Community Contributed

Foxton 1888-1988 - Other Communications

Kete Horowhenua2020-03-23T16:47:20+00:00
The opening of the Manawatu Railways in 1886 meant that Foxtonians were in the throes of coping with a major change in the means of communication with the capital when the Borough was established.

One no longer had to travel by coach down the beaches, crossing the larger rivers by ferry. Now the coaches connected with the trains. In 1889 Richard Gray advertised that on receipt of a telegram he would meet the Shannon train with a buggy or dogcart. The most used ferries would now become those at Whirokino and Moutoa rather than that in Foxton. These ferries were either owned by a local board or council (and let to a contractor) or privately owned. The ferrymen were of course well known to the travellers and the locals showed their appreciation of one, John Hillary, for his punctual and courteous service by presenting him with a silver watch. The coaches going to Levin crossed the river by means of the Whirokino ferry until a bridge was built in 1900. This bridge was a wooden structure with a moveable middle span to allow the bigger ships to pass upstream, a facility which was not often used. On a trip in December 1889, as the four horse coach driven by Mr Gay got onto the punt, it heeled over. Mr Gay quickly turned the team toward the high side and so gave the passengers a chance to jump off and reach the bank. The horses were cut free and the coach went over and sank. Most of the passengers decided to return to Foxton on the ferryman's boat except for one who was taken over the river by a boat from Seymour's mill and then walked to Levin to catch the afternoon train. The mail was saved but Braddcock and Gay lost the coach and harness. The mail had been taken to the train at Kereru from 1 Septem­ber 1889. The route was later changed to Shannon and when J.R. Stan­sell took over the Whyte's Hotel stables in 1893 his coaches were advertised as Royal Mail coaches. They ran twice a day leaving Foxton at 5.30a.m to catch the Wellington train at Shannon at 7.30a.m. After the train arrived the coach returned to Foxton, left again at 3.30p.m to return to Foxton by 8p.m. By 1906 Stansell's Royal Mail coach was running to Levin. Passengers by this route reached Wellington by mid­day at a cost of 17 shillings return. Once during floods the mail and the 27 passengers got through to Levin because they were conveyed part of the way by boat. Instances such as that lead to the claims for the two routes, Shannon or Levin, being the superior and this was reflected in the advertisements of the two operators. By 1913 the coaches were replaced by motor vehicles. First Ernie Whitehead and then Fred Rout ran the service and continued to do so until 1929 when E.J. Murphy won the contract.

Above: One of the Char-a-bunc coaches built for Madge Motors for use on the
Palmerston North-Foxton run. It could carry up to 15 passengers.

Above: Some of J. Buglass's customers in the early days of Motoring.
The vehicles are, from left, a Buick, Geo. Rough's Renault, and Overland,
and A. Ross in an unidentified make. Buglass had his business in Clyde Street
in the premises occupied by Lee Mason Motors.

The change to motor vehicles came gradually. The first motor vehi­cles appeared in the town before 1910 although in that year J. Wyeth, cab proprietor, said his landau would meet all trains and go to all parts of the district for wedding parties - perhaps brides still preferred the grace of the landau to the noisy motor car! By 1912 J. Buglass was advertising as a motor and general engineer. He would overhaul cars and as well had a car for hire. A twenty horsepower, five seater car was available for hire from the Foxton Cycle and Motor Co., proprietor Charles Simmons, in 1913 and in 1914 he advertised five seater Fords for sale at 190 pounds. For an additional 50 shillings electric lights could be supplied which "cost nothing to burn and were always ready", a definite advance on the old acetylene lamps. Charles would also give free driving lessons to buyers. Motor cycles were also gaining in popu­larity, with and without sidecars. But not all obtained this luxury for in 1912 the Borough decided on a pushbike for the gas works' manager's form of transport. The change to motor vehicles was not accepted by all however. The Borough minutes of 1914 record that the police had been informed that there were still breaches of the By-Law which prohibited horse drawn vehicles in the Borough streets. The situation however, remained the same for the rest of the year at least.

