Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 40, September 1996

FLOOD REUNION: On Saturday, 13 April 1996, the great flood of 1981 was commemorated with a "reunion" at the Waikino Hall.

Photographs and newspaper accounts of the floods reminded visitors of the trauma of 12 and 13 April 1981, when the Ohinemuri River, following two days of torrential rain, rose to an unprecedented level and swept away a butcher's shop, craft shop, restaurant, post office and telephone booth. The ground floor of the Waikino hotel was awash with flood waters which reached as high as the spirit dispensers. Waihi resident Margaret Postmaa, joint owner of the former "Homestead" restaurant, recalled watching from the upstairs floor of the hotel as her pressure cooker and other kitchen utensils went bobbing off down the river and, finally, as the whole building collapsed.

A pot luck tea was held during the reunion and Mr Homer Stubbs JP, spoke about growing up in Waikino. Films of the flood, loaned by Waihi builder Lloyd McGechie, were shown during the evening.

WAIHI LIBRARY: Waihi Public Library (formerly the Bank of New Zealand building) has been repainted in historically correct colours. The colours, chosen from the American Benjamin Moore historical colour collection, are two shades of blue. These are in keeping with the hues which would have been available at the time the bank was built. The Hauraki District Council building has also been painted in the same two blues. The Benjamin Moore historical colour collection is manufactured in New Zealand.

PIDGE INNIS-BROWN: The well known Paeroa Public Health Nurse, Pidge Innis-Brown, retired in April 1996 from the position, after 16 years, as "nurse".

Pidge was born in Matamata and, being part of a farming family, moved around the Waikato finally settling first in Netherton and then Kerepehi districts. She attended Hauraki Plains College and trained as a nurse at the Thames Hospital School of Nursing.

Before becoming Public Health Nurse in 1984 she worked as relieving district nurse at Paeroa, taking over the position permanently, following district nurse, Pat McDonald's appointment as principal nurse of the Paeroa Geriatric Hospital.

RAILWAY LINES & BRIDGES: Two bridges which have been landmarks in Paeroa for over 70 years were removed in May 1996. With the closure of the railway and the removal of the tracks, these bridges were no longer needed. The overhead pedestrian footbridge, which linked Taylors Avenue with Coronation Street, was cut into sections and removed by a crane on 9 May. Later that same day, the overhead railway bridge on William Street, known as the 'subway', was lifted onto a truck and carted away.

The tracks from the railway station yards and on to Waitoa had been removed in 1995, while the tracks from Kopu to Paeroa had been lifted sometime earlier. The tracks from Kopu to Thames were lifted in April/May 1996. The line, which was opened on 19 December 1898, was closed to passengers on 28 March 1951 and freight services on 28 June 1991.

GEORGE GAY: George Gay, a well known Waihi solicitor, retired from his law practice on 30 September 1995, bringing to an end a 27 year working relationship with the law firm, Clark and Gay. He came to Waihi in 1968 after visiting on a holiday and decided he liked the area. At the same time he found that the estate of local solicitor F C Clark was looking for someone to take over his law firm. He subsequently took the firm over, changing the name to Clark and Gay, Solicitors. Mr Gay intends to remain residing at Waihi Beach in his retirement.

FATHER PURCELL: Father Philip Purcell, Paeroa's Catholic priest, retired in February 1996 after serving 56 years as a priest in New Zealand, the last 15 in Paeroa. After his final Paeroa mass on 4 February, Father Purcell moved to Whakatane.

WAITAKARURU STORE: Barry and Verlie Yeager, owners of the Waitakaruru Store for 27 years retired in February 1996. Mr Yeager has worked in Waitakaruru for the past 44 years, first in the butcher's shop before taking over the Country Store in 1969. The store was built in 1890 in Kuaotunu and was transported by barge to Waitakaruru in 1916.

HIKUTAIA STORE: In 1996 the owners of the Hikutaia Store, George and Margaret Kennedy sold their business after 26 years of ownership. They came from Hillsborough in 1970 after purchasing the store from Eric and Heather Gamble. George commented that those were the boom years for the country store with groceries being delivered all around the district. They took over the mail service when the Hikutaia Post Office closed in 1988.

PAEROA GERIATRIC HOSPITAL: As a result of the Government's policy of closing hospitals, the patients of Paeroa's Geriatric Hospital were transferred to a new complex at Ohinemuri House on the 23/24 August 1995. The old Hospital was officially closed on 25 August 1995. For articles relating to the history of the hospital see Journal 11 page 45 and Journal 27 page 23.

BASIL MORRISON: In January 1996 Mr Basil Morrison, Mayor of Hauraki District celebrated 25 years service to local government. On 29 January 1971, Mr Morrison was "sworn in " as an Ohinemuri County Councillor. In 1989 when the Hauraki Plains, Ohinemuri County and Paeroa and Waihi Borough Councils amalgamated, Mr Morrison won the election to become the mayor.

