Adverts reveal our real lives

Last updated 07:10 04/12/2012
Pat Veltkamp Smith
JOHN HAWKINS/FAIRFAX NZ
Columnist Pat Veltkamp Smith was Southland Times women's editor until 1997 and is a former president of the Southland Justices of the Peace Association.

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OPINION: Like we mostly all know, don't we, when wars started or stopped, when we won rugby's World Cup, when decimal currency kicked in, writes Pat Veltkamp Smith in And Another Thing.

It's all history now innit?

What we don't know or can't remember is all the rest and if you ask me, and someone did, it is all there in old newspapers.

It is not front page news or back page come to that. History lies in all those advertisements, turn-of-the-century pleas for good homes for an extra baby (ah, poor Minnie), widows offering board to good clean-living Christian gents in full and gainful employment, and current personals offering attention from Asian ladies in increasingly tiny sizes from 8 to 6, even 4 . Or massages from Russian nurses soothing lonely hearts.

As the newspaper has chalked up its first 150 years, so some city firms march alongside of it.

Like Todds, centre city auction house now 147 years in business, has advertised with The Southland Times for just three years short of the newspaper itself. Think it took those three years to acquire stuff to be auctioned off?

Todds weren't selling secondhand spades and shovels, but parcels of land to be dug up and over, whole farms and city sections to be cleared and settled.

William Todd and Co since September 1865. H&J Smiths since 1900 - these family firms chase the newspaper for longevity.

Bill Todd's grandfather started the firm which last year welcomed two long-term employees as partners, Lisa Withington and "Lynzy" Francis, advertising three auctions this week in addition to their normal inhouse Friday auction.

The most significant thing in reading ads over a century and a half is the realisation that prices stayed steady most of the time. Only after decimal currency came in, say from 1970, did basics such as school uniforms increase in price - aside from parents noting increases as children grew into larger sizes.

Pawnbrokers selling off items unclaimed included the date they had taken them on and sadly items such as wedding rings were pawned before Christmas when extra money was needed.

Our history is there between birth and death notices, furniture sold and resold through Todds auctions.

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- The Southland Times

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