The Oddfellows Hall (later Gospel Hall)

Can you imagine a bazaar in the Gospel Hall? In 1899, the Library organised a bazaar there with stall holders in period costume and the special drawcard of a Gipsy fortune teller. Bran dips were an attraction for the children and refreshments and confectionery were in abundance. Shooting gallery, fancy work stall, flower stall, art gallery collection and curios filled every corner and what a din there must have been with livestock being auctioned to the accompaniment of a new-fangled gramophone. It is to be hoped that the three large ventilators in the roof proved ‘effectual in equalising the temperatures’ and that the ‘large Rochester lamps’ rendered yeoman service during the dance that followed.

At that time the hall was almost brand new and revelling in its pristine glory. It had been built in early 1897 by members of the Oddfellows Lodge and opened with a grand concert and ball on 8 April of that year.

Surprisingly, the Oddfellows did not purchase the land until 22 April when Lot 26 containing 21 perches was acquired. The five adjoining lots were bought on 3 December 1898. Whilst in the course of building, it was decided to increase the width of the hall by 23ft, thus giving Harry Dossett the builder a bigger job than he’d bargained for.

The extension was less elaborate than the original which had boasted ‘a handsome dado of red and white pine, the colour panels alternating, 4ft in height’ topped with ‘a very pretty diagonal pattern which gives an artistic appearance to the whole interior.’

The Presbyterian Church was quick to make use of the hall for its Sunday School Soiree on 30 April 1898 and, in October the same year, St Alban’s Church ran an evening of entertainment to raise funds for repairs. Soon it was fulfilling the Oddfellows’ hopes in functioning as a public hall.

Hire charges were 5/6d per night for the main room and 2/6d for the ante room. The Brethren were not slow to take advantage of the special low charge of one shilling for Sundays. By March 1900 they were holding G05 61 meetings in the main hall and may, by then, have permanently changed their meeting place from James Agnew’s home to the Oddfellows Hall ante room.

By the turn of the century the hall had become a popular centre. During the Boer War, patriotism was strong so that, as well as library meetings, school concerts, inaugural meeting of the Caledonian Society and a grand ‘Vocal, Instrumental and Minstrel’ event, there was ‘an entertainment run for the Patriotic’. In 1901 a reception for Troopers was held there.

School concerts were later patrons and, from 1912 to 1931, St Martin’s Lodge held their banquets there. The Plunket Society found the cloakroom a suitable place for mothers to visit the nurse with their babies from 1938 to 1953. Wedding receptions were also held in the Hall, two notable ones being Manson-Carson and Goodson-Smith.

For many years, the weekly dances and picture shows brought regular crowds to the hall — the two mysterious pillars still stand as a monument to the dancers. The movie pictures, every Saturday night, were the highlight of the week for the locals. Quite different from today’s cinema, they were at first, silent movies with an accompanying pianist creating ‘atmosphere’ with suitable background music. The reels were wound manually and an evening’s programme could consist of up to twelve short reels. This meant frequent intervals for reel changing but it did give the pianist a welcome break and Fred Foley, the projectionist, often entertained with light hearted stories during these interruptions.

Power failures were common as carbide lighting was fitted in the hall. A tin shed beside the hall housed an inverted drum of water and two trays of carbide, bought in airtight tins from Bob Knox’s bike shop. The acetylene gas produced was conveyed through a pipe to the double sets of jets in the lamps suspended from the ceiling. The system was not always reliable.

For the pictures, Fred Foley brought his own mobile generator and parked it outside the hall. He took it by train to all the stops along the line for their weekly entertainment. He established a tradition of film evenings, the harbinger of which may have been the Grand Limelight lecture by Rev CE. Woodward on Friday 28 July 1898, showing scenes from London life. Silent movies continued for some years, even after the new Town Hall opened when Ernie Crawford was the accompanist.

Although electricity proper came to the township in 1925, the Oddfellows Hall does not appear to have benefited fully until bought by the Brethren in 1928. Certainly carbide and kerosene were still being purchased but in the last quarter of 1928, electrical work cost seventeen pounds sixteen shillings and Sixpence. By 1929, Power Board bills for 10/-, 11/4d and 1 Pound 0/6d were paid.

Billy Andrews was caretaker of the hall when the Oddfellows Chapter in Pleasant Point ceased to be and he continued as such until the hall was sold to Harry Elms, water race ranger, in 1920.

In 1928, the Brethren bought the hall from him for 400 Pound and big changes followed.

The Town Hall

Up until 1928, the Oddfellows’ Hall in Maitland Street (now known as Gospel Hall) was used for most local public functions. When this hall was bought by a religious group the need for a town hall became imperative.

In March 1928, a poll of district ratepayers was taken by the Town Board on a proposal to raise a loan to 3250 Pound for the erection of Town Board offices, a public library and a hall. Seventy-seven voted in favour and twenty-one against. The Board also announced the issue of debentures to the value of 1750 Pound for a term of twenty years at five and a half per cent towards the building loan.

With the ratepayers’ approval, the Board set about advertising for a suitable site. Six sections were offered and that of R. Knox was chosen, it being part of the property on the corner of Halstead and Main Roads where he had a drapery.

