It can be easy to judge past events and practices from the position of the present.
Few would now find it acceptable today to dress a sea lion in human clothing and train him to hold a pipe in his mouth and perform trained behaviours such as Flash (1966‒1987) did at Napier's Marineland.
In the era that Flash performed at Marineland there was little opposition to animal captivity, and he was much loved by his trainers and general public, but attitudes against this began to change in the 1980s.
Flash arrived at Marineland in 1967 and was selected by Rob Abel, manager of Marineland from Sea Lions International in Santa Barbara.
At that stage Flash was called Flipper, but his name was changed, it is thought to avoid confusion with a well-known dolphin of the same name.
Rod Abel wrote in April 1969 of Flash "I think we will be hearing a lot more about him in the future".
Flash's first public appearances outside of Marineland, however, had to receive permission from the Director of the Department of Agriculture.
Assurances had to be given that he couldn't escape, and Flash could be picked up by his trainer, who had to have total control over him.
His first official public appearance was in September 1969 at Napier's Odeon Theatre in Hastings St, where he attended a Jaycee fundraiser at the premiere of the film Ring of Bright Water, which was a story about a man and his pet otter, Mij.
Flash had a pool and shade provided for him for his appearance at the Hawke's Bay A & P Show in October.
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When Tourism Minister Mr Herbert Walker opened Travelodge in August 1970, across the road, Flash was at the opening shaking hands.
Flash opened the Taradale branch of the Hawke's Bay and Gisborne Savings Bank September 1970.
There was some opposition expressed by the public as to this appearance as a "blatant exhibition like this must cause us to have some doubts about the sincerity of some of those who claim to have Marineland's animals' welfare at heart.
If a celebrity was needed Marineland should have lent Flash's hat, spectacles and pipe to the perpetrator of the idea, so he might shake a damp hand with those who came to stare".
Flash cut the ribbon at the door, did some balancing behaviours, shook hands with the president of the bank, Mr Dowling, and gave a bag of money to teller Christine Mead.
However, he decided to try to eat the savings passbook given to him.
When the famed kangaroos Skippy and Joey visited from Australia in 1973 for a performance at the Napier Municipal Theatre, Flash was invited along to meet them.
This didn't go to well, as the kangaroos were unsure of the sea lion, and began to jump higher than the people around then to try to escape. And a startled Flash, instead of kissing his trainer during a performance behaviour, bit him on the lip.
Many other public appearances would occur for Flash during the 1970s, and in 1971; the Daily Telegraph said he played a "stellar role in one of Napier's greater success stories ... and surely rival Santa Claus in juvenile acclaim, even in Christmas week and leave him dead for the rest of the year round".
However, it was for his Marineland show that Flash is most remembered for.
Flash's best known show behaviour was when he would balance three separate sticks with a ball on top and climb up some stairs and come down again.
He would then climb up the stairs again, knock out the three sticks and balance the falling ball on his nose before descending the stairs.
A whistle was blown by the trainers to signal a correct behaviour to the animal and then a reward would follow.
On occasion, Flash would decide he didn't want to perform, and would ignore his trainers. This meant he would go back to his enclosure and even close the door behind him.
Once he decided it would be fun to swim around with the dolphins in the pool and would not respond to any commands to get him to stop. Bribing him with food was not allowed, as this was a reward for good behaviours only.
Regan Beckett, who had joined as volunteer in 1984, was asked to try to get Flash out after he had done this for a few hours, and it worked, as the curious sea lion responded to this new person.
Beckett would later work at Marineland in a permanent job and was a senior supervisor at the time of Marineland's closure in 2015.
Flash was remembered by Beckett as a "real character" and no doubt many readers will as well.
In November 1987, Flash, who was by then in retirement, went off his food, and died on November 23, 1987.
He became a father when a long term resident seal gave birth to a female named Holly, after his death in December 1988, but tragically she drowned on January 7, 1988.
Special thanks to Regan Beckett for the material for this article.
* Signed copies of Michael Fowler's Historic Hawke's Bay book are available from the Hastings Community Art Centre, Russell St South, Hastings for $65.
* Michael Fowler FCA (email@example.com) is a chartered accountant, contract researcher and writer of Hawke's Bay's history.