Kennedy Assassinated! What were you doing on November 23 1963?

By the time The Christchurch Star was published on the afternoon of Saturday 23 November 1963, it would have been hard to find someone in Christchurch who had not already heard that the President of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been assassinated earlier that morning (7:00am New Zealand time).

But when the initial shock had passed what was the rest of the day like for the people of Christchurch?

Just an ordinary day…

For George Hewitt, a retiree, and his wife, Frances, the day could not have started any worse. In the early hours of the morning, their house at 83 Waimairi Road had burned down. Perhaps they were already recovering at their son’s house in Athol Terrace when they heard the news of the assassination. If they were already looking for a new house then they could purchase a bungalow in Cashmere for £3430 or wait to attend the auction of 412 Cashel Street.

Michael James Russell, a 21 year old motor assembler, was no doubt feeling sorry for himself after being both fined and forced to pay for the repairs to the window of a van he damaged with his fist on Manchester Street at 1:40am that morning.

William Leslie Travers, the manager of the Christchurch branch of the Bank of New Zealand spent the day trying to smooth over an embarrassing mistake. The old bank building on the corner of Cathedral Square was ready to be demolished in preparation for the construction of a new bank. An auction was being held to sell off the building’s fittings. When people turned up they found that someone had accidentally left confidential paperwork detailing the accounts of the bank’s customers spilled all over the first floor.

View south along Colombo Street, 1963. View_south_along_Colombo_Street_2819460713_o. Kete Christchurch. CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ.

For many of the city’s children, the events unfolding on the world stage may have seemed irrelevant in comparison to the excitement of the Hay’s annual Christmas parade which took place that morning on the banks of the Avon River.

With his engagement to Lynne Stanton of Riccarton publicly announced, Reginald Watts of Bryndwr was possibly planning a visit to Kennedy’s jewellery showroom at 244 High Street to look for a suitable set of wedding rings.

Meanwhile Francis Curtis, who had already spent seven weeks sleeping in the back of his own jewellery shop on Cashel Street in order to deter burglars while it underwent repairs, still had three more weeks left.

Undoubtedly some people were considering purchasing their first television set. If they were prepared to wait for ‘quality’ then they could order an Admiral television through the product’s New Zealand distributors, H.W. Clarke.

Worcester Street, 1963. Worcester_Street_2819458919_o. Kete Christchurch. CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 NZ.

Beverley Pollock and Paul Amfelt of Dunedin’s Globe Theatre Company would have spent the day waiting to read the Star’s review of their performance of the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s Rosmersholm, which they had given the night before at the Museum Theatre.

The young adults who had recently finished school would have been searching and applying for jobs. For young men there were a variety of apprenticeships available or perhaps a chance to start a career as an accountant with a firm such as Cyclone Industries, as a junior clerk at Andersons Limited or in insurance with the National Insurance Company of New Zealand Limited. Options for young women were limited to positions such as a clerk at Gordon and Gotch on Tuam Street, an office assistant at Woolworths in Sydenham or a sewing machinist at Arthur Ellis and Co. Meanwhile Randini, a comedy magician and fire eater, was looking for work performing at ‘all types of functions’.

As the day drew to a close, some were perhaps wondering whether they should make the effort to go and see Lawrence of Arabia given that it was in its final week at the Odeon Theatre on Tuam Street.

Conspiracies…

The Saturday 23 November 1963 issue of The Christchurch Star has often been linked to the conspiracy theories which surround the assassination. Some claim that the issue contained information which could not have been readily known by the staff working to meet the afternoon publication deadline. However these claims have been disproven by Bob Cotton, who was a reporter working for The Christchurch Star on that fateful day. Efficient global communication, combined with the fact that the The Christchurch Star already possessed material on the leading figures in the story in its archives meant that the staff had plenty of relevant information to work with.

Despite this, copies of the issue have often been requested by international researchers for use as source material. Containing 36 pages in total, news of the assassination is only covered on three pages. While many of these researchers may have dismissed the rest of the newspaper’s contents, the remaining pages give us a glimpse into what was for many people in Christchurch just an ordinary Saturday.

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Erasing hate and the rejection of white supremacism

Recently there have been a number of articles in the world’s press covering the rise of the Alt-Right in politics, and confrontations between Neo-Nazis and anti-racists. Many media commentators have drawn the conclusion after incidents such as Charlottesville, Virginia that President Donald Trump tacitly supports the white supremacist movement and, indeed, draws much voter support from this group. Many political pundits feel that the meteoric rise of Trump in the election campaign was due to the disaffected, poor, and often rural white population.

