There is a handy little book called “Worth a Detour” in the caravan, which I frequently consult while planning a trip. The blurb on the front states that it shows the unusual attractions and hidden places of our country. There was something quite unusual to see just a 15 minute car trip away. Visit the public toilets at Onga Onga, the book suggested. Now that’s a different sort of sight seeing trip, wouldn’t you say? So we hopped in the car, and drove through rolling farmland, bordered by the magnificent Ruahine Ranges in the background.
Onga Onga is now an historic village with many preserved buildings from its heyday. Farming dominated the area from the 1850s and businesses grew in Onga Onga to service the community. Many of these early buildings have been preserved and form the historic village.
The Coles Bros building must be one of the most photographed buildings in the area, we were told by a local. Edward Coles arrived from England with his wife and 12 children, going on to expand to a family of 15. He built the Cole factory, which employed 20 men. Many of the churches, schools and early houses in the area were built by this firm. The factory also built coffins and provided undertaker services.
There is a pioneer’s bush settler’s cottage on site, which is a replica of the first dwelling erected on the Lunesdale farm. The timber used in this cottage had been gathered from derelict bush dwellings built during 1872-1880.
The old School Museum has had quite a varied life. Built in 1874, it was used as a school for 12 years. After 1886 it was used as a library, then as the Roads Board Office. Another change came when it was taken over as a Telephone linesmen’s bach, and then as the club rooms for the Country Girls club, before becoming a museum in 1966. That’s a lot of changes in the life of the little red school building.
Now just where were those public toilets? They were not really where you would expect to find them, tucked away as they were in the old police cells. The sturdy wooden cells have been built to last, and do in fact have fully functioning modern toilets inside, complete with tiled floors, just waiting for the public to “spend a penny”. There are barred windows over the heavy doors, but don’t worry, those peepholes in the doors are firmly welded shut, so there is no peeping!