Papers give glimpse of past

By Astrid Austin

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Seth Taylor, 13, with the old newspapers uncovered during renovations at his parents' Hastings villa
Seth Taylor, 13, with the old newspapers uncovered during renovations at his parents' Hastings villa

For more than 70 years the floorboards of a dilapidated house have been holding more than just cobwebs and insulation.

While renovating recently, the owners of a rundown villa in Hastings uncovered newspapers dating back to as early as 1945.

The yellow-stained papers, spanning a two-year period, are in good condition and make for good reading, as they give an insight into what life was like during that time.

'Hitler and Eva Braun now said to be in Antarctic'; 'Soldier hitch-hiked round half globe'; 'Rugby trials for All Blacks recommended'; and 'Protest at early turning-off of Napier Street Lights' are just a few of the headlines which featured in both the Hawke's Bay Herald-Tribune and the Southern Cross newspapers in the early 1900s.

Hawke's Bay historian Michael Fowler said it was not uncommon for people to keep a selection of newspapers when momentous occasions occurred.

"Every household in New Zealand, particularly Napier and Hastings, had a newspaper delivered to them.

The radio and newspaper were the main ways people got the news at that time. In terms of 1946, it was obviously quite common.

People kept the newspaper, especially with the significance of the war being won in 1945," Mr Fowler said.

The newspaper slant had far more focus on Britain. "Very much the news was focused on what Britain was doing and the effect it would have on New Zealand," he said.

Columns of public notices, as well as advertisements accompanied by cartoon-style sketches, feature prominently in the uncovered newspapers, with commercials ranging from laundry powder to car batteries and everything in between.

Auckland War Memorial Museum head of research Dr Jane Legget said papers would have been spread out under the floor to prevent air from escaping.

"It was a practical form of insulation. There was a good chance it was used to eliminate draught."

Newspapers in the 20th century were far more complex in their creation, compared with recent times.

"Every word and letter was set by typeset, making it much more laborious," Dr Legget said.

"Papers used at the time were made with an acidic mix, turning them yellow over time."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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