Community Contributed

Foxton 1888-1988 - Community Service

Kete Horowhenua2020-03-23T16:54:48+00:00
Society has always had as one of its duties the helping of those in need. Before the advent of the social welfare system this duty fell to organisations such as church groups and lodges.

Although the church groups continue to function in this respect the role of lodges has changed and many in fact have been dramatically reduced in size and, in Foxton's case, most have ceased to function. In Psalm 133 we read Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is brethren, to swell together in unity.

The Christian faith in Foxton is represented by many sects all of which can trace their beginnings to dedicated men and women who despite the rigours of their daily lives worked to make their faith a living one. The first of these was James Duncan whose service in the district covered sixty years. At first he focussed his efforts on the conversion of the Maori people but despite his conscientious efforts the high standard of belief he required before baptism, he did not formally perform any conversions. The Maori people at his mission did show faith in building a chapel (in 1853) for Duncan's use but this was destroyed, probably by a gale in 1857 or 8. Duncan abandoned his mission in 1856 and became the spiritual leader for the Pakeha settlers. This status was confirmed in 1867 when the people of the district erected the Presbyterian Church which still stands in Main Street, now used by the Foxton Little Theatre. Duncan continued to minister to his people until 1897. During this time Duncan pushed strongly for the union of the Northern Assembly and the Synod of Otago and Southland, the two arms of Presbyterianism in New Zealand. In 1901 Duncan, who had served as Moderator of the Northern Union, came out of retirement to second the motion that the two sections unite. The local congregation declined during the 1920's until in 1930 it was found necessary to combine with the Shannon Presbyterians as the Manawatu South Home Mission Charge. This grouping continued until in the late fifties the Presbyterians of Foxton established themselves as a separate parish. Union with the Methodists in 1972 saw both groups selling off property in a rationalisation move that led to the present Union Parish organisa­tion. At the time of union the Presbyterian minister was Rev. M.G. Rutherford who, while resident in Foxton became interested in the life of Duncan and has published a biography of the pioneer churchman.

Above: The Presbyterian Church, now the home of the Little Theatre, little changed from when it was con­structed 120 years ago.

Above: The trustees of the Methodist Church in 1909 (left to right) - T. Westwood, C. Honore, G; Stiles, ? Mair, ? Walker, ? Chrystall, E.A. Walker, ? Osborne.

The Presbyterians were joined in Main Street by the Anglicans and Methodists in 1876. There had long been a Anglican presence in the area and Richard Taylor, a missionary in the Rangitikei area, often preached in Duncan's church. The first step toward the local congrega­tion's own home came when Captain Robinson purchased the present church site for 100 pounds. There were two conditions insisted on by the Maori owners; 1. That the land should be used for the erection of a church. 2. That the grave of Pationa (son of Nepia Taratoa) be re­spected and kept in order. These conditions were carried out and the Church of All Saints and Pationa's grave are still there today. The first Church wardens elected were J.N. Flowers and C. Hulke. Those attend­ing church were expected to pay pew fees but these were discontinued in 1895. Suggestions that a Sunday School building should be built were first put forward in 1881 but it was not until 1896 that action began. The ladies in the congregation began to raise funds but upset the Vestry by keeping them in their own special account. But victory came in 1898 when tenders were called and the Sunday School built. The Church was enlarged in 1900 and the efforts of C.F. England saw the pipe organ installed in 1906. As with the other denominations in the town the size of the congregation has fluctuated as has that of the parish. Today it includes Rangiotu, Oroua Downs, Himatangi and Foxton Beach. The beautiful interior of All Saints' Church provides Foxton with an asset in both the historic and architectural sense.

The first mention of the Methodist faith in Foxton was the arrival of the Rev John Standrin in 1874 to establish a church of the Primitive Methodist beliefs. Their church was constructed on the western side of Main Street opposite the Whyte Street intersection. In 1890 Foxton became a separate Circuit and showed its growth by erecting a Sunday School in 1896. But disaster struck in 1912 when, along with much of the western side of Main Street, the buildings were destroyed by fire. The Town Hall was used for services until the new church was built in Avenue Road, In 1921 the church building at Foxton Beach was moved to Foxton to serve as a Sunday School. Union with the Presbyterian congregation was completed in 1972 with the Methodist Church being kept for use by the Union Parish.

