Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

17 March 2010

Open 7 Days 22. Karamea Hardware 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.

Market Cross, Karamea, West Coast.
Proprietors: Bill and Marg Heath
Langfords Store at Bainham and Karamea Store are at opposite ends of the Heaphy Track: sixty kilometres as the crow flies. Yet they could be world’s apart, separated as they are by the rugged and remote fastnesses of the Tasman Mountains.

The store was built in 1915 across the road from its present site. It was shifted in 1920 and enlarged somewhat, but you can still see the original part if you look carefully, it’s the right-hand side from the front doors to that false gable on the corner above the windbreak netting that protects the plants for sale.

Bill and Marg took over in 1979. They previously lived in Glenavy on the Waitaki River, until Bill happened to see the store advertised in the newspaper his lunch was wrapped in. They felt it wouldn’t be a bad spot in which to bring up their three kids, and they’ve never looked back.

In some ways the store has come a full circle, because it started out as a post office and in 1988 became one again. It used to sell general groceries, and up until late 1989 was still selling meat and bread as well as hardware. That seemed to confuse visitors, but the locals found nothing strange in buying a bag of nails and a kibbled-wheat loaf! These days the stock consists of hardware, clothing, gifts, toys, gardening supplies, haberdashery, veterinary and farming goods, postal services and local crafts; and if there’s something you want that they haven’t got, they’ll get it.

Community notice board.
Karamea enjoys a freak mild climate, which helps lure visitors in large numbers. But on occasions you can join the local dairy farmers and experience the thrills of being cut off from civilization. Power breakdowns are not unheard of, neither are snow falls in the winter, and there’s only one road in and out of Karamea - unless, of course, you fancy walking the Heaphy Track!



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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.