There are a number of interesting books and films on these movements, both fiction and non-fiction. Some deal with former white supremacists and Neo-Nazis moved to reject the creed of racial hatred. One such epiphany is featured in the documentary Erasing Hate (a video streaming on our eResource Access Video). It tells the story of American Neo-Nazi skinhead Bryon Widner who wanted to start anew with his wife and family and underwent painful laser removal of his white supremacist tattoos.

Other relevant documentaries and films on Access Video include:

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The wahine who welcomed the visitors to Tuahiwi, North Canterbury: Picturing Canterbury

The wahine who welcomed the visitors to Tuahiwi, Christchurch Star, 4 Aug. 1922, p. 6.
The wahine who welcomed the visitors to Tuahiwi, North Canterbury. File Reference CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0080.

Date: 3 August 1922.

“This was a week-long hui attended by Wiremu Ratana (1873-1939) and was the largest gathering of the Waipounamu Maori that had been held for many years. Its chief purpose was to discuss their claims over land taken from them in the past. Grievances were referred to as “Te hapa o nuitireni”, meaning promises made to them had not been fulfilled. Carrying bunches of broom, the three women headed a procession of women who welcomed the visitors, the waiata being led by the woman in the middle.”

Source: Christchurch Star, 4 Aug. 1922, p. 6.

The Ngāi Tahu Land Claim finally concluded with the signing of the Deed of Settlement on 21 November 1997 at Takahanga Marae, Kaikōura. The Ngāi Tahu Claim Settlement Act was passed into law the following year on 29 September 1998.

Do you have any historical photographs of Christchurch and Canterbury? If so, feel free to contribute to our collection.

Kete Christchurch is a collection of photographs and stories about Christchurch and Canterbury, past and present. Anyone can join and contribute.

Cool stuff from the selectors – from emojis to gardens

9781783963508What’s Your Bias? The surprising science of why we vote the way we do Lee De-Wit
This is a timely book considering some of the surprising election results of recent years.  We may take for granted that people vote the same way as their parents, but it turns out that this is not so much to do with upbringing,  but because of our genetic similarities.  However there is so much more that influences the way we vote – or indeed if we vote! With chapter headings such as “Why do you always think you are right”, “What’s in a face” and “Faking it”, De-Wit offers an easy to read and fascinating look at the psychology behind our political preferences.

9781250129062The Emoji Code: the linguists behind smiley faces and scaredy cats Vyvyan Evans
A positive look at the way our language has evolved rather than a  bemoaning of the imminent loss of the written language.  The author argues that emojis enrich our ability to communicate, they ” allow us to express our emotions and induce empathy – ultimately making us better communicators”.  When we communicate digitally (every day 41.5 billion texts are sent) our non verbal cues are missed, the emoji can express these nuances.  Perhaps after reading this book I will be able to evolve, and move on from  the smiley face.

9780711236332Children’s Garden: Loads of things to make and grow Matthew Appleby
Many of us want our children to get off the computer and enjoy the outdoors.  The beauty of this book is there is no need to travel to the high country, you can introduce your children via your own garden, however big or small.  The book is divided by the seasons and includes craft projects, cooking your produce, games, keeping animals etc.  It shows that a garden can be full of creativity and fun, whatever the season.

9780714874609Vitamin C: Clay  + ceramic in contemporary art
Ceramics have left behind their image of rather nasty shaped pots created in night-school, and have now been accepted into the hallowed folds of “Art”. Each page has full colour plates ranging from the small and delicate to large monstrosities  and installations.  There is colour, detail, a dash of ‘goodness my three year old could have made that’, and plenty to be challenged by.

Podcast – The New Zealand Wars

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

28 October 2017 marks the inaugural national commemoration of the New Zealand Wars. Pita Tipene, an iwi representative on the commemoration Advisory Panel (Te Pūtake o te Riri | Wars and Conflicts in New Zealand Fund), and historians Lloyd Carpenter and Edmund Bohan, discuss the Wars, their significance for the country in terms of national identity and Te Tiriti of Waitangi, and the importance of remembering.

