Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Along Stafford Street's northern end

Along Stafford Street's northern end Last updated 00:00 01/01/2009 Trevor Griffiths continues his occasional series of memories of the Timaru of his younger days. Here, he turns his attention to the northern end of Stafford Street. Obviously there have been many changes made in the northern end of Stafford Street since I was a boy in the 1930s and of course because there will always be change there will be more in the future. On the corner of Church and Stafford streets stands the Old Bank Hotel. It has seen many events over the term of its existence and no doubt many proprietors. Its name comes from an old Bank of New Zealand that was sited there from the earliest days. Next to it was the ladieswear shop of Miss Tovey, which in more recent times was known as Mavis Forde Fashions. Beside it was Faulks and Jordon chemists and nearby Brownies shoe store for fine footwear. I am not quite certain about the sequence of the next group but Self Help grocery was close by. You may think that the large supermarkets have all the new ideas but Self Help had a chain of shops right across New Zealand where the customer selected their groceries and took them to the counter to be packaged. Porter and Dawsons was a fascinating gift shop of every conceivable type of gift. Many people sought their help for the choice of wedding or birthday presents. On one occasion we purchased a gift there and somehow we paid a little too much. Later Tim met me at a meeting and gave me an envelope containing a few coins. Not to be outdone I returned the compliment and for several years we exchanged coins in this way. Millers Fashions was a hugely popular shop in the 40s and 50s. Their clothes and materials were always reasonably priced, which suited the customers of the time after the Depression and the Second World War. Next along the street came Woolworths and McKenzies, both stores being reasonably similar in their wares. The main advantage for the customers, their goods were about the cheapest in town. Laid out in a similar manner there were counters along both sides of the stores with a space behind for the attendant to serve the customers while in the centre of both shops ran double counters with attendants in the middle. They could be termed general stores. We hear so much today about faulty goods being imported from China. In those pre-war days our country was swamped with inferior goods from Japan. In fact, the railway engines of the time carried signs painted in yellow "Buy New Zealand made goods". After earning a little money I decided I would buy a pair of white sand-shoes. They were new and cost me one shilling and sixpence. Two weeks later my toes were through the sole. With much trepidation I took them back and was very happy when they replaced them for me. Ad Feedback Across the small access driveway came T and J Thomsons Department store. It was a large area at that time and had an excellent reputation for quality goods. My brother Colin joined the men's department when he left Boys High School in 1934 and then joined the army in 1939. For two weeks one Christmas I joined him there as a parcel boy. I believe the next business was S A Bremfords photography shop. Sid Bremford was a shortish, well-built man whose black hair was well groomed and was always known for his smile. He was also a photographer for The Timaru Herald and did splendid work for weddings and portraits. Next came the United Friendly Society's pharmacy, affectionately known as the UFS. In charge of it was AES Hanan who was mayor of Timaru for quite a period. I can still see him out on the footpath talking to people in the most friendly manner. To him fell the position of mayor during the years of the Second World War. The footwear store of Souters was quite a large area and handled a fine stock of well-made shoes. Next to it came the Regent Theatre, the fourth of the group. There was a time when all four theatres would be well attended. In those seemingly carefree days of our youth the major amusements were the picture theatres and the dance halls. A long way from the pastimes of the young people of today. McKirdys Grocery was further along from the Regent and they too were popular suppliers of groceries to the townspeople. I believe Whitehouse's hairdressers for men were close by. George, a dapper little gentleman, and his son Basil tended to the requests of the district's menfolk when mostly the demand was for "short back and sides please". Also in this area was the Para Rubber shop, which offered all sorts of rubber goods for the home and of course if you required a pair of gumboots this was the store to frequent. I believe the Para Rubber Company had many outlets all over the country and behind the scenes it was the Skellerup Industries that manufactured most of the items sold by them. A little further on came Miss Goddard Furrier who supplied fur coats and fur stoles and other items to those who could afford them. Like hat shops, furriers have disappeared from our view. Tucked in next was Lowe's Fruit Shop, where the Lowe family functioned for many years. Of Chinese origin, the two boys, Paul and Keith, attended the Main School and took an active part in the affairs of the community. On or near the corner of Canon and Stafford streets LA Waters Optician operated for many years and was well-known within our town's community. Now we cross Canon Street and arrive at one of the oldest surviving men's and ladies' outfitters in our city. This was and still is J Ballantyne and Co Ltd and of course is a subsidiary of the parent firm in Christchurch. They have the knack of supplying top-quality goods even though they also have a top-quality price. Originally the Timaru building was a very solid two-storeyed store which leaned towards an earlier time in its decor and outlook and curiously there was quite a large empty section on its northern side. For many years you would walk past a six foot iron fence which obscured it from view. When the old building was demolished the company spread its operations across this empty area and today the excellent new building has two storeys. The next shop in line was Grant Russells florist shop, which he operated during the 40s to the 60s. He was a tough little business man who called a spade a spade. Above this floral haven was Sammy Moore's milk bar, already previously mentioned. Above again was Watsons Hairdressers and Tobacconists. I frequented this shop only a few times but on one occasion I saw the proprietor receive quite a sum of money and tuck it away in a drawer, which was not the cash register. I believe there was another fruiterer before we reach the Dominion Hotel, which in its heyday served the local citizens and the travelling public with distinction. For some peculiar reason in recent years it has not functioned as a hotel should. Across the end of Sefton Street stands a sad example of man's inability to make decisions. I mean the Hydro Grand Hotel. It sits on what could probably be called the prime site of Timaru. It does occupy