longwhitekid

Archive for the ‘Woolworth’s supermarkets’ Category

The Shelf Life of Reilly

In All Blacks, Aulsebrook's, Aulsebrook's confectionery, Bank's Box Company, C.M.C., cache, Christchurch Meat Company, CMC sheeps tongues, collecting, Convent of Sacré Coeur Catholic boarding school, Disprin, Erskine College Wellington, Farmer's Trading Co., Fresh-Up Mini drink, Garrattco, General Foods Corporation (NZ) Ltd, Grocery Archaeology, Heards confectionery, Henderson Sweets, hoard, ICI, Island Bay, Jaffas, James Smith Limited department stores, James Stedman, Kaiapoi Petunia Group Textiles Ltd, Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Company, L. Reilly, LD Nathan Wholesale Ltd, Leonard Heard, Lifesavers, Lynn Mall, Mackintosh Caley Phoenix, Mackintosh's, Mackintosh's confectionery, Mackintosh's Toffee De Luxe, N.Z. Apple & Pear Marketing Board, New Zealand Railways, New Zealand Refrigerating Company, Newmans coaches, Nugget, NZ Rail, Peter Frederick Hilton Jones, Rabo, Reckitt & Colman (NZ) Ltd, Reckitt and Colman, Reckitt Colman Nugget, Sacred Heart College Island Bay, Sacred Heart College Thorndon, Sun Maid raisins, Sun-Maid Growers of California, Sweetacres, Terylene, Thorndon, Tip-Top, Transport (Nelson) Ltd, Trumpet, Wattie's, Wellington, Woolworth's Food Fair, Woolworth's supermarkets on June 16, 2013 at 10.46

1 Erskine College Stash Wellington - edit

A row of labelled cans retrieved from the hole, mostly 1960s vintage. Raro wasn’t launched until sometime in 1961, and the can looked like this from the beginning.  I have previously recreated this Wattie’s fruit salad label here, which
was definitely in stores in 1964, and Wattie’s cans were selling for 2/3 in that year. Imperial pricing pencilled on both items indicates prior to mid 1967, so  I’d date them (widely) between 1962-1967.

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Recently, a reader of this blog contacted me to ask whether I would help them date a cache of items that were found in an old school building complex. They had been discovered when vandals on the property had removed some of the floorboards in one of the old dormitories, presumably looking for copper pipes to take. Whilst attempting to secure the aperture, before there was some kind of accident, they noticed a couple of things in the recesses of the dim hole. Upon further investigation was a selection of items that had been discarded over the years by a former student, or plural.
Found repositories and the story they tell are one of my favourite things, like this lot, found inside a long forgotten American house cistern.
These types of accumulations are obviously very different from collecting in which the acquirer may be particularly discriminate about categories; or hoarding – where there is complete indiscrimination in regards to a singular, or often multiple genres. A good example of this is children’s scrap books and things that they select to keep and then edit, gluing in items that may appear to be random, but in fact are not at all – it is done with complete deliberation and within that selection of items is data that tells a tale of the time.

2 Erskine College  (Sacred Heart)  by Tom Law  TELPortfolio on Flickr

Erskine College, courtesy of and © Tom Law, TELPortfolio on Flickr.

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Discards on the other hand while equally as fascinating, have many different factors come into play that affect the agglomeration. Foremost, apart from the initial partiality involved in acquisition, what survives from that juncture is completely random – as opposed to any further intention being involved. There’s a lot of chance with what endures the circumstances and the environment – so many aspects become involved from thereon of what you will end up with. But essentially even though the items found may be just a fragment of a bigger picture, it can give you an awful lot of information about the lives of the people who discarded the items – you could write an entire thesis analysing the selection of items and the narrative it supplies.

3 Erskine College  (Sacred Heart) Adrian Pratt Life In The Land of the Long White Cloud blog

Erskine College, courtesy of and © Adrian Pratt, Life In The Land of the Long White Cloud blog.

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Wellington’s Erskine College, at the corner of Avon Street and Melbourne Road, Island Bay, Wellington was formerly known as Sacred Heart College, or in long form – the Convent of Sacré Coeur Catholic boarding school for women – until well into the 1960s when the name was changed to avoid confusion with Sacred Heart College in Thorndon. It is a collection of Category I historic buildings – as bestowed by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust – including former dormitories, and the Chapel of the Sacred Heart (considered one of the country’s best examples of Gothic architecture). Built during 1905-1906 by the Society of the Sacred Heart (Sacré Coeur), and designed by John Swan, it was not only convent and school but surrounded by a farm, gardens and a grotto.
Some of Peter Jackson’s film, The Frighteners (1996) was filmed at Erskine, especially the flashbacks, the exterior mansion shots and the chapel scenes. The flashbacks occurred on the third and fourth floors in the hallway outside the room where these items were rescued from. It also seems during the Nineties and Noughties that some of the buildings were used for art studios as well as exhibitions (Learning Connexion art school). It has also been, in the past, a very popular venue for weddings and other functions.

4 Erskine College  (Sacred Heart) Sacred Heart Convent School, Island Bay, ca 1900 Reference Number 11-002748-G Turnbull manuscript and pictorial

Sacred Heart Convent School, Island Bay, circa 1900. Courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull manuscript and pictorial collection, ref 1/1-002748-G.

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Not only is it considered a sort of teenage rite of passage to visit the abandoned buildings, but stories also abound in regards to the property being haunted which only encourages break-ins and vandalism. The current residents who say that since they have moved in to one of the accommodation wings on Erskine‘s grounds – there have been “no signs of ghosts yet” do attest to having to be vigilant and have kicked live trespassers out several times in the past. Those thinking about “exploring” inside should take into consideration that not only are some of the buildings dangerous given they are abandoned and deteriorating rapidly, but also closed off because they are earthquake prone. Options are the owners doing very costly stabilising work, or alternately demolition, discussed in an article here.

It’s a shame about all the politics surrounding the property. Quite frankly it sounds like the owner that bought it a decade ago or more, typical of developers, knew what he was in for but went in with plans to eventually try to overturn the heritage protection in any way he could, just letting it run down, tying everyone up with red tape, and then blaming everyone else for exactly the same thing. The on-going battle of wills is discussed in article here.

I predict eventually he will probably get a healthy leg up from local government for restoration as well as permission to remove all the non-heritage listed structures and build it in with apartments. I am sure he has plans to make his money out of it. In the meantime all the agitation in the community will probably only serve him to achieving his end goal I imagine. It’s one of those situations where, as they say – damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

5 Erskine College and grounds in Island Bay Wellington courtesy Wekllington Scoop with Lindsay Shelton copy

Erskine College and grounds, © Lindsay Shelton and courtesy of Wellington Scoop.

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However, contrary to posting around the web saying there’s no electricity on the premises and nothing to restrict would-be adventurers, it is par-residential, there is a security system which is in place and working, as well as odd patrols after a break-in incident in which “youths tore up yards of flooring” according to someone who reported the incident on the College’s Facebook page. That’s obviously how the assemblage I feature here came to be inadvertently revealed – found in the main college building, one of two “red-stickered” areas on the property.

