Buses take place of garden in city centre

And why would Garden Place on a sunny winter afternoon c.1946/47 be of any interest to country folk?

Well, in these days Hamilton was a medium-sized country town which had achieved ‘city’ status by virtue of the 20,000 population threshold. It was only just a city and was still outranked by Wanganui, Palmerston North, Invercargill, Mt Albert Borough and Mt Eden Borough (why were they not cities?).

It had (as now) a burgeoning ‘urban’ hinterland: Morrinsville, Ngaruawahia, Cambridge and Te Awamutu being the principal towns within commuting distance – not ‘easy’ commuting distance. And, even then, there was stuff you’d need to do in Hamilton and despite the best endeavours of the retailers in the smaller towns there is quite simply always greater choice in the larger centres.

Along with this there has always been greater employment opportunity in the bigger towns so people from around the area would come to Hamilton to work. It would not be as common as today but it certainly did occur. Also, in many parts of New Zealand with similar population spread bus operators would run ‘shoppers’ buses to the main centre and wait a few hours for the return journey.

And that’s what this photo shows. There’s more than one bus company livery to be seen here and despite the quality of the image we can see that at least four of the buses are from out of town. One is clearly Te Awamutu Motors, the others perhaps go north around Huntly. One advertises ‘A.G.Price – Thames Draper’. Now there’s a journey and a bit in 1947.

In the photo are many other interesting aspects of times past. The Piecart is the hiding behind the sign on the Services Club which says ‘Dine Here – First class meals’.

The services club building remained for the use of servicemen and ex-servicemen until the early 1950s when the bulk of Garden Place became a carpark. It later got parking meters which, in the late 1960s, were removed when Garden Place became a grassed area.

In Victoria Street the library on the left has scaffolding around it probably for repairs and maintenance. In less than 30 years it would be demolished to make way for a new Bank of New Zealand building. On the right is the Chief Post Office which was only opened four years before. You paid your money there and it was a fair bet your letter would get delivered – you can still place bets there I believe. The only real question I have is, what are the cars in the foreground? Are they shoppers, workers or is it a car sales?

With the ‘low-rise’ buildings there was a marvellous view of Claudelands from up on the hill.

Email Perry,  you know you want to.

Hamilton Central Libraries

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