Thursday, 29 July 2010

Long-suffering readers of this column will know I love history. Less generous souls would say I’m stuck in the past.

Therefore it will come as no surprise I’m like a pig in muck when it comes to burying my snout into Ron Palenski’s latest literary offering On This Day In New Zealand.

Palenski is best known as one this country’s pre-eminent sports writers but he’s also a leading historian, as his master’s degree in history would suggest.

His book is chock full of sporting and historical gems. For instance, on the this day (July 30) in 1976 did you know the New Zealand men’s hockey beat Australia 1-0 to win the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Montreal?

As you do, I flicked straight to my birthday to see what world-shattering event took place on such a momentous day. And I wasn’t disappointed!

It transpires that on my ninth birthday (1968), the legendary Southland pacer Cardigan Bay, the first standardbred to earn $1 million in stake money, was one of the guests on the top-rating American television programme ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’. Other guests included the Muppets, comedian Richard Pryor and the Beach Boys singing ‘Good Vibrations’!

In my state of heightened historical arousal I wandered around the office checking out what other wonderful events happened on the birthdays of my work colleagues and unearthed some beauties.

For example, my youthful producer on the Farming Show celebrates a birthday on August 18. Astonishingly, on that day in 1910, a certain Richard Arnst of Christchurch retained his world single sculls professional title at the most unlikely of venues, on the Zambesi river. Before he could defeat Ernest Barry of England, his brother Jack and others preceded the two scullers down the course, shooting crocodiles out of the way! The race had been promoted by a South African mining millionaire to encourage tourism to what was then Rhodesia.

Then, as fate would have it, my Roving South Island Farming Ambassador Dick Tayler roamed into the radio station. Like an eager puppy, I showed him my new book and asked him if he could remember what, if any, major event happened on his birthday. The man who set the 1974 Commonwealth Games alight with his 10,000 metres victory was immediately able to highlight what happened on his birthday (August 12) the following year (1975) – John Walker breaking 3 minutes 50 seconds for the mile in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Then we got yarning about Walker, Dick Quax and Rod Dixon, their varying egos and personality traits, and some of the things the four of them got up to in the 1970s whilst travelling the world with their running shoes.

But that’s another story for another day On This Day In New Zealand.


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