Erskine College  (Sacred Heart)    Wellington by Queenstitch blog edit replace Spiro Harvey pic copy sml

Erskine College in 2013, courtesy of and © Louise Sutherland at The Queen Stitch blog

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It is unknown whether all of the items were placed there deliberately (given that the floor board seems to have been easily removable, this is very likely), or some of the smaller bits and pieces just fell through the cracks into a cavity between the fourth floor and the third floor ceiling. It may be a bit of both. There may have been just one occupant to the room for a length of time who made a habit of doing that (unlikely that anyone else knew about the loose floorboard). Some immediate things that struck me – mostly the items were sweet things, such as snacks. Perhaps contraband, and disposed of where it would not be found. The schools may have been strict about eating anything in dorms – as well as junk food and non-school foods found in rooms. Along with the Disprins, You get the idea that these items may have been cravings that accompanied “that time of the month” perhaps. Sheep’s tongues may now seem a strange thing to have druthers for on the sly but no accounting for taste (not often seen on the lunch or tea table these days, they were extremely common in decades past; still popular even when I was a child). This tells me the person was missing domestic life and home cooking probably, and this was a little bit of “comfort”, or perhaps they were part of a care package from home. Of course a big question is – why they would put all those things under there when it was easier to put it in a bin? It does point to not wanting anyone to know about it, or for it to be found. It could be just as simple as laziness, or good old (Catholic) guilt. Or both.
It’s fun for me to try and narrow the cache down without any idea of dates or significant clues, but of course the biggest lead is a potential name . The serial litterer seems to be a fourth form boarder named L. Reilly. If we could track the person in question down, there may be some more information on the details of their life at Erskine and the motivation behind dropping this stuff into a gap under the floor. On the other hand, she may not like the idea that some things have been dredged up unexpectedly such as an English test she likely cheated on (otherwise why not just put it in the bin instead of stuffing it in a can and hiding it), or the nicked spoon that accompanied the empty tins, (which bears the college’s initials SH for Sacred Heart). Personally, I know I would feel a bit weird about people going through my old trash.

However, there’s a possibility that our culprit is included in one of the Sacré Coeur reunion photos in this archive here,  Which feature classes from 1930s onwards.

7 Erskine College Island Bay Wellington 1937 - 1938  Reference Number  12-046458-G Turnbull manuscript and pictorial

Erskine College, circa 1937-1938. Courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull manuscript and pictorial collection, ref 1/2-046458-G.

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All of the items were well-documented in detail which means quite a number of images. Ergo with the author’s permission I’ve selected and edited the most interesting and curious things for this article – either they have a good story behind them or they are the sort of thing that rarely survives the dustbin or dumpster so that in its self makes them worthy of being featured (how many used ice cream wrappers survive for example? Very few that I have seen).
The salvager is intending to use a section of the floorboard in question that had been pried up as the base for a small cabinet to protect and display the items as a fascinating microcosm of student life in days gone by.

8 Erskine College hole with can and spoon raisin packet

A shot of the hole with some of the items beginning to be retrieved – a can, a spoon and a Sun Maid raisin packet.

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So, what’s my prognosis as far as a time period on this haul? Initially I had dated it between 1965-1968.
Now I’ve gotten a good look at the Sun Maid packet below, this definitely dates between 1969-1976 – but probability is on 1971-1972. Since the Disprin bottle indicates things are as old as 1961, It’s looking likely there were multiple discarders over a successive period of up to ten years, but most of it was just one person with perhaps later items like the raisins and the NZ Rail ticket just slipping through gaps in the boards by chance. If I re-narrowed the dates to the least possible, it would still be 1967-1972.

Oh, and – L. Reilly…where are art thou, you naughty minx? No worry about getting detention now – so come out, wherever you are.

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Credits: all photos © Kylie Walker unless otherwise specified.

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9 Erskine College S H (Sacred Heart) spoon found in hole

Study of the spoon found with cans, S H (Sacred Heart) indicates it dates from before 1960 when the name of the institution changed to Erskine.

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10  Erskine College Stash Wellington - Form IV April literature test - hole copy edit  copy

On the left a page from a fourth form literature test. We suspect it may have been pinched in order to cheat, otherwise it would have been thrown in a regular bin and not hidden. The test questions, a Newman’s Coach ticket and the picture of P.F. Jones were all tucked away in a tin with removable lid. On the right, another shot of the hole in the floor.

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11 L Reilly Garment Tags copy

James Smith was a Wellington institution established in 1866 and ran until 1993 when Farmers’ purchased it from L.D. Nathan and shut it down. The five-story flagship department store was on the corner of Cuba and Manners Street. By the 1980s they had five branches around the Wellington area. By at least 1972 they were definitely known to have a devoted girls school uniform department so I would say that this dates from before that decade. I was unable to find any information on Garrattco or Rabo, indicating it was likely a company established post 1945 – the 1950s onwards. I think this came from a new uniform garment that was ordered and then fitted  in-store, and was brought with the person at the beginning of a term. Hence no price on the tag,and the measurements, as well as customer’s name scribbled on. I’m guessing early 1960s.

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12 Erskine College Stash Wellington -    L Reilly (dorm room) 35

Possibly a card with the dorm room number, as well as the name of the occupant. We do know that Reilly was in situ in the late 1950s-early 1960s, and likely around the age of 13-14 years old. ergo, born in the early 1950s.

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13 Erskine College Stash Wellington -  sweetacres jaffas box

This Jaffa Box is likely from the early-mid 1960s. I think they were running this design for a while so it could have been around up to the late 60s. Imperial weight only shows  it was definitely produced before 1972 . It was exactly the same in Australia. One clue here is the printer’s mark B.B. which likely stands for Bank’s Box (Company), who were around from at least the 1920s-1930s. They had factories in Auckland, and Wellington.

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14 Erskine College Stash Wellington - Wattie's sliced peaches early-mid 1960s cans and labels

This was in stores early-mid 1960s. Imperial indicates pre 1967. Wattie’s tended not to change some labels very often and would frequently run designs for over ten years or more. I have one almost identical except they have revised the picture of the peaches in the blue bowl, here.

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16 Erskine College Stash Wellington -  New Zealand Refrigerating Company sheep tongues CMC tin  copy

New Zealand Refrigerating Company ( also known as CMC or Christchurch Meat Company), was one of those products where they never really changed the label for decades. It pretty much looked the same from its inception back in the 1900s. As I recall CMC shut down around 1984. Given the cache are together, they probably date from the 1950s-1960s.

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17 Erskine College Stash Wellington -  PF Jones picture copy

Peter Frederick Hilton Jones played for the All Blacks in 37 matches including against the Springboks in Johannesburg in 1960 and notably scored a try in the 4th test of the 1956 South Africa tour of New Zealand. I wondered what significance the picture torn from a sporting article in a magazine has? It seems such a random choice that it’s in likelihood not random at all. There’s a few options: schoolgirl crush perhaps, or it had some kind of personal significance, or was used for some kind of drawing project. There are considerations in why someone would remove a picture to keep it, and then crumple it up throw it away stuffed in a tin where nobody would find it. Along with the test paper and the picture of P.F. Jones, the discarder obviously did not want anyone to find the items in a communal bin. I wonder if the sisters used to go through the rubbish looking for anything incriminating? I imagine it was very strict and even if not breaking a rule, it would be embarrassing to be questioned.

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18 Erskine College Stash Wellington - Musk Lifesavers  wrrapper likely 1960s

Lifesavers were actually around in New Zealand from the early 1920s. Again this was one of those products where they never really changed the label much except for minor adjustments. In later years  Parnell-based Heards confectionery, established 1914 by Leonard Heard, had the domestic license for this brand. It could date from any time between mid 1950s-mid 1970s probably, but I would guess the mid 1960s.

