Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 14, October 1970
By EILEEN MATHIESEN
Oliver Sorensen, my paternal Grandfather, came from Norway with his brothers to settle in New Zealand in the 70's. He married my Grandmother Susannah, and soon after the opening of the Ohinemuri Goldfields they lived in a little cottage at the foot of Turners Hill on the Waihi Road. In the early 80's some of their children attended the first Mackaytown School when Mr. Sullivan was teaching there.
I have been told that Grandfather was employed at the Karangahake Mines and erected some of the early aerial trams. One crossed the Waitawheta River at Hauraki Camp at an angle of 45°, the two wires providing for a shuttle service for quartz cages which were turned on a turntable when they came back for refills. Engineering had been part of his early training and he had been used to steep mountains in Norway.
Later Grandfather acquired some farm land about ½ mile nearer Paeroa and with timber which was pit-sawn from one large Kauri Tree he built a six-roomed house roofed with split shingles. After that the six children attended the Paeroa School (Wood Street) where many of their descendants have also been educated. My father was the eldest son, Henry, (always known as "Nudger"); then there were Norman, William (Bill), Oliver, and two daughters, Karen who married Ted Bromwich (the Paeroa baker),and Lizzie who married my mother's brother Newbold Heape, for years the manager of Robson's Store on the corner of Normanby Road and Victoria Street.
I do not remember Grandfather who died in 1908 but his widow remained at the farm with Uncle Bill and his wife and son Howard until her death in 1920. We children thought the farm a lovely place with its river background and its garden of flowering shrubs. There was also a wonderful orchard with a fascinating pump in the middle of it. I particularly remember one family gathering when Grandmother, anxious to keep us away from the cattle, put us in a brand-new all wooden pig-sty which proved an ideal place for a juvenile party. In later years, (because of flooding) the house was moved to higher ground nearer the river but is no longer occupied.
My father and his brothers, Bill and Norm went into partnership in a Wheelwright business known as "Advance Carriage Factory - Sorensen Brothers". They built some outstanding vehicles, chiefly wagons, sulkies etc. There were about eight assistants, but later when the partnership was dissolved Dad (Nudger) worked as a wheelwright and blacksmith for Brenan& Company. Incidentally, all of my five sons have worked for this firm and three of them are still with "Provincial Transport" [successor to Brenan and Co – see Journals 11, 12 – E].
For many years we lived in Railway Street and one of my most vivid memories in connection with Brenan & Co. was the releasing of all the work horses from the stables and yards that were opposite N.Z.R.Road Services Depot. The thunder of their hooves on the metal road as they galloped towards their paddocks in Junction Road was terrifying yet lured us to the corner where Mrs. Salt's Boarding House stood so that we might watch the spectacle. Horses played a big part in our lives. There were rides on Alex Bourne's Coal-cart, or on Kennedy's Milk-cart with the funny little low step.
Later Dad opened a business of his own in Hughendon Street [Hughenden ? – E] on the site of Aston Motors, and Uncle Bill had one where Hare Bros. is now situated. They were both great footballers in their day, - playing for East Club and were Paeroa Reps., and members of a seven-a-side for Goldfields - as was our Uncle Ted Bromwich. I remember their black velvet caps with gold braid trimming.
My father had various interests and he and Mr. Eugene Shaw owned and raced Greyhounds – "Lady" being one of them. One of his most successful projects was the invention of the Wallace Safety Stacker which was marketed by D. McWallace in Auckland. We received royalties from it for many years - until hay baling superceded the hay-stacks of the early days. The present Design & Development Manager has written me to say that when he first joined the firm in 1933, "Nudger Sorensen" was engaged in assembling the Stackers in Auckland. He was working there at the time of his death in 1935.
It seems strange that the name Sorensen is no longer well known in Paeroa. My parents had 13 children but only 8 reached adult-hood and now there are only 3 besides myself - one brother and two sisters being in Hamilton, Uncle Bill who used to write articles for the Gazette, died in 1949 and Uncle Oliver's son who was well known here now lives at Whangamata. I would like to send Greetings to all members of our Historical Society.