Harry Houdini in Australia

Geelong Advertiser Houdini

This photograph of Harry Houdini, held by the State Library of Victoria, appeared in The Australasian on 19 February 1910. Houdini (or Ehrich Weisz as he was known to his mother) was about to jump, handcuffed, into the Yarra River in Melbourne off Queen’s Bridge.

A month later, his aeronautical exploits were being reported in the Sydney Morning Herald (22 March 1910). His claim to be the first successful aviator in Australia was later challenged. This item at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney is a starting point to the discussion and mentions a short flight by Colin Defries on 9 December 1909 which went unrecognised at the time.

SMH 22 March 1910 - Houdini

Harry didn’t stop there. This poster, again from the State Library of Victoria, showed that Houdini’s capacity for self-promotion was equal to his escapology and aviation exploits.

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From the Sydney Morning Herald again on  2 May 1910.

HOUDINI IN THE AIR.

A SENSATIONAL JOURNEY.

RECORD FLIGHT AT ROSEHILL.

Houdini made a record flight in his aeroplane at Rosehill Park Racecourse yesterday.   A crowd of several hundreds had gathered, and shortly after half-past 12 they were rewarded for their patience with the sight of the weird-looking machine circling gracefully round the track at a height of nearly 160ft.

Houdini made a successful start, and his plane, driven by the powerful 60-80-h.p. E.N.V. motor, leaped to a height of about 20ft. It then dipped, and rushed towards the ground at a rate bordering on 40 miles an hour. The public gasped, while a number of women screamed, for it seemed as if the aviator were rushing to certain destruction. A neat turn of the lever controlling the planes, however, altered its direction to a nicety, and the machine soared gracefully skyward, until an altitude of 150ft was reached.

But his difficulties were not over. The machine rose until at a height of 200ft it turned and met the wind full in the face. It quivered, and fell swiftly towards the ground, as the engines had stopped. It looked as if Houdini’s last moment had come. The crowd was dumbfounded, but when only a few feet from the ground the plucky aviator managed to start his engine again, and the plane rose once more. Houdini then circled round the race track twice, finishing up by sailing over the grand stand and dropping easily to the ground on the opposite side.

It was a splendid flight. A better demonstration of modern aeronautics could not have been provided, and the public cheered heartily, many rushing to seize Houdini by the hand when he reached the earth.

“That’s my fourteenth fly in Australia,” Houdini mentioned as he landed, “and I am satisfied.” He was carried shoulder high by the excited crowd. The machine, which was practically uninjured, excepting a slightly bent tube, is now to be dismantled, as Houdini is taking it with him to America.


60 years since Australia’s first drive-in theatre

drive-in-theatre

On 17 February 1954, The Argus ran a feature on the first drive-in theatre in Australia, some twenty years after they were introduced in the USA.  The writer of the piece paints an amusing picture of future clients happily, and perhaps shabbily, ensconced in their own vehicles while catching up on their cinema idols.  This particular drive-in closed on 22 June 1983.

ITS COMFORT LIES IN ALL THE THINGS YOU CAN DO

At dusk this evening “Skyline,” Australia’s first drive-in theatre, will open in Toorak Road, Burwood, with 1,500 picture-goers snugly seated in their own cars in a ten-acre auditorium.  Probably the most interesting development in entertainment here since the advent of sound pictures, the drive-in theatre provides the ultimate in relaxation and comfort for movie patrons.

The key note is informality. Unlike the ordinary cinema-goer, you can smoke to your heart’s content, crack peanuts, wear slippers or shorts or a dressing-gown, come unshaven, or do your knitting. What’s more, you can bring along liquor-provided it’s drunk in moderation. And if you don’t care for the movie . . . just settle back for forty winks and snore your head off. You’re in your own car and can’t disturb a soul.

There are no gossips in the seat behind to irk you, nobody to squeeze past your knees just as the villain draws a bead on the hero. The programme is continuous, and you may come and go as you please.

Husbands who for years have refused to budge out of the home to go to an evening show will relent when they can jump into the car and roll off to the movies without having to “get all dressed up.” If it’s a night out for the family you just pile into the car, pay at the ticket office without getting out of your seat, and let a “car hop” direct you to your parking spot.