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19 Erskine College Stash Wellington - Kaiapoi School Wear hangtag edit

Kaiapoi Woollen Manufacturing Company was the first woollen manufacturer in Canterbury, established in 1878 , and closed in 1978 – so this item definitely dates before that time. In 1963, the company became Kaiapoi Petunia Group Textiles Ltd but there’s no indication of the company name here to help narrow things down. Again I’d guess 1960s for this school garment label.

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20 Erskine College Stash Wellington - Tip-Top Trumpet wrapper post 1964

Tip-Top Trumpet wrapper. These were launched in 1964, so this item is after that date.

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21 Giant Trumpet on a roundabout in Panmure, year unknown - ppost early 1964 although late 1950s models visible

Giant Trumpet on a roundabout in Panmure, Auckland, year unknown. Obviously post-early 1964 although late 1950s car models are visible. The design is the same as the wrapper above. Provenance of photo unknown, probably from the Fonterra Archives.

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22 Erskine College Stash Wellington - Tip-Top Trumpet wrapper post 1964 edit copy

Close-ups of the Tip-Top Trumpet wrapper. It is kind of amazing this has even survived. Given they were almost without exception tossed in the bin – or if kept easily damaged or deteriorated from contact with food, any frozen confection wrappers are extremely rare.

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23 Erskine College Stash Wellington - Aulsebrook's Chocolate Eclairs likely 1960s

I’ve never heard of this product but I would guess 1950s-1960s, more the latter. Aulsebrook’s commenced to manufacture confectionery sometime in the 1890s and were probably the biggest brand in New Zealand next to Cadbury Hudson. Wrapped candies in bags or packets seem to have popularised from the late 1950s-early 1960s. Singular indicates that it may have just slipped through the floorboards but unlikely. It is likely they were part of a Woolies pick ‘n’ mix, purchased in the bags below. There may have been other different wrappers but they have either disintegrated, been eaten by insects, or carried away by rodents to a nest.

Update early 2015: One of my readers has now claimed they remember these being made in the 1970s.

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24 Erskine College Stash Wellington - Woolworths cellophane bags likely for pick and mix candy  copy

So, these are the bags for some of the random lolly wrappers like Aulsebrook’s above. I’m theorising that because the bag is printed with “fresh” indicates it was made specifically for marketing food, the striped peppermint canes of the font pretty clearly indicates candy. Woolies didn’t really start having separate food markets until late 1963 onwards. this logo was definitely in use at that time. Before that Food Fair was always a department. I would take a stab at mid-late1960s for these items.

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25 Woolworths Variety Store  Lynnmall New Lynn night before official opening 1963 Confectionery section with Refreshment Bar near front of store

Woolworths Variety Store, Lynnmall , late 1963. This photo shows the confectionery section with Refreshment Bar near front of store. Woolies would have open glass pick and mix bins, you can see them to the left. I remember as a very young child going to (this particular) store and occasionally being allowed to get a selection. Photo courtesy of and © Lance Bates, Degilbo on Flickr.

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26 Erskine College Stash Wellington - Macintosh's Barley Sugar wrapper likely 1960s 2

I’m not familiar with this particular product, but obviously I remember the Mackintosh’s brand very well – particularly their bagged Toffee De Luxe which was extremely popular in the 1970s-1980s. I would guess 1950s-1960s for this, more the latter. These kind of snap-apart bars were popular in the late 1950s-early 1960s from ads I have seen.

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27 Erskine College Stash  mackintosh barley sugar bar inner and outer wrappers copy

Inner and outer wrappers of above , showing the embossing on the foil. You never get to see things like this outside of a scrapbook, and even then people tended not to keep foil – it was usually easily damaged in the unwrapping and not that interesting anyway in comparison to the outer.

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28 Erskine College Fresh-Up Mini  copy

Mini Drink, which was pretty much Fresh-Up in a different can –  was apparently launched by the N.Z. Apple & Pear Marketing Board in 1967, according to company literature (I don’t know if I believe this date entirely). If I had guessed without knowing anything about a date I would have guessed 1966-1970.

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29 Erskine College Stash Wellington - Sweetacres Minties and paper bag New Zealand likely 1960s 1

A dozen or so Sweetacres Minties wrappers were stuffed in a grease-proof paper bag. I do wonder why it was not in a proper Minties bag or container. I guess they were bought locally from a dairy or corner grocery and were from a bulk counter tin. Minties were present in NZ from the 1930s; Sweetacres was an Australian Brand made by Henderson Sweets/James Stedman. This was one of those products where they never really changed the label (and still haven’t much). I’m a little confused about the history of Sweetacres in Aotearoa but I believe that Griffin’s had the rights for the brand until 1984 when Pascall purchased it. So it’s one of those things that you can’t really narrow down unfortunately. I would guess 1960s.

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30 Erskine College Stash Wellington - NZ Railways ticket folder and stub and Newmans coach ticket copy

Newmans has run coaches since the 1870s but it was in the mid-late 1920s that a fleet of motor vehicles was established. It remained a family-owned business through to 1972 when it merged with Transport (Nelson) Ltd, so it’s likely this ticket on the right dates before that time. As for the New Zealand Railways cover and stub on the left – I get a late 1970s-early 1980s vibe from these graphics, giving credence to possible multiple discarders. It could not  be any later than the end of 1985 as the school shut at that time. This was the kind of ticket that was for long train journeys cross-country so obviously was from a pupil that travelled quite some distance to board at Erskine.

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31  Erskine College  (Sacred Heart) STerylene Tag copy

This label from a garment indicates it was printed in Britain and I can’t see any reason that would be done unless the whole garment was made there and imported. ICI didn’t start commercial manufacture of Terylene in England until after 1955. I am sure this fabric revolution made its way down under pretty quickly, but it still would have taken some time. I am guessing early 1960s for this item.

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32 Erskine College Stash Wellington - Sunmaid Raisin box imperial to metric changeover 1969-1976

Sun Maid raisins, imported from the Sun-Maid Growers of California in the U.S., were present in New Zealand from the 1920s and the imagery and packaging barely changed well into the 1980s. It’s probably still the same now. It would be really hard to date this item if it wasn’t for the presence of dual systems indicating the weight. Metric began to be introduced in 1969, and the bulk of the changeover was undertaken over 1971-1972. However up until as late as 1976 both were included on some products for those that were pretty slow on the uptake. However what should be taken into consideration is when both metric/imperial was included in duality on American packaging for export, even though they never switched over themselves. As far as I am aware an Act to include both on domestic products was only introduced federally in 1992. However this practice for exported goods may have commenced earlier than New Zealand introduced the metric system, to cover a multitude of different countries and accommodate their various systems.

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33 Erskine College Stash Wellington -  Disprin bottle  copy

Reckitt & Colman (NZ) Ltd changed to Reckitt, Colman, Nugget in the very early 1960s – definitely by May 1961 – so this bottle likely dates before this – perhaps stretching out the date of the stash taking into consideration that it may have been old stock, or were sitting around for a couple of years until finished and discarded. There’s a possibility that the company just didn’t bother updating the company name or had piles of packaging stock to use up that lasted some time. I’d like to think that we have a single discarder, but this indicates not – and that other boarders knew about the hidey-hole.

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All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2013. All rights reserved.

