Friday, 28 August 2015

The Tauranga Hotel Fire, 1936

These dramatic photographs from the Tauranga Heritage Collection show the fire which destroyed the Tauranga Hotel in February 1936.

The fire, which started in the hotel’s staff quarters, drew large crowds and is remembered by many older residents including Mrs Peg Gresham (nee Murray), owner of Gresham Guarantee Garage which was on the corner of First Avenue and Devonport Road.

“The Tauranga Hotel was at the far end of The Strand. In 1936, in the summer of that year, it went up in flames. I don’t know how it happened but it was a most tremendous blaze. A truck parked outside the Bank of New Zealand in Willow Street had a tarpaulin over it and the tarpaulin caught on fire.”

Images courtesy of the Tauranga Heritage Collection.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Tauranga Streets: “The Song of the Dirt”

The Mission Station c 1900s-1910s
Looking towards the Norfolk pines at The Elms mission station, Tauranga from the beginning of Sulphur Point.
Marsh Street was formed at the foot of the higher land.
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library, Ref. #99-727
“The Song of the Shirt”, by Thomas Hood, was first published in Punch, or the London Charivari in December 1843. It began:
With fingers weary and worn,
With eyelids heavy and red,
A woman sat, in unwomanly rags,
Plying her needle and thread –
Stitch! stitch! stitch!
In poverty, hunger, and dirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
She sang the “Song of the Shirt”.
Hood’s 89-line diatribe against the appalling conditions in which piece-working seamstresses had to labour was one of the best-known poems of the Victorian era and for some decades after. Poems which everyone knows, which have a recognisable metre and chorus and an earnest tone, irresistibly invite parody. The “Song of the Dirt” was published in the Bay of Plenty Times of 18 July 1917:
With fingers clutching the air,
With steps unsteady and slow,
The ladies of Marsh Street day by day
Cautiously come and go.
Splash! Splash! Splash!
Wet feet ‘neath a muddy skirt,
And still with a voice of dolorous pitch
They sing the song of the dirt!

The page of cuttings which includes the parody was sent to the Editor of the Bay of Plenty Times at an unknown date, and passed on to the archives at Tauranga Library. The sender was a Mrs G. Medland, of Mount Albert, Auckland. She writes that the poem was written by the author of Great Barrier Calls. Coyly, she doesn’t name the author, who was in fact herself. Grace Miriam Medland (1887-1983) was born on Great Barrier to a pioneering family, and spent most of her life in different parts of Auckland. But she was also the Captain G. Medland of the Salvation Army who lived in Tauranga for two years during World War I. She liked writing verse: Great Barrier Calls is full of rhymes, and she was published in the Salvation Army’s War Cry under the pen-name of “Barrier Lassie”.

In the archives’ letter to the editor she claims that the poem had such an effect on the Borough Council that the drainage of Marsh Street was started on at once – an example of the pen being mightier than the sword?

Medland, Grace (1970) Great Barrier Calls, Auckland: Wilson and Horton.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Tauranga Photographers: James Bodell

James Bodell, Mayor of Tauranga, 1888-1889
Image courtesy of Tauranga City Library
James Bodell (1831-1892), one time mayor of Tauranga, never had any difficulty in finding a niche for himself.  His memoirs, published in the Bay of Plenty Times newspaper and later as A Soldier's View of Empire (1982, ed. Keith Sinclair, The Bodley Head) describe numerous entrepreneurial exploits during the course of his military service in the 59th Regiment of the Imperial Forces (1848-1854) and later as a volunteer in the Waikato Militia (1863-1866).  After his discharge from the latter he settled in Tauranga where he started a cordial factory, then reformed his ways and opened a Temperance hotel (the Bellevue) on the corner of Cameron Road and Wharf Street.

Bodell took great care to recount his numerous business ventures, including a brief spell as Tauranga's first resident photographer.  During the late 1860s and early 1870s the settlement's small population was unable to provide enough business to support a permanent studio.  Soldiers, settlers, and no doubt the occasional tangata whenua, relied on the services of travelling photographers passing through, such as Charles Moeller (c1826-1923) who advertised his brief presence in the BOPT in September 1872.  Moeller was of Dutch origin, but had also served in the military during the New Zealand Wars, seeing action at Gate Pa, and it is likely he knew Bodell.

Advertisement, The Bay of Plenty Times, 4 December 1872
From the following account in his reminiscences, it seems likely that Bodell purchased Moeller's photographic equipment, as there is no record of Moeller having continued his practice after leaving the Bay of Plenty.
"The next year I turned Photographer having bought from a Photographer all his appliances and he agreed to stop with me 14 days to learn me the Photo Art.  I built a Studio and succeeded very well.  Had several engagements to photo dead Maori Chiefs and Natives in groups.  These jobs always paid me well."
Although he does not provide dates for this period of his career, events described before and after imply that it must have been in the early 1870s.  Correspondingly, the BOPT published the advertisement shown above on 30 November 1872,
"Photography. J. BODELL'S STUDIO IS NOW OPEN. Photographs at Auckland prices."

Carte de visite portrait by R.H. Bartlett Studio, Auckland, c. late 1870s
Images Collection of Brain Watkins House

The reference to Auckland prices was, of course, Bodell's challenge to the Auckland studio photographer R.H. Bartlett, whose advert appeared directly below his.  In other words, there was no longer any need for a local resident to travel by boat to Auckland or wait for the next itinerant photographer to visit to have your portrait taken, as Mr Bodell would be happy to provide the service.

