What a very pleasant picture this is. Almost idyllic, almost nostalgic biscuit tin quality – well, I think it is – but certainly not chocolate box aesthetics. In sepia tone this would be a great window on the past.
This is Victoria Street in or soon after 1926. The number plates on the vehicles indicate that it’s after 1925 but what’s the significance of the HN registration? Is it ‘Hamilton’ or is that a coincidence? And the lorry on the left side of the road so close to the corner of Alma Street; is this a farmer come to town or does it belong to a dairy company? It is certainly not modern even by 1925 standards; look at the solid tyres. Whoever owns it, it’s carrying quite a load of cream cans and milk churns which must be empty.
Think then of the work even with motorised carts – look at the comfort levels. Much of the work was still by hand – no tankers yet. You had to manually move full milk churns and to this sort of activity there was definitely an art , an acquired dexterity. If you didn’t handle your churn properly it would spin out of control and dump your milk.
The photo could be later than 1925 but, to be certain of the date, we need to pin down the date of the new Mandeno Jackson building. In this view Mandeno Jackson are in the Bank of New South Wales Chambers. Next door to the bank building is what looks like a building site – it is. There is that dark little weatherboard building which is quite obviously a building site shed. There is a chap up a ladder against the building under construction alongside the bank. In later photos it transpires this is in fact the new Hamilton Branch office of Auckland based ‘T Mandeno Jackson, Land Agents & Auctioneers’ with branches in Whangarei, Dargaville and Hamilton (in 1916). That firm advertised great confidence in ‘the north’ where prices were not inflated.
Above the builders shed on the building to the south is a sign for Almadale Private Hotel. It boasts ‘electric light’. Surely, by the mid-1920s, an unnecessary statement? Electricity had been in the CBD for some years by then.
Did some hotels still give guests a candle to light their way to bed? Sounds very Dickensian. Almadale hotel in fact occupied the spot now the forecourt of the Tainui Novotel. The building advertising Ford cars, one ton trucks, Humbers and Studebakers is a garage with petrol bowsers right bang in the main street amongst banks and barristers. Jas. Tombs’ business was in Livingstone’s Chambers. In addition to new and used cars they sold benzene, tyres and oil. They well have had a repair workshop in there too. Beyond that there is most unfortunately nothing else legible.
As usual, it’s summer yet the women in front of the bank appear to be dressed in black with very late Edwardian style skirts. One woman is holding up an umbrella. One would have thought in those times a parasol? Three of them look perhaps as if in a uniform of sorts.
Nostalgic? I don’t know – still they have horses navigating the main thoroughfare and still they have the residue of the horse’s progress. It’s a good advertisement for the modern motor car – much less unburnt fuel left on the road. And, there is some sadness in the fact that all the buildings visible in this photo were torn down by the mid-80s – every one of them.
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