Topic: Foxton 1888-1988 - Professional and Medical Services

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Among the first settlers in the Te Awahou area was Dr James Best, a nephew of Captain Francis Robinson. He was the only doctor be­tween Wellington and Wanganui in the late 1840's so had a large area to cover.

Above: H. Cresswell's blacksmith shop in 1925. This stood on the southern corner of Main and Cook Streets.

 

Above: The Manawatu Herald office in 1904. Standing in the doorway is proprietor E. Thynne.
Some of this building is still in use by Foxton Print.

 

 It was on his return to Te Awahou in 1850 that he got wet when crossing a river and as a result became fatally ill. He was buried in Ihakara Gardens and his headstone is one of the few that remain. Medical services were available in a rather spasmodic manner for many years. Medical men were not often attracted to small country practices where not only was there a small population to serve but also a lack of facilities compared to larger settlements. In 1873 Dr Rock­strow was appointed Medical Officer to the Natives of Rangitikei and Horowhenua and he lived in Foxton. He practised in the town until moving to Palmerston North in the 1880's. As with other health service Foxton was served by medical practitioners from Palmerston North when there was no one locally. In 1890 a Dr Foot practiced for a short while but soon moved on. In 1896 Dr Rockstrow returned to Foxton after disposing of his farm in Palmerston North. The Herald of 1896 has an advertisement for Dr Lamb and in 1898 Dr Day-Jones was making consultations at Mrs Furrie's boarding house. By 1900 things had reached the stage where the town was offering 200 pound plus 50-60 pounds from the Forresters Lodge to try and attract a resident doctor. By 1902 the town had a doctor for Dr Bennett was in residence. He left in 1905 and once again the town had to do with weekly visits from Palmerston North doctors. It seems that there was a possibility of a doctor replacing Dr Bennett but an enticement of 350 pounds was deemed necessary. In 1906 Dr Charles Mandl arrived and used Healey's chemist shop as his consulting rooms. He eventually set up in practice at his home on the corner of Clyde and Harbour Street. In 1908 he had Mr Rough design, and Mr Rimmer build, a cottage hospital in Johnston Street. In that year Dr Mandl was joined by a second local practitioner Dr George Adams, son of the Headmaster of the local school. He prac­tised and lived at 10 Thynne Street. Dr Adams was very active in the community in rugby, athletics and drama and in 1909 was elected onto the Borough Council.

Above: The home of Dr. Rockstrow in Lady's Mile. The house was built in the 1870s.

 

Above: The Maternity Home in Lady's Mile, a short time before its closure despite much public outcry.

 

Dr Mandl's practice was taken over, in 1921 or 22 by Dr Eric M. Wylie who continued practicing at the same premises until his untimely death in 1936 from pneumonia, the result of getting caught in the rain while attending a patient. When Dr Wylie died his wife Eileen (nee Robinson) moved into 10 Thynne Street. Dr Stephen Crawford bought the practice and within a year he and the Wylie family exchanged homes and Dr Crawford practiced at the Thynne Street address. In 1950 Dr W.H.C. (Howard) Teppett bought the practice and continues in it today. The "line of succession" of the second practice does not seem to have been as sure. Dr Hyslop was practising from premise in Avenue Road from 1918 until 1921. In 1937 Dr Ada Platts-Mill became the first woman doctor in the town and she practiced from her home at 12 Park Street. Dr Ludwig Beider took over her practice in 1942 and left in 1946 and became a paediatrician in Palmerston North where he often helped patients he had had in Foxton. His successor was Dr Bruce Ryburn who sold the practice to Dr C.W. (Bill) Malthus in 1951. Although rooms in the house were used for consultation at first Dr Malthus had a separate surgery built in the seventies. Today Dr Teppett and Dr Malthus con­tinue in their practices having given service to the town and district for thirtyseven and thirtysix years respectively.

As with the other professional services the supplying of phar­maceutical needs was done from outside the town. In 1889 both C. Honore and J.R. McMillan were agents for Palmerston North chemists. In 1891 W. Hamer, a qualified chemist, set up in business in the town. As well as carrying out his duties as a chemist he also removed teeth and attended accidents. For a while in 1902 a Mr Rickard worked in accord with Dr Graham carrying out pharmaceutical duties. Hamer sold out to Ernest Healey in 1903. In 1908 H.C. Patterson began dispens­ing from his resident in Thynne Street. In the same year Healey moved out of Hamer's building to new premises opposite Whyte Street in Main Street. This was burnt down in one of the disasterous fires of 1912 and Patterson later moved into premises rebuilt by T. Rimmer. Healey owned these building until 1952 when they were purchased by W. Stuart Donnelly. When Healey retired the business was leased by H.E. Gar­bett, then Isarael Corn, and in 1930 Thomas Crotty started a lease of twenty-one years. Stuart Donnelly worked for Crotty for three years before taking over the complete business. Stuart Donnelly gave great service to the town and its people including a period of six years as Mayor. When Patterson left in the 1920's the town went back to having only one chemist until 1958 when Gerald Smith established a new business. He continued there for close on twenty years before selling to Kenneth Irons in 1977. Although there have not been resident opticians many Foxtonians received help in this aspect of health needs from E.R. Boyd who visited Donnelly's Pharmacy once a week for many years.

