Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

10 February 2010

Open 7 Days 3. Parakao 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.


Corner of Mangakahia and Hunter Roads, Parakao, Northland.
Proprietors: Charlie and Myra Moates
The cluster of neat buildings that comprises Parakao lies in rolling hill country north of the main road connecting Dargaville to Whangarei. The store services a large dairy, sheep and forestry area, and ‘dabbles in just about everything that can be used in the house or on the farm’.

Hours are flexible most days 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. ‘or thereabouts depending on what’s on’. Judging from the Moates’s warm welcome, they’d always put their customers first when deciding whether or not to close the front door.

Harry Muir built the original part of the store back in 1930 but soon sold it to Burns Philp, who installed a manager, Happy Smith, until it was taken over in 1941 by Colin ‘Doc’ Campbell and his wife, Amy (who later became deputy mayor of Kaikohe). Three more owners, the Nelleys, Attwoods and Parkers, followed before Charlie and Myra Moates bought the store on New Year’s Day 1973.

Myra was born in Invercargill. Her career as a state registered nurse has taken her all over New Zealand, and also into service in the army and navy. Charlie was born in Devonport, worked for a stock and station agency and was also in the New Zealand Army, in Malaya. They have two children, Callum and Donalda, whose names reflect a touch of Scots ancestry.
I asked Myra if she had any interesting stories to tell about local identities. It seems there are plenty, but she refused to divulge any secrets - she says she wouldn’t want to embarrass anybody; there’s loyalty for you!



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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.