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CHB Mail - 2021-06-10

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Tantalising glimpse of town’s past

NEWS

Gail Pope

The Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust is very fortunate to contain in the collection a significant assortment of ephemera. Ephemera represents any object not intended to last once the occasion for which it was made is over. Ephemera is often paperbased and includes an assortment of items such as postcards, posters, tickets, catalogues and programmes. Those that miraculously survive provide us with a fleeting yet tantalising glimpse into past daily lives. One piece of ephemera in the collection is a worn, slightly torn booklet titled Official catalogue of the Waipawa Industrial & Art Exhibition, dated December 1888. Back then, Waipawa was a thriving, well-established township, the hub of central Hawke’s Bay. The Waipawa Mail newspaper described it as being prosperous having “large stores, two banks, four churches, five public halls and three commodious hotels”. Four trains passed through the town daily, linking up with Napier, Hastings and small townships in the heart of Tapere-nuia-Whātonga / Seventy Mile Bush, such as Ormondville, Makotuku and Woodville. To attempt to stage one of the country’s first industrial exhibitions in Waipawa showed how forward thinking and entrepreneurial the promoters were. The list ran like a who’s who of distinguished, colourful and important Hawke’s Bay men, such as Thomas Tanner, J D Ormond and Captain William Russell. The logistics of this ambitious enterprise must have been immense for the organisers, especially the indefatigable secretary Ben Johnson, who acted as co-ordinator. Exhibitors came from all over the country, no doubt enticed by the railways and Union Steam Ships’ offer to carry exhibits free of charge. At least 21 exhibitors came from Auckland alone. Representatives of the press from every province converged on Waipawa. The exhibition was staged in the newly built and purposefully designed buildings located between the town hall and Ruataniwha Street. On opening day Waipawa had a carnival atmosphere, the buildings were emblazoned with bunting, and various bands delighted spectators with their musical repertoires. Once the official ceremony was over, the eager public jostled to enter the gates. With over 500 entries, there was something for everyone. A Punch and Judy puppet tent and a merry-go-round had been set up especially for children’s entertainment. For adults there was a shooting gallery, an “Old Aunt Sally” and other “lawful games”. A hotel was built on the grounds, which sold Exhibition Delight, a beer described as having “a most delightful flavour is cooling and pleasant to taste”. There was also a refreshment booth selling lemonade and ginger beer, an icecream and strawberry stall, along with a confectionery stand. The Empire Company tea-stall proved very popular, as hundreds tasted “the well-mixed and properly flavoured tea” made free of charge by Mrs Cracknell. A major attraction in the main hall was a display of watercolours by artist Samuel Moreton depicting South Island landscapes and Charles Blomfield’s oil paintings of the Pink and White Terraces at Rotorua, all of which drew gasps of wonder. Paintings by Gottfried Lindauer from Woodville were also exhibited, amongst which was a portrait of Re¯ nata Kawepo¯ from Omahu. The hall held examples of inlaid wooden furniture, as well as buggies, express traps and dogcarts, most of which were locally crafted. In the Arts and Curio section there were tantalising exhibits by Augustus Hamilton, curator of Napier Museum, showcasing amongst other things moa bones, taonga, curios and a collection of butterflies and beetles. Of particular interest was Te Kooti’s belt, ammunition and his “carved stick” / tokotoko lent by Captain Preece of Napier. In the Lodge Room, “anyone who had an eye for the beautiful as well as useful in needlework” were entranced by the embroidery, lace and crewelwork. Of special interest was a magnificent quilt worked by Miss Holt of Napier and an exquisite little dress by Miss Budd. Working machinery of all sorts were on display. As well as quirky objects such as an “incubator and patent mother-at-work” which “hatched and reared” over 45 chickens during the first days of the exhibition. In another tent, twoheaded lambs and frozen sheep carcasses from the Nelson Brothers of Tomoana were displayed. To encourage the public to attend on several occasions, each day had something different to see. Of particular interest were competitions in which the public, vying to win first prize, could enter their garden produce, animals, home-made items and food. There were also performances, such as the Kaikora (Otane) amateur gymnasts who “were loudly applauded for their feats of strength and great agility”, as well as Mr Pellow, tightrope walker and acrobat, who danced across both the tight and slack rope with debonair panache. Each evening, depending on the weather, there was some form of entertainment such as the grand promenade concert, band contests and firework displays. However, the piece-de-resistance was the illumination display demonstrated by White and Company from Dunedin. Using dynamos and wires, the inside of the hall was lit up with “incandescent lights and outside, arc lamps”. For many it was their first experience of electricity. After two weeks, the Industrial and Art Exhibition closed. The outcome surpassed even the promoters’ wildest dreams. Financially it was very successful, but more importantly it put Waipawa and Hawke’s Bay ‘on the map’ for the people of Aotearoa / New Zealand.

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