Dentistry was not a profession that any formal training was needed so others involved with health services often carried out repairs, principal­ly extractions. One such provider was W. Hamer sen. It seems that for many years Foxtonians had to wait until visiting dentists from other centres came before their problems regarding teeth could be remedied. One of these visitors, J.R. Tripe of Palmerston North, caused a stir on one of his visits in 1889. Constable Tapp and Mr Baker thought the proprietor of Whyte's Hotel was being murdered but it turned out to be just Mr Tripe's patient whom he was attending at the hotel! It seems that the first permanent dentist in town was Mr C. Haynes, (son of an early settler in the district) who set up practice in 1903. But Haynes does not seem to have lasted long and visiting dentists from Palmerston North and Wellington continued to come. One of these was W.H. Poole of Palmerston North and when Elliot Hill became his partner he was stationed in Foxton. From rooms above Fraser's business he provided a service that included painless extraction by injection, no gas, ether or chloroform. Hill later took over the business himself. From 1909 until about 1922 Mr A.H. Boyes seems to have carried on the practice until he was succeeded by Mr H.A. Ingle. Another room used by dentists was above Ross and Co's drapery shop. Among those using these facilities were Williams and McKegg and later Dr R. Richmond. In 1924 Mr J.S. Hornblow began to visit from Palmerston North and for about a year dealt with the patients at 15 Thynne Street every Friday. Then in 1925 he brought the practice of Dr Hooper and moved into the room above Rosscos. Since then Foxton has been served continuously by the Horn­blow family. Son John moved into premises in Avenue Road soon after taking over in the late fifties. Today the lack of demand for dental services sees John Hornblow working at Kimberley Hospital and Shan­non on three days of the week.

Conditions in hospitals were very slow to improve during the nineteenth century and certainly were not considered to be the appropriate place for childbirth. This meant that pregnant women were dependent on someone who called themselves nurse or midwife-trained or not. Things began to change after the passing of the Nurses Registra­tion Act, 1901 and then the 1904 Midwives Registration Act. In the later year Wellington's St. Helen's Hospital opened and was in fact the first state maternity home in the world. At this and the other St. Helen's hospitals midwives were trained. By 1910 Public Hospitals were adding maternity wards but in small towns public maternity facilities were a long way off.

In 1902 Mrs Hobbs a certified midwife of Johnston Street was adver­tising vacancies for ladies at her residence. In 1908 Dr Mandl's Private Nursing Home was opened under the care of Sister Small A.T.N.A. By 1910 this hospital was being advertised as certified for medical, surgic­al and obstetric care. Other nurses advertising at about this time were Mrs Hazlett, Main Street and Mrs Borland of Union Street. Others who gave service in this respect were Mrs Hoskins and then Mrs Snow whose nursing home was in Futter Street. Nurse Ashmore established her Kia Ora Maternity Home in 1917. In 1924 Nurse Powell opened the Oratava Maternity Nursing Home at 16 Robinson Street, an address which is still connected with medical care. Nurse Powell was a popular nurse and extended her home in 1926 when it became registered for four patients. Nurse Wardle took over the Oratava in about 1930 and probably practised there until the opening of the Maternity Home. Mrs Sylvia Barber remembers her mother Mrs F. Williams recently widowed, going to St. Helen's Hospital in Wellington for the twelve month midwifery course in 1928-9. After training she began in practice at her home in Union Street. When the Maternity home opened she stopped having in-patients but still saw women in their own homes. Others who carried out midwifery duties up to the opening of the Maternity Home were Nurse Scadden (Norbiton Road), Mrs McCauley (Avenue Road), Mrs Nelson (Jenks Street), Mrs J. Collins (Jenks Street), Nurse Prendergast (Ladys Mile), and Mrs Dix (Hillary and later Coley Street).

In 1952 the building that housed the Oratava Home became the home of Mr and Mrs L. Harvey. Faith Harvey used part of the house as a rest home, Lonsdale, and the success of the venture saw the building ex­tended so that it could accommodate 35 patients. Olive Short joined as a partner during the seventies and Olive took over fully in 1975. Lonsdale has become a 25 bed hospital and rest home and has a staff of 40' including six registered nurses caring for the elderly many of whom suffer from Alzheimers Disease.

