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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 30, September 1986

By Oliver Pipe

This nostalgic trip down memory lane

I hope you will all enjoy;

It's really only of things that I saw

When I was but a boy.

I was born in Dobson Street in 1912, so are writing this as I remember it.

If you travel north-east from Seddon Street shopping centre, on the opposite corner from the Church of England, there were three shops. A Boot and Shoe shop run by a Mr. George Worm. (This man could throw his voice and we as kids going home from the Convent School, would call in to see him; he would oblige by making animal noises like a dog's bark, rooster's crow and cow's moo and we could not see his lips move. To us kids, this was true magic.

Next door to Worm's shop was a ladie's dressmaking shop and in the third was a confectionary shop that made all sorts of lollies. This building was later shifted to Waihi Beach and re-erected by the Misses Cathleen and Nellie Mullins. It now houses a cane shop and a second-hand clothes shop.

The next shop was run by a Mr. Kennedy who was a boot repairer. His nickname was capital K because of a deformity to his leg. He also fascinated us kids because he used to put boot nails in his mouth and he would take each one out as he needed it. The next house was owned by a man called Jazzer Bill Davey, who sold home brewed beer to those he could trust. The next shop at one time sold fish. The Pensioner Flats now cover the ground where these shops were Rugby Park was known as Benner's Paddock and small circuses were held there.

The railway lines to the mine crossed the road just opposite the old Pumphouse - one went to No.4 hoppers and one went round to No. 6 where the Mine Lake is today. There was also a big engine shed where the Mine Locomotive was maintained. This was duplicated at Waikino also.

Turning right into Barry Road you crossed over Brickfield Road (so named because building bricks were manufactured there, and the kilns were still there seventy years ago).

The first shop was a Barber's shop. The second was a Fruit shop. Then came a Bakery run by a Mr. Barton. Next a Butchery run by a Mr. Snell. Over the road at the Junction of Kenny Street and Barry Road, stood the Central Hotel which was a two-storied building. This hotel was later shifted to Rotorua and is named Princes Gate and still serves as a hotel. The area the hotel stood on is now a kiddie's playground.

On the opposite side of Barry Road where these shops stood, was an area of vacant land where the Martha Gold Mining Coy. used to stock pile water and air pipes used underground. Also, they stockpiled logs for their sawmill which was on the corner of Barry and Golden Valley Roads. Pye Radio had a research factory on this area today. (Now occupied by Waihi Gold Company). The road behind this area was named Pipe Lane because of the pipes stacked there. Continuing our journey past the Central Hotel, the next shop was a lolly shop run by a Mrs. Speak. On looking back over half a century I consider we kiddies had to make some enormous decisions deciding how to spend our Pennies or, if we were flush and owned a threepenny piece, at Mrs. Speak's. A penny in those days would buy four Changing Balls or two Liquorice Pipes or one Liquorice Strap or two Aniseed Cakes. Shopping with Threepence in those days was a thing not to be taken lightly.

The next shop was a small butchery run by Mr. Ted Furey, and his two sons Eric and Walter ran it. The next shop a Grocery run by a Mr. Billy Hicks. The same building is still a Grocery Shop and is next door to the Dairy, the last shop on the way to Whangamata. There was a very small Dairy run by a Mr. Jones but it did not last long.

There were several identities I remember. A Mr Benson sold Butter and Eggs and called a couple of times a week in his horse and gig. A man named Bill Oliphant who was very Scotch, delivered Bread for Roberts the Baker, whose Bakery was in Kenny Street opposite where the Waihi Fire Station now stands. Oliphant used to tell us kids that he had worked in Porridge Mines in Scotland.

A Mr. Tierney was the Milkman in the East End. We ourselves kept a house cow and grazed it in the Long Paddock which was the road verges. This was a very common thing in those days. Mr. Mooney and his two sons, Ted and Bill, were coal dealers and worked three light drays or Spring carts.

The Maoris from Mataura Bay delivered Fish and packed it in split sacks thrown across the back of their horses. Rabbits were hawked in the same way and were usually sold in pairs. Hygiene was rigorously practised and blowflies were hit mercilessly if possible. Fishing at the coast five miles away was indulged in by many families to eke out their food supply. Any surplus of fish was filleted and liberally rubbed with coarse salt and then hung out in sun and wind to dry. When required these fillets could be reconstituted by boiling them for a short time to get rid of salt. What a boon to mankind Refrigeration is!

Men used to break road metal an the sides of the road. Metal from Walmsley's Creek was carted by dray to road verges where men would brake it up to sizes suitable for the roads. I presume they did this job on contract.

There were a couple of Sandstone Quarries in the East End where men quarried and shaped stones to form stormwater gutters. I presume that many are still in use in Waihi.

Water-races which were drains dug around the sides of the hills and followed the contour of the country for miles. A dam would have been built across a creek back in the hills out towards Whangamata Road; the water was then made to flow along this drain at a very steady pace so as not to scour and was used to drive Water-wheels at the Mine. We found these water-races great places to fish for 'Koura', the native freshwater crayfish. They were also great places for misguided birds to build their nests out over the water. Most boys in those days collected birds' eggs which they blew empty and then threaded them on cotton and usually hung on kitchen wall. Swapping of eggs to form a collection was practised.

The gathering of Cocksfoot seed heads on road verges was indulged in. One could sell the dry seed to Yates & Coy. in Auckland. I have no recollection of anyone making a fortune of this activity.

Recollections of our local Grocer, were of a man with a white apron standing behind a large Kauri counter. Goods displayed included casks of dry Scottish Kippers. A 56lb. block of cheese which was cut with a piece of Piano wire. Figs, Dates, Prunes, Currants, Raisins were displayed in bulk. All parcels were wrapped in imported brown paper and tied with string which was pulled from a metal container suspended from the ceiling. Sugar was sold in 70lb. bags made from flax or jute. These bags when empty were put to all sorts of uses. Everyone had one as a "Pikau" which was the forerunner of today's 'Ruck Sack'. Golden Syrup and Treacle was sold in 7lb. tins and was used as a sweetener on bread Porridge.

Flour was sold in a variety of white cotton bags. These bags were put to a variety of uses. Women made them into aprons. Sugar bag aprons were always used when working at the copper whilst doing the washing. Empty Golden Syrup tins were used as milk billies and were handy for gathering blackberries. Blackberry gathering was very much an annual Picnic event in those days before the introduction of sprays.

With apologies to Ogden Nash, the great American Rhymster, I close with these words ........

I hope these thoughts of yesteryear

Will bring some joy to you,

To pass word on to all our Heirs

Is up to Me and You.