Tenders were soon called for the building and that of Geo. Dawson with A.E. Lewis as architect was accepted at the quotation of 2620 Pound. The Hall was completed by the end of the year.

On declaring the building open on 20 December 1928, TD. Burnett, M.P. stated that this was: “the reddest letter day in the history of Pleasant Point”. He went on to say:

The supreme need of the Pleasant Point district is that of more residents. People could then share one-another’s burdens and pleasures. The tendency nowadays seems to be for people to drift to larger centres for their amusement but this should not be so. Residents should all make an effort to make their own township as attractive as possible.

The official party was piped to the stage by pipers O. Bain and J. Munro. A musical evening was followed by a dance which went on into the early hours. Mr T.B. Garrick, chairman of the Levels County Council, made a gift of a piano to the new Town Hall.

Very soon, the hall was in frequent use. ].W. Hill tendered successfully at 2 Pound 10/- per week for a once weekly film show. School functions were charged 2 Pound, dances 2 Pound 5/- till midnight and 3 Pound 10/» till 2 a.m. Flower shows were 3 Pound 10/-. The supper room was let for small functions such as meetings, euchre, etc. and a miniature rifle range was set up under the stage for target shooting. The Town Board met regularly in the Board Room and the Office was opened once a week for ratepayers’ business.

The Memorial Lounge

On 24 May 1945, a public meeting was held in the Supper Room to discuss ideas for a War Memorial for the district. The president of the R.S.A. said that his association was not in favour of any more stone monuments. He proposed an extension to the north side of the Town Hall to accommodate a lounge for the benefit of the public in which a scroll bearing the names of the fallen should be displayed.

Mrs Clarkson and Miss Maze, on behalf of the Plunket Society, expressed a wish that Plunket Rooms should be included in the proposed extension and, subject to the possibility of purchasing the adjoining section, a Women’s Rest Room was also proposed.

A War Memorial Committee, chaired by the Town Board chairman, M. Maze, was formed to proceed with these proposals. It was agreed to canvass the district from Raincliff to Kerrytown and from Sutherlands to Waitohi for donations. Areas outside these were asked to co-operate and the building section was donated by the R.S.A. A target of 2500 Pound was set to form a nucleus of the War Memorial fund.

Local organisations willingly co-operated with fund raising ventures such as a Gala in the Domain, Drama performances and Tug 0’ War contests. Fat lamb buyers and stock agents canvassed for gifts of stock and produce to boost the fund.

As a Grande Finale to the fund-raising drive, a Queen Carnival was held. Each district sponsored a local girl in a variety of fundraising pursuits and the one who raised the greatest amount of money was proclaimed Queen of the Carnival. Miss Jane Campbell was the winner.

With 4589 Pound raised and a pound for pound subsidy as well, tenders were called in April 1953. Mr T.S. Gillies’ tender of 6309 Pound 15/- was successful and the official opening took place on 17 March 1954. A grand ball was held that evening to celebrate the occasion.

The use of the Town Hall has declined considerably over the years. This can be attributed to the fact that, in the boom years of the 1950—60s, the schools, churches and surrounding settlements all built halls of their own. Also, the advent of television led to the decline of audiences and eventual cessation of the once popular twice-weekly cinema shows in the Town Hall.

The Board Room fell into disuse with the termination of the Town Board in 1954 and the Office was closed in the 1970s when it was considered no longer economic to employ a Town Clerk.

Modern youth with ready access to motor vehicles sought their entertainment in Timaru and did not support the local Saturday night dances. Similarly, local organisations no longer considered the once popular balls a worth while venture.

All these things have combined to bring about the decline in use of this once very necessary public amenity.

The Library continues to be well supported and the Women’s Institute and Miniature Rifle Club still use the Hall on a regular basis but no longer is it a popular venue for wedding breakfasts. Lack of facilities in the kitchen have been blamed for this but the cost of updating it has been deemed unwarranted by the Council owing to the lack of public support.

T.D. Burnett’s comments at the opening ceremony in 1928 would have been more applicable in this day and age: “There is a tendency for people to drift to larger centres for their amusement ..... ”!!

The Post Office

On 1 April 1868, the first Post Office Service commenced at James Gammie’s smithy. In 1873 the agency was taken over by J. Strachan, general Storekeeper and, three years later, it was transferred to the opposition store of I.L. Morris. Then, shortly after the opening of the Washdyke-Pleasant Point section of the railway on 24 December 1875, Post Office business was conducted at the Railway Station by Mr Pilkington, Station Master— Postmaster.

In 1910, residents asked for the separation of the Post Office from the Railway Station and, after due consideration, the department decided to build a Post Office. In October of that year, a one eighth acre section was purchased from Mr Ellis Halstead who lived on the adjoining property in Afghan Street. There was a four-roomed dwelling (the original Chemist’s shop) already on the site and it was proposed to convert it into a post office at an estimated cost of 70 Pound.