Product Puzzle: UNA and the Grocers United Stores

In Associated Wholesalers Ltd (AWL), Baking Powder, Chapman Bros, Countdown supermarkets, Dollarwise supermarkets, Family Fare convenience stores, Foodmaster convenience stores, G.U.S. Stores, G.U.S. Wholessaling, Grocer's United Stores, IGA Stores, Independent Grocers Alliance NZ Ltd, J. B. Rattray, Jellishus Jelly Crystals, Magnum Corporation, Pricecutter supermarkets, Progressive Enterprises, Rattray & Sons Ltd teas, Rothman Industries (NZ), Super 7 supermarkets, Super Value Supermarket Group, Super Value supermarkets, Target Stores, UNA brand, Uncategorized, Woolworth's supermarkets, Woolworths on August 30, 2012 at 10.46

With a little help from fellow foodstuffs freak Mike Davidson, who recently uncovered a rare cookbook brochure and asked me what I knew about it, I have been able to find out a bit more about the South Island enterprise “G U.S.” , the Grocer’s United Stores – which were quite a large chain of stores in New Zealand in the late 1920s to the 1950s (that I am aware of) – and subsequently link it to my story recently on IGA, which almost asked more questions than it gave answers:

https://longwhitekid.wordpress.com/2012/06/10/the-shopping-cart-cartel-iga-stores/

Top: recreation of a UNA brand baking powder label from a photo of an old can, above. The tin likely dates from the late 1930s- early 1940s.
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The only item that I had ever seen thus far at auction was a baking powder tin for the “UNA” label, which cropped up last year in a lot of old household tins, and was G.U.S. Wholesaling’s self brand. I have recreated it here.

Grocers United Stores recipe book, image courtesy of Mike Davidson collection.
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I have records in my database that in the 1930s – jelly crystals, tea, coffee, canned fruits, vinegar ,cocoa, cornflour and fly bands (which I think are some kind of fishing weights), medicines (non-specific, and possibly referring to a line including) cod liver oil, were being produced under the UNA label.

Intelligent and painstaking: Ellesmere Guardian, July 1940.
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By the early 1940s the UNA range also comprised of custard powder, baking powder, cooking oil, jam including home-made orange marmalade, lemon marmalade and lemon honey, olive oil, chocolate cake filling, coffee essence, soap, fly reels, salt, honey, floor polish, canned peas, “Six-In-One” skin lotion, tomato sauce, lino polish, Spanish cream, instant chocolate custard, and an exotic sounding instant dessert named “Sno Foam”. Cornflour , jelly crystals, honey, and biscuits of several varieties, were simultaneously marketed under the G U.S. brand in the 1940s. “Jellishus” was another brand of jelly crystals produced by the company at that time.

IGA truck being loaded and secured for delivery, showing G.U.S. Wholesaling details on it. Probably early 1960s. Christchurch City Library collection, ref HW10-Ho-137
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G.U.S. was launched in 1928 as a co-op (given that every store remained privately owned and the proprietor intensely vetted before being signed up) by E.F. and S. J. Chapman; and very quickly they had built up 15 stores. By 1948 that had multiplied to a very impressive 167 stores. Still, way behind the Self Help chain and – especially Four Square, which I covered in this article here

https://longwhitekid.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/power-outlet-the-force-of-four-square-and-foodstuffs-nz-ltd/

It is true they had been left in the dust by both of those other co-ops come the late 1940s, yet somehow G.U.S. was very able to compete and build their organisation against those two industry giants over the decades – in particular Foodstuffs (Christchurch) Ltd which was successful enough during this period to finally bite the bullet and open a massive Southland warehouse in 1956. So although G.U.S. Stores are truly forgotten now, it’s quite likely that they were in actual fact the third largest chain of grocery co-op stores in New Zealand in the first two thirds of the twentieth century.

G.U.S. store on corner of Welles and Manchester streets, Christchurch city. This looks like it was taken in the 1930s, and the supermarket remained until the 1960s when it moved to Chappie Place, Hornby. Christchurch City Library collection, ref HW10-Ho-135
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To bolster their success in the 1930s, the Chapman brothers also launched a chain of stores named “Target” (no relation to the international department store chain of today), again a co-op made up of individual private owners, with the slogan “where the housewife scores!” Although not grocery orientated per se, this was dependant on the nature of the individual business – but they were more akin to the modus operandi of Woolworths, MacDuffs and McKenzies during that period – with a focus on household items as well as decorative gewgaws. Again had their own self line including butter. I had seen a picture in one of Richard Wolfe’s books and always wondered about this mysterious chain over the years; now I have stumbled over the link via the UNA tea advert I have posted here, I know.

1934 Grocers United company Picnic, Amberley Park. The use of the IGA letterhead indicates that the Hawkins shops were once upon a time G.U.S. stores. Christchurch City Library collection, ref HW10-Ho-134
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Somehow I missed a bunch of material whilst researching my IGA story a short while back which would have told me, as it turns out, that IGA (Independent Grocers Alliance NZ Ltd) was launched in New Zealand under the umbrella of G.U.S. Wholesaling, so I imagine that although there were probably a lot of new shops created, most of the stores that were part of Grocers United Stores may also have been re-branded to IGA.

The trend of the day may have been IGA, but this delivery truck still has G.U.S. details on the cab; probably late 1950s. Christchurch City Library collection, ref HW10-Ho-136
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Eventually, as the decades passed, all the stores under the G.U.S. banner were split across a few chain brands: SuperValue (around as far back as the late 1960s that I know of), Dollarwise, Pricecutter, IGA and Super 7  convenience stores (all still have branches open as far as I can see), while G.U.S. Wholesaling became known as the “Super Value Supermarket Group“.

This map shows locations of Grocers United Stores in 1948. image courtesy of Mike Davidson collection.
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The J.B. Rattray Group , who got their start in teas – particularly three very successful brands: Tiger (1890s-1980s), Gold Leaf (1890s-1930s), and Edglets (post 1940s), and established the very successful Countdown supernmarkets in 1981 – purchased the Super Value group in 1991.

Some of the UNA brand line, advertised in the Ellesmere Guardian, September 1943.
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In Alistair Pringle’s “New Worlds and Fresh Choices?” he writes : “Through its subsidiary J.B. Rattray, Magnum (Enterprises) first purchased the former Woolworths-owned, Auckland-based Associated Wholesalers Ltd (AWL)…(acquiring) seven North Island warehouses and 130 independently owned Foodmaster and Family Fare convenience stores”. This apparently occurred in 1992. Since the Super Value Supermarket Group merged with Woolworths in 1979, according to another source, presumably this was included in the deal along with the five brands I mentioned above.

A Chapman Bros’s Target Store, probably snapped in the mid 1930s. Image courtesy of Richard Wolfe and Stephen Barnett’s book “New Zealand: In Praise of Kiwiana”, 1989.
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Magnum Corporation were the owners of  Rothman Industries (NZ) at the time and acquired Rattray in the mid 1980s as a subsidiary part of Rothman. They went on to gobble up Progressive Enterprises also (which included Foodtown, Three Guys, and Georgie Pie).

Advert for Target Stores from the Ellesmere Guardian, March 1934.
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Yeah, and then there were some more mergers, acquisitions and takeovers which I could go on about, but I am going to call it a day. It’s so convoluted it’s like a set of Babushka Dolls with enterprises that fit one inside the other, inside another one – until it becomes completely confusing to the layman.

