop owned by Mr. Walter Wight and managed for a time by Mr. Usher.
An old Paeroa family, the Vuglars owned a Butcher's Shop in the block known as "Gee Buildings" where Vercoe and Company now have their premises and the first permanent building for the Ohinemuri County Council Offices was on its present site. It was later moved into Marshall Street where it was used as a residence and this operation, together with the erection of the new building in 1911 was done by Mr. Reg. Roberts, the father of "Roberts Brothers", Builders. Next to the O.C.C.O. [Ohinemuri County Council Office ? – E] was the old fire station and three small houses owned and rented by Mrs. McGuire; Mrs. Davis lived in one of them. (The Library is there now). Mrs. McGuire who was an aunt of Charlie Vincent lived on the opposite side of Belmont Road where Fabers are now, and Mr. Emmett had a Coal and Firewood Business near the site of Road Services. Mr. D. J. Evans had a Grocery business and house in the vicinity of Linn's Service Station - near that was Mrs. Capill (Sen.) second Boarding House. I remember too, that Delaney's Hotel stood where Norman's Photography is now, and that it was moved to the site of the present "Paeroa Hotel" in order to be near to the Railway Station which was just opposite.
There were vacant sections on either side of Mackay Street but next to where the National Bank was later built, Mr. Wm. Cullen had a Drapery Shop and that is where Dave McWatters learned his trade, and met his future wife. Later they took over the business. On the same side his brother Wm. McWatters owned a thriving Grocery and Bakery and lived in the upstairs premises - - (above N.C. Davies), and Mr. Keller's Drapery was nearby. Mr. De Castro was the leading Chemist for many years and he also occupied a two storey building (later Todd's), near the Methodist Church.
In the next block I particularly remember premises owned by the Shaw family, Searl's Boot Shop, Hague Smith's Hardware, the Masonic Lodge Rooms, the Office of Mr. Moss, Solicitor, and of course the imposing old Bank of New Zealand. Across Victoria Street, beyond Robsons Store (now Dean's Furniture), Charlie Vincent's father had a Saddlery business (later moved to Crocker's) where his son Dave carried on for many years. After some empty sections was a Tinsmith and then Brenan's Blacksmith shop which has developed into a big business worthy of its own story. For a time Mr. Gentil lived in a small cottage between there and the Catholic Church opposite which was the home of the Vincent family and the private residence of Mr. Coote who owned the Commercial Hotel. (This "Knock-na-Veigh" was later occupied by Mr. W. Neil and the Mitchell family before being moved). The house now occupied by the Short family at one time belonged to Mr. F. Beattie.
Dr. Buckley's residence and Consulting Rooms is now owned by the N.Z. Dairy Co. for living quarters for employees and where Mr. Geo. Denton lives was the residence of the Griffiths family who had a Carting business. Mr. Phillips followed by Mr. Kellar had a large General Store on the site of the present Ministry of Works.