A slight detour this week away from Wellington, on an exploration up country. I went to Feilding, not entirely sure why, and on trying to escape, found myself at a most remarkably named Co-Operative Dairy – the Pakeha Butter Company of 1893. I was intrigued, because I had thought that the name Pakeha was more of a 20th Century tag for white folk, rather than 19th Century, and on consulting the oracle (wikipedia) I find that it was indeed a name in common usage over a hundred years ago. Wikipedia assures me that the term is not a derogatory one, and that it has come to mean not just “white people”, but more: “non-maori”. I have a friend who vehemently dislikes being termed and defined by something he is not – ie a term meaning non-maori is derogatory (to him), but then again, isn’t that just the same as a fe-male being by definition not a male? Hmmm. And so if not exactly meaning “white”, then do Chinese New Zealanders think of themselves as Pakeha? Or just New Zealanders? Or, like the 7% of us in the last census who apparently put down “kiwi” as their ethnicity? Heavens to Murgatroyd, its all just too complicated. Thankfully we don’t have the problems of Iraq, which has now completely lost me with Sunni, and Shia, and Fundamentalists, and the whole caboodle. All the more reason to keep Colin Craig well away from the ballot-box and to keep NZ strictly secular.

Wait – did I get off topic there? Just a little, it seems…. So, back to the architecture:

Of even more joy, just next door, and painted the same colour – so evidently part and parcel of the same dairy at one stage or another – is this delightful mini-modern version of the dairy, now probably someone’s house. My guess: somewhere around 1940 ? Simple, clean, and oh-so financially minimal, it’s not alone in the provinces as a modernist work. Gleaming yellow tiles the colour of a freshly churned pat of butter: architecture good enough to lick (almost). Was this designed by someone, a returned services person perhaps, who had seen modernism underway after WWII and wanted to bring a little of that home to the Manawatu? I like to think so.

But it is not just restricted to Feilding. There is a marvelous little Four Square store in Rongotea, which really is one of those places in the middle of nowhere – too small (almost) to find on a map. I’m willing to wager that it wasn’t built originally as a Four Square, but its name plate certainly looks authentic: “Food Store”. The yellow and green livery certainly screams it now, along with its sleek 1940s streamlined modernism.

Otherwise though, small town mittel-zeeland seems to be still a staunchly colonial, wild-west type frontier town, at least in terms of the architecture. Gabled timber facades loom large. Rusty iron roofs around the side, aging totara weatherboards to the fore, paint long since forgotten. Its harsh out there ins small town new Zild.

I’m sure however that there are more modernist marvels hidden away in small town Aotearoa, like those glimpsed above. Any more you’d like to mention? Got a favourite you’d like to share?

Post-Script updated 18 June 2014:
Following on from the discovery (thanks to GreenWelly) of the Wonderful photo archive at Feilding, I’ve added in another couple of modernist mini-marvels – both sadly gone, I think. A tiny wee modernist National Bank in Feilding, and then a far more grand and almost exciting looking Post-Office in Feilding. Nice! Thanks to Feilding Library online!

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