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Postman Pete delivers memories of a bygone era

18 December 2006

Postman Pete delivers memories of a bygone era

If you have an older relative on your Christmas shopping list who grew up in Canterbury, here’s a novel idea that’s sure to beat socks, chocolates and talcum powder hands down.

The Plain and Ordinary Canterbury Sketchbook is a gem of a book that recalls a bygone era in the province’s history and will have readers strolling down memory lane from the opening pages.

Decked out proudly in red and black, the book contains sketches with accompanying anecdotes that bring to life a cast of colourful Christchurch characters, mostly from the 1950s, as well as portraying the iconic buildings and landmarks where life was played out.

The book is the creation of Sydenham postie Pete McLauchlan, who moved to Christchurch from Invercargill in the 1960s as a 17-year-old and fell in love with the place and its stories.

Pete (his chosen pen name) describes himself as a storyteller and a “storycatcher” who collects the yarns others share with him.

He says a sketchpad has never been far from his hand since he was a child and rather than draw the city’s grand edifices, he prefers to sketch the buildings he says exude character. The same goes for people – it’s the quirky personalities he is drawn to over the powerful players in history, characters often on the sidelines of history rather than in the starring roles.

“I’ve been a postie since 1974 and was a freezing worker and a dustman before that. Being a dustie and a postie, you get to see a lot of the town and see buildings disappear, so sketching is a way of keeping a memory of these old haunts alive.”

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Pete says his book is for “anyone who remembers when four wine gums cost a penny”, those who enjoy a good yarn, plus those with an avid interest in local history.

“The great stories – someone else records them. I just like the wee stories, the vignettes,” he says.

Many of Pete’s sketches appeared weekly in The Press in the 1990s and his affectionate portrayals earned him a broad readership. Many today still remember ‘Ringo’ the comic seller, lady of the night ‘Moorhouse Minnie’ and the day Johnny Devlin hit town.

The Stalk Inn and McEwin’s Milk Bar, Lancaster Park’s No. 1 Stand – these and many images of postwar Canterbury are brought together in this collection published by Canterbury University Press.

Pete hopes “the sketchbook” will be an annual title and has his second The Sure to Rise Canterbury Sketchbook waiting in the wings.


ENDS

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