Q&A: Jim Hopley

Oamaru Pharmacy co-owner Jim Hopley will retire next week after 40 years in the industry. Photo:...
Oamaru Pharmacy co-owner Jim Hopley will retire next week after 40 years in the industry. Photo: Daniel Birchfield
After 40 years in the industry, Oamaru pharmacist Jim Hopley (64) will retire on Monday. Reporter Daniel Birchfield spoke to the co-owner of Oamaru Pharmacy to look back on his life and career.

Q Where are you from originally?

I was born and bred in Oamaru. I went to Casa Nova School, Oamaru Intermediate School and Waitaki Boys’ High School. I was there between 1967 and ’72, in the great era of Jack Donaldson. I wasn’t the brightest student. I did two years of fifth form and then I got myself into gear. All I was interested in was playing sport.

Q What was life like growing up in Oamaru?

It was good fun. We had a lot of kids near us about my age. There was lots of kids around and I made some very good friends. Of course, we were never at home; we were riding bikes or climbing trees. We played a lot of sport too. I played rugby for a start ... then I started playing hockey and had some very good success. I ended up playing representative hockey for North Otago, a southern team made up of players from here down to Invercargill  and then I went to Wellington and I played for the Wellington under-21s. When I was finished there I played for Southland. I had a lot of success with hockey ... much to the disgust of my father because he was on the rugby union here. Rugby was very big in my family.

Q When did you decide you wanted to become a pharmacist?

As I was leaving school I was going to become a maths teacher. I was pretty good at mathematics and one of my teachers thought I would be a good maths teacher. I thought being a pharmacist was something I could do, because I was quite good at biology and chemistry. I sent away an application and it wasn’t accepted first year, but if I went back to school for another year it was guaranteed I would be accepted. I trained as far away from home as possible really. It was at Heretaunga in the Hutt Valley at the pharmacy school that had shifted there. I got married in my third year of pharmacy school, which was unusual, so I was married with a year and a-half left of studying.

Q Where did you end up after that?

After that, I shifted to Invercargill and worked at Mills Pharmacy, where I did my internship. I wanted to do my internship in the South Island and that was the only place I could get in. Once I qualified I couldn’t get a job there, so I came back home and got a job with Bevan Crombie at Crombie the Chemist. I started there in 1978 and brought the pharmacy in April 1979; so it started off there. We shifted down here to this building in 2002.

Q How has the industry changed in your time?

It’s become more automated. There’s lots of things now we couldn’t do years ago. When I started, prescriptions were written in a prescription book by hand. If you did 100 prescriptions a day by typewriter and making them, that’s a lot of prescriptions. We made an awful lot of stuff. Now, most of it is commercially made and we make very little. There’s probably only about 30 things a month we do make.

Q What are your thoughts on pharmacies selling products that are not clinically proven?

We’re very happy with that because even though we sell some products that are unproven, they are proven to the people who take them. They have faith and we have faith in them. It gives people the opportunity to take something that’s unconventional if they chose to do so. If it works for people ... that’s great.

Q How has Oamaru’s main street changed in the past 40 years?

Once upon a time I knew everybody on the main street and you could name what places were. Today, there’s not many places there that were there when we started. You had Hallensteins, the Snake Pit, a little travel agent. This block was completely different. It’s quite amazing really.

Q You have been heavily involved with the Freemasons over the years. How did that come about?

My father was a Freemason for 50 years and he was in a couple of orders. A mate of his used to come around every Saturday on his bike and they had a few drinks. They were fiddling around at the bench one day and I asked, ‘What are you clowns doing?’ and that said it was something for the masonic lodge. I said ‘What’s a masonic lodge?’. They said would I like to join so I said yes. I started in 1985 when I was 31. After that I joined the Royal Arch which is an offshoot of that and then the Rose Croix which is another offshoot, then the Secret Monitor and Knights Templar. Since then I’ve joined the Knights Templar Priests, the Order of the Red Cross of the Constantine and another called the Allied Masonic Degrees. I was appointed the Grand Supreme Ruler of the Order of the Secret Monitor of New Zealand (in 2014). When you get to the top you get to keep that title for life.

Q What will you miss most about the job?

The people and the staff. You’re nothing without your staff and some of my people have been with me for over 30 years and some have been away and come back. I enjoy taking on people with no qualification and churning out really good people and seeing them blossom. Knowing most people in town, if I know who the parents are and someone comes from a good family, they’ll be a good employee. I can teach people to do the job, but I can’t teach them to be nice to people. That’s what I go on. It’s let me down a couple of times but most people if you give them a chance, they take it with both hands. It’s quite nice to see people flourish and it changes their lives.

Q What are your plans for retirement?

I’m president of the (Awamoa) croquet club so I want to play a lot more croquet, spend more time at lodge meetings because I’ve missed a few over the last little while and play a bit more golf. I want to travel a bit with my wife, Cheryl, in our caravan. I’m looking forward to spending more time with family. Running a business certainly takes away, it’s not just an eight-hour day.  

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