Part I: What were the NZ Wars?; Does it matter how we label them (NZ Wars vs Land Wars vs Māori Wars vs Sovereignty Wars?; NZ Wars and national identity
Part II: How have the Wars previously been acknowledged?
Part III: 2017 commemoration – Why now? What will occur?
Part IV: Looking forward to possible outcomes of commemoration

Transcript – NZ Wars

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Cover of Fortifications of the New Zealand Wars Cover of The New Zealand Wars: A brief history Cover of Landscapes of conflict Cover of Sleeps standing - Moetū Cover of The great War for New Zealand Cover of The origins of the Māori wars Cover of Wars without end Cover of The New Zealand Wars Cover of The New Zealand Wars Cover of Sacred soil Cover of Two peoples, one land Cover of Tribal guns and tribal gunners

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Podcast – Arms control in outer space

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

Maria Pozza is a world expert in the topic of arms control and outer space, and shares her legal knowledge of this ‘out there’ human rights issue, speaking about issues such as tension between the laws of nation states and international treaties.

Part I: The importance of talking about arms control in outer space
Part II: Outer Space Treaty
Part III: What do we mean by ‘arms control’ (weaponisation vs militarisation); New Zealand and arms control in outer space
Part IV: Future of arms control in outer space

Transcript – Arms control in outer space

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Cover of The history of human space flight Cover of The American way of bombing Cover of Space junk Cover of Throwing fire Cover of The Twilight of the bombs Cover of My journey at the nuclear brink

Streaming video

Access Video logoThe WPA Film Library: Nuclear Weapons Banned in Space, 1967 

U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy is present for the signing of a treaty banning nuclear weapons in outer space. (access with your library card & password / PIN)

 

Access Video: Space Junk Access Video - Space junk 

Horizon finds out about the threat from space junk and joins the scientists searching for ways to clean up the debris. (access with your library card & password / PIN)

 

 

Access Video: In orbit – How Satellites Rule Our WorldAccess video: In orbit

Dr. Maggie Aderin-Pocock traces the history of satellites from their origins through to today’s hugely complex spacecraft.

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Cool stuff from the Selectors – Nature

9781472152244As Kingfishers Catch Fire: Birds and books by Alex Preston
Having kept notebooks over many, many years, Preston has collected the words of dozens of writers. Each chapter is arranged around a bird, each bird illustrated by Neil Gower. The Guardian gives this book a rave review:

Memoir, or rather memory, gilds the narrative. The most moving chapter describes Preston’s father, bedbound with lymphoma, as he watches a family of collared doves on the rooftop opposite his window. He is woken by a fledgling dove on the windowsill inside the bedroom and tries to rescue the bird. Describing himself in the third person, Preston’s father writes: “Placid and accepting, she allows his right hand to embrace her body… while he emanates all he can in telepathic sedation. It, or something like it, must be working, for her wings remain static and spread, her breast neither heaving nor fluttering … How warm to the touch. He wants to stretch the moment to eternity.” This, perhaps, is the essence of the book, this longing for communion, for connection with things other than ourselves.

CoverBritain’s Wild Flowers: A Treasury of traditions, superstitions, remedies and literature by Rosamond Richardson
Keeping with the literary/nature bent, Richardson traces the history of wild flowers and celebrates the important role they have played in literature as well as their uses in food, medicine and their place in history and myth.  A very beautiful book that is ideal to dip into.

9781473651975Basic Mathematics: An Introduction by Alan Graham
I reserved this book on a whim…I am not known for my mathematical ability and thought that it was about time I tackled what could almost be called a phobia. I must confess to scanning this book and promptly returned it, obviously I will need some more indepth counselling before I can tackle my “issues”. However, in the brief time that this book held my attention I did think it was very user-friendly, tackled basic concepts, and would be especially useful if you were struggling with keeping up with your school age children’s maths.

9780714873527Honar: The Arkhami Collection of Modern and Contemporary Iranian Art
A very disappointing cover hides a luscious book documenting the Afkhami collection of Iranian art. The art in the collection is incredibly varied and at times surprising. Each artist has their own essay, plus there are well written and interesting chapters devoted to the collection itself and to Iranian art history.

9781783963508What’s Your Bias? The Surprising science of why we vote the way we do by Lee De-Wit
We may think that we make rational decisions when it comes to voting but apparently we are just as much affected by our personality traits and unconscious biases as we are by what the news media and political debates are telling us. Perhaps you want to know more about why you think Jacinda is just the ticket or what it is about Bill that makes him irresistible? Apparently you will get to know more about yourself and the bigger political picture!

Strange relationships – John Safran meets Te Radar: WORD Christchurch Shifting Points of View

The appearance of Mr John Safran in Christchurch managed to pack out The Piano venue on Sunday with a fair audience. He was matched with NZ’s very own version of himself, Te Radar Esq., who pointed out that although they both looked very similar, you could easily tell them apart as John was the one with the accent. Unless of course you were from Australia, in which case Te Radar was the one with the accent. Simple really.