The screen, the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, towers 50ft. high and 34ft. wide at one end of the large enclosure. It is designed to take not only standard 2-D movies, but also technicolor films and 3-D offerings.

A small loudspeaker hangs on a post beside every parking space. You merely, lift it into your car, attach it to your window or steering column, and adjust the volume to suit yourself. Above the loudspeaker’s volume control is a small switch which, when pressed,flashes a red light on your parking stand and summons an attendant to carry out your slightest whim.

If you feel peckish during the show, nattily-garbed refreshment boys, travelling through the theatre on tricycles, will serve you with hot-dogs, hamburgers, soft drinks, sweets or cigarettes. But that’s not all. If your car develops a mechanical fault there’s the specially selected staff of “car hops” who will fix the trouble.

Drive in program 17 Feb 1954No need to hurry home after the show, either. There are hot and cold meals available in the ultra-modern snack bar inside the big projector-room building.

As each car enters, the theatre attendants give windscreens a thorough cleaning to ensure perfect vision during the show. At the first sign of rain your car’s windscreen will be coated with a special glycerine preparation to make raindrops run off the glass without blurring your view. Even a thick fog won’t mar the show. Heat from portable braziers standing inside the theatre’s fence will clear away all but the most dense “pea souper.”

Later this year, patrons will be able to join in supper club dances after the show, on a dance floor in the middle of the theatre ground. This will be inclusive of the admission price, and music will be supplied from modern dance recordings.

Skyline’s doors are open to any vehicle on wheels, except bicycles and scooters. So if you drive a motor-cycle, utility van, or even a horse and cart, all this is yours – and movies, too !


colonial reporting – padding it out

banner

On 17 February 1805, The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser published the paragraph below. Before you read it, imagine the possible scenario.

Editor to aspiring 1805 journalist:

“Mind how you go on the road from Sydney to Hawkesbury. There’s been a siting of three gents hanging about near the Ponds.  They stopped a cart.  Put together a few words of warning for tomorrow’s edition, will you?”

Aspiring 1805 journalist:

“On it, Sir”

Take a deep breath and read on.

Punctuation and spelling are as per the original item.

part 1 - bushrangers

suspicion of their being bushrangers. They had been previously observed lurking about the Ponds by a carrier, who passed unmolested, owing perhaps to his having another man in company : they did not, however, take any thing out of the cart they did stop ; nor at this time has any account been received of their offering violence to either passengers or other persons ; from whence it may be hoped they prefer the prospect of being restored to society to any momentary relief that might be obtained from acts of additional imprudence that could at best but render their condition hopeless. It is nevertheless necessary, that the settler as well as the traveller should be put upon his guard against assault, and that exertion should be general in assisting to apprehend every flagitious character who would thus rush upon a danger from which they can only be extricated by timely contrition and their return to obedience. All that have heretofore devoted themselves to this most horrible state of exile exactly correspond in the narration of vicissitudes to which many have fallen the unhappy victims. How deplorable must be the prospect of terminating an existence under all the accumulated horrors of such an exile! without a friend at hand to administer the last kind offices, or to alleviate affliction by humane condolance! parching with thirst, perhaps, but deprived by famine of the power to quench it! instead of the delightful confidence which Christian resignation can alone inspire, each succeeding pang embittered with self-accusation and remorse, heightened by the surrounding gloom to all the agonies of deep despair. If conscious impropriety of conduct inspire the fatal resolution of flying to the woods, this second act becomes a second outrage, and by an obstinate perseverance the very doors of mercy may be closed, and every avenue to hope cut off.


from merchant seaman to prisoner of war: Karl Krummel

K Krummel - release from POW camp

Sometimes you find stories that never saw the light of day in family conversations.  When I fell across this article referring to Karl Krummel in the Courier Mail of 3 September 1945, it begged many questions.

The late Roger Mansell told the story of the SS Regensburg which transported survivors of the sinking of the Kirkpool and the Nankin (on which Karl Krummel was second engineer). Several ship transfers later, they found themselves in a civilian internment camp in Fukushima where they spent the next three years of their lives.