The fourth of the major denominations of the Christian Church in New Zealand, the Roman Catholics, received their early ministrations from the Mission at Otaki. In 1875 Fr. Delphin Moureau was appointed to Foxton and after services were held in the Court House and other venues for several years a church of their own was desired by the local congregation. Mr J.A. Smith donated land for the building and St Mary's was opened in 1881. The church was extended in 1903 and in 1909 the Parish of Foxton was established. 1910 saw the arrival of Father Dore who was to become a national hero in World War One where his actions gained him the Military Cross. The Brigidine Sisters came to Foxton, built their Convent and in 1911 they opened a school, which was located in front of the present hall, with a roll of 45. This was in use until the present buildings were constructed in 1966. In 1917 the Sisters ex­panded their convent to include a chapel and music rooms. These later' facilities enabled the Sisters to not only play a major role in the musical education of the district but also to earn some of the funds needed to keep their convent viable. Problems of recruitment saw the number of Sisters at St. Mary's gradually fall away and in 1981 the convent was closed and the Sisters remaining in Foxton moved into the Presbyterian Manse in Hulke Street and the building sold. Also in 1982 the school became integrated into the State education system. The St Mary's church has had several changes. In 1920 the steeple was removed and later the bell tower suffered the same fate. There was an extension added to the front of the building in 1948 and in 1985 the Church was redecorated and a shelter built over the door. Longest serving parish priest has been Father Foley who ministered to his flock from 1937 to 1958 and became a well known figure in the wider community.

The first attempt to establish a Salvation Army Corp was made in 1889 but this only managed to struggle on for a few years. In was in 1912 that the present corp made a successful appearance and by 1914 their Senior Hall had been built on the Avenue Road site. The Salvation Army has established a deserved reputation for its ready assistance for individuals and families when times are a little rough. The "Sallys' have been keen to provide youth with opportunities to develop and in the years after World War One established the Red Shield Club in premises on the corner of Main and Clyde Street where Iron's store now stands. Dean Goffin roused interest in music and was keen to see the town have an active band. In later years the Salvation Army ran its own Brownies' group under the guidance of Mrs Cecily Larsen in the new Red Shield Hall built next to the Senior Hall.

The Brethren sect of Christianity is represented by three groups in the town. The Exclusive Brethren congregation met for many years in their hall in Park Street purchased by the Lions in 1985. The Redding Brethren was established very early (1873) and had a chapel built. This congregation did not survive for long and in fact sold the chapel in 1874. A revival occurred in 1898 when W.H. Hart and J.S. Moir set up an assembly. This group met in Moir's house in Robinson Street. Later they had their services in the Supper Room, Plunket Rooms, and in 1955 they purchased the historic de Ridder house in Liddell Street. The leadership of Roy Allen in this assembly has come to them being refer­red to as "Roy Allen's Church" by many Foxtonians. The Open Brethren congregation held services at the Bauckham home in Park Street prior to 1900 and in 1920 established a circuit. In 1928 the Royal Theatre was put to use and between 1930 and 1965 their meeting place was the old Library next to the Council Chambers. The chapel in use today on the corner of Park and Robinson Streets was occupied in 1963. The Jehovah Witness Assembly has its Church Hall in Clyde Street where they converted an old residence for their use in the 1950s. Members of the group carry out frequent home visiting missions. The Church of the Latter Day Saints was established in Foxton around 1960 and purchased a house in Cook Street as their meeting place. They have replaced this (in 1985) with a new chapel and continue their missionary work in the district. There are several other religious groups that have had meet­ings or held worship in the Borough over the past century. For example the Dutch Reform Church holds services regularly in the Union Church and the First Faith congregation have been meeting in the Little Theatre, among other venues, for a number of years. All these Christian groups have given valuable service to not only their own members but have also played a vital part in the growth of the whole Foxton com­munity.

