Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

16 May 2010

Open 7 Days 38 (Final). Te Pohue Derelict 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.
The book contained 37 general stores. This is the final page.
Highway 5, Te Pohue, Hawke’s Bay.
Empty, lifeless and encrusted with peeling paint, the Te Pohue Store seems to exemplify the rural decline of the 1980s. When I called at the local hotel to find out something about the store, I was told that the people of Te Pohue drive to Napier for their groceries these days. That’s a distance of nearly fifty kilometres, but short enough to kill off one general store!

I was fortunate to make contact with Peter King, formerly of nearby Rock Station, who told me a little of the shop’s history.

The building has been on its site for about a hundred years. It started life as a billiards saloon but became the store in 1910 when Grant and Howell’s store, opposite, burned down and they moved across the road. Percy Howell married Grant’s sister, Leana, and between them they ran the Te Pohue Store. Their three children, born between 1916 and 1920, worked in the store after leaving the village school.

Peter King tells of an occasion when the mare had a foal while still harnessed in the shafts of the delivery cart when Percy had popped inside the store to have his lunch! Later he did his deliveries to the local farming community and five timber mills in a less capricious ‘International’ truck.

The store was brightly lighted with rock gas in the early days, and in addition to the usual stock, all of which was served from shelves behind the counter, Peter King particularly remembers a speciality – ‘bachelor buttons’ a device made in two parts that could be clipped onto trousers, thus obviating the need for sewing on buttons.

Westal Tucker took over the store in 1948 but, sadly, it closed down in 1967.


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By Don Donovan