Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

09 May 2010

Open 7 Days 36. Albury Store, South Canterbury

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.

Albury, South Canterbury.
Proprietors: Graham and Dorothy Thomas. 

This may be the only store in New Zealand that has a coal range that’s fired up every day, summer and winter. On this fifty-year-old veteran, the Thomases brew up tea and coffee for visitors who come to see what is now principally a museum.

The store is older than its site. It was built in 1882, and in 1908 the whole town turned out to see it dragged to its new home by traction engine. It still sits directly on the ground, with no piles, exactly as they left it! It used to serve the community with ‘everything from a needle to a haystack’, but in later years, with most people travelling to Timaru for their shopping, the inventory has become limited to a postal agency, confectionery, gifts, teas and hot bread.

Graham and Dorothy bought the store in 1988 and, because it has such a rich history, decided to turn it and the adjacent 1862 smithy into a museum. They now spend much of their time restoring and organizing an enormous collection of artefacts, a labour of love that might never be finished.

Inside the store There’s a ‘Bull Dog Ale’ box that dates from 1848. It used to stand outside and when the locals weren’t sitting on it for a chat, the storekeeper put groceries in it for customers to collect after hours. That was in the days when, according to Graham’s records, a ton of flour cost (in today’s money) $34.50, a pair of boots $1.75, a dozen eggs 10 cents and One Fat Cow $16.50!
Albury lies in the beautiful valley of the Tengawai River, between Cave and Fairlie. It marks the approach to the pass named after James McKenzie, the so-called sheep stealer, a resourceful and ill-used man who was arrested and then escaped here in 1855.



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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.