Lodges have a history of stretching back many centuries and all those that were set up in Foxton had service to their members as their aim. In 1881 a meeting was called to discuss which would be the best benefit society for the town and Oddfellows was preferred to the Forresters. It seems that a lodge was established as a result of this meeting for the Herald records that a decision was made to go ahead with the proposal. Lodges certainly seem to have been the focus of much attention in the following years for the files of the Herald of 1889 record activities of the Druids, Oddfellows, Kilwinning and Good Templars. One of the highlights of the year in the early years of the Borough was the United Friendly Societies picnic. In 1907 the occasion, held on New Years Day, attracted a crowd of some 1700 to Victoria Park. Trains ran from Palmerston North but the picnic days did not survive long after this as the patrons decided to pay the cheaper regular train fares rather than the special excursion rates from which the organisers gained some of their income. The Good Templars were particularly active in the 1890­1910 period. Their principal objective was to "carry no licence right throughout the Dominion". They regarded this as service which would be of benefit to all society. The Druids Lodge was established in 1908 with E. Ball as its first Arch Druid. The Lodge continued to service its members' welfare needs up to the sixties but with the benefits declining in comparison to social welfare provisions, interest fell away and in 1967 remaining involvement of locals was transferred to the Wanganui Lodge. In the years after World War Two the Druids were active among the youth of the town and provided not only a Junior Lodge but also supported teams in the Midget Rugby Club competitions. Another lodge that has been active in supporting midget rugby has been the Buffaloes. The Royal Antidiluvium Order of Buffaloes was established in Foxton in 1940 and used the Masonic Hall as its meeting place until leasing the Band Hall from the Borough in 1978. A women's branch known as the Bisons were also meeting at this time. Lodge activities were highlighted by the organisation of trips to Australia for members. Despite the enthusiasm of members during this period active membership of the Lodge has fallen from a peak approaching 200 to less than ten today. The membership of the Oddfellows Lodge also suffered from the advent of social welfare and the Lodge's provision of maternity, chemist, sick­ness and other benefits paled in comparison. The Oddfellows were established in 1881 and when the local Lodge ceased to be active all those who wished to remain as members were transferred to the Feild­ing Lodge. The most active of the lodges in Foxton at the moment is the Masonic Lodge. Their beginning was in the 1880s and their hall was a venue for many other groups. The Te Awahou Lodge (Masonic) was established in 1904. The original hall was replaced in 1905-6 with the Lodge's temple for formal Lodge activities being contained in the second storey, and the Hall, available for public hire, on the ground floor. The difficulty of access for the Lodge members led to the remov­al of the temple in 1986 and the hall is now a single storey building.

Today's secular service clubs can be seen as the successors of the Lodges in present day society. Although their concern is for the welfare of other than members this would appear to be as a result of the social structure of their membership. They do in times of need support fully their own membership but generally are seeking to find those in society who are not coping as well as might be expected. The early settlers did not have any system of organised service groups but came together when help was needed. The response to disasters such as fires or a family's loss of its money earner was to set up a public subscription list to which citizens donated according to their means. All these services remain, public appeals, churches and lodges, but they have been joined by organisations which have emerged from the American society. Jaycees, Rotary, Lions and Lionesses are all examples of these. There are also service organisations with specific interests which have been on hand when help is needed e.g. Red Cross, St. Johns.

St. John's and Red Cross are two international organisations that have rom time to time established branches in Foxton. The first Red Cross group appears to have been founded in 1938 with Mr D. Brooks as president. As an organised group the Red Cross have not had much success in the town although its activities have been supported by locals and an active branch was established at Foxton Beach. St John's began in 1939 with W. Hale as president and C. Anderson secretary. The group went in to recess in 1945, an attempt was made to revive it in 1953, and finally in 1964 activities were again organised. Once again interest fell away and while locals such as Jack Sexton continued to give unbroken service they did so as members of the Levin branch. In 1977 the Foxton branch was re-established with B. White and K. Farrell as the main motivators. The branch obtained a caravan as a result of an idea put forward by the Social Credit Welfare Group and supported by a monetary grant by the Lions. A community group of Combined Ser­vices raised fYnds for a garage in Whyte Street for housing the cara­van.