Thor sighted Kirkpool on afternoon of April 10th in poor visibility and tracked the vessel until near dark when she closed to track again using her early version radar. She closed range until 2007 hrs at 2,420 yards range torpedo launched, for a miss, and gunfire opened up. Of four shells fired in second salvo, three struck the Kirkpool. Thor ceased fire at 2011 hrs with the steamer on fire. The Kirkpool turned to ram or maybe lost steering control and gunfire was resumed for another minute. Thor stuck around for three hours searching for survivors. The 17 survivors (out of 46 crew) were picked up from the sea. Thor later transferred the survivors to the SS Regensburg. This ship already held POWs from the sinking of the Nankin, (who were also held in Fukushima camp).They were moved again, this time to the SS Dresden, a merchant ship bound for Japan, and then finally transferred to SS Ramses.

They were handed into Japanese custody by the German authorities on the 10th of July 1942 on board the SS Ramses in Yokohama harbour. On the night of the 10th /11th July 1942 they were taken north by train to the town of Fukushima and reached their destination, a Roman Catholic Convent on the outskirts of town which had been turned into a Civilian Internment Camp. There, the civilians were placed in the charge of a special branch of the local police force. One death and one birth were reported shortly after arrival.

We are fortunate to have access to the personal accounts of experience of the Nankin sinking and life in the Internment Camp by Cecil Saunders and Malcolm Ingleby Scott. This aerial photograph of the camp comes from Scott’s article.

photo_fukushima

Lost at SeaIn addition to the personal accounts, I found the book Lost at Sea – Found at Fukushima written by Andy Millar whose father was in the camp.

Here’s an excerpt from what looks to be an excellent way to steep yourself into the lives of David Millar, Karl Krummel and others during those difficult three years for them.

Andy Millar - excerpt Lost at Sea


Christmas greeting card from a soldier to his wife

On 25 October 1916, Sapper T O’Halloran 2711 sent this card from France to his wife in Castlemaine in Victoria, no doubt hoping that two months was sufficient time for military and ordinary postal systems to ensure it arrived before Christmas Day. The item is out of copyright and was a gift to the State Library of Victoria from Misses Josie and Molly O’Halloran in 1976.

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The Poster King

C Arthur Von Tosseau (or Arthur Niven Tossau or Arthur Tozzart and/or other name variations along the way) made his living for a large part of his life traveling around Australia performing as a sketch artist in public places such as the Manly Corso, as well as regional centres across the country as this advertisement from the Maitland Daily Mercury on 26 July 1923 portrays.

Poster King-1 - Manly LibraryMaitland Daily Mercury - Poster King

These examples of his work on advertising posters can be found in the collection of the State Library of Victoria.

Fat man with Panama hat - Tossau, C. Arthur von & Mason, Firth & McCutcheon (1904) – isn’t clear about the brand of ale it’s advertising although it does look like a good place to be at this time of year.

Magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia) never had such an ethereal treatment as with his The Gift of the Gods poster – Tossau, C. Arthur von & Mason, Firth & McCutcheon (1904). A tasteful use of cloud camouflage don’t you think?

Ale & Stout

Gift of the Gods

There are numerous articles about Mr Tosseau in Trove’s digital collection.  One gets the impression he was quite skilled at self-promotion as he appeared regularly on radio programs and was often available to be interviewed on his arrival in a new town with his show.  He would not have appreciated this publicity in 1923 when he appeared in court after a mishap at one of his shows on the Manly Corso. (Sydney Morning Herald – 2 May 1923)

skyrocket Tosseau

At the age of 54, while traveling with his Poster King show, Arthur Tosseau died at the wheel of his car. This account is from The Gundagai Independent and Pastoral, Agricultural and Mining Advocate of 9 May 1927.
9 May 1927 - re A T death

His story can be found in more detail on this link to Manly Library’s Local History blog. The photograph of Tosseau is also from that site.


The Greedy Feed on the history of takeaway food in Australia

saucepanLouisa Peterson has written an article about the history of takeaway food in Australia on the blog The Greedy Feed.

Louisa contacted me for some of my memories and you can find them and the article here.

Read on to discover the answer to the question – what was the first takeaway food in Australia?


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