Te Radar and John Safran
Te Radar and John Safran. Flickr IMG_2509

Yet simple John’s new book Depends What You Mean by Extremist: Going Rogue With Australian Deplorables is not. In fact it might be claimed that one reason for writing the book was because most other media didn’t like the tangled web of stories John had discovered in his very own Aussie backyard. What he’d found happening in the world of political radicals was not easily reduced by the popular media spotlight to black vs white, or local vs outsiders.

There are many reasons people are in involved in anti-Islam rallies, and it’s not always politics.

In the world of Australian extremist groups things have become very complicated, says John. “Out in the street things are so messed up, it’s hard to pick things apart.”

John has found a very diverse range of cultures and people marching for the reclaim Australia and anti-Islam causes, some of them strange and unexpected bedfellows. An anti-immigrant campaigner with Aboriginal and Italian lineage hanging with white nationalists, a Sri Lankan pastor opposing multiculturalism, and leaders of anti-immigrant rallies opening their speeches by acknowledging the land they were standing on as belonging to the Aboriginal community.

Some have claimed the lack of media interest in John’s stories proves the “bubble” caused by social media and the internet is real, the so-called echo chamber where we only pay attention to things and ideas that meet our world-view and beliefs.

Yet people have always filtered news and read newspapers and magazines selectively. We read what attracts our interest and reading things that don’t fit our understanding of the world can be challenging, so often we don’t. The internet hasn’t created that effect, it’s just made it quicker and easier to achieve – such is the way of computers.

What John has discovered is that thanks to social media on the internet, the “unsayable often becomes normal when repeated over and over”:

The world changed as I was writing the book. The anti-Islam street movement tried to portray the rallies as ‘normal’ not extreme, but I found they were led by some very extreme people. It was like the fringe and alternative had become mainstream or at least mingled up with the mainstream.

John Safran
John Safran. Flickr IMG_2501

Te Radar asked John if he’d become less optimistic about the world as a result of writing the book? John’s response was that he had definitely got a bit paranoid hanging around with extreme people. Ironically he thought that getting out on the streets got him out of the echo chamber that the average person might inhabit.

But the idea that he may be humanising these people by writing about them in a book was not something he was trying to achieve. He is more driven by the comedian and artist in him, not so much the need to be a writer:

I can’t moralise about anything ‘cos I’ve always done something in the past I shouldn’t. But I don’t think people read my book and think the things these groups are saying and doing are ok.

A few questions from the audience stirred things up, with a bit of heckling that just came across as try-hard or even embarrassing. Mostly it was all very civilised and well-behaved. I don’t go to a lot of these events, so maybe that’s normal in Christchurch.

I’ve enjoyed reading the book and it’s definitely an eye opener. And thanks to John seeing the irony in much of what he saw happening, very funny too, although perhaps more in a gallows humour way.

John Safran’s ability to just rock up somewhere Louis Theroux styles and ask people the questions going begging, without being beaten to a pulp, continues to amaze me. An audience member shared the story of the New York commuters cleaning anti-Semitic graffiti from the walls of a train with hand sanitser, and John himself thought that the antidote to all this extremism is just to expose these people to the world.

All of which made me think that maybe John Safran is using humour to wake us up to the way people under our very noses think about the world. Does this make him the comedic hand sanitizer of the Aussie extremist world?

Remembering Norman Kirk

A big man in every sense, Norman Kirk was Prime Minister of New Zealand from 1972 to 1974, and leader of the New Zealand Labour Party from 1965 to 1974. He  died on 31 August 1974 and I would like to pay homage and possibly introduce him to another generation of Kiwis.

It’s not a very long period to be Prime Minister and be remembered with such affection and respect by so many and that in part explains the man. He was raised by parents in the Salvation Army and extremely conscious of social injustice and a tireless worker for the downtrodden.

In 1943 aged 20 he joined the Labour Party in Kaiapoi, North Canterbury. By this time the poor student had held down numerous jobs and was already married to Ruth Miller. The young couple bought a piece of land in Kaiapoi but due to a lack of funds and building materials being in short supply post-war, Norm built the bricks and then he built the house. All this time he was working at the Firestone factory in Papanui and cycling to Kaiapoi, doing a stint on the house and home again.

