Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

28 February 2010

Open 7 Days 14. Mauriceville General 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.

Opaki-Kaipororo Highway, Mauriceville, Wairarapa.
Proprietors: Patrick and Denise Whyte

Mauriceville was founded by Scandinavian settlers in 1873, and only seven years later the general store began life. It’s had a chequered history, having been closed down twice because of hard times and suffering a devastating fire in the 1920s, scorch marks from which can still be seen on the outside of the building. Fortunately somebody rescued the unusual carved wooden window frames, they are built in to the modern shop.

Patrick and Denise took the store on in 1988 after it had been closed for a year. In the time they’ve been there they have put together a collection of old artefacts and memorabilia, which are on display in the store and which they hope to build into a major attraction.

With that in mind, they bought the old Mauriceville railway station with the intention of moving it closer to the store and developing it into a tearooms and museum. But the project is on hold while New Zealand’s economy suffers recession. Sadly, they are not sure whether they can even carry on trading the store, an uncertainty that only serves to emphasize the marginal state of Mauriceville in modern times.

In days past, when smaller farm lots were sustainable, the town flourished and was capable of not only supporting the store but also a dairy factory, large hotel, saddlery, library, churches, a timber mill, two smithies and a freight company. The lime works is still in existence.
Mauriceville General Store has a rare, possibly unique, Masterton Licensing Trust licence to sell all forms of alcohol, including some interesting local wines. I hope the store will be able to continue to supply the town with liquor, groceries, petrol, oil and perishables, and that when better times come it will not be too late for Patrick and Denise Whyte to realize their dream of a museum in the old railway station.

Railway station window



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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:
‘Colourful New Zealand’
‘New Zealand in Colour’
‘Top of the South’
‘Above Auckland’
‘Hauraki Gulf Destinations’
‘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.