the highest point along the coastal frontage of the city and the views alone of the sea and coastline, the mountains to the north-west and south-west would make many hoteliers in other cities of this country green with envy. Apart from its superlative situation and having been occupied by the Richard Pearse Tavern for a short time, there appears to have been nothing done for some years. It saddens me and no doubt many others as well to see this grand old structure neglected. If it does nothing else it surely proves the saying that "procrastination is the thief of time". Just north of the Grand was situated Seaview House, a private boarding establishment. No doubt some of its occupants after a night out would realise that the magnificent view across the bay and harbour would brighten their "morning after" feeling. I am not quite sure of the position of Tommy Thomson's residence but I believe it to have been next. He was a well-known businessman and was known to walk down past the Grand on a Sunday morning to the nearby post-box dressed in his dressing-gown, pyjamas and slippers to post his mail. This, of course, took place during the 20s and 30s. Caroline Courts were the next series of buildings moving on down the Bay Hill. This was and still is an extended block of 10 to 12 flats, all with a wonderful view of Caroline Bay and beyond. You will all be aware of the New Year bonfire and carnival on the Bay. It was in the mid-50s we decided that as a family of six we would go and witness the bonfire at midnight and the hooters on the ships in the harbour. Previously we had tried to do this down on the beach but found it too dangerous for the children. The usual larrikins would throw crackers and many were under the influence of alcohol. We parked our van outside the first flat of Caroline Courts and not long after a lady invited us into her second storey flat to watch the proceedings. You know there are some very kind-hearted people about. Across the street from the Hydro Grand Hotel during my young years there used to be a very old cottage where an old lady lived on her own. It stood on the brink of the clay cliffs. I have no doubt that it caused the local authorities some concern and when she passed away it disappeared almost overnight. I often wonder about the truth behind this sudden action. On the corner of what is now known as the Port Loop Road was a petrol station with a prominent sign visible from well along Evans Street. In the next section were Solomon's Tailor and Paterson's stamp shop and then quite a large area which housed the roller skating rink. It was operated by the Allchurch family, who also had a thriving auction house within the city. Eddie Allchurch was a regular visitor to my home and although quite young at the time I am sure he was tracking one of my sisters. The skating rink was a very popular place in those pre-war days. Continuing down Stafford Street on the eastern side there was a Chinese laundry that made an excellent job of starching collars and shirts. I can still see my dad trying to get the studs into his collar and shirt before going out to a dance or a meeting. Sometimes the air was blue when the two would not come together. Further down came Seaton's butcher shop who had the unenviable task of creating that famous Scottish delicacy "the haggis" which was in demand from various Scottish organisations within the city. The address to "the haggis" was given on Burns Night as a celebration of the life of the poet Robert Burns. If you have never witnessed this address then you have really missed something. Quite close by was Manning's fish shop and below again was Johnson's milkbar and tearooms. Mr and Mrs Johnson conducted a successful business for many years. Also in this area was Blackwoods grocery store, an establishment that not only catered for the townspeople but also the country folk. I can recall one occasion when my brother-in-law, who worked there, took me on a country delivery with him. We visited Mrs Hardy who lived just south of Makikihi township near the railway line. She turned on some marvellous scones and baking for us. Another service lane and then we come to Lewis and Sons, a paint and glass business that only closed in recent times after sterling service to our city over a very long time. Further south again Thomas Cook and Son operated a travel agency until it gave way to the more modern franchise holders. Just about opposite T and J Thomson Ltd the car sales and service business of Dominion Motors was situated with a large showroom on the street frontage and an access-way on its northern side. The service and equipment areas appeared quite cavernous, being built in and over all round. Passing outside you were often very rudely awakened by a car horn in the covered alley. The property now hosts the greater part of the present day Mall. Mr Holland was the manager for many years, followed by Rex Gilchrist. Their main interest was Morris cars. Next we come to the State Theatre, the third of the four available to us at that time. Its lay-out was different to the other three in that the rows of seats sloped down as you walked in and at the screen end it swept up towards the screen. It was also a much narrower building than the other three. At one Saturday night's performance Mr Johnson placed my young lady and myself in two seats and for some odd reason I could not get comfortable at all. Something was pricking my back. At the end of the movie I reported it to the usher and we found a large drawing pin in the fabric. Forever after when we attended the State Theatre Mr Johnson would ask, "did you want your special seat again?" There was and still is an access-way on the south-side of the defunct State Theatre. In the building now occupied by the Westpac Bank a long stairway led to the Miss Thwaites dance studio. Many of the district's young ladies received lessons in ballet, highland and tap dancing from Miss Dorothy while her sister Winnie was a tremendous help behind the scenes. Back down on the street frontage was Norrie's Grocery. Mr Norrie was a stalwart of the now demolished Trinity Church. You will all know the song Where have all the flowers gone? It could be asked "Where have all the groceries gone?" Youngs fruit shop was established in this area by Norman, one of the family previously mentioned as being educated at the Main School. Finally we come to Slades Cycles on the corner of Stafford and Strathallan streets. Reg Slade was the proprietor, he managed the agency for Raleigh Cycles and most of my family had a cycle from there. As one looks along Stafford Street today, north or south, it is difficult to realise that so many years ago parking your car was comparatively easy. Today there are less parking spots and many more cars. It does not make you happy to see two and sometimes more delivery vans and trucks double-parked just to make things more awkward. Along Stafford Street's northern end Last updated 00:00 01/01/2009 http://www.stuff.co.nz/timaru-herald/features/171468/Along-Stafford-Streets-northern-end

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