Advert for UNA brand tea for the Ellesmere Guardian, November 1933, shows reference to both G.U.S. “United” stores as well as “Target”.
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My conjecture is that – while the actual company retained the G.U.S. name, the brand had disappeared by the late 1950s, subsumed by the glitzier American offering of IGA. which in the post-war years held fresh appeal for consumers obsessed with Yankee-style convenience – over fusty personal service all wrapped up in a plain brown paper wrapper, and trussed up in string.

Power Outlet: The Force of Four Square and Foodstuffs NZ Ltd

In "K" Brand, 4 Triangle, AG Stores, Arrow Butter, Auckland Master Grocers' Association, Baker's Review, Budget brand, Central Provision Stores, Checkout Four Square board game, Cheeky Charlie, Ches and Dale, CPS Stores, Dick Frizzell, Dormer-Beck, Farmer's, Farmer's Co-op, Farmer's Trading Co., Fletcher's Stores, Food Fair, Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd, Four Square, Four Square Stores (Australia) Pty Ltd, Four Square Supermarkets, Four Triangle, Green and Colebrook stores, Grocers' Review, Icon Products, John Heaton Barker, Kirkpatrick, Laidlaw Leeds mail order company, Ltd, McKenzies stores, Mr. Four Square, National Cash Register Co, New World Supermarkets, New Zealand Grocer's and Baker's Review, New Zealand Grocergram, New Zealand Master Baker's associatio, NZ Master Grocer's Association, NZ Master Grocer's Federation, Pak 'N' Save supermarkets, Pam's Products, Rawakelle tea, S Kirkpatrick and Co Ltd, Self Help Stores, Sir Harry Heaton Barker, Te Aroha Dairy Company, The Farmers Union Trading Company, Triangle brand, Uncategorized, United Buyers, Wattie's, Weston-Frizzell, Woolworth's Food Fair, Woolworth's stores, Woolworth's supermarkets on August 7, 2012 at 10.46

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A recreation I’ve made of a rare Australian contest poster of the 1950s.

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The Four Square brand originally emerged from a grocers’ co-op, which was established based on the concern that competition from grocery chain stores in the New Zealand market place was making business very difficult for small, independent store operators. How much truth there is to this claim is dubious since at that period of time in the early 1920s, the only specific food chain that comes to mind that would have provided any serious competition was Self Help, also a co-operative, which I covered previously in a fairly brief and superficial article of May this year here.

J. T. Hammond’s Mangatoki Four Square with sign writing done by Jack Wood, probably 1930s. Courtesy of the Puke Ariki collection.

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Between just 1922 and 1923, during the initial formation by the Auckland Master Grocers’ Association of what was soon to become Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd, Self Help had gone from just one store to a string of seven which must have been a frightening concept for anyone in the field looking to the near future and their prospects within.

Logos through the decades, clockwise from left: mid-late 1920s, 1932, late 1950s-early 1960s, mid 1930s-early 1940s, unknown – probably late 1940s , and 1980. From the mid 1950s the logo has remained almost the same in colour and design. a

Although a small company named Fletcher’s can probably lay claim to being the very first “self-service” style enterprise in the history of New Zealand, it had probably fizzled out by the early twenties. However in 1919 Laidlaw Leeds, a very successful mail order company had acquired the Green and Colebrook chain to become Farmer’s Co-op and they opened their twenty-ninth store in 1921. Although a general department store, Farmer’s were marketing at least flour, tea and spices that I am aware of, but hardly specific competition, however – that may have been all it took.

Colouring book produced as a competition promotion in 1954. a

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Since at the time the Self Help concept was a huge revelation in grocery shopping and pricing I can only conject that Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd was formed in direct response to Self Help’s extremely sudden success within that narrow timeframe – having pushed the situation to the edge. This allegedly pertinent issue was raised by a man named John Heaton Barker – to Auckland’s main grocers’ association, in early July of 1922. The co-op became official when it formed a company – which was registered on 1st of April, 1925. It’s first contract was with Te Aroha Dairy Company to carry their “Arrow” brand butter. Co-operatives were also formed in Wellington (named United Buyers, the same year, 1922, which became the “4 Triangle” chain) and in Christchurch (1928, which was named the “AG Stores”) . By 1935 all these co-ops had already come under the Four Square brand but were now officially renamed branches of Foodstuffs Ltd.

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Advertisement showing the white pepper and cornflour from their self line, Evening Post, March 1934 a

Seemingly well documented, the Foodstuffs legend goes that on the 4th of July 1924, two years into the co-op being formed, Barker, in position of company secretary at this time – was doodling on a pad during a telephone conversation with his colleagues and drew a square around the date. He presented this concept with the buoying manifesto that the group would stand ‘four square to all the winds that blew”.

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Above: Four Square white pepper tin from my own collection. This design was in use during 1934-1935. Below, I’ve recreated the label.

It wasn’t long before the first logos for the brand were bumped into all the stores in the form of hand-painted glass signs, with products appearing under the moniker by the end of that year. A primitive version of the formal logos we know today were going up on stores by 1929, with 4 Triangle, and AG Stores becoming part of Four Square not long after in December 1933 – as well as another co-op which had been formed in Southland (but much later down the track, in 1948) . The distinctive colours, however, were not adopted until 1931 when on a field trip to view a particular store belonging to a Mr. McInnes, the initial tangerine and yellow scheme (with green added to it in the form of the logo) was requisitioned.

Promotional puzzle showing many of Four Square’s line of products circa late 1940s. Image courtesy of the Alexander Turnbull Manuscripts and Pictorial collection. a

By the time the early thirties co-op merger had taken place (of which the date both Fairfax’s Business Hall of Fame profile as well as Foodstuff’s own history quote incorrectly), Four Square now boasted a total of 266 stores nationwide – what can only be described as an explosive success and had far outstripped even the phenomenal growth success of Self Help – and not even bothering to mention any other competition like McKenzies, Woolworths and Farmer’s which were semi- players at best in the burgeoning grocery market at the time. In 1935 the stores bearing Four Square signage were at 285. By the post war years food groceries bearing the Four Square name had shot up to nearly 400 and climbing quickly – 700 by 1950. By 1956 there were an amazing 1000 stores nationwide.

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Promotional game produced in Australia, probably the mid 1960s. a

By some time in the 1950s Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd had decided to hop the ditch to invade our Australian cousins, as my poster recreation at the head of this post, as well as the  board game on road safety I have found above, attest. By 1980 a Happy Family promotion shows the logo for Australian chain CPS (Central Provision Stores), alongside Four Square and New World’s logos – having been added to the empire via Four Square Stores (Australia) Pty Ltd.

J. Heaton Barker’s new offices bringing everything together under one roof – Auckland Star, 8 October, 1925. a

Barker was one of two children of a family from Derby, Britain. Perhaps his father – mention is made of a John William Barker – stayed behind when he immigrated with his mother and sister in 1886; arriving in Wellington on 6th August aboard the S.S. Ionic. Perhaps he died, and they decided to leave. Whatever the story was, his mother was free to marry a Reverend John Crump seven years later. A devout Christian, J. H. Barker was seriously involved in the Baptist church throughout his life, particularly in Mount Eden, Auckland where he was an elder, and at various times a chair, treasurer, as well as president of the City Baptist Auxiliary.