The advert continued to appear twice weekly for six weeks until 8 January 1873 after which, just as suddenly, it ceased.  Bodell's account continues:
"The following year I bought the lease of the whole of the Land my shop stood on and erected a large Store.  The Studio I shifted to the line of Streets next to my new Store and made additions to the Studio as to make it a shop 30 feet x 18.  This I let for 20/- per week and sold my photo apparatus and gave my attention to merchandise."
It appears that Tauranga still had insufficient numbers of potential clients to support a permanent studio.  The town would not have a full-time resident photographer until the Watkins Brothers arrived in April 1876 and formed another short-lived business, The Tauranga and Hot Lake Photographic Company.


Obituary of Charles Moeller in "Personal Items," Hawera & Normanby Star, 14 August 1923, Courtesy of Papers Past

Auckland Libraries Photographers Database: Robert Henry Bartlett, Charles Moeller, Charles Spencer

Giles, Keith (2013) Unpublished notes on Charles Henry Kennett Watkins (1847-1933), By kind courtesy of the author.

Sinclair, Keith (1982) A Soldier's View of Empire: The Reminiscences of James Bodell, 1831-92, London: The Bodley Head, 216p.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Raise Your Cup

Katikati Heritage Museum's collection of artefacts which went into temporary storage last year will be rehoused in new premises under a new name, the Western Bay Museum.  During its hibernation we have been given the opportunity to showcase a selection of items from the collection.

Refreshing Choysa Tea, Flavour, Purity, Fragrance, Strength, 2lb tin
Collection of Western Bay Museum, Ref. #0144
Past visitors to the old premises will remember the huge array of tins which were displayed on walls, shelves and in every nook and cranny.  Among these were a large number of tea tins and caddies.  Some of the older ones, sadly a little worse for wear, are interesting in that the brands are still around.

Choysa, The Perfect Tea, Non-Injurious, Refreshing
Collection of Western Bay Museum, Refs. #0162 & #0204

Choysa Tea celebrated its centennial in 2005, when the company's press release included the original matra, "flavour, purity, fragrance, strength."  The more familiar bright red and yellow oval logo possibly arrived in the 1950s when it was first marketed nationwide, and was well established when it had its 75th anniversary in 1980.

The Bell Tea, Delicious, Wholesome, Refreshing, Refreshing
Amber Tips, Eastern Tea Co., Christchurch
Collection of Western Bay Museum, Ref. #0180
Bell Tea is another brand that has been around for a long time.  Their web site claims that they were established in 1898 by the firm R. Wilson & Co. (who later went into partnership with Norman Harper Bell), and features the design on the tin at left (above), although this example  is clearly considerably newer.  A 1906 newspaper advertisement claimed the superiority of "Amber Tips" tea from the Eastern Tea Company of Christchurch, "not mixed with Fanning's and inferior Teas."  In 1913 it was sold in ½ lb. and 1 lb. packets, and in 5 lb. and 10 lb. tins, an example of which is shown above.

Pyramid Tea, The Height of Perfection
Collection of Western Bay Museum, Ref. #0161
Purity, perfection, quality and non-adulteration were strongly emphasized in all tea advertisements from the 1900s and 1910s, some like Pyramid Tea even going so far as to suggest that imbibing of low grade teas might cause "harmful and injurious effects."

Pyramid Tea, The Height of Perfection
Newspaper advertisement, Sun (Christchurch), 17 May 1918
The British company's tins and advertising contain images of the Great Pyramids at Gizeh, the Sphinx and of course the ancillary figures in Arabic dress, camels, palm trees, etc., commonly used icons when the Empire was at its peak.

Golden Bloom Tea, 2 lbs. net, The National Trading Co. of New Zealand
Collection of Western Bay Museum, Ref. #0172
These two-pound tins of Golden Bloom Tea ("The Flavour Satisfies") are probably from a couple of decades later, judging by the shape and  watercolour artwork on the exterior.  A newspaper advert from 1934 listed 1 lb. of Golden Bloom Tea for 2/9d.

Tea Caddy with Art Nouveau decoration
Collection of Western Bay Museum, Ref. #0174
Although we're not entirely sure, this could possibly be a tea caddy made of pressed metal.  It is decorated in an Art Nouveau style, and therefoe probably dating from the late 19th or early 20th century.


Raise Your Cup to Choysa Tea: The Iconic Brand Turns 100, Unilever Media Release, 24 August 2005, Courtesy of

"Amber Tips" Tea Advertisement, Hastings Standard, 7 August 1906, Courtesy of Papers Past

Amber Tips Tea Advertisement, Timaru Herald, 8 October 1913, Courtesy of Papers Past

Pyramid Tea Advertisement, Sun (Christchurch), 17 May 1918, Courtesy of Papers Past

T.E. Taylor & Co. "Pyramid Teas" Advertisement, Akaroa Mail and Banks Peninsula Advertiser, 7 June 1918, Courtesy of Papers Past

Golden Bloom Tea Advertisement, Waihi Telegraph, 24 November 1934, Courtesy of Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 38, September 1994