However, a petition signed by John Crawford, Robert Knox and others urging that a new building should be erected, was presented to the Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Ward through the local MP. T. Buxton and, following a departmental inspection of the existing building, approval was given for a new office. It was officially opened by Mr Buxton on 23 December 1912 although it had been open for business transactions a month earlier. Mr E. Dollimore of the Post and Telegraph’s permanent staff was appointed the first Postmaster at Pleasant Point.

A telephone exchange was opened on 14 June 1913 at which time seventeen subscribers were connected. By 1938 there were 140 and, in that year, six officers were employed on the staff of the Pleasant Point Post Office and Telephone Exchange.

As the years went by, most homes in the district had a telephone installed and this made heavy demands on the staff at the exchange. Almost half the subscribers were on heavily loaded party lines with as many as eight or nine to a line. At busy times it was extremely difficult to make an outward call especially as, in those days, every call outside the district was a toll call.

This led to the opening, on 10 December 1965, of the first automatic exchange which was sited next door to the Post Office. Pleasant Point then became part of Timaru free-calling network which was of great benefit to the district from both business and social points of view. There was also the advantage of the 111 emergency services.

In today’s atmosphere of ‘user pays’, it is interesting to note the comments of an official speaker at the opening ceremony of the Automatic Exchange.

He said that profit was not a primary consideration of the Post Office organisation but it was conducted according to the best standards of business efficiency with a careful eye kept on relationship between revenue and expenditure.

The introduction of the Automatic Exchange did mean that the services of eight of the staff who had manned the old exchange were no longer required. In latter years they had provided a twenty-four hour service on the manual exchange. The Post Office staff was now reduced to the Postmaster, an assistant and a postman.

The building boom over the following years into the eighties rendered the exchange board quite inadequate and a bigger and more up-to-date one had to be built at the end of Afghan Street opposite the hotel. It was designed to meet the needs of a growing township and became operational in April 1982.

As everyone knows, Government policy of the late 1980s has revolutionised Post Office organisation throughout New Zealand. Three separate enterprises, NZ. Post, Telecom and Postbank, have been created, each responsible for its own finances and organisation. Consequently, as happened in many parts of the country, our local Post Office was closed in June 1989 and an agency for handling postal services was let to Atkinson and Dossett’s Garage on the Main Road.

Since the Pleasant Point Post Office was established, the following have served as Postmaster:

1912–1921 E. Dolimore
1921–1927 G.W. McCarthy
1927–1931 L.S.R. King
1931–1941 H. Grocott
1941–1946 F.A. Taylor
1946–1952 H.L. Wilkinson
1952–1960 W.M. Wade
1960–1964 E. Southward
1967–1969 S. Richardson
1969–1976 H. Hinchcliffe
1976–1984 RM. Walker
1984–1989 Mrs D. Bray


The first police officer to take charge of Pleasant Point district was Sergeant Ross who operated from Timaru. The first Police Station was opened in 1875. At that time, the policeman, Constable Joseph Stanley, lived in the Burke Street vicinity and it would appear that, even though the population was small, the policeman’s ‘lot’ was a busy one.

According to a report in the Timaru Herald, there was a good deal of illicit ‘still’ work being carried on in the district at that time. Contraband liquor was being disposed of through various channels and police had reason to believe that the bulk of it was passing through Pleasant Point on its way to Timaru.

Sergeant Ross was given the task of locating these illicit stills but the culprits were skilful in eluding the police. On one occasion, a clue led to the Hazelburn district where a plant was unearthed but, to the disappointment of the police, the ‘worm’ had quickly been disposed of at first sight of them. A prosecution followed but was unsuccessful owing to absence of the necessary ‘worm’ as evidence.

Later, a 50 Pound reward was offered for information leading to the location of illicit stills and an ‘informer’ supplied the clues that lead them to a fully equipped plant in the Waitohi district which resulted in a conviction. On his discharge from prison, the convict was met by a delegation of friends and presented with a sum of money to enable him to set up in business again. A syndicate had been running the enterprise and this man, far from ‘squealing’ had ‘carried the can’ for his accomplices.

Bootleggers had several ruses to mislead the police, such as moving the stills from gully to gully and lighting fires all over the place to confuse informers.

It is recorded in the Timaru Herald of July 1896 that the government had purchased a residence for a police officer in Pleasant Point on two and a half acres of land on the corner of Main Road and Rimu Street.

Concern was expressed at there being no lock-up and that it would be difficult for the policeman to do his duty under such circumstances. Peace loving residents thought it was time something was done “to ensure safe lodgement for such as are not of the same mind. The police, as Public Officers, are narrowly watched and should have facilities provided for the proper discharge of their duties.”

The Police Station built in 1896 was, as reported by the Commissioner of Police in 1937, “very old, insanitary without conveniences — is full of T.B. germs and not fit for habitation.” (The policeman’s wife and daughters had contracted T.B.) It was considered a menace to health and unfit for renovation.

In January 1938 a sketch plan was produced and cost estimates for the demolition of the old and erection of a new building were set at 1850 Pound. A contract was let and, by June 1939, Constable Adam Kerse was installed in the new Police Station which had one of its rooms designated as an office.

