Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

05 May 2010

Open 7 Days 34. Rolston’s General Store, Oturehua

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, Oturehua, Central Otago.
Proprietors: Grant and Mary Rolston

The first store in Oturehua (then called Rough Ridge) was built in 1899 by James Caldwell, but within three years Thomas Gilchrist had bought him out and the business remained in the Gilchrist family for the next eighty-seven years.

Very close to the site of the original store, the present building was put up in 1929, with a bakery at the back run by Alex Robertson, who married into the Gilchrist family.

It was gold that lured Thomas Gilchrist from Victoria and also sustained the early settlement, although farming became the eventual heart of the economy. Horse-and-cart deliveries were made to St. Bathans and Moa Creek, orders being taken one week and delivered the next, and the offering included everything from timber, petrol (in cases), tyres, fencing materials and stock foods to crockery, tools and clothing.

In 1989, when only Herb and Bruce Gilchrist remained (Herb having been there forty-seven years and Bruce thirty-six), the Rolstons moved in from Norsewood. The shop remains little changed and still sells a wide range of goods. It has the local postal agency and runs the rural delivery of mail, papers and groceries, often through heavy snow.

The community is nowadays composed of transport workers and farmers, supplemented by visitors who summer at their cribs , enjoy winter sports at the Ida Burn Dam or appear in their thousands at the motorcyclists’ Brass Monkey Rally every Queen’s Birthday weekend.
The nearby Hayes Engineering Works is a monument to New Zealand’s capacity for inventiveness.


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By Don Donovan