Blast from the past

TINA WHITE
Last updated 12:00 07/06/2014
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PALMERSTON NORTH CITY LIBRARY/Supplied

STEAMPOWER: A goods train in the Manawatu Gorge, circa 1902.

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They set out to practise a memorable gunpowder salute for King Edward VII's coming coronation - but almost blew themselves up in the process, reported the Manawatu Standard of Saturday, June 7, 1902.

The men of the Rongotea artillery company came in for a different kind of flak by the writer of the news article, who declared: "It would be well for them to procure some more up-to-date weapons than those in use on the Prince of Wales' birthday.

"A large part of one of the muzzles of those in use was found embedded in a door of Mr Hickford's Royal Oak Temperance Hotel."

Had there been anyone in the line of fire, "there would probably have been an inquest . . . it was lucky for the artillerymen that they put in two feet of fuse, or the speed of their own two feet might have been arrested.

"It's to be hoped that the explosion of last night will be a warning to them to get something safer in time for the coronation. The ‘gun' was a two- inch iron pipe fixed to a post.

"Ten inches of the muzzle scattered in all directions - two went clean through an iron fence across the road. Another piece travelled 60 feet, lodging itself in the door."

Palmerston North, population 7000, was going about its weekend business as usual that cold Saturday afternoon. The Standard's weather correspondent Captain Edwin predicted moderate to strong northerly winds and a "glass fall" warning of stormy weather.

The newspaper's advertising columns publicised two homes for sale near The Square: a five-room house on a quarter-acre section, price £250 (£20 cash down and 12 shillings and sixpence a week payments); and a four-room dwelling with a garden in Church St for £185.

Lost items included "last night, by a poor man, between Payne's boot shop and the UFCA (United Farmers' Cooperative Association) three £1 notes."

Surprisingly, the poor man was offering a reward of a pound for the return of three. Someone else had lost "a silver-mounted riding whip between E.D.Browne's livery stable and Ferguson Street west."

Finders were asked to bring the lost items to the Standard office.

In Feilding, a Feilding Star editorial told readers that if football clubs used their influence to discourage "the abominable practice" of swearing on the field, it would soon disappear.

"The use of bad language in public places, especially on football grounds, is being sternly repressed in several parts of the colony," the article continued. In the writer's opinion, "far more blasphemous and obscene language is now heard in public places than there was when the Police Offences Act (making it punishable) was passed in 1884."

The Star cited a young man who had recently been sentenced to pay a heavy fine with the alternative of a month's imprisonment with hard labour for using indecent language, and "a few days ago, a football club in the South Island expelled one or more members for the same offence".

Feilding's Drill Hall was booked for an exotic entertainment the next Tuesday, June 10 - the Sikhs Punjab troupe of Indian jugglers, whose show had filled the Napier Theatre Royal on Friday night.

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"Long pole fancy spinning, singlesticks and sword combats, an imitation of snake killing, Indian gun drill and fire spinning by the champion of India, Gunda Singh" was on the bill of fare, along with MC/comedian Jack Lyndon, the singing Lloyd sisters and a display of cinematograph views.

On June 11, Mongomery's Entertainments would perform in Palmerston North, at the Theatre Royal in Coleman Place. Along with popular vaudeville entertainers, there would be silent movie scenes featuring Santos Dumont's airship, the Great American Flip-Flap Railway and Little Red Riding Hood, a pantomime in 12 scenes, "the longest biograph film yet taken".

Chemists were selling winter cough remedies: Ayer's Cherry Pectoral, Lane's Emulsion and Tonkins' Linseed Emulsion, and the ever-popular Woods' Great Peppermint Cure.

Dental woes could be solved with "Ingo - cures raging toothache in a few seconds.

"The latest scientific remedy for destroying the nerve in decayed teeth. Price one shilling".

Importer and manufacturer Charles Dahl, maker of horse covers and oilskin clothing, was advertising a shipment of Danish clogs and clog shoes: "warm and comfortable to wear, suitable for everyday winter use".

Coronation fever was in the air; special local events were being planned for the runup to coronation day, June 26, 1902, when 60-year-old King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra would be ceremonially crowned in Westminster Abbey.

Coloured pictures of the couple circulated, artfully posed to hide the fact the queen was several inches taller than her husband.

The New Zealand government printed thousands of dated, coloured souvenir coronation cards as mementoes.

But on June 24, Edward would be stricken with appendicitis. An immediate operation would be performed - successfully - but the coronation ceremony was off. It would not take place until August 9.

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- Manawatu Standard

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