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Promotional Snap set featuring many popular products sold through Four Square stores; circa late 1950s-early 1960s. a

That was much later on in his life though; originally he settled in Nelson (where he was the facilitator of the PSA or “Pleasant Sunday Afternoon’ movement which had begun in Britain, was active in the Mutual Improvement Society, and on occasion stood in for his local pastor at the pulpit, was a member of council for the NZ Accountant’s and Auditor’s Association, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, and secretary of the Foreign and British Bible Society).

Promotional Snap set featuring many popular products sold through Four Square stores; circa late 1950s-early 1960s. a

More specifically he had spent time in Richmond to the south-west of the town where he was at one time or another secretary of the Richmond Lawn Tennis Club and also the Workingmen’s Club (I think at this point we can already establish that he was quite the busybody do-gooder). In 1896 he sold up and moved to a more central location in Bronte Street, Nelson.

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In-store Disney promotion – Hutt News, December 1934. a

In an article entitled “Farewell to Mr. and Mrs. Barker” in the Nelson Evening Mail of 14th March, 1901, an interesting mention is made – of Barker’s “severing his connection with S. Kirkpatrick and Co., Ltd” in order to move. This was a popular foodstuffs company primarily famous for their jam, in particular the “K” brand, but ranged across a wide array of products from jelly crystals, canned meat and spices to coffee, poultry tonic, vinegar, honey and baking powder.

Triangle brand products – Evening Post, December 1933 . a

This is a very interesting detail to discover because Kirkpatrick play an intrinsic part in the corporate history of the canned food industry in New Zealand – passing through a number of owners and lasting into 1971 when it was finally dismantled by Wattie’s upon their acquisition of the brand and Nelson factory. In what capacity he worked for the firm is unknown (presumably accounting); but whatever it was he had achieved in just a few short years it was important enough for Mr. Kirkpatrick , the CEO himself, to attend in person and present Barker with a gold Albert fob chain for his services.

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An unusual Four Square promotional chair which was auctioned recently. Photos © and courtesy of Trademe menber cache10 (Phil). a

He moved with his wife Mattie and eight offspring to Wellington in 1902 (where he was president of the city’s Sunday School Union, president of the Sunday School Teacher’s Association, vice-president of the YMCA Cricket Club, vice-president of the Gregg Shorthand Association, and prone to giving rousing public speeches on the gospel everywhere he could, it seems).

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Four Square’s self line of preserving jar skins probably date from the 1950s or early 1960s. From my personal collection. a

In 1907 we find him managing director of Messrs. Yerox, Barker and Finlay, Ltd., a company primarily moving cash registers and typewriters. In 1908 he moved to directing the interests of the National Cash Register Co in New Zealand at 17-19 Cuba Street – and in 1911 he gained inches of press when he invented an automated telegram sorting and stamping machine, which was subsequently installed in Wellington’s General Post Office. Following that the family relocated to Auckland in 1912 (where he had a spell as a director on the board of the Auckland YMCA, and led Baptist services at various church venues).

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Rare canisters issued for the Southland Four Square Co-op’s general area centennial of 1956 crop up at auction very occasionally to be bid on competitively. a

Presumably he eventually became somehow involved in the grocery industry to bring him into the relative picture; A newspaper article of 1924, in which he is called to give testimony in a case to do with milling industry price fixing, defines him as the Auckland secretary of the New Zealand Master Baker’s association, as well as the editor of their magazine “Baker’s Review” since 1920 (he remained secretary until 1930 when he stood down voluntarily).

George Allen and staff in the Dominion Road Four Square store, Auckland, late 1940s. Photo © and courtesy of the estate of George Allen. a

Clearly from the court report he was a significant player in the supply and demand of flour and other goods for some years. Quite frankly I was surprised to find a dearth of biographical information on a major player in New Zealand industry; One of his children grew up to become well-known newspaper editor and politician Sir Harry Heaton Barker – and much more is written of his long term mayor son. Certainly at this point with his various experiences in foodstuffs, accounting, sales, administration and a clear talent for creative invention – he had everything he needed to take things to a spectacular new level.

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Advertisement showing the custard powder and tea from their self line, Auckland Star, 11 April, 1935. a

Barker, as well as also being secretary, accountant and auditor of the NZ Master Grocer’s Association – ran the Auckland branch of the food co-op from its inception until 1934 when he became director of Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd – a position he remained in until 1947 when he passed away. In 1932 he was made a life member of the New Zealand Master Grocer’s Federation, of which he had been secretary since 1923.

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Four Square brochure of 1977 showing product specials to celebrate the 21st anniversary of Four Square in Otago/Southland. Image courtesy of the Foodstuffs (NZ) Archive. a

He also launched an industry magazine, “Grocers’ Review” in the early 1920s – which later seems to have joined forces with the milling industry and amalgamated his previous work there to become “New Zealand Grocer’s and Baker’s Review“. Sources seem to indicate that this version wrapped up in 1939; what I have seen from the Foodstuffs Ltd archive (I was lucky enough to get an insider peek at their collection courtesy of a food technician friend who is part of the team, and loves retro stuff herself) show two images of a “New Zealand Grocergram” magazine so presumably that became it’s moniker. Last reference to it in public collections is in 1974 -1975 however AdMedia ran an article in 2003 that it was being revamped. Current status is unknown, with the website down – but presumably it is still running – if so making it one of the longest running periodicals in the history of the country.

Waxed cardboard pot for Four Square’s self line of honey from the Christchurch Co-op, circa mid 1970s. a

By the mid 1930s Four Square had under its own line tea, honey, culinary essences, Worcester and tomato sauces, cornflour, macaroni and vermicelli, custard powder, malt extract, butter, coffee essence, spices, salt and pepper, canned fruit, and raisins. There was also jellies, candles, soap and toilet paper under the “Triangle” brand. Later boxed chocolates, vinegar, and cordials were added (1940s) as well as mixed dried fruit, preserving equipment,  and “Rawakelle“; their brand of tea that was in the 1950s and 1960s quite popular with the public.

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Front of cardboard box for Four Square’s self line of dried cake fruit from the Foodstuffs archive collection, probably early 1960s. a

Starting with baking powder – and then a few years following custard powder – “Pam’s” was launched by Four Square Stores in 1937 to offer lower price, quality goods that competed even more vigorously with opposing chain’s lower price bracket products. Although there were several “self” lines from other stores at the time, “Pam’s”  has stood alone, lasted into the present day as a “private” brand, probably the only surviving one. I previously documented my recreation of the first Pam’s marketing campaign/product label when I wrote about agency Dormer-Beck, who were behind it, here.

Advertisement announcing merger of 4 Triangle and AG Stores under the Four Square brand, making a total of 266 stores. Evening Post, December 1933. the co-ops changed their names to Foodstuffs two years later in 1935. a

Mr. Four Square” , who has also come to be known as “Cheeky Charlie“, was a welcoming storeman figure with a big thumbs up – yet to many he always had a slightly imposing, sinister air about him (he looks like the type of guy that if you were left alone in the store room with him he might try to cop a feel). The mascot was developed sometime in the 1950s for print advertising initially – although the exact date and who the specific the creator of the character was, is unclear – one source quotes the Foodstuffs advertising department as responsible. Another states it was a son of J.H. Barker’s who came up with the concept around 1951.

