Sunday, December 24, 2017

Thames (NZ): Merry Xmas - Meri Kirihimete

Greetings from Thames, New Zealand. These days there is a decorated tree at Kuranui Bay for those that venture towards Tararu - but to older Thamesites things were never the same the day the old Chestnut tree was cut down. Young and old waited expectantly to see the tree at the corner of Mary and Pollen Streets, which was covered in lights every December.

The magic was enhanced, because those were the days when late night shopping was an important social event. On Christmas Eve everyone would go down town, do last minute shopping, meet with friends and view the lights along Pollen Street. The photo below is from Christmas 1968.

Christmas 1917 in Thames
If you were stuck for ideas of what to buy, the newspaper suggested 'walking the Ladies Mile' aka Pollen Street. Drapery shops included Hetherington's, Court's, Cullen's, The Caledonian, and The Elite. Dunnage's and Coad's could meet all your stationery and book requirements. While the livery stables and garages in business were Hawkes', Phillip's and Shaw's.

This had been a tough year for the town, floods earlier in the year, while the Great War continued claiming the lives of tens of Thames men each month.  Nine Thames WWI soldiers are known to have died this month, one hundred years ago. 

The Kings message to the troops in 1917 wished all  good wishes for Christmas and the New Year.
"Our Christmas thoughts are with you, the sick and wounded soldiers and Sailors.  We know by personal experience with what patience and cheerfulness their suffering is borne.  We wish all a speedy restoration to health, a restful Christmastide, and brighter days to come - (signed) George R and I and Mary R."

The Thames Star 24 December 1917, had a four page supplement devoted to Christmas. From poems to general stories, for young and old, a wide range of topics included. Such as: The Story of the Nativity; Origin of the Maori; to poems such as Santa Claus.
Link for page One, Two, Three and Four.

There is even a picture of Thames 'today' 1917. Sadly the quality is poor, but a popular view looking south along Pollen Street.

On 25 Decmeber 1917 there were special Christmas Church services in the town, while many eagerly awaited the Thames Race meeting on Boxing Day. The highlight for many churchgoers occurred on the 23rd December when the Baptist and Congregational Church used their newly installed electric light for the first time during the evening service.

***** Best wishes and Merry Xmas to all*****