Although the report on the old police station was condemning, it was seen fit to move it. It became a dwelling in George Street and is still occupied there.

Policemen who have served the Pleasant Point district are as follows:

Constable Stanley 1875–1896
Constable Madden 18.2.1897
Constable Thos Barrett 19.11.1901
Constable Tom Hammond 18.1.07
Constable Valentine Pemeskie 5.8.09
Constable Pont 1.6.34
Constable John Home 22.2.58
Constable Adam Kerse 8.5.39
Constable Thos Parkhill 4.9.45
Constable Walter Ward 1955
Constable Stuart Wallace 1960
Constable Alfred Gregory 11.8.71
Constable Alister Barker 30.10.73
Constable Geoff Smith 1985

Constable Pemeskie, there for 25 years, was the longest serving policeman in Pleasant Point. Everyone was aware of his presence. A now elderly gentleman tells of spending two hours in the lock-up as a young boy for having thought the apples on the other side of the fence greener than those at home! The neighbour happened to be the policeman who apprehended the boy in his orchard and duly detained by him. That punishment was not sufficient for, when taken home by the policeman, the boy was given ‘a daddy of a hiding’ by his father as well!

The public have always welcomed the presence of their own policeman at local functions and he was expected to do more than just keep law and order. The Town Board minutes of the 1930s record the constable being asked to see that the ‘no smoking’ rule was adhered to at the Town Hall dances.

Many stories can be told of hasty exits from the hotel by patrons who lingered after the six o’clock closing hour.

As against the ‘bobby on his beat’ of yesteryear, the Police Car of today reminds the public that their Constable is upholding law and order in the district. Added to that is the reassuring knowledge that his help is at hand whenever needed.

The Fire Brigade

In the beginning, the ‘Bucket Brigade” was the only means of fire control in Pleasant Point. In 1928. PJ. Bowman purchased a hand drawn chemical fire extinguisher for ten pounds from the New Brighton Council. This appliance was purchased by the Town Board and, although its use was limited, it served the township for many years.

Ch13 1

The hand-drawn chemical fire extinguisher purchase by the Town Board in 1928.

C. Knight, who ran a weekly picture show in the Town Hall, happened to be superintendent of the Geraldine Fire Brigade and saw the need for some form of fire protection in Pleasant Point. With the help of P.J. Bowman, enough support was gained locally to call the first meeting of the Pleasant Point Volunteer Fire Brigade which was held in the Public Library on 3 August 1944.

At that meeting F. Agnew moved that a fire brigade be formed in Pleasant Point. A list was then taken of men who agreed to become members, nineteen offering their services. At the next meeting P.J. Bowman was appointed Superintendent. (He had been a member of London Metropolitan Fire Brigade). Mr Knight demonstrated the necessary equipment for a newly formed brigade and it was agreed to have practices twice a month.

Much financial assistance was required to establish a brigade and representatives of local organisations formed a Dance Committee to run dances every Saturday night. This enabled the purchase of a Chevrolet truck for 70 Pound and assisted the Town Board to buy a suitable building for a fire station plus a siren (50 Pound), hose, stand pipe and other equipment. Uniforms were obtained from the War Assets Board, including old army tin hats.

A Ladies’ Committee was also formed to assist with fund raising and one of their projects was catering at the Saleyards on a roster system.

By 1955 the fire-fighting equipment had been updated to a 1952 Ford V8 with a front mounted pump, sixty gallon first aid water tank, hose reel, hose and equipment, lockers and an extension ladder. In 1961 a Ford V8 trailer pump was bought from Timaru Fire Brigade and, later, an Austin truck for 250 Pound which was converted into the first tanker unit. After a few years’ use, another vehicle was converted in 1968.

In 1974, after much research and planning, final approval was granted by the Fire Service Council to purchase another appliance at a cost of $20,220. A fund-raising appeal was launched over the whole of the district, (the first in the Brigade’s history), and the sum of $5478 was raised. This enabled the Brigade to acquire more firefighting equipment.

In 1980 application was made to the Strathallan County Council for replacement of the Ford Thames Trader chassis which had been purchased in 1968 and, in 1981, the Brigade took delivery of a five ton short wheel-base Ford D750 chassis.

This started one of the most ambitious projects undertaken by the Fire Brigade members. After six months of trial and error and hundreds of man hours, the unit proved to be above expectations with a 1200 gallon oval tank (supplied by council), a 400 gallon-a-minute pump (supplied by Civil Aviation) driven by power takeoff operated from the cab plus all the other necessary fittings.

The Fire Station

The first building used by the Fire Brigade was a corrugated iron shed next to the Town Hall and owned by R. Knox. Later, it moved to a more suitable building in Te Ngawai Road, owned by the Thoreau family.

In 1947 the sum of 199 Pound 8/9d was paid for a building on the Main Road, formally occupied by W. Oborn, bootmaker. After much voluntary work was done to the interior, it became the first official Fire Station.

The purchase of the new appliance in 1955 necessitated more interior alterations in order to accommodate the vehicle.