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A corruption of monopoly with products instead of property, Milton Bradley-produced “Checkout” in 1959. They also did a version for the Acme chain of stores in the USA. a

He is often mistakenly attributed to renowned Kiwi pop artist Dick Frizzell who was a commercial artist in the 1960s and 1970s, but this is incorrect. Frizzell was, however, involved with the iconic Ches and Dale characters, and the fact that he has used Charlie in some of his most famous art works only adds to the confusion.

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Promotional Happy Families set featuring many popular products sold through Four Square stores, New World and CPS stores (Central Provision Stores, Australia); circa 1980. a

Another well-known contemporary artist Mike Weston, who coincidentally partners with Frizzell’s son Otis to produce humorous Kiwiana-inspired works under the moniker Weston-Frizzell, seems to recall hearing that Charlie was “allegedly a knock off of a Santa Monica supermarket character from the fifties called “Freddy Fireside” – of the Fireside Market. Although I’m still looking for evidence” . I myself was also unable to find any information to even hint at this.Today when people think of the brand they definitely think of Charlie beaming at them from shop windows and hoardings so, although a rather overused word -he has definitely become a New Zealand icon (with a few modernised features). Extremely collectable now, original Mr. Four Square cut-out signage old or newish – sells for competitive prices well into the hundreds and sometimes even the thousands.

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Interior of the Dominion Road Four Square store, Auckland, late 1940s. Photo © and courtesy of the estate of George Allen. a

Quite a few different items have been issued to promote the business over the years. Snap and Happy Family card sets were produced featuring their most popular product lines in the late 1950s-early 1960s, and another Happy Families set of 52 cards in around 1980 from which many of my age group will remember all the products – I featured some of them here, here, and here.

Four Square’s warehouse opens  in Southland, 1956.  Image courtesy of the Foodstuffs (NZ) Archive.

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Other fun items to rope in the punters and strengthen allegiance to the business were a puzzle (late 1940s), a board game with Milton Bradley – “Checkout”, around 1959. a highly desirable colouring book “Fine Things of the Future” (1954), calendars (1950s-1960s), a stamp collecting book. Recipe/household hint books such as “Homeways” was published in the late 1960s, and “Take A Tip” of the early 1970s. A cast metal can opener was issued as a complimentary gift to customers.  Very rarely the hard-to-get canisters issued for the Southland Co-op’s general area centennial of 1956 crop up at auction to be bid on feverishly; and not so long ago even a very unusual Four Square chair.

Foodstuff’s former cut-price – now “private” – brand Pam’s started in 1937 with one product; baking powder. Photo courtesy of and © Eriq Quaadgrass, eRIQ on Flickr. a

Icon Products, who partner with Four Square as well as several other brands , currently hold a license for the Cheeky Charlie character, producing aprons, shirts, tea towels and carry bags – which have been marketed through another Foodstuffs enterprise – New World supermarkets – established at the end of 1963 (the same year that Woolworths rolled out their first dedicated food store Food Fair, a New Zealand first at New Lynn).

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This classic version cut-out Cheeky Charlie signage just sold recently for around the $1000 mark or a little over. a

Although significantly less than in their heyday – today Four Square stores in New Zealand remain as 300 plus independent operators as well as a few still dotted about Australia. It is one of very few companies that has ever reversed the usual trans-Tasman power play of brands being foisted on the comparatively tiny country and marketplace of Aotearoa. Even Ozzie brands like the re-tooled IGA still can’t usurp the sheer power in numbers, well – yet, anyway.

A modern store in Waitarere using the classic Four Square colour scheme to the maximum effect; with the newest version of Cheeky Charlie, said to have been “made over” by Dick Frizzell at Foodstuff’s request recently. Photo courtesy of and © Kiwi Frenzy on Flickr. a

Foodstuffs (NZ) Ltd is still comprised of three co-ops and has grown to include a slew of chain brands in its portfolio including aforementioned New World, Pak ‘N’ Save (established 1985), Write Price, On The Spot, Shop Rite, Raeward Fresh, Liquorland and Henry’s, Budget, Pam’s, and of course Four Square (and that’s just the food and drink enterprises) making it the largest retail organisation in New Zealand to date.

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Contemporary Four Square store and staff. Photo courtesy of and © the Foodstuffs (NZ) Archive. a

You have to wonder if Barker, whilst scribbling on his calendar absent-mindedly that day, ever in his wildest dreams could have comprehended he was launching an empire worth more than four billion dollars per annum.

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Neither the classic or contemporary version of Mr. Four Square -this was the in-between version with a few new touches in the 1990s-2000s. Photo of Cheeky Charlie on left courtesy of and © emilyandadam on Flickr. Image of modern Four Square logo graphics on right courtesy of and © the Foodstuffs (NZ) Archive. a

The Four Square Contest Poster is available from my online store here , as well as greeting cards for a nominal price.

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All content of Longwhitekid copyright Darian Zam © 2014. All rights reserved.

Research Sucks: Woolworths and the Advent of American Style

In Food Fair, Foodtown Supermarkets, Lynn Mall, Progressive Enterprises, Woolworth's Food Fair, Woolworth's stores, Woolworth's supermarkets, Woolworths on July 17, 2011 at 10.46

This is a recent Trademe purchase – a vintage box of “Super-Sip” brand drinking straws made by Woolworths. As it turns out, I have since discovered they were also produced in Australia; albeit in a different main colour scheme of dark red – as opposed to blue. I love the graphics which are different on all sides, and it still has most of the original green and yellow straws inside. These were the days when they used to actually put some effort in, and remember, a lot of it had to be done by hand!

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It’s a common misconception that Woolworths Ltd in the Antipodes is part of the F.W. Woolworth Company in the United States. It has no connection. Woolworths had been present in Australia from 1924 (Her Majesty’s Arcade, Sydney, was the first store) and in New Zealand from 1929 when it was founded by Percy Christmas , at which point the Oz and Kiwi interests were separated.

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The Wikipedia page for Woolworths claims that its first food store opened in Auckland in 1956, and supermarkets in 1971.

Then it also goes on to state the first supermarket opened in Henderson, West Auckland (which was the nearest town of significance to my home as a child) in 1967. The discrepancies are confusing. Depending on if and how the “Woolworths Food Fair” stores actually differed from a “Woolworths supermarket”, and when the actual “Food Fair” banner was phased out for good, would deem whether either of the dates provided is correct, if at all.

We know that Wikipedia is a little unreliable to say the least, and as far as I know this information is for the most part incorrect. The first Woolworths “Food Fair” (food supermarket, as opposed to “Variety Store”) was opened at Panmure in 1956; and then the next one in  New Lynn, West Auckland – not Henderson, on 30 October 1963. “Lynn Mall” was the first “American Mall”-style shopping centre in New Zealand. The Lynn Mall “Woolworths Food Fair” was the second separate, dedicated food store with cash register checkouts, trolleys, automated doors  and parking like the supermarkets we know today.

Further to that, the Progressive Enterprises site recently started claiming in their history section that Woolworths opened the first Food Fair in Panmure in 1956. This is technically correct, however up until 1963 “Food Fair ” was more or less a department within “Woolworth’s Variety Stores”, as told to me directly by Lance Bates who worked for the company for a number of years:

“Woolworths had a number of “Food Fairs” around Auckland and I guess other places as well. Each of the two main city stores in Queen Street had one tucked away in the back; and the Karangahape Road store, too. Taupo had one I know, as I have a photo of it.  As for the Lynn Mall Food Fair, what I wrote about it is correct. It was within the first drive-in shopping centre built in NZ and opened in 1963. The other Food Fairs were  just sections of the variety stores and no parking other than on-street parking”.

