Hutt City Libraries Online Heritage Collection > Texts

Petone's First 100 Years (1940)

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Mr. H. M. Waddington, Company Director.
A Remarkable Record.

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View of Procenium, State Theatre.

Looking back on fifty-one eventful years of life, Harry Muschamp Waddington can claim with anyone in New Zealand to be that rarest of all species, a self-made man. His rise to a position of commercial influence is more creditable to himself, when it is realised that he started from scratch and had to make his way up hill entirely on his own power and initiative.
Mr. Waddington was born in Johnsonville in 1889, but his connection with Petone began at a very early age. He attended the Main School, from 1895 to 1900. Life was hard for him from the very first, as his father died as the result of an accident when young Waddington was only six years old, leaving a family of seven. His father used to operate the White Horse Hotel at Ngahuranga and the Rainbow Hotel at Kaiwarra during the days when the toll-gates on the Hutt Road roused the ire of the residents, but on his death the family had to fend for itself.
Relatives in the South Island stepped in, and young Waddington finished his education in the south. In 1902 he commenced work at the age of thirteen, receiving a weekly wage of 6/-. Ten years later he married Miss Waugh of Dunedin and, in 1916, returned to Petone.
It was in 1921, when Mr. Waddington first started business in Petone by taking over a small lounge bar and restaurant in Jackson Street, opposite the Municipal Buildings. The proprietor used to make ice cream to fulfil the demands of the business and the new owner carried on with the hand churn which had been used for this purpose. Mr. Waddington was not slow to realise the possibilities of this branch of the business, and he soon went in for mechanical means of ice cream production.
As the business expanded, even this refrigeration system became inadequate, and within a very few years, a modern ice cream factory was constructed which embodied the very latest glass-lined equipment. At this time "Arctic" ice cream was increasing rapidly in popularity, and the business which had started just a few years before by way of a primitive hand churn was employing quite a number of men.
During the years of expansion from 1928 to 1937, when Mr. Waddington sold the business, he maintained the closest personal contact with all branches of the venture.
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The business continued to grow until it was sold in 1937. Much of the success of the venture was due to the painstaking nature of the service, no order being considered too small to fill.
During the progress of this venture, Mr. Waddington acquired the freehold of the original property and of the two adjoining properties. At this stage, it would be best to mention one of Mr. Waddington's most often applied rules of business. He attributes his success to buying the freehold of properties on which he carries on business. From the beginning he has had a distaste of renting, and has got over the necessity of doing so whenever possible.
Jackson Street is now a blaze of Neon lights at night, so that it is interesting to recall that Mr. Waddington's restaurant was the first place of business in Petone to use this means of illumination and advertising. It was alone in this respect for five or six years. Very early in the history of radio, the first public demonstration of it to be given in Petone was held in the restaurant.
As the ice cream business was doing well, he decided to branch out in the theatre line, and built the popular State Theatre, Petone. This building which is of the stadium type, carries the very latest sound equipment. It was opened in 1936 (on a Friday, the Thirteenth of December), and was one of the first theatres in New Zealand to use high intensity arcs to light its pictures. The date of its opening has never affected its popularity, however, or the quality of its entertainment.
During all this time, Mr. Waddington had been slowly taking more of Jackson Street, and was putting much of his capital into building and renovating premises. In 1937, he took over the Regent Theatre, Levin, and recently took over the freehold of the De Luxe Theatre, Lower Hutt. The maintenance at a high level of this entertainment service to the public is a matter in which Mr. Waddington takes a keen personal interest.
Mr. Waddington is at present a director of United Theatres, Ltd., Petone Amusements, Ltd., Wellington Breweries, and Fairfield Investments, Ltd. He recently purchased the palatial home "Deerlea," in Lower Hutt, and in taking up his residence there has left Petone for the first time for many years. His new home is one of New Zealand's most beautiful residences.
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" Deerlea." Lower Hutt, the home of Mr. H. M. Waddington.

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