Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 30, September 1986
By C W Malcolm
HILL STREET, Paeroa, starting at the railway overbridge, makes a gradual ascent to a low saddle between two hills, one to its right, the other to its left. When, in 1910, my father erected our cottage on the slope of the right hand hill, it occupied then the highest site on the street with sweeping views of the whole Hauraki Plain and the range of hills beyond to the sunset - those glorious sunsets - to Pirongia in the south, and to the blue Coromandels northward past the Thames. From our window we watched the approach of the trains from as far distant as Hikutaia and followed the passage of the Auckland-bound steamers on the winding Waihou.
In those days there were but two other dwellings and no footpath on our side of the rough metal road. Nearest the railway line lived the Deans family, father a military man, and higher up the Ellis family, the head of the household practising the trade of the blacksmith. Later, James MacAndrew, timber merchant, built the fourth house. It was for some time occupied by William Marshall, mayor of Paeroa, and his family.
But from directly opposite us and descending along the northern side were Sandersons (later Burretts, Wynns and last Brockets), LeManquais family and their adopted Webb children (partner LeManquais-Lamb timber mill and joinery factory), McIntyres (locomotive driver), Blucks (also loco driver), Blyths (grocer and later stationer), Butler (tailor), and Penman (Northern Steam ship agent).
It was a happy street full of children. By common usage we called the northern hill, "The Green Hill" and climbed its great pines to watch the races on the not too distant race course. We just could not envisage the houses that stand upon it today. Their view must be truly magnificent! On its grassy eastern slope we raced our toboggans, and nearby cut down and hauled homeward huge quantities of teatree brush which we piled high on the wide grass - grown verge of the street for our community bonfire on Guy Fawkes' night, adults and children joining in the traditional celebrations, childish squeals of delight piercing the night as our well made "guy" - or Kaiser Bill during the first World War - gradually heeled over as the flames consumed him!
On dewy mornings we ventured out across those eastern paddocks to return home for breakfast with heaped baskets of such mushrooms as I have never seen since in any shop. Who owned those paddocks where we felled the teatree and gathered the mushrooms, we never knew, nor apparently did anyone ever object.
The neighbouring hill to the south of the street, we children always called "The Dangerous Hill" for it was a bare outcrop of solid rock with precipitous edges. Today its appearance is completely changed, its whole top being screened by a miniature forest of tall trees so that anyone on the summit would surely be no longer able to see anything of the magnificent view we once enjoyed - a view over the whole town and in every direction over the countryside to the encircling hills. We boys watched the distant puff of steam followed seconds later by the sound of the locomotive's whistle of the trains approaching from the foothills of Tirohia, the canyon of the Karangahake, or over the dreary flat towards the Thames. We watched also the same phenomenon of sight and sound as "Taniwha" and "Waimarie" signalled their departure for Auckland from the river wharf far below.
In those days Taylors Avenue did not exist (I append a sketch map) and we reached the township by a long circuit through Brenan Street (then part of Hill Street) and Puke Road. But there did exist a narrow dusty foot track which paralleled the railway line on the opposite side from the present Taylors Avenue. It was on a lower level than the railway and separated from it by a swampy space and a ditch. We frequently preferred to walk along the railway, balancing on the rails, but ever ready to leap across to the track if we saw anyone in authority approaching. For the privilege of using this considerable short-cut, residents paid an annual household "rental" of half a crown which, for some boyhood years, I was employed to collect, receiving half a crown for my considerable labours. It paid our rental!
But Hill Street children made excursions further afield, through the town and beyond, to Tarariki Stream, for some reason always called Tackery's Creek, the source of the town's water supply. With billies and kerosene tins we harvested the inexhaustible crop of luscious blackberries, and home to Mother for blackberry pie and jelly to top our buttered scones. Adults, as well as children, participated in the harvest - my father with his "pikau", a kerosene tin in a sugar bag strapped to his bag as he cycled.
Yet there was danger! The local authority employed an official known by the dubious title of "Inspector of Nuisances! We were told that if he caught us laden with our containers of blackberries, he would despoil them with handfuls of lime, no doubt an attempt to curtail the spread of the noxious bramble. Avoiding this bogeyman added a sense of excitement to the adventure.
Old Tarariki stills flows on. I do not know if the blackberries are still up there, past the cemetery. But there are changes indeed in Hill Street. I missed the trimmed hedges round the old home section. The old orchard was gone with its apples, its peaches, its nectarines, its apricots, its figs and its plums, all of which father sold to the shops and hotels for four pence a pound, religiously paying a shilling and sixpence in the pound sterling, social security tax, failing to deduct his considerable costs of labour, time and material. Gone too are the grape vines wire-netted against the birds, and the massive passion vine burdened with fruit clinging to the cottage wall, and the mass of colour of Mother's flower garden, especially that profuse display of air-scenting sweet peas that were the envy of all.