At first petrol came in four gallon tins, each pair in a wooden box, by ship from Wellington. The boxes were stored in A.S. Patterson and Co. premises in Wharf Street, now occupied by Foxton Builders Ltd. With the advent of bowsers the petrol came in 44 gallon drums which were emptied into the bowsers and pumped by hand. The years of World War I slowed down the growth in the number of motor vehicles but after 1918 the sales picked up again. During the war Tom Madge of Palmer­ston North was impressed by the way motor vehicles were used to convey troops. When he and his brother Len returned home after the war Tom began to think how a similar vehicle could be used for passen­ger transport. On 11 October 1920 he began his bus service. The first bus was a twelve-seater model T Ford, with a canvas top, side curtains and four doors, all on one side. By the end of 1921 the company had three buses. In 1923 the Palmerston North City Council decided to run its own bus service so the Madge brothers had to look further afield. Already special buses had come to Foxton Beach at weekends and for picnics. Now Tom began a regular daily service to Foxton and the Beach while Len did a run to Feilding. Although the trip to Foxton was not a very pleasant journey with corrugated, dusty roads, by 1925 there were three services daily to Foxton Beach. The buses were prone to boil and there was usually a stop at Rangiotu to cool down and refill with water. By this time there was also a parcel service. For many years Madge Motors had a contract with Boniface Brothers and carried crates of bread to Foxton and Foxton Beach. They also brought blocks of ice for Titcombes Butchery but by the time the ice was delivered the blocks were about half their original size. In 1933 Madges caught up with the changes in bus construction when they purchased two Leyland Cub bus chassis, the first real buses in the fleet as the earlier vehicles had been charabanc (seats in a row). By World War II Madge had nine buses and after the war the number rose to a peak of twenty. Among the long serving local drivers have been Owen Coles (1942 to 1962), Stan Rosvall who on his run to Palmerston North carried many secon­dary school pupils, and Doug Philpott who drove a workers' bus for ten years while he had a job in Palmerston North. Madges were also part of the School Bus Service begun just before World War II. At first children had to pay and adult passengers were carried if there was space for them. Bill Melton was a popular driver on the Oroua Downs run which he drove from 1946 to 1984. Madge Motors services still run but the company is now owned by Allen Motors. One service daily runs from Foxton Beach to Levin as well as a workers' bus. On the Palmer­ston North run all that remains of the serivce is a workers' bus night and morning. These precarious services are augmented with buses of Newmans and New Zealand Road Services.

Above: H. Coley, brother of contractor G. Coley, beside his Ford taxi at his stand
outside Bauckham's store in Clyde Street.
Mr Coley, who was 80 when this photograph was taken, was reputed to be the
oldest licensed taxi driver in New Zealandd at that time

By the time Madge were in operation in Palmerston North E.J. Mur­phy, Henry Coley, and Burn and Treveluan were all operating taxi services in Foxton. Henry Coley kept his licence until the age of 80. The taxi stand was at first in front of R.M. Parkes jewellery, (where Leader and Watt now is) but Mrs Parkes claimed they were hindering her business so the council moved the stand to Clyde Street outside Bauck­ham's store (now owned by Stuart Irons, Mr Bauckham's grandson). Like other forms of public transport taxi proprietors found it hard to make a living when private cars became more numerous. From six the number dropped to one and at some time none at all. In the forties and fifties various people tried to run a permanent service but most lasted not much more than a year. Jack Killick lasted longer than most and for a while he had three taxis. Joe Pond had a cab for a while in the fifties and when Foxton was left without a service in 1984, he came to the rescue with an eight seater vehicle. In 1929 E.J. Murphy changed from his taxi service to the mail run between Levin and Foxton. He initially ran two return trips a day and later increased this to four. He began with a five seater car, charging 3 shillings single and 5 shillings and sixpence return. When the business was sold to Blair Motors in 1970 there were two motor buses in service.

For long distance travel many people used the railway with the neces­sary bus connections. But, in 1932, Smith's Overland Service (S.O.S.) advertised themselves as having the pioneer service between Welling­ton and New Plymouth. They had limousines and first class touring cars, not the old style charabancs. Walls' Moutoa Tea Rooms were the booking agents for this new service.