The Plunket Society Branch in Foxton was founded in 1921. After several sites for the location of Plunket Rooms (including next to the Easton park entrance, the Bowling Club reserve, beside the newly con­structed Court House and in Wharf Street) were rejected, Mr G. Nisbett said he would donate land in Clyde Street. The inaugural president, Mrs. F. Robinson, and secretary, Mrs M. Barron, had already been organising fundraising but it was not until 1931 that the rooms were opened, by none other than Sir Truby King. The first major fundraising effort was, appropriately, a Baby Carnival with Bob Barber, Joy Alexander, and Joan Hunter the candidates. In May 1941 Mrs Barron wrote to the Herald stressing the urgent need for a Cottage Hospital in Foxton. This idea was quickly taken up by the locals as many were feeling the effects of wartime shortages and rationing and the trip to Palmerston North to visit patients was becoming a real burden. All the private hospitals seem to have been closed and the two local doctors were serving an area much larger than previously. The outcome of the dis­cussions and meetings that followed was a public meeting at which over one hundred citizens moved "That this public meeting requests the Palmerston North Hospital Board to carry out the recommendation of the Health Department to erect a cottage hospital or maternity home in Foxton." The decision to purchase a house in Ladys Mile as the site caused an uproar especially as it was considered the Hospital Board had not consulted the locals sufficiently. The Minister of Health in­structed the Board to proceed with the purchase and placated the Foxtonians by saying a new hospital would be considered after the war. The section for this was actually purchased but was not utilised and has become part of the Manawatu College playing fields. In October 1942 the new building was officially opened. Within a fortnight the first baby had been born, Lillian (now Fearon) Groom, the daughter of Johnny and Celia Groom of Himatangi. The post war baby boom saw a steady increase in demand for space and gradually the facilities were extended and updated. During the seventies the number of births dropped and the Foxton Maternity Home became an "endangered species". Despite the valiant efforts of locals the inevitable could not be put off and the Hospital Board moved inexorably on and the Home closed in December 1982. The last baby born there was Tara, daughter of Karen and John McErlean of Moutoa. Many staff served the local families who used the Home and longest serving Charge Nurses, or Matrons as they were originally known, were Hilda Cohr, M. Sheldon, Barbara Melvin, Majory Bird, and Phil Lash. Besides giving maternity services the Home pro­vided the meals for the Meals on Wheels service for ten years.

The Plunket Society has not succumbed to the forces of change and their work is still going. At their Golden Jubilee in 1981 foundation committee member Florence Cowley was on hand to cut the cake. Also there to enjoy the celebrations were four Plunket Nurses who had served the district, Elizabeth Potter, Lorraine Duff, Miss McMillan and Margaret Duff. In 1954 the Foxton branch became sub-branch of Levin rather than Palmerston North which resulted in less travelling by the nurse and more visiting. A sign of the times was the selling of the nurse's bicycle at that date. The Palmerston North Hospital Board is still active in Foxton with the work of the District Health Nurse and the district has a representative on the Board. Howard Teppett is the pre­sent member and represents the Borough of Foxton and the Manawatu County. When he first became a member in 1968 he took over from Joe Bergin and represented Foxton, Shannon and Otaki. Before Joe Bergin the district was represented by J.K. Hornblow (who served as Chair­man), Ira Mudford, and Harry Podmore. The Hospital Board is re­sponsible for the work of the Public Health or District Nurse. There has been a nurse in Foxton since 1921-22 when Mrs McKenzie was appointed Public Health Nurse for Community and Maori health care. In the early years there was a number of homes on the maraes in the area (up to 12 at Motuiti, 4 at Paranui and 3 at Totara Park) and the nurses visited them. The longest serving of the District Nurses has been Sister Little who served the district from when she took over from Sister Sutherland in 1938 until 1951. Sister Mason served until 1956 when Olive Morgan (now Short) was appointed and she served until 1962. Since then the list of nurses include Joy Beale, Ellen Huzziff, Irmgard Kenny, and Doug Horn (the first and only male to date).

No matter how efficient the health services are all of us eventually need the services of an Undertaker or the more modern Funeral Direc­tor. It seems that most of the early undertakers did the job as part of another business. Examples are Andrew Jonson and E.P. Osborne who provided such services (as part of their building activities) for the first twenty years of the Borough. In 1911 W.H. Richmond was in business in Avenue Road. J.A. Hofmann was an undertaker through the twenties but there were several decades where all such services were provided from Levin or Palmerston North. In 1985 Kevin Anderson and Ray Lena established their Funeral Directors business in Main Street.

