Meet the man preserving 1980s New Zealand one artefact at a time & More News Here

James Mackenzie​ needs to know what you’ve shoved behind your hot-water cylinder.

Same goes for what’s stashed in your shed, your storage or your laundry.

“Places that are generally dark and cool,” he says. “Places that you forget about. Backs of pantries, or a third drawer down. Those places where we unintentionally hoard.”

Mackenzie, who lives in Oamaru, describes himself as an “ordinary social historian”. He is enthusiastic about archiving his 1980s’, Kiwi, suburban childhood by means of its on a regular basis shopper gadgets, which is a more durable job than you may count on, given its relative recency.

“We’ve become a bit of a lost generation when it comes to artefacts, because we were the first recycling generation,” Mackenzie says.

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“I’m a big environmentalist but, on the flip side, we don’t have a tangible history left behind for our generation and it’s only going to get more apparent as time goes on.”

That is why he’s eager to rifle by means of your drawers or rummage by means of your shed. That is the place you’re almost definitely to have tucked away a half-empty bottle of No Frills disinfectant, or saved some issues in a Griffin’s Sampler tin.

Do you’ve some 30-year-old spices in the again of the pantry? Mackenzie’s eager on that. Shell – sure, the oil firm Shell – made fly spray for a whereas in the 1980s, which it bought in petrol stations. Maybe you’ve a can of that in an outdated field in the storage? He will take that too.

“One of my favourite things is ice cream [container] lids, because people don’t keep lids,” he says. “Kids cut them up and things.”

Mackenzie, 41, has been serious about shopper merchandise, and the way they modify, for so long as he can bear in mind.

“I’ve always been a bit of a freak of nature, [I have a] sort of a photographic memory for stuff and products, so I think I’ve always had a bit of an obsession with lithography and fonts, and little subtle changes,” Mackenzie says.

“Even at a young age, every time there would be a change [in branding], I could always correlate that memory at that time.”

As a youngster, he collected issues reminiscent of bubblegum wrappers, and fireworks labels that he would purchase by roaming the streets after Guy Fawkes, peeling them off spent bangers.

But at a sure level, he despatched most of it to the tip.

“I think it was that [baby] boomer mentality – oh, that’s not old, why would you want that,” he says. “I cringe at what I threw away now.”

Mackenzie moved into procuring a lot older gadgets for a few years, amassing a assortment spectacular sufficient that he was referred to as upon to supply props for a few small movies. But he discovered it wasn’t the similar with out a private connection.

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What he appreciated was these innocuous, quotidian totems of his childhood that have been so strange that no one thought to carry onto them: recordable VHS tapes, commercials for long-since-won promotions, something bearing the emblem of a defunct retail chain or that handed its best-before date a long time in the past.

Then, two issues occurred.

The first was throughout a tour of Oamaru’s second-hand outlets, a common exercise for Mackenzie. He was searching for gadgets from the Nineteen Fifties and earlier – the kinds of issues he thought he “should” be amassing – however, in two outlets in a row, he heard individuals lamenting the truth it was so troublesome today, to get one’s fingers on a buying bag.

“How quickly that went from just a disposable item to a point of nostalgia. I couldn’t get that thought process out of my head,” he says.

Back dwelling, Mackenzie went as much as his attic, and dug out a small field of odds and ends of 1980s’ merchandise he had put apart.

“And it was like, the coolest box I’d ever found, because I saw it with new eyes. It wasn’t Coca-Cola, or all those greatest hits of our childhood. It was the No Frills packets, it was the Pam’s packets, because everyday life is full of those things … It’s those little things that really take you back to a particular time in your life. Hanging out with Mum in the kitchen, going to the supermarket, going to the dairy.”

The subsequent factor that occurred was when Mackenzie’s spouse had a coronary heart transplant final 12 months. He left his job as a distiller and blender for The New Zealand Whiskey Company to look after her and, discovering himself with extra time on his fingers, he started amassing 1980s artefacts in earnest.

“I came across that horrific realisation, no-one’s rescuing this stuff,” he says. “It’s all disappearing, and I’m in a race against time to preserve this stuff while I can.”

And he’s not discovering a lot of it at second-hand outlets or storage gross sales. Or at least, it’s not the stuff on the market.

Mackenzie reckons gadgets from the 1980s onwards characterize about 8% to 10% of what’s that can be purchased. But in case you begin trying at the containers Vinnie’s charity outlets use to retailer issues in, or the papers lining the packing containers at storage gross sales, you then may strike gold.

Behind the water cylinders, deep in the drawers, in the nook of sheds. That’s the place Mackenzie’s trying.

“I have a stash of containers in my car at all times, because you never know when you’re going to see this stuff,” Mackenzie says.

“I take the dog for a walk and hopefully find someone who’s got a garage. You try to make small talk without looking dodgy. Now hearing that I sound like a crazy person.”

As his assortment began to develop, Mackenzie began serious about what to do with all of it. There needed to be different individuals of his era, he figured, who would have that very same visceral response to merchandise from their childhood that that they had forgotten.

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So he determined to share it with them on Instagram. He named his new account No Frills Thrills, @nofrillsthrills, after the late, nice Woolworths price range model, and began posting photographs of things from his assortment with captions that put them of their historic and social context.

All the objects listed as examples on this story have been featured in No Frills Thrills posts, and there are such a lot of extra. Kool Kids drink bottles, a microwaveable plastic egg poaching mould, a Nature’s Fresh bread packet with a recipe for “wheatmeal quiche” on the again and a Sportsman cigarettes field, full with a price ticket of $2.64, are amongst the treasures Mackenzie has featured since launching the account in February 2021.

He likes issues that by no means ought to have survived, disposable gadgets from the daybreak of the age of single-use. They weren’t designed to final, and no one has stored them on goal. A discover of a mint-condition plastic Lucky Cat Food container, for instance, solely occurs as a result of somebody has put it in a darkish nook and forgotten about it. Until now.

Mackenzie’s undecided what he needs to occur to his assortment, which now suits in about 5 banana packing containers, in the long run. There is perhaps a library or museum one day.

“It’s laughable now but some of this stuff, in 20 or 30 years, will become serious artefacts.” He may write a guide, or create a digital archive.

But he received’t cease amassing anytime quickly. The response to No Frills Thrills has been “phenomenal”, he says. “In the last two months it’s just gone crazy.”

He remains to be searching for his Holy Grail, a short-lived and long-defunct deal with referred to as Cadbury Buddies that have been, he says, like large M&Ms.

So in case you occur to have a darkish nook that hasn’t been touched in years, or a container full of strange screws for a 40-year-old DIY challenge that by no means occurred, possibly drop Mackenzie a line.

Because your trash may nicely be one other man’s treasure.

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