The early freight services were by bullock and horse drawn drays using the same beach route as the coaches. Among the early carriers in the district was George Coley who along with the others were quick to change to the rail for cartage to Wellington. George and his brother Henry were also agricultural contractors with their stables in Cook Street, Later this site was taken over by Petersen's Carrying Co. who later sold to present owners Reid's Transport Ltd. Around 1900 Carl Johannes Petersen, with twenty Clydesdale draught horses and two teamsters, began carting metal from the Whirokino metal pit to the roads of the district. George Huntley had the job of following on behind breaking up the bigger stones. Carl re-established his carrying business in the thirties and with his sons Eric and Lloyd formed Petersen's Carrying in 1938. Owners of wood and coal yards like Harold Osborne and Jack Thompson also did general carrying. Osbornes Transport was a feature of the town's business on into the fifties and they were (in 1930) among the first to introduce petrol bowsers to the town. Len Podmore bought E.J. Murphy's carrying business in 1919 and at this time horses were the main means of locomotion although Arnie Stevenson had been using a motor truck from 1915 to transport flax fibre from the Waikawa Mill to Ross and Co's ropeworks. Some of the carriers also provided transport between the Foxton railhead and Manawatu Heads as Foxton Beach was known at the time. Hans Andresen operated in the early years of this century with a one horse cart known as the "Covered Wagon" for a fare of 1 shilling return. In the summer months of 1919-1920 Len Podmore ran a Sunday service with his wagonette for a 2 shilling return fare.

Above: Hans Andresen had a carrying business based at his property on the n.w: corner of Union and Johnston Streets. He had a covered wagon which provided a service from the railway to the Beach. In this photo from left to right are ? Andresen, Dolly Andresen, Hans Andresen, J.A. Hofmann, Eric, Win, Rhoda, Reg and Mrs Hofmann.

Above: A. Stevenson carries dressed flax from the Waikawa Mill of Ross and
Co, rope manufac­turers of Foxton. Stevenson was one of the first local carriers
to use motor vehicles for the flax industry.

The route south of Foxton was plagued by floods. Even after the Whirokino Bridge was opened in 1900 there were still problems. For example Gingell advertised in 1890 that his Shannon coach route was open during floods even when it was not safe to cross at Whirokino. One of the largest floods occurred in 1902 after three days of rain over the entire catchment area. On Friday morning the Woodville postmaster gave warning of a possible flood. This message was passed on to Mr. Caverhill, the manager of the Moutoa Estate, who began mustering sheep. The river rose so rapidly that by Friday night it was over the main road at Whirokino. The Saturday coach got to the Shannon ferry with difficulty but the road was so bad on the return journey that the driver decided he would not make another trip until the water subsided. By Sunday the river was over the embankments built after the 1880 flood. By Monday the river began to fall but the whole of Moutoa was a lake which reached a depth of 3 metres in places. The land seaward was also flooded to depths of 1 to 2 metres. At the port on Sunday night the wharf was 0.6 metres under water and there was almost as much over the whole station yard and into the engine and goods sheds. Perishable goods were put into rail trucks and taken to the Racecourse siding. By Monday the water was pouring over the point of land opposite the town and water covered all the country between the high land at Herrington and the sand hills of Matakarapa. Despite the Whirokino Bridge, floodwaters still cut off the southern access to Foxton for the road still ran at river level between Foxton and Whirokino. The solution, suggested in 1935 and opened in 1939, was the trestle bridge and embankment the road now follows.

The force of flood waters scoured around the piles of the bridges. As a result of this the centre span of the Whirokino Bridge collapsed in 1943. An American army jeep, a cyclist, and a car went into the river but all the people managed to reach the bank safely. While the new bridge was being built a temporary swing bridge for foot traffic was erected. The Murphys, father and son, who at the time had the bus run to Levin were not daunted. Their bus ran to the river, the passengers walked across the swing bridge, Ted Murphy wheeled luggage and goods across in a wheelbarrow and in a shed on the southern side of the river a bus was housed for the rest of the journey. After this service it was fitting that Ted was the first to drive across the new bridge, before the sides were built! The level of upkeep on the Foxton-Shannon road at this time was so poor that rental car firms strictly forbade hirers from using this route! Several days of rain in January 1953 saw the river, rise once again. There were stock losses in the upper Manawatu but in the Foxton area there was enough warning to shift stock. Houses in Moutoa were isolated and water reached the fence tops but the main highway was not closed as the Trestle Bridge at Whirokino had lifted the road above the reach of the waters.

