Demolition spurs reminiscences

All that remains .. The old Tuapeka general store undergoing demolition last week, due to safety concerns. PHOTO: NICK BROOK

The old Tuapeka Mouth general store is saying its last goodbyes as the removal of the now obsolete building began last week.

The general store was a long› standing part of daily life for many Tuapeka Mouth residents down the years and retains a fond place in the memories of locals and passers›by alike.

Tuapeka Heritage Hub spokesman Colin Child said the original store was built before 1863, run by a Mr Beath and family.

‘‘Mr Beath was also the postmaster. It had other owners through the years, including a Mrs S. Drain, but is probably best remembered by locals after it was purchased by Les and Thelma France, not long after they arrived with their two daughters to Tuapeka Mouth in 1960.

‘‘They renamed the store ‘France’s Store’, and Les was almost considered to be the town ‘mayor’. The shop was the meeting place for many discussions among the Tuapeka Mouth community as there were no other regularly attended public spaces, apart from the local church and community hall.’’

Les and Thelma established three grocery delivery routes and travelled to Balclutha twice a week to bring back fresh bread and milk for the community.

The store was closed in 1984 but is only being pulled down now due to its state of disrepair.

The building’s current owner did not wish to comment on its demolition.

The Heritage Hub’s online pages record local residents’ fond memories of the store:

‘‘I remember the shop well. Was a meeting place for the locals along with the garage. I remember the Frances and the Burrows owning it. I’m sure in the early ’50s, the door was at the side/corner. Loved going there as a child.’’

‘‘It must have been 1967 as I had saved, by gathering bottles for refund and had 42 pennies which was the price of a Matchbox Dodge 6×4 Stake Truck which became the pride of my toys.’’

‘‘I well remember the France family. Our family lived next door. Mrs France iced my wedding cake in 1965. The store certainly was the hub of the community along with the garage. It was a real meeting place for everyone especially when the mail bus arrived.

‘‘We used to love watching Les stamping the mail before it was placed in everyone’s boxes ready for collecting.

‘‘Also, when the school bus arrived home and our mum wasn’t there, the store would always have a message for us telling us where she was. The good old days.’’