Since Foxton is a small town many professional services are not able to be supported fulltime. Therefore not only has it been doctors and dentists that have visited from Palmerston North and Levin, but also lawyers and accountants. However, there have been members of these professions who have resided in the town and provided every day service. As Foxton was the first town in the area it naturally developed as a centre for the distribution of justice. Its Court House served not just to try criminal cases but also civil cases and land claims for the Manawatu and Horowhenua districts.

The first policeman in the town was Constable John Purcell, who served from 1867 to 1879. He left the police force to live in the town and continued to be active in local affairs. Since Purcell, over 50 offic­ers of the law have been permanent appointees to Foxton. At first the station was a one man one, and has been on the present site since 1879, although for many years the offices were included in the Court House building. In 1899, the station was increased to two men and remained at that level until 1946 except for a gap from 1930 until 1937 when Const­able Robert Owen was in sole command. The first sergeant appointed was V.J. Cosgrove, who took up the position in 1946. Since that time the police force at Foxton has usually been at a strength of three or four. Sergeants who have headed the local force have been V.J. Cosgrove (1946-52), E.C. Broadley (1951-54), C.H. Davis (1955-63), L.J. Maher (1962-1970), L.E. Harvey, M.G. Anderson (1978-79), D.P. Direen (1980­84), and M.F. Lamas (1985-). Longest serving constable has been Jack Greenstreet, here from 1955 until he retired, in Foxton, in 1980. Others to give long years of service were Fred Woods (1906-20), Robert Owen (1920-39),.and Brian Leathem (1959-69).

 

Undertaker J.A. Hofmann and his hearse. Mr Hofmann had his premises on the south
side of Union Street, midway between Johnston and Brown Streets.

 

Above: This 1906 photo shows the original Court House at left and the Police Station on the right.

 

The work of the police is much the same at all small stations such as Foxton and it is only the major crimes with long hearings which grab the headlines and the public imagination. Until 1948 the local court heard civil as well as criminal cases but from that date the civil cases went elsewhere, generally to Levin. The Court was finally closed for all cases in 1971. One local case that held the public's attention for many weeks was the 1949 murder of Mrs Hall in Cook Street. A large police force searched many areas of the town and surrounding countryside in the course of their investigation. In the trial, held in the local Court House, Nap Brown was found guilty of the murder of Mrs Hall. Another murder investigation in which Foxtonians were much involved was that following the death of Lorna Robinson in 1981. All homes in the town were visited in a very intensive search for clues and although a trial was held no permanent guilty verdict was published. A detailed account of this crime was written and published by Anne Hunt.

The first lawyer in the Borough was a Mr Ray who set up in 1889 as a solicitor. However, it was in 1904 that Mr Reg Moore, whose father had taught in the town, opened an office in the buildings adjoining Whyte's Hotel. This was the foundation of a firm which still continues. Later he moved further north in Main Street to the present offices. Mr Moore went to World War One and during some of that period Barnard was a partner. Mr Barnard distinguished himself by going on to be the Speak­er of the House for the first Labour Government. After the war Mr Moore was joined by M.B. (Barnie) Bergin and took him into part­nership in 1921. From 1924 Mr Moore became a silent partner in the firm as he gave up law to practise medicine. In 1948 Barnie's son, Joe, joined the firm and on the death of his father in 1949 became a partner. He was joined by Michael Cleary in 1950 and the two practised as Bergin and Cleary until Joe left to become a magistrate in Auckland in 1968. Mick Cleary has carried on the business since then. Another aspect of this firm worthy of note is the service given to it by Miss Agnes Brewer who joined Moore and Bergin not long after Barnie Bergin and has continued to serve to this day. Miss Brewer and her bicycle have become part of Foxton life. For a short while in the mid-twenties Mr P.L. Hollings practised as a Barrister and Solicitor from an office in the old Speirs building opposite the Police Station but there is no record of any other resident lawyers practising in the town.

In the days before accountants had to have official qualifications and membership of their society to practice as accountants, many locals carried out such professional duties. During the early twenties Ronald N. Shaw offered accounting services from his home in Ravensworth Place. At about the same time, Alf Fraser set up as an accountant in his building in Main Street. He had been Town Clerk from 1900 until 1913 before going into business on his own account. The firm he founded has consequently been continued by first his son, Garnet, and later his grandson, Robert (Bob). Bob also followed in his grandfather's footsteps when he became Mayor of the Borough in 1986. Another who moved from a business venture into the accounting field was Herb Dustin, who, after working in the bakery industry, set up his own office to provide such services. Charlie Pearce, after working for Woolpacks and Textiles, set up in business on his own account as an accountant in conjunction with his duties as secretary of the Foxton Racing Club.

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