Above: A farmhouse surrounded by the flood of 1920. The fenceline on the left
of the photo follows the main highway south from the Newth Road corner toward Whirokino.

Above: The collapsed section of the Whirokino bridge.

A farmhouse surrounded by the flood of 1920. The fenceiine on the left of the photo follows the main highway south from the Newth Road corner towards Whirokino.

The collapsed section of the Whirokino Bridge.

Most years saw some flooding. When Mr J. Linklater was M.P. for the district in 1935 he urged in Parliament that the Main Highways Board take over the Whirokino section of the main highway as it was impossi­ble for the Manawatu County Council to maintain it for it was so often flooded. From the early floods it became obvious that some river con­trol was necessary. Stopbanks had been built in some areas by the land owners (e.g. Easton's at Moutoa) but an overall plan was needed. As early as 1862 Amos Burr, tired of the floods that devastated his proper­ty, had suggested that a cut be made at Whirokino. He wrote to the Superintendent of the Wellington Province partly because he had heard of plan to dig a five mile canal through the swamp and he realised that his idea of a 1.3 kilometre cut would be cheaper and more efficient.

However neither proposal was carried out and Foxton was able to enjoy its life as a busy port for a while longer. But the flood hazard was still a problem and pressures were growing for its elimination. This saw the appearance of the Manawatu Catchment Board who had flood control as one of its prime aims. In 1943 the Whirokino cut was completed and it shortened the river by approximately 8.5 kilometres cutting off the Foxton loop from the main stream of the river. By this time Foxton had begun to turn its back on the river as a transport route and accepted the dominance of the road. A further effort at controlling floods was made in 1961 with the construction of the Moutoa floodgates and flood­way. The 10.5 kilometres of banks form a floodway 600 metres wide and has been put to use an average of once every two years to date. Although this scheme has not completely eliminated flooding most of what occurs now is just surface water which is slow to drain away. Communications are virtually free from the flood problems of the early days.

Floods did not hinder the development of aviation in Foxton, The first plane seen in Foxton flew over on Guy Fawkes Day, 1920. Although early pioneers such as Kingsford-Smith visited, there were locals who were experimenting with this means of communication. One of these was Robin Chrystall who constructed his own machine which, although it did fly in 1932, dealt the budding airman serious injury when it decided to land at the wrong time. As aviation developed new routes were explored and close attention was paid to the possibility of Foxton being a stopping point in a Taranaki-Capital service. It was to be some time before commercial aviation came to the town. An organised ser­vice for the public grew out of the interest in flying of Mr Noel Oxnam. He has developed his private one kilometre airstrip into a commercial field licensed for night flying. Foxpine Air Charter Ltd was granted an air charter licence in 1978 to operate anywhere in New Zealand. In 1986 there were three planes in operation of six, five and three passenger capacity. The two larger planes were equipped for air ambulance work and are used by Palmerston North, Wellington, Nelson and Wanganui hospitals. The hangars at Foxpine were used by several private plane owners and many of the approximately ten planes are home made. The skies above Foxton are often the venue of aerobatic displays by some of the owners. Foxpine has added a plane painting service to its activities at the airport. Increasing demands on Wellington Airport in the late sixties saw planners looking for suitable sites for an alternative airport. The area to the north of Foxton was strongly supported as a possible site for a jumbo jet airstrip. All these plans came to nought.

Photos from page 107 here …

Above: The Foxton Post Office in the 1870s.
This was located on the southern comer of the Main and Wharf Street comer.
When demolished it was used to build two houses in Patrick Street and these
could be identified by the unusual shape of the windows.

Above: The second Post Office was built on the northern corner of Main and Wharf.
The top storey, which provided accommodatioa, was removed after the earthquake
of 1942, and the remainder was replaced by the present Post Office.