FRANK STRANGE: Frank Strange, a member of the Paeroa Historical Society, and well known resident of Komata, was presented with the Benemerenti Medal, conferred on him by Pope Paul II. The medal was presented to him at a confirmation mass at St Mary's Church, Paeroa on 11 October 1995. Mr Strange, who is 95, trained as an altar boy at the age of 12 and says helping Father Philip Purcell, when rostered altar boys were sick or could not come to mass, was "natural" for him. He attributes his skills at the altar to the training by the sisters at Thames. He started altar serving at Hikutaia Church several years ago on Fridays and sometimes Saturday night masses. The Medal, scroll and insignia were a Papal recognition of his service.

Mr Strange wrote an account of his life and times of the Hikutaia District, and this was published in Journal 35.

PAEROA SOCIETY OF ARTS: In 1982 the first committee was formed to organise a two-day art and craft display and the first Festival of Arts was held in May 1983. Following this Mrs Judy Parker persuaded the festival committee to become Paeroa Society of Arts Incorporated, with the aim of fostering and promoting art and crafts. The first members' exhibition in 1984 was an outstanding success after a concentrated membership drive. In November 1995 the Society was able to open it own gallery in its own premises after purchasing the former Paeroa Borough Council chambers.

VICTORIA BATTERY TRAMWAY SOCIETY: The Society continues to make progress at the site of the Waikino Battery and has achieved a great deal in the past year. The laying of tracks and the renovation of the former Sub Station to meet the needs of the Society has proceeded. The former sub station serves as the administration/workshop and indoor museum. During the last year electric power has been connected, kitchen built, water laid on and toilets installed.

A Model T engine was donated to the Society by the Waitakere Tramway Society and this is at present being overhauled.

The Society now operates the shop at the Waikino Station. This has provided some income for the Society but even more importantly enables the Society to publicise its activities and aims.

Anyone interested in joining the Society can obtain information at the Waikino Station or contact Mr Jim Pilkington, 51 Consuls Street, Waihi. The subscription is $10 p.a. Newsletters are issued to members regularly.

MUSEUM AUCTIONS: On 30 March 1996 the contents of the "Bigfoot" Museum, on Waihi Beach Road, were sold by auction following the decision to close by the owners, John and Gaye Menzie. Items auctioned included more than 5000 household articles, 4000 shells, many stationary engines, ten vintage tractors and farm machinery, together with the Bigfoot vehicle from which the museum derived its name. The large PYE sign was not sold but donated to the Goldfields Steam Train Society, so that it could remain in Waihi. The Bigfoot was made in Pukekohe in 1982. Based on a 1966 International truck, it was the first of its kind in the country, and with its massive tyres was always a popular attraction.

The Menzies came to Waihi early in 1980 after getting together quite a collection of old tractors and farm machinery from the Otorohanga/Te Awamutu district. They opened their first museum in Boyd Road then, when the venture became successful, they moved to the larger Beach Road property.

Around the same time the contents of the long closed "School of Mines" Museum at Waikino, owned by Mr T Warder, were also sold at an auction in Tauranga.

DICK STRANGE: Dick Strange retired from the position of Paeroa area engineer with the Hauraki District Council, on 26 April 1996. Dick was born at Thames on 8 January 1935 and first started work with the Ministry of Works as a surveyor in 1952. In 1960 he joined the Hauraki Plains County Council as an engineer's assistant. Two years later he was appointed to the same position with the Ohinemuri County Council. For a period of 18 months he lived in Auckland and worked for the Waitemata City Council at Titirangi. Not liking the city life he returned to his old job in Paeroa. In 1978 he was appointed Engineer for the Paeroa Borough. Since the amalgamation of the Counties in 1989 he became the Paeroa Area Engineer.

LEO SCHULTZ: Leo Schultz a former Member of Parliament died on 9 June 1996. Mr Schultz was born in Hawera on 17 October 1914 and attended Ngatea Primary School and Ngatea District High School after the family moved to Ngatea in 1920. He started work on his parent's farm in 1931, moved north a few years later but returned in 1941 to take over his parents farm. He was very involved in public life, becoming branch secretary for Federated Farmers for two years, spent two years as secretary for the Mangatarata School Committee and another 12 years as its chairman. For 22 years he was chairman of the Hauraki Plains Bobby Calf Pool, the country's largest independent pool. He represented Waitakaruru riding on the Hauraki Plains County Council for 15 years and for 12 years was a director of the Te Aroha Thames Valley Dairy Company.

He was elected chairman of the Hauraki Electorate National Party for 11½ years and then became the Electorate's MP for 12 years from 1969. He was also a Justice of the Peace for 30 years and member of Thames Rotary Club. In 1990 he was awarded a commemorative medal marking New Zealand's sesqui-centennial and in 1994 received a Queen's Service Medal for public service.

MASONIC LODGE: The Paeroa Masonic Lodge was established in July 1896 and held a function to mark the centennial this year. A report on the event will be published in next years Journal.