Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

05 March 2010

Open 7 Days 16. Tokomaru 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.

Main Road, Tokomaru, Palmerston North.
Proprietors: John and Noeline Selby
Tokomaru, sandwiched between the Manawatu River and the western slopes of the Tararua Range, has the air of a town that will live for ever. The Tokomaru Store certainly adds to that. It’s original, having once survived a suspicious fire through the prompt arrival of the town brigade, although it no longer has the dark, tongued-and-grooved interior that older residents often recall. Neither does it need to sell as wide a range of goods as it did when Tokomaru was more isolated.

This thriving rural community benefits from its closeness to Linton Army Camp, Massey University and various engineering and agricultural enterprises. The town attracts visitors to the Tokomaru Steam Museum and the passing traffic on Route 57 - a pleasant link between Levin and Palmerston North.
Noeline and John Selby, who used to have a city plumbing business, moved here in 1988, for a quieter life. Six months later they’d added the now-popular takeaway bar (through the side door under John’s superbly painted rainbow), and life is now busy enough for them to enlist the help of their three young children, Cassie, Adam and Rose.
Tuppy Schwass, who was born in Tokomaru in 1916, sent me an impressive list of past owners whom he remembered from 1925. He went on to say: ‘In the early days you could buy all merchandise - groceries, curtain and dress lengths, towels, clothes, petrol. Now, 1990, lovely fish and chips. One thing I can remember was Harry Smith, known as “Little Harry” delivering groceries by horse and cart to my parents’ place, one mile from the store, when a thunderstorm looked likely. He thought he would wait under a tree, then on second thoughts he took off. Where he had been standing lightning struck the tree and blew a hole in the ground…’



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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.