All the while he was pursuing a political career and again by sheer hard work he led a Labour team to victory in the Kaiapoi local body elections and became the youngest Mayor in New Zealand at the age of 30, also being leader of the first Labour Council in Kaiapoi.

In 1954 Norm Kirk stood for Labour in the Hurunui electorate, increasing Labour’s numbers but failed to win the seat. In November 1957 after a physically energetic (door knocking) campaign he won the seat of Lyttelton for Labour, becoming a Member of Parliament in opposition. He held this seat until 1969 when he transferred to the electorate of Sydenham.

It wasn’t until January 1958 that he resigned as Mayor of Kaiapoi and the family (Norm and Ruth had 3 sons and 2 daughters) moved to Christchurch.  The work involved in being Mayor of a town outside Christchurch and the sitting MP of another electorate altogether must have been such hard work, especially for such a man as large as he had become. Partly because of his bulk and a childhood illness his health was never really good but still he worked hard for his beliefs.

Between 1960 and 1965 Big Norm progressed in the Labour Party, and with the backing of several large trade unions he was elected Vice President in 1963 and by December 1965 he was elected Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party.  None of this without hard work and proving himself the right man for the job and a brilliant debater using his bulk and stentorian voice to his advantage.

On 25th November 1972, Labour won the election with a 23 seat majority.  The campaign was Norm’s campaign. The conservative newspaper The Dominion bestowed its ‘Man of the Year’ prize on him for ‘outstanding personal potential for leadership’.  Quite a coup!

Cover of Diary of the Kirk yearsNorman Kirk took a stand: The South African team wanting to tour New Zealand in April 1973  were not racially integrated and the Kirk government refused visas. Pressure was applied to the French to stop testing nuclear weapons in the Pacific, this failed so a frigate was sent to the test area ‘to provide a focus for international opinion against the tests’. This was an activist government the like of which had not been seen in New Zealand for 40 years.

Ever the hard worker, Kirk pushed himself during the two years of his prime ministership, travelling and attending conferences desperate to achieve what his government had promised, all despite suffering with problematic varicose veins, breathing difficulties, blood clots, weight issues and stress. By 1974 the world economy was slowing and oil prices rising and Kirk opposed abortion and homosexual law reform both of which were gaining more recognition with the public. His government’s popularity was waning, but he still had a big personal loyal following.  His health deteriorated further and he was finally persuaded to go to hospital and died of congestive cardiac failure and thromboembolic pulmonary heart disease on Saturday 31 August 1974 aged 51.

There was an enormous outpouring of grief nationally. He had gone before he could truly achieve what we all believed he was capable of. I had voted with proper consideration for the first time during the election of 1972 and felt we had lost a great leader, one not likely to be seen for a long while.  Labour went on to lose the 1975 election to Robert Muldoon’s National government.

Norman Kirk summed up his and the Labour government’s political philosophy as ‘a social programme which will promote the housing of our people, protect their health, and ensure full employment and equal opportunity for all’. What a man and what ideals.

Prime Minister Norman Kirk. Macfarlane, Ian : Negatives of Graham Bagnall and Norman Kirk. Ref: 35mm-00277-b-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22910147
Prime Minister Norman Kirk. Macfarlane, Ian : Negatives of Graham Bagnall and Norman Kirk. Ref: 35mm-00277-b-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. https://natlib.govt.nz/records/22910147

More about Norman Kirk

Podcast – Making a difference

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

What motivates people to ‘make a difference’ – and what actually do we mean by the phrase?
Guests Billy O’Steen (University of Canterbury), Sarah Campagnolo (Volunteering Canterbury and Gap Filler), Teoti Jardine (Volunteering Canterbury and Avon-Otakaro Network) and Jason Pemberton (Student Volunteer Army and Social Enterprise World Forum) debate this fascinating – and somewhat elusive – question, drawing on their huge expertise in the volunteering sector.

  • Part I: Defining ‘making a difference’ – Is it the same as volunteering? Activism? etc.
  • Part II: How can we measure ‘making a difference’? What are the shortfalls of relying on statistics? Ethnicity and volunteering
  • Part III: Demographics and volunteering; guests’ key learnings; encouragement for people to being ‘making a difference’

 

Transcript – Making a difference

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Cover of Doing good...says who? Cover of Doing good better Cover of The most good you can do Cover of The promise of a pencil Cover of Social change any time everywhere Cover of Good work and no pay Cover of Volunteer: A traveller's guide to making a difference around the world Cover of The red bicycle Cover of The Unofficial Official Handbook of Good Deeds

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