In that year the Levels County Council bought a section in Halstead Road for the purpose of building a new Fire Station. In 1961 tenders were called and the Mallett Bros.’ tender of 695 Pound 9/9d was successful. The building was officially opened on 1 December 1961 by Mr C. Knight. The building was extended in 1965 and major improvements were made to the social room in 1971. Fire Brigade members contributed all the labour and also raised the extra $939 required above the County Council grant of $1000. Since then, improvements have included a new workshop bay and remodelling of the social room, toilets and canteen.

Since its inception, all Brigade administration, maintenance and financial matters have had to be approved by the Fire Committee, i.e. the Town Board until 1954, thereafter by the Levels County Council and, finally by the Fire Service Council (later known as NZ. Fire Commission).

Not only do members of the Fire Brigade give many hours of their time answering emergency calls at all hours of the day and night but much time is also given to regular training on their permanent practice ground in Kumara Terrace which the Council gave to the Brigade in 1961. Here, too, members have worked hard to equip the area for training exercises.

The Brigade has fought many serious fires in its time and had many anxious moments. One that will never be forgotten was when fire broke out in the Cave Plantation during the 1975 gale with great danger to the township.

They have also had their lighter moments such as the time when the Chief Fire Officer, on turning out to a call one Saturday afternoon, found that the tanker unit had already left for an incident at Sutherlands. He Proceeded in his own vehicle, overtook the appliance at the Police Station and, seeing smoke coming from the riverbed, opened the gates and guided the tanker to the fire. The firemen were somewhat baffled to find that, instead of the whole river bed, only a few clumps of gorse were on fire. However, with true efficiency, they set to work with their 500 gallons of water and made a good save only to be confronted by an irate farmer who had spent the entire afternoon with a flame thrower trying to burn out the gorse.

Apparently, the fire to which the Brigade had originally responded had been brought under control by the owners and the message cancelling the emergency had been received on the unit’s R.T. just before the C.F.O. had directed them to the river bed. A very useful lesson learnt by the Chief — ‘verify your call before responding’!

Competitions with other voluntary fire brigades have been keenly pursued since first instigated by Pleasant Point members in 1956. To create more enthusiasm, Pleasant Point presented a shield for the team with the most aggregate points for the day and the Bowman family presented a cup for the winners of the under twenty-one event.

Six members have been awarded the treasured Gold Star of the United Fire Brigades Association of New Zealand in recognition of twenty-five years of valued service to the Fire Brigade and the Community.

A.L. Thoreau
G.C. Howey
A.J. Walden
R.C. Lienert
R.H. Malthus
W.J. Dockerty

The Library

Pleasant Point could boast of a library as early as 1875 but, unfortunately, no record of it has been filed and the only evidential proof is the library stamp. However, the following extract from the Timaru Herald of 21 December 1884 is proof of its early existence:

The most striking social item in the village is the decided success of our Reading Room. In fear and trembling, the Library Committee decided to hire a convenient cottage, fit it up comfortably and throw it open daily from 10 am to 10 pm. As a sort of special providence, Captain Sutter’s handsome donation of 20 pound dropped into their hands immediately afterwards and the promised Government grant will enable the management to make ends meet comfortably. The donation is to be spent only on books. An order was sent to London about three months ago and the new volumes should be in circulation shortly. Every evening the little room is crowded. At first, draughts monopolised attention but we have become ambitious and there are now to be found confronting one another, amateur chess players of all grades and some fearful and wonderful exhibitions are to be witnessed nightly.

Captain Sutter was a political candidate who had addressed township residents in November 1883. Whether or not the ‘Library’ was in a private home up to 1884 remains a matter for conjecture.

The Reading Room described above was situated in Te Ngawai Road on part of the site where Stowell’s Engineering shop is now situated. While excavating for his new building in October 1982, Mr Stowell uncovered the foundation bricks of the Library facing Te Ngawai Road next to Mr Dossett’s property.

Following the purchase of this ‘Reading Room’, an active committee became involved in fund-raising to augment Library funds. A Timaru Herald report of 17 July 1894 states:

The bitterly cold weather and muddy roads somewhat militated against the attendance at the Library concert last week. The programme was an excellent one being varied, instructive and pleasing. The audience was most appreciative and performers met with hearty reception. The Chairman, Mr Grieg, explained the objects of the concert and referred to the great efforts made by the Library Committee and the Sports Committee in endeavouring to provide books and papers, etc. for the Institute. He was pleased with the aims of the young people in the district and he hoped that those that were not members would come and join the Library and so have the opportunity of reading in their young days what they would never regret in their old age.

May 4th 1896 reports “a sports meeting held in Mr Cookes’ paddock and, in consequence of fine weather, there was a large attendance.” It was a programme of horse races and athletic events. Funds of the Library were ‘greatly augmented’. Mr Morris, Secretary of the Committee for six or seven years was given all credit for the success of the meeting.

Ch13 2

The original Library in Te Ngawai Road.

Mrs Kathleen Muller has vivid memories of the old Town Library. She recalls very clearly her childhood days when her mother, the late Mrs Harry Dossett, was caretaker and librarian.

