In July 1919, peace celebrations to celebrate the end of World War I were held throughout New Zealand, and advice from the government indicated they should be held on Saturday, July 19, Sunday, July 20 and Monday, July 21.
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The format announced by the government was to have a Soldiers' Day, a Day of Thanksgiving and a Children's Day.
Some changed the order, or did things differently, like Invercargill that had a "Fallen Footballers Memorial Day". Hastings, Napier, Taradale and Havelock North kept to the format.
Electricity for Hastings and Havelock North was diesel-generated in the municipal power house in Eastbourne St (where Opera Kitchen is now).
The power house was to close on the Saturday, July 19 for the peace celebrations. A notice went out to consumers that "All consumers of electricity in both Hastings and Havelock North are requested to be as economical as possible with their electric light on Saturday and Monday evening to allow sufficient current for street illuminations."
As can be seen from the photo, flags of the allies of the British Empire were hung across streets all over the country. Japan's flag can be seen in the photo, who of course fought alongside Britain in World War I.
Some warned about the liberal use of Chinese crackers during the Peace Day celebrations, asking the public to be mindful during the celebrations of soldiers who were suffering from shell shock, and not to throw them nearby soldiers.
Thousands flocked to watch parades on Saturday in Hawke's Bay. In Napier the crowds moved to Nelson Park to hear war hero Sir Andrew Russell speak. He spoke of the sacrifices made by the allies, but also asked the crowd to also remember that many German soldiers "had also made the supreme sacrifice".
Sir Andrew hoped that children would never have another peace to celebrate.
Children's day as part of the Peace Day celebrations occurred on Monday in Hastings, Havelock North, Napier and Taradale.
A procession estimated at 2.5km containing around 4000 children in fancy dress from Hastings and Havelock North schools made their way under the control of their teachers to the Hastings racecourse.
Sir John Findlay, who was MP for Hawke's Bay told the children at the racecourse that "they should always remember their debt of gratitude to the brave soldiers who had died to save them from the insolent tyranny of German rule and, were it not for the courage and sacrifice of their dead fathers and brothers, they would now be serfs [slaves]. They must always remember their obligation to those brave men."
As in Napier, lollies were handed out to the children, before an afternoon of sports and entertainment was put on for them. An extra day's holiday from school was given by chairman of the Hawke's Bay Education Board, G F Roach, to much cheering and excitement from the children.
In Havelock North, the children were given in the morning a "bountiful repast [feast]" in the Domain (now Village Green) before being given their last preparation in marching before being transported to the Hastings Municipal buildings for the grand procession to the racecourse.
Each school in Hastings and Havelock North was to take on a theme of one of the allies that fought with the British. Havelock schools were to represent Belgium and the children and lorries (trucks) were decorated in that country's colours of red, yellow and black.
That night Havelock North residents gathered at the Domain to witness a large bonfire and fireworks display. The "tit bit" of the evening was the burning of an effigy of "Kaiser Bill" to represent Wilhelm or William II – the last German Emperor and King of Prussia.
As the effigy burned in the bonfire, the children danced and shouted in front of it.
Many of the children were tired after from their day's proceedings, but some of the "elder folks" held an impromptu dance in the Foresters' Hall.
Speakers on Peace Day were relieved that the young children were spared the horrors of war, and this day "marked the unfolding of a new era in the world's history".
Sadly, many of the young boys and girls who were celebrating on Peace Day would go to war in just over 20 years' time against Germany.
Before that they would endure a Great Depression from 1929 to the mid-1930s and in Hawke's Bay in February 1931, a catastrophic earthquake killing around 260 people.
I often reflect how difficult life was in Hawke's Bay during the 31-year period of 1914 to 1945.
When I started as a junior accounting clerk in 1981 at Ingram, Thompson and Berry I worked with Ron King. He, like me, had started as a junior and worked for Rainbow and Hobbs further up Queen St. His boss was Algernon Rainbow, who was also Hastings' mayor.
When the surrender of Germany was announced in 1945, Algernon came into the main office and asked how shall we celebrate the end of the war.
"I would like a fire engine to ride around in," said Ron.
"I think that can be arranged," said Algernon.
A fire engine arrived and carted Ron around the streets of Hastings with him waving proudly and proclaiming the end of the war from the back of the engine.
- Signed copies of Michael Fowler's Historic Hawke's Bay book are available at $65 from the Hastings Community Art Centre, Russell St South, Hastings and Wardini Books Havelock North and Napier.
- Michael Fowler FCA (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a chartered accountant, contract researcher and writer of Hawke's Bay's history.