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Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 51, September 2007

(by Beris Littlewood, daughter of Arthur and Elsie Flatt)

All my early childhood years my Dad was a schoolteacher. But wherever we were living, Opononi, Hamilton, Raglan or Ohinewai, we came to Paeroa to spend Christmas with Grandma Flatt in William Street.

Grandma was a great cook—I believe she had run a boarding house in Waikino—a Christmas dinner was a feast. We had ham on the bone—never eaten at any other time of the year--and fresh peas from the garden which we picked and shelled ourselves—no frozen food then!

However, the highlight of the day was to have the local brass band gather on the front lawn to play carols and then to gather in Grandma's dining room for Christmas cake and a wee tipple.

Sometimes my sister and I would be sent "up the street" on a message for Grandma. To do this we had to pass Brenan's Transport on the corner and we would spend some time watching a blacksmith at work shoeing horses. There were certainly trucks being used for transport then so maybe they were farm horses—or perhaps race horses.

As Grandma lived near the subway we grew to love the sound of the passing trains—even one day to Grandma's consternation—going up onto the railway track. I can see her now, in her usual black frock and apron, running out her gate calling us to come down.

Grandma, who had my bachelor Uncle Bob living with her, kept her garden and house neat and shiny as a new pin. She remained in that house until she died at 82 years. Grandma and Grandpa had moved from Waikino to Paeroa when he opened the bookshop and for a while travelled through the Karangahake Gorge by horse and gig. They initially bought a house by the railway station next door to Mr and Mrs Dave McWatters and remained good family friends for many years.

My Dad had all his schooling in Paeroa before attending the Auckland Teachers' Training College and beginning his 20-year teaching career. When I was 14 years old a decision was made to join Uncle Bob in the family business, which had been F. E. Flatt and Son and it now became Flatt Bros.

We bought the O'Neil house in Russell Street and so began a completely new life-style for my parents, Arthur and Elsie. Dad was up early six days a week to organise the New Zealand Herald deliveries and was often late home at night. When ever we asked Mum where Dad was she would say: "Where do you think—down at the shop".

As we grew older we worked in the shop on Friday nights—when the farmers came to town and the main street was a hive of activity. When my youngest brother began school Mum also became involved in shop affairs—I remember the magazines became her department.

Paeroa was a good business town to be in at the time—competing with Thames and to some degree with Waihi and Te Aroha (where another uncle of mine also owned a bookshop).

We indented a lot of the stock for the shop, crystal, books, children's toys, and so on, and there was a large storage shed behind the shop. I remember a Christmas when I was about four years old my Grandfather producing two brand new tricycles from that shed. There were well used by the six of us and lasted for years.

Whenever we could, we continued to go to the family bach at Whangamata, as we had done all the school-teaching years. To go there from Paeroa was nothing compared with the previous journeys. With six children, no sealed roads, no electric power and a coal range to cook when we got there, I can't believe it was much fun for Mum, but we just loved those holidays, and today the smell of a kerosene lamp brings it all back. I think there would have been only three baches at Whangamata when Grandpa built his about 80 years ago.

I completed my schooling at the Paeroa District High School and enjoyed playing tennis on the courts next to the school. Now and then there were an "away" matches at Morrinsville, Waihi and Thames.

As a family we joined in lots of activities at the Methodist Church, where I was later married and which I know has now been demolished.

I remember Paeroa as it was 60 years ago, black-berrying at Waitekauri, visiting family and friends at Thames and even before that visiting the original rotunda, the paddock where we could use a hand-pump to pump up the mineral water which has since put Paeroa "on the map." I remember the Ohinemuri River running yellow from the tailings from the gold mining. I remember hearing jockeys shouting at each other on race day. I remember with affection the neighbours and how we all cared about each other in good times and sad.

Paeroa and its people were a major part of my life for the first 20 years and while I have since became a wife, mother and grandmother—the major milestones of a lifetime in Paeroa will always hold special memories for me.