In those days, the Library handled up to six newspapers a day, a tremendous supply of books and even sported a billiards room as an extra. It was a time when the Christchurch Press, Temuka Leader, Ashburton Guardian, The Timaru Herald and Timaru Post were all part of daily life. The Auckland Weekly and the Free Lance were there too and, once or twice a week, the Otago Daily Times.

The old building contained an entrance lobby, three rooms and a small room that housed the kerosene for the lamps. Mrs Muller recalls helping her mother sweep out with a straw broom and, in particular, the big, hanging kerosene lamps which had to be trimmed and filled each day. She says there was shiny brown lino on the floors and big open fires heated the reading room and the library itself.

Cards and billiards were played there and the excitement of the year was the annual challenge played with the Waitohi district.

Newspapers were pinned to the long tables in the Reading Room and the Library room was well stocked with great rows of books. As few people purchased newspapers in those days, it was not unusual to find people queueing up to read the news there.

The Library was also a great gathering place. Elderly citizens spent a lot of their time there —— in fact, some who lived alone filled most of their days at the Reading Room. '

How long this building served the community is, again, a matter for conjecture. It is believed there was a period when the Library was in recess some time before it was relocated in the Town Hall although the building itself was not demolished until 1942. According to the minutes of Town Board meetings, it appears that the room set aside for a Library was not used as such until six years after the Town Hall was opened in 1928. For a time, it was let to the W.E.A. for their meetings at 2/6d a night and to the Plunket Society at the same charge on a fortnightly basis.

In October 1933, a public meeting was called to consider the formation of a Public Library and, a year later, the Library Committee made application for the use of the Town Hall Library Room. F.]. Dossett and J. Medlicott as trustees of the old Te Ngawai Road Library expressed approval for the transfer of the old Library to the Town Hall.

The room was then equipped with shelves towards which the Town Board granted 5 Pound and the Library was opened three times a week. Responsibility for the Library was undertaken by the late Miss M. Price, infant mistress at the P.P.D.H.S. and the late Mrs J. Liston. When they resigned about 1942, Mrs M. Archer undertook the duties of Librarian besides acting as Town Clerk each Wednesday at the office in the Town Hall. Mrs Archer worked hard for the welfare of the library for many years.

For some years now, the Library has been administered by an incorporated society which meets once a year to elect its officers. The main source of income is the annual subscription of $10 paid by some fifty members of the society. As this entitles everyone in the members’s family to borrow books, it is really only a token fee.

Other funds are derived from rental books, donations from individuals and organisations such as the Gymkhana Committee and, as a rule an annual grant from the County Council. Sometimes, applications for grants from charitable trust, etc meet with success and serve to augment the fund.

The Library is fortunate in that overhead costs are negligible, there being no rent or electricity charges. Also, every minute of time given by members is voluntary so that the work involved in keeping the books in order and opening twice weekly requires no financial outlay.

At one time it was suggested that the Library should become part of the Country Library Service but it was found that, in order to qualify, a new building with a paid librarian would be necessary. Moreover, the librarian must have some qualifications and be employed for at least fifteen hours a week. This was considered quite beyond the County’s and the Library’s resources and so the idea was soon quashed.

In 1986 a pilot scheme was set up at the High School to allow the public the use of the school library on an experimental basis. The public was given access for one evening a week over a trial period of many weeks but the anticipated support was not forthcoming and the scheme was abandoned. The Community Council had received requests from residents for a better library service for the township but their attempt to provide it met with this poor response.

Now, thanks to the Lions Club, many years of hoping for extensions to the Library room has come to fruition. An inner wall has been removed to incorporate what was the ladies’ cloak room, thus giving twice as much floor space and room for more book shelves.

The committee works hard to keep the library up to date, buying in books whenever funds allow. Their aim is to acquire 250 to 300 new books each year.

Town Lighting

Pleasant Point’s first town lights were kerosene lamps but, in 1921, the Town Board had electric lights installed for which the power was generated locally. The generating plant was housed in the original ‘Blue Garage’ building where the Education Department bus depot now stands.

Mr Sid Gray was the pioneer of this device in which he converted an old gas engine to petrol, linked it up with a generator and powered two street lights — the very first in the township —— which shone nightly until 11 pm.

When a disastrous fire destroyed the building and left the town in darkness for some months, the Town Board decided to ask the South Canterbury Power Board to provide future illumination.

August 2nd 1926 when the electricity was switched on, was described by the Town Board as a ‘Red Letter Day’. To mark the occasion, Board members organised a ‘Switching on’ ceremony for 8 o’clock that night and a special demonstration of ‘Cooking by Electricity’ was given by Miss Kennedy.

When arranging the function, M.F. Maze, Chairman, said “only fine weather is now required to make the gathering one of the largest and most momentous in the history of the township. Owing to the length of the programme, it will be necessary to start punctually at 8 pm.”

Admission to the ceremony was one shilling with supper and dance to follow at a charge of two shillings and Sixpence for gents and one shilling and Sixpence for ladies.

Water Supply

In the pioneering days, establishment of townships was very much dependent upon ready access to water. In an early Timaru Herald of 1866, an article concerning the development of Pleasant Point stated: “There is a never failing stream close to the town and the Opihi River is only about half a mile distant. In addition to these advantages, water can be obtained from the ground at a depth of a few feet.”

