Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 37, September 1993

This article, written by the late Alexander Alley, was published in the Paeroa Gazette in 1992 and the source is acknowledged.

Another old story our father (William Henry) told of was when the Alleys came to Hikutaia. Grandfather Alley came from Taradale, Napier, and bought a block of land called McCaskill's Grant, taking in our old homestead - 330 odd acres - Bruce Alley's farm, Alf Alley's farm and some at Maratoto from Peel's Creek which took in George McGregor's, Boney Harris' (Sutton's farm) and Charlie Reed's. About 1300 acres.

Our grandfather plus two of three of his elder sons brought their stock through bush tracks from Taradale, the only trouble being a confrontation with Maori's near Te Aroha. Our father arrived with his mother and the rest of the family by steamer up the Hikutaia Creek to land on our farm at the back where Corbett's homestead is situated. He said they landed there in 1872 when my father was three years old. The homestead was built on a small hill not far from where they landed. There was a large barn and horse boxes near the homestead my father built. I can remember our grandmother in the old dairy skimming cream off the pails of milk.

We Alley brothers and Hugh Morrison's sons were one of the first in New Zealand to cease stripping cows by hand after milking by machine. In 1939 we bought a Gordon vacuum milking machine from an agent, Mr Bedford, in Puriri. The first milking we used it the milk obtained from stripping dropped from the usual 30 gallons to four gallons, so we never hand stripped again. During the war years we milked one of the biggest herds, 150 cows, with seven sets of cups. I would take 23 20-gallon cans of milk to the Hikutaia cheese factory and I remember Uncle Ald Alley saying: "I believe you are taking over two tons of milk to the factory." I would bring home three cans of hot water to wash the cans after tipping the rest full of whey into tanks for feeding the pigs. On the way to the factory I supplied seven billies of milk to homes. Most housewives made their butter with the cream they got from the top of the milk.

The land for Alley Memorial Park was given by our father. Enough for a bowling green, three tennis courts and a croquet lawn. They were all formed by local casual labour with horse and carts, barrows, shovels and spades. The park was opened in 1923. Hugh Morrison was green superintendent and my father, William, was first president. Hugh's brother Bob helped with the levelling services. Pat Reid was first greenkeeper. I would help him roll the green on Saturday mornings.

We used to play tennis every chance we had. The seniors would chase us off the courts when they wanted to play but on we would go again, to be chased off again. It was only a few years later we were filling in with them. If we finished milking early we would change and rush down to play until dark then have a swim in the river, just outside the main gates.


Harry Julian owned the quarry. He quarried from four or five places around the valley but Bruce Alley owns the quarry hill now. They blasted the blue metal from well up the hill and loaded it on to steel v-shaped trucks which were on one of two tramlines side-by-side. When they let the full one go down to the crusher at the bottom, its weight would pull the empty truck up.

At first the metal was carted by horse and dray to a ramp which was built out from the bank top, just above the Hikutaia bridge. The dray would be tipped and the metal would shoot down a steel shute onto a barge in the creek which held 20 to 30 cubic yards. There was room for two barges to lie side-by-side in the creek. When one was full the other was put in place to fill. When both had their loads, Harry's son would tow the two barges down the creek on the high tide by launch and out to the Waihou River and to market.

It wasn't long before they built a tramline down the left side of the road and the v-shaped trucks were towed by another engine. The flooded creek has washed about 30 yards of the bank away since those days. This is the reason why a new bridge had to be built across the creek.

There were a number of single and double huts near the quarry where unemployed lived on 10 shillings a week to work wherever council directed.

Another memory was prohibition in the Waihi and Paeroa areas. Dozens of men came from Waihi and Paeroa to Hikutaia and Corbett's Hotel by train. The train would arrive at the Hikutaia station around 3.45pm and the men made a beeline for the hotel. The train continued to Thames and arrived back about 5pm. The driver would blow the whistle at Omahu and Wharepoa to let the men know it was time to leave the hotel. They staggered back to the station with sugar bags and pockets full of bottles.