At times there have been other groups providing for the needy. Very active in the twenties and thirties was the Dorcas Society who had as its principal activity the provision of clothing for those in need. Providing a chance to enjoy the Christmas period was the aim of the Christmas Cheer Committee, set up in 1936 by M. Perreau and G.F. Smith. This group continued for many years to provide a chance for the young to enjoy themselves in the week leading up to Christmas. Pet parades, games, decorated bikes, bedlam parades and window spotting competi­tions'will be remembered by those who took part in the festivities that were, held up until 1961.

Fires were an integral part of life in Foxton and they became synon­mous with the town. The wooden buildings and open fires were a deadly combination. While the burning of individual settlers homes created much personal heartbreak it was the spectacular blazes amongst the closely built commercial buildings which made the biggest headlines, The need for fire protection was realised early in the towns life but it was a long time before the bucket brigades were replaced. The first organised step in the firefighting service came in 1881 when a fire tower with a bell was set up next to the Court House so that the bucket brigades could be more rapidly formed. These brigades tried valiantly to prevent the spread of fires and often succeeded but they were seldom able to prevent serious damage. A list of fire recorded in the 1948 Jubilee supplement of the Manawatu Herald gives an idea of the conflagrations these bucket brigades had to cope with:

Above: The Coronation Town Hall with the fire bell alongside. This hall had movie picture equipment installed in 1912 but was destroyed by fire in 1926 and replaced by the present structure.

Above: The Fire Brigade's original chemical fire fighting equipment is given a run at the 1955 Centennial Celebration. Resplendent in appropriate helmets are (left to right) Reg Sanson, Jack Betty, Ken Betty and Les Baird.

1894 - Mrs Thynnes's Trustees building next to Whyte's Hotel which included the businesses of Joe Tos, Hamer and Loveday, Mrs Whyte and a billiard room.

1905 - Old Tram Sheds (shops, storeroom, Braddock's billiard room) 1905 - B.N.Z., Wyatt Clark auctioneers, Chung Wahs.

1912 - (January 12) buildings on the west side of Main Street be­tween, but not including, Perreau's Building and the Post Office.

1912 - (July 10) buildings on the east side of Main Street, between but not including, the Presbyterian Church and Whyte's Hotel.

1918 - Whyte's Hotel, Wanklyn's billiard room, J.M. Barr's drapery. 1920 - Perreau's building with four shops and P.J. Hennessey's block of three shops.

This last fire seems to have been the final straw for Mr Perreau for he was one of the leading figures at the public meeting called to form a Fire Brigade, surely Foxton's most needed service organisation! The brigade' was formed and a hand drawn chemical fire appliance purch­ased. The Brigade was soon in action when the Racing Club building went up in flames. Through their efforts the adjoining Manawatu Herald was saved. A very grateful Mr and Mrs Hornblow shouted for the firemen. The Foxton Fire Board was set up in 1922 and in 1923 the Fire Station was opened to house the Model T appliance. This appliance was noted for its lack of speed as cyclists, including late arriving firemen, would pass it on the way to fires! Although there were still fires they were nowhere near as disastrous as earlier ones. Despite the loss of the Council Chambers (1924), Speir's shop opposite the Police Station (1928), the Royal Theatre (1929), Loudon's (corner of Park and Avenue), and sole survivor of the old shop blocks (Hamer's on Main and, Clyde corner - 1938), the Brigade proved its worth on many occasions and Foxton's reputation for fires has been extinguished. In 1975 the original fire station was demolished and the present building erected on the same site. At the Golden Jubilee of the Brigade in 1970 C. Carmont joined A. Walls, N. Huff, C. Anderson, R. Parker and E. Simpson as Gold Star holders in recognition of 25 years service. Although none have recorded 25 years of service in the Brigade the Betty family have a fine record of service. Between 1948 and 1976 there was continuous service by the family with ten of its members serving on the Brigade During 1966-67 six Bettys were serving simultaneously. In 1981 the eleventh Betty, Robert, joined the Brigade.

Above: The devastation of 1912. In the foreground rebuilding is beginning on the western side of the street. The picket fence of the Methodist Church is all that remains of the old church. Across the road the gap left by the second fire can be seen.