An integral part of the Borough's communication system has been the Post Office. The first official Post Office in Foxton was built in 1870 and this replaced the facilities that had been provided by T.U. Cook from 1861. The telegraph line reached Wanganui in 1870 and a branch line connected Foxton in 1871. In 1874 J.W. Gannaway who was espe­cially trained as a telegraphist was appointed with a salary of 35 pound per annum. The increase of traffic and the expansion of services to money orders, savings, Government insurance, duties collection saw Gannaway's salary reach 200 pounds by 1881. By 1889 the postmaster's and telegraph work were separated and there was a staff of six. The telephone attracted the interest of locals A.D. Clemett and W. Broad­bent who made a patent application for a device to disinfect telephone mouthpieces in 1911. The original Post Office was replaced in 1911 with a two storeyed building, the postmaster living above the office. In 1942 the top storey was removed because of the possibility of earthquake damage. While this was being done the post office business was carried out in the old Royal Theatre in Clyde Street. In 1985 this Post Office was closed and in 1987 work began on the construction of the present building. The arrival of one new postmaster seems to have been of interest to the young men of the town for Mrs Agnes Easton and Mrs Flora Walls are daughters of Mr W.R. McKenzie the postmaster from 1931 to 1940. Telephone had reached Foxton by 1903 when a manual exchange was operating. By the mid twenties there were about 200 subscribers and twenty years later the number had only grown to 250, an indication of the slow growth in that period. The telephone was a great boom to the housewife by whom shopping was carried out on foot. A phone call to her butcher, grocer or baker with her order would ensure that it would be delivered, in horse drawn cart at the start and later in a motor van. The change from manual to automatic exchange came in 1963 and since then all telephone services have been moved to Levin. All that remains of these early days is the holly tree planted by postmaster Jack Newton in the twenties.

News could travel very rapidly after the introduction of the radio or wireless. This was best illustrated during World War II when ears were glued to the radio for any snippets of war news. The radio also gave entertainment and many a meeting was interrupted by the need to find out what happened in the latest episode of the popular serials of the day. In 1952 Himatangi was chosen as the site of the transmitting station for New Zealand's overseas traffic. Television arrived in the country in 1960 and as with other areas Foxton had its enthusiasts such as Dr Howard Teppett and Mr Dick White who first picked up Austra­lian channels on their home built sets and then organised a translator society. This translator constructed on Marks's property in Howan Street in 1962 enabled locals with sets to pick up signals well ahead of the official provision of a service to the area.

If Foxtonians wanted to learn about local events they have been well served by the Manawatu Herald since 1878. (The paper's name was changed to Foxton Herald from 1955 to 1961). The founders J. and G. Russell started in a building opposite the Post Office before construct­ing their own office now occupied by Foxton Print (1967) Ltd. Ernest Thynne bought the paper in 1889 and owned it until 1906. Thynne had been a farmer, Member of the Provincial Council, Chairman of the County Council and first Mayor of the Borough. He resigned the later position when he purchased the Herald and in his new position pre­sented the view of the farmer rather than that of the business people of the town. The Herald faced competition when the Foxton Telegraph started publication. The newspaper was taken seriously by the Borough Council who resolved to share its advertising equally between the two papers. The Telegraph lasted only a few years and unfortunately no copies of it have survived. In 1906 John J. Hornblow became the editor­-proprietor. Hornblow came from Greytown where he had begun his journalistic career. He was a community spirited editor who had a particular interest in education. After his death in 1937 his son R.O. (Bob) Hornblow took over the Herald. While he was away at the War his wife Rita ran the paper with the aid of Harry Robson. The next change of ownership came when Hornblow sold the Herald, now known as the Foxton Herald, to G.M. (Bill) Blundell. Blundell sold the business in 1963 and it then passed through the hands of several businessmen from outside Foxton until purchased by Frank Goldingham in 1968. The print­ing side of the business was sold by Bill Blundell to John Read and Harry Robson as Foxton Print (1967) Ltd. Goldingham sold the Herald to the community newspaper section of the Manawatu Standard in 1981. In the early years of publication the Herald was a thrice weekly pub­lication but this was reduced to twice weekly in 1945. In 1956 publica­tion became only once a week but at the same time the Herald became a giveaway publication. Despite the many jokes about the "two minute silence" the Herald has not only been a great community asset but is an invaluable source of information for this and other publications. The continued support of the community has ensured not only its existence but also its free distribution to all households.