Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 30, September 1986


When we first came to Paeroa in 1913 the only suitable house to rent was the Methodist Parsonage. At this time the Methodist minister was a Mr Mitchell - a single man who was not using the parsonage but boarding in town. My Father was able to rent the Parsonage on the understanding that if and when a married minister arrived in Paeroa we would vacate. There appears to be nothing peculiar about this - except for the fact that my Mother and the four (at that time) children were Roman Catholics and regular attenders. Under these circumstances, and for the time (1913), the fact that we were able to rent this particular house seems to be religious tolerance at its best.

About 1917 or 18 when Mr Duncan and his family arrived we vacated as arranged. The house is still standing today (albeit having had a bit of a face lift). (Mr Enticott followed Mr Duncan.)

For a couple of months, whilst waiting for another house to become available, my father, mother, the then baby and myself stayed at the Paeroa Hotel - which because of local prohibition was run as a boarding house with perhaps eight or nine permanent guests.

In those days of no radio, television and with pictures only twice a week most entertainment was home made. Among the boarders were one or two good musicians, singers etc. and most evenings were given over to songs round the piano, consequences etc. One evening some friends were asked in and there was quite a gathering. I was about 11 at the time and as a special treat was allowed to stay up and attend the party. At about 9.30 I got the high sign from my Dad to go - I went - and this is when the trouble started. I realised it was most necessary to visit the toilet before going to bed.

In those days there was one toilet in the house, very strictly "Ladies only" - the "Mens" was across a very dark back yard, covered with honeysuckle, infested with spiders and other long legged beasties.

Under the circumstances what was an 11 year old boy to do? You have guessed it.

I was sitting on this seat, minding my own business when I hear a patter of feet coming along the passage way. I knew exactly what was going to happen and it did! Fortunately there was no electric light in Paeroa in those days - the only light was coming from a broken gas mantle at the far end of the passage.

The door opened - Miss W - appears and backs in - and flipped up her skirts and I am confronted by a white bottom about to sit on my knee.

I am frozen to that seat and scared stiff. What could I do? The only possible thing to do was to pinch, what was at that moment about six inches from my knee. Result? a scream which could have been heard in Waitekauri -- a bolting woman roaring down the passage way yelling the while "a man, a man, a man in the ladies lav".

(In the meantime the "man" all 11 years of him, fled to his bed, hops in clothes and all, blankets up over his ears and nearly dead of fright).

In the meantime Miss W- had reached the "Drawing room" in a state of undress and hysterics. The "braves", including my father came pounding down the Passageway (which opened on to a stairway fire escape) in search of the intruder - my father taking time off to make sure I am in bed. The intruder was not found. Nerves were quieted with a "nice cup of tea" (Paeroa being "dry" nothing stronger was available).

There was a bit of an enquiry next day. I've got a feeling that some people thought that I was at the bottom (literally) of this business but I successfully lied my way out of that. I told Dad the true story in 1957 - a bit before he died. He laughed so much that I'm pretty sure it hastened his end - he was then 82. (Miss W long since gone from Paeroa. Should she happen to see this I hope I will be forgiven).