History - Retail therapy in early Puhoi

By: Jenny Schollum

To shop local in Puhoi in the early 20th century, settlers had a choice of three stores: C. Schischka and Son, Schollum and Titford and Wenzlick and Co. I suspect each resident was staunchly loyal to their regular proprietor. Everything imaginable was available through the stores – hardware, nails, barbed wire, fertilizer and fuel. Paint was mixed there, and a length of muslin measured from the roll could be bought there. Most staples like flour and sugar were bought in bulk, although scales were available to measure out small quantities. The scales had a ready reckoner function, which could calculate the correct cost of the amount purchased.

Each store kept black notebooks which, on one page, detailed produce such as eggs, butter, honey, fruit and vegetables that the settler sold to the shop. This was transported to Auckland on the S.S. Kotiti to be on-sold through The National Trading Co. (set up by John Schischka) or John Schollum & Co. Timber and Produce Merchant. These companies accepted all Puhoi’s produce – firewood, shingles, palings, fence posts, gum, wool, and advertised them as “fine Puhoi produce”.

On the facing page of the notebook a record was kept of items bought from the store. At the end of the month a tally was made. Sometimes the storekeeper owed the customer money.

The 1924 flood rose to a height well up the walls of the Schollum and Titford store and the building burnt down in 1939. A mound of earth was created on the site so that the new store, although coming close, has never been flooded.

Until the advent of supermarkets in the early 1970s, locals continued to purchase goods from this store, later known as Schollum Bros. The practice of booking up all purchases for a month continued. Our account was usually around $90. Archie gave us a bag of lollies when we paid.

Bread was delivered daily from bakeries in Warkworth, wrapped in a strip of newsprint and tied with  string, which dropped from a ball hung from the ceiling. Most commodities were still weighed out into quantities required – broken iced animal biscuits were a favourite.

We could telephone Stubbs Butchery in Warkworth with an order and it would be delivered by Listers Mail Service on its return trip to Auckland. If the meat hadn’t been picked up by store closing, it was left in the cool of the library, which was unused at that time.

Les ran the Post Office at the Puhoi General Store, providing all the services of a city office. The store was a place where you could buy almost anything you needed and where people met as they collected their mail. They often stayed to talk and hear stories of earlier days.

Today, as Nick and Jo supply coffee and takeaways there, the meetings and talk continue.

This is Jenny Schollum’s last column. Mahurangi Matters thanks Jenny Schollum for her many contributions.

Jenny Schollum, Puhoi Historical Society


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