Memory Lane: A coronation, politics and a famous pilot vanishes

Cloudy skies and light winds ushered in Saturday, March 20, 1937, in the young city of Palmerston North, and with it the weekend edition of the Manawat Standard.
The shock of King Edward VIIIs abdication and his departure to France as the newly-named Duke of Windsor, with American wife Wallis Simpson, had begun to wear off.

Instead, the focus was shifting to the looming coronation of the former kings younger brother Albert, to be crowned as King George VI on May 12.

Cable news from Wellington revealed plans were under way for the fitting observance of the coronation in New Zealand.

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The Duke of Windsor, as a young Prince Edward.

The illumination of public buildings will be on a bigger scale than ever before ... A feature will be the coloured floodlighting. A number of electric power boards have undertaken to supply power at reduced charges.

The Standard and its rival morning paper, the Manawat Times, were publicising the big three-day Coronation Show coming up in Wellington during that week, featuring highly popular horse events and other competitive shows.

A zany headline in the Standard read Butter quietly firm and cheese quiet, referring to prices of Danish and Australian dairy products.

The Times, under the headline Cyclist knocked down; Motorist goes on, reported after knocking a man off his bicycle on Aorangi Rd near Feilding last night, a motorist stopped to straighten a damaged mudguard and then proceeded on without rendering any assistance to his victim, Ralph Pettit, a night watchman at the Feilding Freezing Company works at Aorangi.

His bicycle was properly lighted and the rear mudguard was painted white. The car struck him from behind. Pettit was injured, and his bike considerably knocked about. He was treated at Palmerston North Hospital.

A Press Association report in the Standard quoted Public Works Minister Robert Semple, stating in answer to a deputation at Raglan, that the Government was merely an extended form of housekeeping. He added the public purse had its limits, and it was not practicable to take out more than was put in.

After stating that the Dominion was going to honour the overseas obligations assumed by past governments, Mr Semple said he wished to remove an impression from the minds of some people that the Government was going helter-skelter for the rocks of ruin, and that it could turn a machine and produce money like sausages.

In a March 18 cable story from Honolulu reprinted by the Times, a headline read: Planes reach Hawaii: Mrs Earhart-Putnam sets new record.

Amelia Earhart in 1931.

Amelia Earhart, it was reported, had arrived at dawn in Honolulu after a 15-hour 52-minute flight from Oakland, California, on the first hop of a world flight.

Her time sets a new record for the east to west crossing. Her departure is not certain owing to the weather ... She has not decided whether to depart today or tomorrow for Howland Island.

Earhart is accompanied by three men. One is leaving her here, one at Howland and one at Darwin, whence she will continue alone.

If Earhart had achieved an early ambition to be a doctor, she might forever have remained unknown to history. During World War I she worked as a nurse-aide with wounded soldiers, and in 1920 she entered the pre-med programme at New York Columbia University.

Summoned back home to California by her wealthy parents, she turned her attention to taking flying lessons. In 1921, she bought her first plane, and eventually crossed the Atlantic alone in May 1932.

In the same year Amelia wrote a book, For The Fun of It, about her life and flying.

She encouraged women to learn to fly and her tomboyish good looks and intrepid flights made her a familiar public figure. At 34, she married American publisher George Putnam.

On her last flight, with navigator Ray Noonan, the pair would depart Miami on June 1,1937, on a 47,000km journey.

Late into the trip Earhart would radio the coastguard cutter Itasca near Howland Island to say the plane was running out of fuel. Then, silence.

Search and rescue efforts found nothing. The search would be called off on July 19, 1937, five days before what would have been her 40th birthday.

Back on March 20, 1935, the Standard editorial commented on a mass protest meeting in New Yorks Madison Square Gardens, following slanderous comments by Adolf Hitler about New Yorks Jewish women and its mayor, Fiorello La Guardia.

La Guardia had said Hitler was a menace to world peace.

The report went on: The meeting was very severe on Hitler, but the most interesting [speech] was that of Dr Bohn, who is apparently of German extraction. He declared that Hitler was planning to make war, and he will strike as the Kaiser struck, in the belief that Great Britain will stay out of the war ... That a war has not developed before this, is due to the determination of Britain to be as strong as other nations.

However, the Standard editorial continued: It is a mistake to believe that Hitler would make war on some other nation of his own volition. Although he is the Fuhrer and dictator, he is not as free as is generally believed.

Hitler is under the thumb of the German military machine, which could tumble him out of office just whenever it pleases ... Instead of commanding the army, the army commands him.

The rest is history.


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