Above: The buildings destroyed by the second fore of 1912. On the tree frame in the foreground can be seen the remains of a gas cylinder from the dentist's room destroyed by the earlier fire.

Many people have given service to the youth of the town through their efforts in the "Baden Powell" groups the Scouts, Guides, Cubs, Brownies etc. The first Scout group formed in 1919 with Captain Goffin of the Salvation Army providing the impetus. The Scouts were joined by the Guides and Brownies in 1926. Some time in the early thirties a Sea Scout group was formed with Mr H. Hamer as its leader. By 1935 the local boys had the choice of Scouts, Cubs, Sea Scouts and Rovers all of which met in the Scout Hall in Watson Street. This building had many uses being at different times the town gymnasium and also the wood­work room. Reduced activities carried on during the war and despite the gradual decline in upkeep the hall was shifted to Cook Street for joint use by the Scouting movement and the Band. All four sections of the movement continued to function but in the mid-fifties the Scouts were in recess although some Lone Scouts carried on. In 1960 a Red Shield Brownies Pack was established by Mrs Cecily Larsen with help from the Foxton Pack. In 1970 the Baden Powell Hall in Whyte Street was opened and although the Guides did not join the others groups there at first, they did so later. Long and devoted service to the Guide Movement has continued to be provided by Mrs Larsen, her assistant Mrs Alice Wallace, and Mrs Zena Falk who in 1981 celebrated 25 years as Guide Captain. Many other people gave service to the youth of the town through the Scouting movement either formally or as casual ex­aminers for youngsters wishing to gain their badges.

The first of the modern service clubs to be established was the Jaycees who held their first meeting in the Band Hall in 1957 and the 20 members present elected Bob Fraser as President. Over the next 30 years the Jaycees were to the fore every year when the question of whether or not a Christmas tree should be erected in Main Street or not. The Jaycees Teenage Driver of the Year competition has given local youths a chance to show their skills. In another attempt to im­prove driving on our roads the Jaycees have kept the Road Death Toll sign in Victoria Park up to date. The annual manure drive not only provided funds but also helped Foxton blossom. Jaycees members have taken place in debating against other chapters and enabled the mem­bers to gain confidence in public speaking. °our members, Arthur Bow­den, Noel Smith, Gordon Dustin and Barry Easton have all served the Jaycee movement at national level as senators. Noel went on to be elected New Zealand President of Jaycees in 1972. The Rotary Club was chartered in 1963 and Bill Hale was the first president. The Club has alway met in the Supper Rooms and has taken the lease of the building, furnished it, and now sub-leases it to other groups. As well as raising funds for local projects (e.g. the Rose Garden and Picnic Area shelter). Rotary has been active in sponsoring the exchange of young people between the Foxton district and other nations. The third service club to be established in Foxton was the Lions. They were formed in December 1965 and officially received their charter in March 1966, with Bob Barber president of the 31 members. Of these 31 only Gordon Thorby is still fully involved with the club's activities. After using several venues in the town the Lions purchased their own hall in Park Street in 1985. Three members have held the position of Zone Chairman (Bob Barber, Trevor Terry, Ken Caldow), with Ken going on to be Deputy District Governor. The Lions were fully involved with the running of the Labour Day Galas for a number of years and from the money raised were able to assist many groups in the district. Lions have also helped many in need through their welfare projects and for 17 years have held an Over 70s Christmas Function, initiated by president at the time, Fred Clarke.

The welfare of our servicemen became a matter of concern after the First World War. In 1920 there was a suggestion that a branch of the R.S.A be established in Foxton under the sponsorship of the Palmerston North branch. But this does not seem to have been taken up although there was an Anzac Day Celebrations Committee and a Returned Sol­diers' Reunion Committee organised by 1926. By 1933 there had been set up a Foxton branch of the Levin R.S.A. In 1935 it was suggested that Foxton become a separate association but this did not come to pass until 1940 with D. Brooks as president and H. Podmore as secretary. The Association moved into their own home in Easton Street in 1959 with Norm Smith the proud president. The R.S.A Club was formed in 1977 and in 1981 the club charter was obtained. This saw an increase in membership and so in 1983 two buildings from Ohakea were moved to Foxton and added to the clubrooms.