But a later report tells quite a different story. Residents were complaining to the Council that the underground water was “contaminated by cess pits, piggeries and household sewage. Something ought to be done or the inhabitants of Pleasant Point must change the name of their township or have it changed for them.”

Suggestions were made to ‘tap’ water from outisde the township and lead it down by a water race to the village. Sampling of the pure water below the porous shingle on which the township was built, was also mooted. However, it appears that residents had to rely on these underground wells or stored rain water for many years to come.

In 1884, a scheme was devised for cutting open races from an outlet on the Opihi River to carry water for stock to parts of the Levels flats. It was not until 1937 that the irrigation of the Levels Plains was undertaken by drawing water from the Opihi.

Farmers on the Downs, however, had to rely solely on rainwater. They dreaded the dry seasons when creeks and dams dried up and household tanks contained less and less water. They would then be faced with having to cart water from some permanent source, often some distance away, besides driving stock to water at regular intervals.

Water proved the limiting factor to the carrying capacity of farms and stock frequently had to be sold to conserve water for the essential animals. Farmers soon realised that a system of watering their farms by conserving rainwater in tanks and dams was unsatisfactory for the South Canterbury climate.

Healthwise, the household tanks were far from ideal as they became fouled by refuse washed off roofs and spoutings. Downlands farmers began to press for better water supplies. T.D. Burnett, M.P. for Temuka in the 1930s saw that water was the limiting factor to production in these areas and to him must all credit be given for the establishment of the Downlands Water Supply.

In 1933, a committee was set up to propound the merits of such a scheme that would carry water to farms and houses in underground pipes instead of open races. It was proposed not only to supply stock but also domestic users. The committee was chaired by A]. Davey and had as its members, the chairmen of Levels, Geraldine and Mackenzie County Councils, the Pleasant Point Town Board and a number of interested ratepayers. Whilst Mr Burnett emphasised to Cabinet the urgency of the scheme, Mr Davey gained the interest and support of local ratepayers.

Investigations were begun in 1934 by T.G. Beck of the Public Works Department who practically designed the whole scheme and was eventually designated ‘irrigation engineer’. Construction began in 1938 under the supervision of Public Works’ engineers.

The cost was estimated at two hundred and three thousand, one hundred and sixty-five pounds but increased to two hundred and seventy thousand when additional areas of Levels County and part of Waimate County were included in the scheme.

Water for the scheme came, from a dam at the mouth of the Te Ngawai Gorge six miles beyond Albury and one thousand and sixty-four feet above sea-level. The water now comes from a pumping station 1 1/2 miles below the dam site. Mains from the intake had a capacity of 856,000 gallons a day and fed six reservoirs with a total holding capacity of more than three million gallons.

From these, water was piped to farms scattered over more than 140,000 acres. Each homestead was connected and water was piped free to one stock trough in every hundred acres. A land-owner could have additional troughs by paying the costs of material and labour.

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Hundreds of bitumen pipes in readiness for Downlands Water Scheme at Mazetown.

The headquarters of the Downlands scheme was set up on the Maze property just west of the Pleasant Point township. This large settlement of workshops, men’s quarters and dwellings became known as Mazetown. Stock troughs were manufactured in the workshops on the site as were the specially reinforced concrete components used in the scheme.

By August 1940, the first water was available and by 1941, the scheme was almost complete. The township was supplied by its own reservoir on the Downs by Manse Road above the township. It had a capacity of 250,000 gallons.

The Town Board’s share of the cost was six hundred and thirty pounds which aroused strong objection at the time; but the establishment of the scheme brought a changing scene in the township. The many windmills which had been the driving force for pumping water to the houses quickly disappeared. Those who had motor pumps fitted to outside wells dispensed with them and rainwater tanks were no longer required.

By 1950, the Downlands Scheme was supplying 150 houses in the township, 75 fire hydrants were installed and several high pressure outlets for garden watering were functioning. Numerous troughs and an ingenious system which delivered a fine spray to cool pigs in hot weather, were installed at the saleyards.

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Laying of Downland's pipes in Afghan Street.

An agreement was reached with the Ministry of Works whereby a uniform charge of nine pence an acre and seventy-five shillings per house was levied over the whole area of the Downlands Water Supply.

At the time the scheme was considered adequate for the needs of Pleasant Point but, by 1960, residents were again expressing concern. “Pleasant Point” it was pronounced “will continue to be a town without a future unless an adequate water supply can be provided. Expansion is being curbed by lack of water and yet the Opihi and Te Ngawai rivers flow past our back door”.

At this stage, the Downlands system had become so overloaded that the Ministry of Works had refused all new applications for water connection after October 1958 and those already served by the scheme could use the water for domestic purposes only. Builders of new houses had to make provision for wells or rain water tanks if they were building within the boundary. Even established homes were putting down bores or, where possible, resurrecting disused wells to provide water for parched gardens to avoid shortages.

