Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

25 April 2010

Open 7 Days 31. Fairfield Stores, Dunedin

I wrote and illustrated ‘Open 7 Days’. It was published in 1991. It’s a series of freeze-frames of some historic New Zealand general and convenience stores as they were preserved in the last decade of the 20th century. Bit by bit, on this blog, I re-publish some of the entries from that book.



FAIRFIELD STORES
37 Main Road, Fairfield, Dunedin.
Proprietors: Alan and Joy Deuchrass
One doesn’t have to search hard for the origins of this store – James Loudon clearly had a sense of history and proudly dated the commencement of an establishment that he, correctly, expected to last many years. As at 1990 he is not forgotten, and that’s more than may be said about most people who were around in AD1881!

Alan Deuchrass says that Loudon ran it as a general store and post office, making deliveries as far afield as Taieri Mouth by horse and cart – a round trip that could take two days. Loudon might have relished the odd night away – he shared the house next door with his wife and twelve daughters!

Loudon fades from the scene about 1916, after which there were numerous owners until Alan and Joy (who, incidentally, was a member of the national champion women’s bowling pair in 1990) took over in 1982. There their three children grew up and, until they left home, played their part in running this typical neighbourhood family store.
Inevitably the buildings have been modified over the years; a hay loft at the back became living quarters. A bacon-curing business was carried on at one stage, and Alan thinks the sides may have been hung in a large room he found under a trap door in the kitchen floor. Although there was extensive mining in the surrounding area, James Loudon would not permit it under the store, which has therefore never been affected by subsidence; clearly he was a man of considerable influence and foresight.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

23 April 2010

Open 7 Days 30. Freemans Dairy, Milton

I wrote and illustrated ‘Open 7 Days’. It was published in 1991. It’s a series of freeze-frames of some historic New Zealand general and convenience stores as they were preserved in the last decade of the 20th century. Bit by bit, on this blog, I re-publish some of the entries from that book.



FREEMANS DAIRY
144 Union Street, Milton, Otago.
Proprietor: Bill Freeman

From a dreary world Bill Freeman’s dairy shines out like an artist’s palette! I couldn’t resist it, especially when I could see that so much trouble had been taken to cover up the old house next door (now used as a store room) and that one of the world’s classic motorbikes had, fortuitously, been parked outside.

The store (once two tiny stores – as evidenced by the two front doors) dates back to about 1930 and replaced another that had been there since the turn of the century. Bill Freeman runs it as a typical seven-day dairy, with a small garden centre selling flowers, shrubs and vegetable plants. (The faded sign on the rough wooden door had me imagining animated tomato plants coming and going like Chicago gangsters at a speakeasy!)
Milton may have been named after the poet. Whether that’s true or not, the name is appropriate, for since 1857 it has been a mill town on the Tokomairiro River. It has been famous for many years for wool spinning and scouring, although the oldest part of the mill complex started life grinding flour.

The town sprang to importance when Gabriel Read discovered gold at Tuapeka. Milton lay neatly placed between Dunedin and the diggings, a good spot to rest up, stock up and saddle up before taking on the heartless rocks of Central Otago.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

22 April 2010

Open 7 Days 29. Faigan’s Store, Millers Flat

I wrote and illustrated ‘Open 7 Days’. It was published in 1991. It’s a series of freeze-frames of some historic New Zealand general and convenience stores as they were preserved in the last decade of the 20th century. Bit by bit, on this blog, I re-publish some of the entries from that book.



FAIGAN’S STORE
Teviot Road, Millers Flat, Otago.
Manager: Judith Omond

Louis Faigan opened his first store in Millers Flat in 1896 in a one-roomed shop leased from a watchmaker. Three years later he bought the boarding house on today’s site, turned the front into a store and the back into living quarters, and that’s the way it stayed until fire destroyed it in 1936 and the ‘moderne’ store was erected.

In gold-mining days Faigan’s supplied goods by pack horse to remote diggers, and by horse and cart to the dredge workers on the Clutha as well as to local farmers and residents. Sensitive always to customers’ needs, Faigan even imported ginger and rice for the Chinese miners, and this service philosophy was exemplified in his slogan, ‘Everything from a needle to an anchor’.

The old man died in 1910, and Leopold Faigan, who had started work in his father’s shop in 1899, carried on the business until shortly before his death in 1976. The store stayed in the Faigan family until 1980.

