Taranaki Daily News

Business goes on in spite of fire and flooding

Graeme Duckett continues the story of well-known Waitara musician, businessma­n and promoter Colin King

- To Be Continued...

On Saturdays you could go to a dozen different bands playing around Taranaki. Colin King played at the Palladium at Ngamotu Beach, which was a popular place to be. The milk bar, cafe´ and large tearooms made room for the regular dances held there.

Vic South ran the dances at the Trades hall till Colin took over. A very popular place to be.

Colin started playing at Kawaroa park when he was 15, and this is where the Speedway cabarets were held.

The Star Gym is well remembered by all, with Colin King and the Harmoniser­s playing there for 15 years. Well remembered by all the baby boomers still alive I’m sure.

Their opposition was The Modernaire­s who played at the Army Hall, also known as ‘‘The Agri’’ (Agricultur­al Hall).

Colin on piano, Lou McDonald on sax and Bob Crow on drums – there were dances Tuesday Nights at the Brixton Hall.

At the Fitzroy Hall by the tram sheds, up to 600 teens danced on

Tuesday and Wednesday nights, an event which ran for 8 years. Big bands started there earlier on.

The Overseas Club started in the Liardet St Old Folks Hall and they met on Sunday night. It was to give overseas people a place to congregate and meet people. The organiser was Frank Darrac, an Englishman. The Overseas Club ran for 4 or 5 years. The band was very popular.

By then the Star Gym had started, and The Modernaire­s ran in opposition to Colin King and the Harmoniser­s. Reg Parli and Doug Hill played at the Mangorie Rd hall, also in opposition.

The Stratford Town Hall had just been built when Colin and the Harmoniser­s decided to go for a bigger venue and asked the Stratford Council if they could use the hall. They were rejected with the council calling it a ‘‘hall for sports, not for dances.’’

Colin said, ‘we will run it and supervise it. There’ll be no alcohol and outside will be monitored’. So they were given a trial for a month or two. The dances ran for 20 years. Colin King and the Harmoniser­s were the weekly resident band, and many top stars sang and played there every fortnight.

Buses ran from Waitara using Johnny Hill’s bus service. Two buses ran from Ha¯ wera and Opunake run by Wiers bus service, and buses ran from New Plymouth and Inglewood to the venue. Dancing started at 8pm.

Colin and the Harmoniser­s played for the musician’s cabarets every Labour Weekend for 18 years. They started in New Plymouth and went from hall to hall.

Money made was put into the musicians’ picnics for all musicians and their families. Tug of wars, running races, barbecues, boat rides – a great time had by all.

In 1965 the Waitara Swimming baths were opened. Dick Wilson and Colin King were the first to dive in the new pool. Colin was behind the fundraisin­g for the baths which are still popular and well used today by the community.

Jim Harkness had a bicycle shop in McLean St and he closed shop and left Waitara around 1961. It was the opportunit­y for Colin to go into bigger premises so he shifted into the new shop the same year. Selling instrument­s, records and appliances, things were looking up.

Sadly a large fire in 1965 gutted the three-shop complex and all was lost. Insurance didn’t cover the total loss of his stock.

I can still remember the frontage cordoned off after the fire as the veranda had collapsed. I remember the melted radios and TVs and burnt instrument­s in the front of Colin’s music shop – a sad sight.

Mac McCallum, who owned the BP garage in McLean St, offered Colin half of his shoe shop space, after the fire in 1965, in the Progress Buildings – an offer which Colin accepted. Colin also utilised a mobile caravan, which was towed all around Taranaki with TVs on display in it.

Disaster struck again with Waitara’s largest flood in living memory – November 1965 – when floodwater­s swept through the town as far as the bottom field of Central School. But Colin was not deterred. He picked up the pieces and moved forward.

I bought my first EP and LP records in this shop in 1967.

Colin Williams ran a small shop in Ra¯ hotu. He’d known Colin King since he was about 12 years old when they were delivery boys for Jack Waterhouse, who owned the Home and Colonial grocer shop in McLean St. Colin King would take TVs down to Ra¯ hotu for Colin Williams to sell for him.

After the shop fire in 1965 the National Bank let Colin know he was wanted to be kept as a retailer in Waitara. His friend Colin Williams had backed him up with a 10,000 pounds surety.

‘‘Colin Williams would never see anyone stuck,’’ Colin told me.

The site of the fire in 1965 on the corner of McLean and Queen streets was cleared and sat vacant for some years. Colin, seeing potential of the site, approached the UFS who owned the section, proposing a large shopping complex with wide open access to the various shops.

His concept was of great interest and was to be modern and fresh for the town. Named Downtown Unlimited it was trendy and up to date.

Monty Julian in New Plymouth had a similar shop called ‘‘5 In One’’.

The new shopping complex was opened in December 1969, featuring Colin’s Music and Appliance store, Prentice and Toohills menswear, Bev Lynne Fashions and the Pacific Coffee Lounge run by Mildred Foreman.

‘‘It’s a large easy-access store where people can buy a large variety of goods under the one roof. The concept of combining more than one store in the same complex is a trend becoming popular all over the world,’’ Terry Prentice said at the time. ‘‘With the surge of industry in North Taranaki the shop will be an asset for the province’’.

Colin was on the committee of the Waitara Promotion Society and was one of the prime movers in its formation. Organising the Marine Park Carnival was no mean feat, and was one of the most ambitious promotiona­l undertakin­gs ever launched here.

Imaginatio­n and organisati­on were one of Colin’s gifts. In fact it was Colin and his father Henry who developed Marine Park out of a lupine covered wasteland into what we see today, another one of his visions brought to reality for the town.

One of the highlights of his career in music was to meet Louis Armstrong. Colin knew the promoter Harry Miller, so he organised a plane to take a group of 23 musicians and friends to Auckland to the show.

Staged at the Northern Hotel, Louis did two shows. Backstage at half time Colin, Piko Rangitaawa and Mike Foley met Louis when he came out of his dressing room and presented him with a carved Waka Huia and had their photo taken.

 ??  ?? The Harmoniser­s (from left) Bob Crow, Neville Goble, Lou McDonald, Colin King.
The Harmoniser­s (from left) Bob Crow, Neville Goble, Lou McDonald, Colin King.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand