History fascinates Geoff
Geoff Ernst steps into Rose Bros Ltd General Store in Tirau. It’s 1904. It has everything from a needle to an anchor. The only difference is, nothing here is for sale.
The store, which is just one of the many exhibits at the Tirau Museum is a replica of the original Rose Bros store which serviced people in Tirau from 1904 to 1983.
Owner Mr Ernst set up the museum 40 years ago and still has visitors from all over the world stop in to see his collection.
Last month he had a group of car enthusiasts from the Te Awamutu Custom and Rod Club stop by. More than 80 American cars covered his lawn as they had lunch and took a tour of the premises. ‘‘I love to collect all things weird and wonderful,’’ Mr Ernst said.
Displayed tidily in two large rooms measuring 3962sqm (13,000sq ft), it is one of New Zealand’s largest personal collections.
Tins of lollies from England still in their packets, a one hundred trillion dollar note from Zimbabwe, the oldest mobile Avery tractor in New Zealand, old Matamata court house criminal documents and many more items add to the display.
His fascination with collectibles began when he was a curious and adventurous 11 year old. One day while fishing in the river he came across the champion vinegar bottle that kick-started his hobby.
‘‘Now the thrill is in the chase and getting that rare piece home and part of the game is then upgrading. I can’t help myself – wherever I go I am always looking for more stuff,’’ he said.
Mr Ernst has lived on his farm just south of Tirau, site of the museum, for the majority of his life farming honey bees.
‘‘ I sold honey by the summer and arranged the museum and collected things during the winter. I would go gold mining on the West Coast and always come back with a car load of stuff,’’ he said.
Mr Ernst never intended to start up the museum but his private collection soon became a phenomenon to those who heard about it.
‘‘Many people were asking to see it so I had the bright idea of starting up my own museum and making an earning out of what I enjoyed doing,’’ he said. ‘‘There are so many stories here, it is unreal. Every piece has a story.’’
Among the thousands of items, he still has a favourite. The single-cylinder German Lanz Bulldog tractor which originated from Canterbury in 1937 is his ‘‘big toy’’ and will remain so while it is still in use.
Back in time: Tirau Museum owner Geoff Ernst in a replica of the Rose Bros. Ltd General store that used to be in Tirau.
Here to visit: Old and rare cars from the Te Awamutu Custom and Rod Club are just one of the groups to stop in for a visit in the past month.