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Closing the Happy Circle

By Gerald Ford

A Masterton social and charity group, the Happy Circle, closed last week after 34 years of meetings, crafts, markets and donations.

The Happy Circle was founded in 1982 by June and Wattie Buchanan, as an alternative to a standard seniors group.

The original members met around a circular table, hence the name.

The group would gather on a Monday, originally for the entire day. The morning was spent on craft activities such as knitting and sewing or woodcraft, making toys and clothing, and the afternoon on games such as bowls, darts or cards, and socializing.

The group benefitted from materials donated by local businesses such as plastics manufacturer Pantalon, and Bouzaid and Ballaben, with fabric and stuffing for toys being donated.

“June was very, very clever lady,” long-term member Thelma McKenzie said.

On craft days members would bring their own lunch, although “Watty used to make soup in the winter.”

The Buchanans would also host people for afternoon teas at their extensive outdoor garden.

Twice a year the circle would host wildly popular shop days where they sold the goods they had made, and thousands of dollars were donated to Wairarapa charities.

They would also hold an annual raffle of a “huge Christmas stocking”, which members spent every Saturday for six weeks selling tickets all around Wairarapa.

Records show in 1998 the circle gave away $4700 and in 1999, $4300.

This year it was $3700, with $100 to the Masterton Foodbank and $600 each to the regional branches for Alzheimers, Parkinsons and Red Cross, as well as Life Flight, Wellington Free Ambulance and Riversdale Surf Lifesaving.

Th shop days were so well frequented that at her first one Shirley Castle, who was a member for 16 years, said she was “really frightened with all the people that rushed in”.

The group also used to gather regularly for social activities such as the movies, or for “a cuppa and a natter and housie” Mrs Castle said.

There were also garden visits, or train trips to Wellington, and chartered bus trips – some over several days and as far afield as Rotorua or New Plymouth.

At its height the club had up to 100 members, but this is down to around 12, with members getting older and finding it harder to get to meetings.  “We didn’t want to close, because we enjoy each other’s company,” Mrs McKenzie said.

“I don’t know what I’ll do on Monday mornings (now),” Shirley Castle said.

The group began with a good number of men, including one crafter of wooden toys, and the men also came into their own on shop days and for raffles, but their numbers dwindled over the years.

Socially the group has been very important for its members, Mrs McKenzie said.

“I think it’s helped each one of us over the years. We’re all on our own now and something like that is really important.”

For the past few years all members were automatically part of the committee, and shared responsibilities.

“I think most of us have been president, most of us have been secretary and most of us must have been treasurer,” Olive Krippen said.

Members this year not pictured on page 1 were Hazel Voice, Valerie Meinz, Eunice Pugh and June Bell.

The women still plan to meet regularly for morning teas and lunches.


  1. Sad to see this closing down. I remember hearing June and Wattie’s names coming over the radio every Sunday during radio requests. The song seemed to vary between ‘You will never grow old’ and ‘Roamin’ in the Gloamin’ . Always wondered who they were, and it’s lovely to read that they were as nice as they sounded.

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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