Farmers tour a ‘star moment’

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In 1941, when Helen Hirst was still at high school, she got a job working in the haberdashery department of the Farmers store in Rangiora.
She was taken on to help cope with the expected Christmas rush, selling small items for sewing, such as cotton, needles, ribbons, buttons and zips.
Back then the town’s largest shop was known as ‘‘The Farmers Co-op’’.
It was a time when all the female shop assistants dressed in black and were addressed ‘‘Miss’’, for women rarely worked once they married. Pounds, shillings and pence were the legal tender and financial transactions were not conducted at the till. Instead they went through a complicated process where the shop assistants put the customers’ money in small containers attached to a wiring system suspended near the ceiling above each department. It was then sent to a central office elsewhere in the building where a cashier would complete the transaction and return any change via the same process.
Over the years Helen has seen many changes take place at the Farmers store and she has taken a close interest in the construction of the new building on High St, which ison schedule to open on September 1 this year.
In 2008 Helen wrote a fond memoir about the Rangiora Farmers store for the ‘‘New Zealand Memories’’ magazine. Last Friday she was given a special guided tour of the new Farmers store construction site by Scotsman Henry Stuart, the project manager for Watts and Hughes Construction.
‘‘I have lived in this town for 88 years. This is a star moment for me,’’ Helen said during the tour of the huge, two-storey, 7500 square-metre building which includes three lifts, two sets of stairs, three fire escapes and Rangiora’s first escalator. ‘‘It’s a bit different to the haberdashery department,’’ she said.
The old Farmers building was demolished in August 2014 after being closed in March 2012 because of earthquake damage. Work on the new $14 million building began last August. A huge amount of money had been spent on flame retardents and earthquake strengthening work, Henry said.
‘‘If there is an earthquake this is the place to be.’’
The North Canterbury News begins publishing Helen Hirst’s memoirs in this edition. The first installment starts on page 10.