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