Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

18 April 2010

Open 7 Days 27. Nightcaps Dairy

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.

Johnston Road, Nightcaps, Southland.
Proprietors: Karen and Jimmy Forde

Nightcaps is still full of character, but the town’s not what it was. The main street says it all: a line of tired old buildings typified by one, dilapidated and deserted, with a scarcely decipherable sign over rusted iron columns with cast Corinthian capitals, ‘RUSHTONS - BREAD, CAKES FRUIT, SWEETS’.

Another, the old GHB store, is empty, held up temporarily by tanalized poles, all its colour gone. The Bauhaus-style town hall is redolent of a time when hopes were high and prosperity breathed through the community.

It was a coal-mining town, sustained by the Nightcaps Coal Company from 1880 until the mines petered out in the 1920s and yielded to the nearby Ohai mines. Now there’s little of commerce left because there are fewer people and therefore less demand. Enough, though, to support an undistinguished grocery shop and the bright little Nightcaps Dairy, which manages to give off an air of optimism.

Karen and Jimmy Forde have lived in Nightcaps all their lives. Jimmy still works in the mines at Ohai, as do his and Karen’s fathers. The store dates back to about 1925 and had numerous owners until the Fordes took it on in 1989. Now they supply groceries, bread, cakes, milk, fresh meats and takeaways; and are agents for the Southland Times, Taylors Drycleaning, and a three-day photo processing service. Up with the latest, they also have video-tapes for hire.


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By Don Donovan