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