Friday, March 13, 2009

Thode Brothers of Mt Albert, Avondale and West Auckland

Around 1919, the Thode Brothers (Arthur Edwin Forbes Thode and Percy Raymond Forbes Thode) ran a store at the corner of Rosebank and Great North Roads (called, by locals, “Thode’s Corner”.) Before that, they had a store at the corner of what was then Gladstone (now Carrington) and New North Roads in Mt Albert, opposite the railway station. Around 1915, the New North Road had to be realigned so that one side met up as best as possible with the other, a line was drawn through the front of their Mt Albert store. It may have been demolished soon after (it may also have been what had been Mt Albert’s only hotel, built by Samuel Stevenson in the 1880s, but unsuccessful when it came to obtaining a license.) Percy enlisted with the NZ Expeditionary Force during World War I, and served in France.

After the war, the Thodes began their move westward.

They didn’t have the Avondale store all that long, perhaps just a matter of two or three years before it became McKenzie’s Central Stores in the early 1920s, and burned down 7 June 1925.

By the way Ernie Croft, in Challenge of the Whau (1994), recalled the aftermath of the Central Stores fire:

“After the fire there were jam tins lying around, badly buckled. All of us coming home after school used to kick the tins down the road, seeing how far we could get them before they burst.”

At the time Norman McKenzie was a tenant of Charles Fearon, who owned the old wooden block at that point. McKenzie’s grocery store was the site of the fire’s start, igniting among the tinned goods apparently, then spreading to the oils and artificial manures. At that point, despite the best efforts of the local fire brigade, it was doomed. The fire was only checked just short of the offices of a land agent named George Rose.

Charles Fearon replaced the burnt-out block with the Fearon’s Buildings block which is still there to this day.

But, I digress.

By 1922, as seen by a fair-sized ad in Arthur Morrish’s News, the Thode Brothers had left the grocery business and entered the land agent business, with a main office in the city, another at Avondale and a third at New Lynn. Ultimately, Percy left the business to Arthur and headed north, becoming the owner and licensee of the Waipapakauri Hotel, then during World War II entered the service of the Marine Department as a fishery control officer, and lived at Devonport. Both of his sons served during World War II. One sad aspect is that when Percy Thode died in July 1942, he would have passed on thinking that one of his sons, Lieut. J. A. Thode, had been killed in action when the HMAS Perth was sunk four months before. In fact, Lt. Thode survived, and was a POW along with 324 others who were captured, later forced to work on the infamous Burma-Siam railway. The other son, Connel, entered the Royal Navy, serving on the corvette HMS Candytuft, and later the submarine HMS Scythian (first New Zealander to command a Royal Navy submarine) from 1944-1945. Connel Thode was awarded an OBE in 1995 for his services to yachting.

Arthur Thode remained in the real estate business, associated closely with Titirangi, where he lived, and New Lynn. He died in 1963, aged 83. Part of his property in New Lynn was gifted to the New Lynn Old Folks Association, and their recreation hall was built in 1971.

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