Old paper opens the door on the city's past

By John Maslin

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Almost a 100 years separates this current edition of the Chronicle and the March, 1919 copy found under the Sacred Heart College chapel. Photo/Bevan Conley.
Almost a 100 years separates this current edition of the Chronicle and the March, 1919 copy found under the Sacred Heart College chapel. Photo/Bevan Conley.

Earthquake-strengthening the former Sacred Heart College chapel on St Johns Hill a couple of years ago uncovered a remarkably well preserved copy on the Wanganui Chronicle that was almost 100 years old.

The paper was found under the chapel foundations by Mark Audain who was then working for DML Builders that carried out the work. The chapel is now part of the Jane Winstone retirement village.

Mr Audain is currently lecturing in carpentry at Whanganui UCOL but brought the paper into the Chronicle for safe keeping.

The paper is dated Thursday, March 27, 1919, a little over four months after the last shots were fired to end World War 1.

Age has left the paper in a very fragile condition but it's still readable and opens up a glimpse of life in the Whanganui community more than 97 years ago.

The paper is dominated by advertising with very little space allocated for news. Not surprisingly many of the advertisements have a direct reference to the Great War.

In one of them town clerk G Murch was asking people to lend their motor cars to help transport disabled soldiers, nurses and veterans in the procession for Peace Day that was coming up.

Real estate prices seem ludicrously cheap now but remember this was nearly 100 years ago. For $2000 you could buy a seven-room house on Durie Hill on a quarter acre (1000 sq m) section. Or paying $54 an acre would buy you a "nice little dairy farm" carrying 35 cows near Inglewood.

Warnocks were advertising millinery, costumes and crepe de chine blouses among other items of women's finery. And Mrs Cleland announced she was resuming her children's dance classes in the Druids Hall.

There was a testimonial endorsing "Drinko" as sure-fire cure for those addicted to the demon drink. Smokers were able to buy a packet of 20 cigarettes for 1 shilling and 4 pence - 14c in our currency.

Shipping movements were regular through Whanganui's port and 20 shillings ($2) got you a return ticket on the SS Invercargill from Whanganui to Wellington.

F N Chainey announced that owing "to an enormous increase in business" he had "removed to more commodious premises" at 142 Guyton St.

If you were looking for hearty start to the day Creamota was advertised as "the breakfast dish as delicious as it looks" while other products being promoted included Bonnington's Irish Moss cough elixir and HP sauce.

The broadsheet pages of the 1919 Chronicle gave up scant space for news. But one report from Brisbane told of returned soldiers "attacking" the Daily Standard newspaper offices in that city and "calling on the paper to apologise to the soldiers for certain remarks published". What those remarks were we weren't told.

But wisely the state government had ordered all the pubs in Brisbane to stay shut.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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