Malcolm and Lesley James closed the store in 1989, but within forty-eight hours, $30,000 was raised from about a hundred households to buy the stock and plant. The enterprise has been owned by community shareholders ever since, with Judith Omond as manager.

The ‘Lonely Graves’ are a famous feature of the area and a poignant reminder of the courage and
compassion of the pioneers.
© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

19 April 2010

Open 7 Days 28. Drummond Store

I wrote and illustrated ‘Open 7 Days’. It was published in 1991. It’s a series of freeze-frames of some historic New Zealand general and convenience stores as they were preserved in the last decade of the 20th century. Bit by bit, on this blog, I re-publish some of the entries from that book.


DRUMMOND STORE
Memorial Avenue, Drummond, Southland.
Proprietor: Mel Hall

Drummond, of Scottish flavour, serves an area which, after systematic draining of its swamps, started its pastoral life in the 1880s cropping oats, wheat and lighter grasses. Dairying came and went, as did Drummond’s dairy factory, and these days sheep safely graze the quiet acres.

Mel Hall’s Four Square store is as neat and tidy as the village it serves. It’s a smaller, tighter village than it once was, and Mel’s store is the survivor of two that were once able to compete and stay in business.

Mel is a ‘foreigner’ from Invercargill but, for all that, still a Southlander. He took over the store in 1983, the latest of a line of owners going back to around 1880, when it was set up by Ezekiel Roberts, one of the original townsmen. Roberts, whose descendants still live in the district, developed an efficient weekly horse-and-cart delivery service to outlying farmers and needy itinerants. As with most country storekeepers in those days, he lived with the reality of long-range credit and payments in line with farmers’ receipts.

When I visited in 1990, the Drummond Store supplied groceries, petrol, fruit, vegetables and ice creams to the people of the town and passers-by travelling the long, straight roads of this tranquil district.
Since 1883 there’s been a hotel where the Traveller’s Rest now stands.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

18 April 2010

Open 7 Days 27. Nightcaps Dairy

I wrote and illustrated ‘Open 7 Days’. It was published in 1991. It’s a series of freeze-frames of some historic New Zealand general and convenience stores as they were preserved in the last decade of the 20th century. Bit by bit, on this blog, I re-publish some of the entries from that book.



NIGHTCAPS DAIRY
Johnston Road, Nightcaps, Southland.
Proprietors: Karen and Jimmy Forde

Nightcaps is still full of character, but the town’s not what it was. The main street says it all: a line of tired old buildings typified by one, dilapidated and deserted, with a scarcely decipherable sign over rusted iron columns with cast Corinthian capitals, ‘RUSHTONS - BREAD, CAKES FRUIT, SWEETS’.

Another, the old GHB store, is empty, held up temporarily by tanalized poles, all its colour gone. The Bauhaus-style town hall is redolent of a time when hopes were high and prosperity breathed through the community.

It was a coal-mining town, sustained by the Nightcaps Coal Company from 1880 until the mines petered out in the 1920s and yielded to the nearby Ohai mines. Now there’s little of commerce left because there are fewer people and therefore less demand. Enough, though, to support an undistinguished grocery shop and the bright little Nightcaps Dairy, which manages to give off an air of optimism.


Karen and Jimmy Forde have lived in Nightcaps all their lives. Jimmy still works in the mines at Ohai, as do his and Karen’s fathers. The store dates back to about 1925 and had numerous owners until the Fordes took it on in 1989. Now they supply groceries, bread, cakes, milk, fresh meats and takeaways; and are agents for the Southland Times, Taylors Drycleaning, and a three-day photo processing service. Up with the latest, they also have video-tapes for hire.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

08 April 2010

Open 7 Days 26. Arrowtown Stores

I wrote and illustrated ‘Open 7 Days’. It was published in 1991. It’s a series of freeze-frames of some historic New Zealand general and convenience stores as they were preserved in the last decade of the 20th century. Bit by bit, on this blog, I re-publish some of the entries from that book.


ARROWTOWN STORES
24 Buckingham Street, Arrowtown, Central Otago.
Proprietors: Alexander, Elaine and John Hamilton
According to the histories, Arrowtown came into being in 1862, which is also the date of claimed establishment of the store. But Robert Pritchard was not the first storekeeper, and the shops were not set up in Buckingham Street until after the flood of 1863.