The bushmen and miners from Maratoto, Komata and Komata Reefs came to the hotel where they would have their fill and play 'two-up schools' on the road near the verandah. Very seldom was there any trouble. Mrs Julie Corbett wouldn't stand for any and they respected her stern rules. After her death Pat took over with the help of Maggie. Winnie and Norah. Vic Brown was a rouseabout, and Fred Green with his horse Kitty Green and spring cart worked for the Corbetts.

Hikutaia had one of the biggest stock saleyards in the Thames area. They were situated between the old Post Office and the railway line. Farmers drove stock and carted pigs across on the Netherton ferry to the sales. There were two horse sales and several bull sales eachyear.

After each bull sale the F.A.C. agents, Peter Maxwell and Hori Martin, would let the bulls out of their single pens into one big pen to wear themselves out fighting before reloading them onto the train for the works. They would tie ropes around their horns to the top of each truck. During one of the floods at Hikutaia 300 sheep were drowned at the saleyards.


We Alleys had a windup gramophone which we and friends Jean McPike, Joyce, Rene and some of their friends used to learn to dance. The 'Dixie Boys' started their band in the 1920's and played all around the Thames Valley until the late 1930's. Dixie Allison (who married Agnes Morrison from Hikutaia) played trumpet and cornet. Dixie Dunstan played trombone; Jack Pickford, saxophone; Bert Aitken, banjo; and Nat Mounsey, piano.

The Smith band also featured during the 1920's. Harold and Flossie both played the violin and Rita played the piano. Flossie also played the piano for the silent pictures at the Hikutaia Hall.

About 1935 George Vercoe formed the 'Blue Sparks'. He played the piano and most other instruments. His brother Len played the saxophone and John the drums, until he left the district. Jimmy Ramaki took over the drums. He was so good, dancers would stop and form a circle to watch him. Occasionally, Merv Potter played the saxophone with his band.

During the 1930's Claude Fisher and his 'Collegiates' from Thames came to fame. He played saxophone and cornet besides other instruments. Alan Wicks played the saxophone; Kay McGlynn, bass; Lou McIllbride, drums; with Herb Walker on saxophone and cornet. I think Bert Kirby played drums.

Danny Fisher and two others played for smaller functions. Phil Campbell played with former bands during the 'thirties' before forming his 'Blue Boys'. He played piano and other instruments. Ken Morrison, (cousin of Agnes Morrison) Netherton, joined later on drums with Joe Sarjant on saxophone.

Harold Smith's family formed a band in the 1940's with Eddie on piano, Francis on saxophone, Eileen on piano and Vic McCollum on drums. Herb Walker and his band also played during this period. His wife Eileen played the piano, her brother Dick, bass; Owen Sutcliffe, saxophone; Horace Johnstone, trombone and saxophone. Doug Donnelly played the trumpet and Ross Jacombs the drums. With his 'Melody Boys' he played at Waihi Beach for many years, for the 'turkey ball' held annually at Te Aroha and the hunt balls in our area.

Dennis Morrison from Hikutaia had a band during the 1960's and 70's. Members included Jim Clark, guitar; Margaret Smith, piano; Eddie Castle, saxophone; Rodney Marshall, bass; and Ray Bush on drums.

Gerry Rawson, Maratoto Valley, and his wife also had a band. They farmed near the first ford and he drove the school bus for many years.

Most of the bands played at Thames, Paeroa, Hikutaia and Netherton for about two years. All these places had halls and held dances every few months as fundraisers. There was a round dance floor at Puru and good dances held at Tapu. During the middle of the 1940's dances started at the Catholic Hall in Te Aroha.

George Jennings and his band travelled from Thames by bus which was always full. Their dances were very good and well run. The masters of ceremony were Jim Shallue, Te Aroha; Mr Neat, Netherton, and Gordon Flavell, Hikutaia.