So far I reckon that the Progressive company information is a bit of a cockamamie history amongst a shoddy timeline where I’ve spotted several mistakes including a glaringly funny one; Progressive claim that the second Foodtown of 1961 had a below-cost opening special of Weet-Bix for 19 cents, Wattie’s peach slices for 21 cents, and potatoes for 29 cents per ten pounds. They even provide a clipping although amazingly…decimal wasn’t introduced for more than six years! Enough said.

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I’d say there’s not much doubt I have the story right, as I consulted with the very person who set up and managed the first supermarket when I was compiling the post “Snap ‘Em All” in February on “Lynmall” and Woolworths Variety/Food Fair.

https://longwhitekid.wordpress.com/2011/02/20/snap-em-mall/

So, Lance was able to give me first hand facts as he was right there, and provided photographic proof. I guess all this research and blogging isn’t entirely useless after all!

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Advertisement for Wellington Woolworths Stores, 1934.

Given the information I was in possession of, I was sure of my estimate of the mid 1960s for this item. It does look like it could be a bit older than that and now – it’s hard to say.

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Addendum late August 2012: Based on some information that came in this week I may have to eat my Woolworths (Variety Store) crepe paper party hat and rewrite this article. It seems Woolworths may actually be able to claim their Panmure store as the first New Zealand supermarket proper, depending on definition.  According to my source, it was a freestanding building with Woolworths split into two under one roof; a Woolworths Variety Store, and a Woolworths Food Fair, which was the first instance a food store was separated as opposed to being  a department  the general variety format. So there you have it. And hopefully that’s final! (but I get the feeling it’s not).

Did Panmure have the proper set-up with parking around the store, trolleys and cash register check-outs? I suppose I am trying to verify, if Woolworths Food Fair Panmure can claim the title of the first proper supermarket as we more or less know them today, in comparison to Foodtown of Otahuhu in 1958, which definitely was a stand-alone building and had parking and trolleys, air conditioning, automated doors and cash register check-outs.It all comes down to those details I think because the difference is previously there was self-service to a degree, no matter how insignificant – but not all of the features, of what would be termed “American style”. (I am excepting having your groceries taken to the car, which was probably a new advent and can be disqualified from impeding the definition).

It was partly the  McKenzies chain of stores who were responsible for the introduction of the “‘American style” features in the shopping experience in Aotearoa after founder John  R. H. McKenzie observed the rise of the five and dime store-style experience after a 1928 trip to the U.S., and upon returning to New Zealand, promptly relocated and restyled every one of his twenty plus stores modelled after this format. Although McKenzies really was in the “variety store” category of selling general merchandise, so the award may go to a store, or small chain of stores, named Fletcher’s of which there has been rumblings of  acknowledgement as being the first one  to offer any sort of “self service” –  it’s possible this refers to stores owned by J. Fletcher who had a small number of stores in the Ohakune and Raetihi, (Manawatu-Wanganui) and Matawhereo, Gisborne areas in the 1900s-1910s. The last mention I can find is 1920 and they seem to have disappeared by the following decade. But it is more likely to be Fletcher Bros who were  running general stores based in Christchurch and Ashburton areas in the 1890s-1910s.   Self Help established in 1922 strictly falls into the grocery store category and  of course was well known for popularizing the personal shopping experience, hence their name…although for quite some time customers only selected their groceries and bought them to the counter to be weighed out and packaged by the storekeeper (so not much of a change, really, except less use of ladders, probably). But still, none are food markets as such. Although Wardell’s had a supermarket in Wellington by 1956, again it was not completely self service so is also removed from the running.

Unless the Panmure Food Fair had all the “new” features I list earlier to qualify, then Foodtown will probably keep it’s claimed title of “the first American-style supermarket in New Zealand”. And Food Fair of Lynn Mall relegated to ” the first dedicated  supermarket in an American-style mall”.

And thus it goes… Anyway, apologies to Progressive for dubbing you “cockamamie” – it was Wikipedia’s fault…honest. If in doubt blame a Wiki I say…any Wiki. That said, someone linked the Woolworths page to this article and some asshat immediately deleted the information. Companies really don’t like it when you “mess” with their “history”. And I am still waiting for death threats from someone over the Iced Vovo thing. 


 Woolworths Ltd of Levin, November 1949, National Library NZ  collection.

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Addendum early September 2012: I’m sad to say that one of New Zealand’s longest running chains, Woolworths, is over in New Zealand. When the Woolworths NZ business, under the auspices of Progressive Enterprises (Foodtown, Countdown, (ex) Georgie Pie etc) was acquired by Woolworths Australia Ltd in 2005, a decision was made to phase out the brand and move to the Countdown banner by 2014. This happened a lot faster than anticipated; by 2010 all South Island stores were gone. By the end of 2011 all North Island stores had been changed over. Technically there is just one store left in Mount Manganui, Auckland. However  but for all intents and purposes, the Woolworths brand is defunct.

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Addendum early September 2012: As I said I was pretty sure this whole thing wasn’t over yet. I was right! It’s come to light that Woolworths Food Fair Panmure did not have parking. It also  apparently did not have trolleys – but hand baskets.  So the tally is now as follows…

Woolworths Food Fair Panmure was the first separate food market in New Zealand but was not a stand-alone building, and did not have the complete American-style features. Disqualified!

Foodtown Otahuhu was the first stand-alone food market with all American-style features.Therefore it was the first supermarket in New Zealand in 1958

Foodtown Takanini was the second stand-alone food market with all American-style features.Therefore it was the second supermarket in New Zealand in 1961.

Woolworths Food Fair in New Lynn was the first dedicated food market in New Zealand with all American-style features in an American-style  mall . So technically, it was the third supermarket in in New Zealand, but the first supermarket in a shopping centre. 

No, really, I am done now!

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Addendum early November 2015: More additions than any article I have written yet, I think. However this is not in relation to the supermarket history – but back to the original subject – which was the Super-Sip box. This wax paper cup has popped up on the Te Papa site recently. I immediately recognised the illustrations on it as being the same as the straw packaging that was sold in New Zealand and Australia. The cup was made by Frank Winstone Ltd of Auckland, a grain and seed merchant that had been around in Quay Street since at least the 1900s and later segued into cardboard/packaging items; they had the licence for the American Lily brand to make cups and straws, their own very successful ‘Super-Sip’ brand, and a contract to make school milk straws until that scheme was phased out in 1967. They no doubt made items for many chain supermarkets and variety stores, such as Woolworths, of course.
When I say ‘made’ I mean Winstone created and distributed the cups. But they were actually manufactured by Carton Specialities Limited, which I wrote about this year in my article on the Uncle’s fast food takeaway chain here.  (like CSL Winstone also had a Henderson, West Auckland branch).  So we can assume the cup below was also made under the Super-Sip brand for Woolworths stores. We don’t have the original packaging so we may never know for sure, but I feel confident to make this leap. Further to that this revelatory matchy-matchy item means the straws box, which I thought may be as far back as the mid 1950s- quite possibly dates from much later – the 1970s. 

Cup disposable wax Frank M Winstone (Merchants) Ltd (distributor), c1970s Carton Specialities Ltd. (manuf) Auckland TePapaGH024337

 

Disposable wax paper cup by Winstone, 1970s. Image courtesy of the The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa collection, ref  GH024337.

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