John Hamilton, who now runs the store, believes that Pritchard probably ‘established’ his first store in a tent on the river beach. I surmise that the store you see today was built a little later, when the future of the town had become more assured.

John’s father, Alexander, still takes great interest in the affairs of the store, and they both insist on operating it in the spirit of the traditional general store.

Within the two-foot-thick walls of this solid old building a lot of memorabilia have accumulated, including a magnificent set of brass scales that tourists regularly try to buy. Tourism is now the heart of Arrowtown’s economy and is the major reason why the store will never suffer the depredations of overt ‘modernisation’.

Alexander Hamilton worked in the store for Rattray and Son from 1952 and bought the business from them in 1965, but the Hamilton family is as old as Arrowtown. They intermarried with the Cotters, one of the first three families in the district, and John’s grandmother, Mrs Alex. Hamilton, a Cotter by birth, wrote an often quoted historical monograph titled ‘Notes on Early Arrowtown’.
‘We’ve still got that at home’ says John. ‘We call it “The Black Book”’.

© DON DONOVAN
donovan@ihug.co.nz
.

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Blurb

RANDOM SAMPLINGS F...
By Don Donovan

About Me

My photo

Don Donovan: Biography

I was born on 20 January 1933, nine days before Hitler came to power in Germany, I grew up in south London. Although evacuated during the phoney war and the quieter times I lived in and out of air raid shelters during the blitz and experienced both V1 and V2 attacks on London. Left grammar school in 1948 aged 15 substantially undereducated. I wanted to go to art school but because of family ‘poverty’ joined a commercial art studio in the West End. I was, thereafter, variously a messenger boy, commercial artist and typographer. I was in the Royal Air Force from 1951 to 1953 when the only useful thing I did was to take part in King George VI’s funeral parade.

In 1955 I married Patricia O’Donnell, a RADA graduate, at that time playing opposite Derek Nimmo, they were juvenile leads in a touring repertory company. He went on to great success because he had a funny voice.

We came to New Zealand in 1960 where I worked in advertising. At length I became managing director of one of the companies of whose holding company (the largest domestic advertising complex in New Zealand) I was also a proprietor and shareholder. I left the industry in 1990 when my company was bought out by American interests. My timing was brilliant, at that point my first book had been published and the next was on its way.

We have two daughters and four grand-children.

Now, apart from writing, I function as a self-educated grumpy old man.

Books & Writings

‘New Zealand Odyssey’, with Euan Sarginson, Heinemann-Reed, 1989.

‘One Man’s Heart Attack’, New House, 1990. (A special edition of this book was purchased by CIBA-Geigy for distribution to NZ doctors).

‘Open 7 Days’, Random Century, October 1991.

‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’ by Saint Publishing in 1995 followed by:
‘New Zealand House & Cottage’ in 1997. (Saint Publishing have also published calendars for the years 1994 to 2004 using my watercolour illustrations).

‘The Wastings’, my first novel was published in July 1999 by Hazard Press. Although an international subject it had very limited distribution, only in New Zealand, and the rights have reverted to me. (Colin Dexter read 'The Wastings' and wrote to me: 'I enjoyed and admired "The Wastings"... a beautifully written work... a splendid debut in crime fiction... More please!'.)

Also the texts of photographic books:
‘Auckland’
‘Colourful New Zealand’
‘New Zealand in Colour’
‘Top of the South’
‘Aoraki-Mt.Cook’
‘Above Auckland’
‘Hauraki Gulf Destinations’
‘Otago’
‘Bay of Plenty’
and a compilation of photographs and quotations titled ‘Anzac Memories’ 2004 all published by New Holland.

My written and illustrated book, ‘Country Churches of New Zealand’ was published in October 2002 by New Holland, who also published ‘Rural New Zealand’ 2004 (photographs and text), and a series of four humorous books of photographs and quotations in 2004 and 2005 titled ‘Woolly Wisdom’, ‘Chewing the Cud’, ‘Fowl Play’, and ‘Pig Tales’. My most recent book was published in August 2006 by New Holland, titled ‘Political Animals’.

Over the years I have written for NZ Herald, Heritage Magazine, Next Magazine and various local and overseas travel and general interest media.

[ENDS]