By 1961 the County Council realised that the Downlands scheme would have to be improved. This involved two new reservoirs, one at Claremont and one at Sutherlands, and a duplication of several pipelines. A special pumping station near Stratheona in Halstead road was also necessary to meet increasing demands in the township. The cost of all this was estimated at 200,000 Pound.

In recent years, improvements have been made to the rural supply such as renewed pipelines of wider guage and each farm having a monitored tank supply to farm troughs.

Several options have been suggested for the township supply and the Community Council has approached the Downlands Water Board with a view to taking charge of the town’s water reticulation. In its plans, it has proposed to up-grade the present pumping operations to cope with the increasing demands of the whole township.

Ratepayers have been given options in meeting the costs of such improvements and it is hoped that within the next few years, all residences in the township will be fitted with a high pressure water supply and that the days of restrictions will be a thing of the past.

At the same time, a feasibility study is in progress on the possibility of providing water from Lake Tekapo to augment flows in the Opihi so that farmers could still irrigate their land in times of drought. Irrigation of 27,000 hectares of South Canterbury farmland and improved fishing and recreational opportunities are the projected benefits of this proposed Opihi River Scheme.

Swimming Baths

A report in the Timaru Herald on 4th October 1967 attributed the building of an Olympic-size swimming pool in Pleasant Point to tenacity, single- minded purpose and whole-hearted community support.

The Pool project began in 1960 with the object of improving swimming facilities at the District High School and four thousand pounds was raised in the district for the purpose. An Olympic sized pool was mooted but the cost of building and maintenance proved far beyond the scope of the School Committee.

Nevertheless, determined to aim for the best, the Committee wrote to all previous donors asking for their support to provide a larger, more comprehensive pool. Little knowing that seven years would elapse before the project was completed, the district gave its full support.

Much credit must be given to Mr V.W. Wilson, Chairman of the School Committee, who was the driving force behind the project. He visited many parts of New Zealand at his own expense to inspect other Olympic pools.

In 1963, it was decided to build a short Olympic pool, 110ft long by 42ft wide, with one metre and 3 metre diving boards of latest design — a pool which could cater for Provincial championships. A paddling pool was also to be included. The project was designed by Mr D. Reynolds, M.O.W. engineer in Christchurch, and plans were drawn by the (then) Levels County Council in which body the pool was invested. Many organisations held special functions as a means of fund-raising and all were well patronised.

There was a time, in 1964-5, when shortage of funds caused the Committee to consider leaving out the diving pool but, not only did they resolve to press on but also to add a thousand pound observation tower to the original plans.

With future generations in mind, the South boundary was designed to enable the erection of trusses for a future covered pool and, for the same reason, no piping was laid in the centre of the concrete concourse.

Long hours of working bees given by local residents assisted the contractors with excavating, painting, fencing, installing lights and building seating, all to reduce costs. School children bolted slats on to the stadium seating which will accommodate 500 onlookers.

The project was planned in two stages:

Stage I: Three pools with concrete concourse and dressing shed worth twenty thousand pounds.

Stage II: Filtration and heating plants worth twelve thousand pounds. Two solar weirs, each 6 feet wide, were installed to raise water temperatures by 8 degrees Fahrenheit. An auxiliary diesel heating unit, thermostatically controlled, was also fitted.

A four to one subsidy from Recreation and Youth Activities assisted greatly in financing the project. Floodlights, a public address system and recorded music system brought the pool up to modern standards.

Several costly items have been donated for the pool, namely, a lap-timing clock by Sockbum Pool Committee, plastic lanes by South Canterbury Swimming Association, observation tower clock by Motorways of Christchurch, timber for seating by Cook and Sons and diesel tank by Atlantic Oil Company.

The official opening in October 1967 was packed with people who had worked so hard towards the achievement of such an ambitious scheme. It was fitting that, after the speeches were over, the Chairman, V.W. Wilson should take the first plunge. He swam the full length of the pool under water!

The Pleasant Point pool soon became a popular training ground for keen swimmers throughout South Canterbury, it being, at that stage, the only one of its kind in the region. Since then, other districts have acquired their own heated pools and Pleasant Point Baths is used mainly by local swimmers.

In later years, the rising cost of Diesel oil made it an uneconomic means of heating. Efforts were made to reduce consumption by adding more solar panels but, by 1982, the expense was such that the diesel unit was dispensed with and further solar panels were installed to make a total number of sixty— five.

During the last two or three years, both diving boards have been replaced, as has all seating and, to conserve water temperature, pool covers set on rollers have been installed. Liquid chlorine is now used to purify the water and new Peristaltic pumps are being installed for that purpose.

The main pool is now equipped with a water-slide which is very popular with the children and a shaded area of about 18 square metres is being formed on the surround.

In the season, all three schools use the pool regularly for swimming instruction and this is followed up by an active swimming club training on a competitive basis.

The County Council pays supervisor wages during normal working hours and volunteers supervise the pool for weekend and evening sessions.

Fund-raising activities are organised by the Pleasant Point Baths Committee to meet overhead expenses and pay for improvements. Admission fees and the sale of season tickets also contribute to the general maintenance of the pool.