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Lawrence Blue Spur Butchery owner Jan Harper brings a 48-year career in the meat industry to a close tomorrow, one which began as a "bit out of the ordinary" for a teenage girl from Invercargill back in 1973.
"They said I was the first female butcher’s apprentice through Invercargill back then, but to me it didn’t matter. It was just what I wanted to do since I was a little girl."
Mrs Harper’s older brother Gary became an apprentice before her, given the opportunity by family friend and Invercargill butcher Kenny Officer.
A year or so later, she was delighted to be given the same chance herself.
"I loved it — he was the best boss I ever had. Kenny actually came to visit recently, on hearing I was retiring, and he said it was my energy and enthusiasm that won him over. I’d always give everything a go and give it my full attention, which hasn’t really changed since."
Like a good sausage, her career had been liberally spiced — with humour and adventure.
When metric weights and measures were introduced in 1976, an elderly female customer strode boldly into the shop, Mrs Harper said.
"She said, ‘I’ll take a kilometre of sausages and a litre of mince’. The boss just looked at her and said, ‘It could be a while collecting your sausages’."
A 15-year spell working as a butcher in Sydney from 1978 introduced the enterprising young adult to a smorgasbord of international culture.
"I was working with a Hungarian Jew, a German called Helmut, a former SS officer called The Old Fox, and a Russian called Boris.
"My dad said, ‘Just you look out, Jan. That’s a regular League of Nations.’ But they always looked after me. I was like a mascot."
In 2009 and back on home soil, the opportunity arose to establish her own butchery for the first time.
Ending up christened "Blue Spur" after a local beauty spot, it could have been quite different, Mrs Harper said.
"I’ve always loved The Rolling Stones, so I was going to call it Jagger Meats.
"But I didn’t think Lawrence was quite ready for that."
She later discovered her grandfather Bill Smith had been born at Blue Spur, bringing the family connection full circle.
"Funnily enough I haven’t been able to find out much about a man called ‘Bill Smith’, but Lawrence has always felt right to me.
"Although I’ll probably head off in my campervan from time to time, this is home now."