City grocers heralded a new era

PAT VELTKAMP SMITH
Last updated 09:37 18/09/2013
Lois Chapman
Lois Chapman

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There's a site in North Invercargill, opposite Windsor New World, that seems forever Chapmans' corner.

Old timers call it that still, 60 years since the last tram turned at the terminus there, 30 years since Lance and Lois retired from the grocery business and saw the site on north-west Windsor-Herbert corner cleared, redeveloped as Windsor Westpac and Pharmacy.

What was Chapmans', remains Chapmans', so strong the memory of their presence, so lasting the impressions they made in the immediate post war years when Lance and Lois, just wed, used his soldier's loan to buy Burgess's store.

The Burgess family had battled with the grievances of housewives rationing, coupons and wartime shortages.

The Chapmans heralded the new age as goods became available again.

Lance had vision, redesigned the traditional grocery store so that customers could help themselves.

This new self-service delighted war starved housewives who rushed to get their hands on new goods arriving in and all freely available - butter, sugar, bananas, eggs and dad's Park Drive tobacco.

There was also real personal service, people leaving their list as they boarded the tram to town, collecting the goods on their return.

Mr and Mrs Chapman knew everyone's bread order and had a replacement Procera loaf ready when mothers sent children back for another, the first hollowed out on the walk home.

The Chapmans delighted everyone with their Christmas baby Judith, a little boy Peter and in 1957 infant son Rex.

Lois Chapman loved her own babies but also remembered everyone else's and how they were doing at school, growing up.

The shop at Chapmans' corner offered a welcome to new comers, a meeting place that bridged generations, the seat placed for tram travellers remaining for shoppers and their goods.

Mrs Chapman warm, calm, always even and unruffled created a sense of place or people and after she moved that sense stayed.

Lance died at the age of 81 in the year 2000 but Lois stayed on in their Yarrow St retirement home, keeping the garden as he once would have, the house as she always did, the place warm with welcome. She was blessed with good health, two nights at the end of her life journey the only spent in hospital since the births of her children.

Born in 1920 she was the second youngest in a family of 10 children of Northern Ireland immigrant Tom McFetrich and his wife Lydia who farmed at Gladfield near Drummond and later at Clover Park, Kuana.

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When her parents retired to Invercargill building a home on the corner of Duke st and Queens Drive, Lois went to Southland Technical College, leaving at 17 to train as a dressmaker at Thomson and Beatties on Tay St.

The sunny disposition that was to endear her to so many people showed to her workmates and customers.

After years of caring for Lance she was alone but never lonely, continuing to do flowers for weddings and the church, for friends and the hospital.

She joined the Invercargill Coffee Club, the Southland Travel Club, the Rose Society, making friends, keeping friends wherever she went.

She valued her independence and enjoyed driving until in her 90s.

She was well until suffering a serious stroke in August.

She handled the brief illness that followed in her calm, peaceful dignified way, her journey coming to an end on September 3.

The last of her family of origin, Lois is survived by Judith and Peter both with families in Australia and by Rex and Trish in Invercargill, a host of grandchildren and great grandchildren - all descendants of Lois and Lance of Chapmans' corner.

- The Southland Times

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