Big Norm's message of good luck recalled

Anyone got any ideas what this bird is? Jim Fraser sent us this photograph, wondering if it is...
Anyone got any ideas what this bird is? Jim Fraser sent us this photograph, wondering if it is the "long thought-to-be extinct New Zealand snowbird". No New Zealand or Australian bird book can help, he says. PHOTO: JIM FRASER
Your memories of Norman Kirk keep flooding in and it is just about all I can do to keep up with them. Apologies if I have not managed to return your call or reply to your email.

I caught up with well-known former broadcaster Rodney Bryant the other morning. Rodney, if you recall, was in one of the clips I mentioned, interviewing Mr Kirk after the Labour Party's victory in the November 1972 election.

Rodney recounted to me the night of the 1974 Rata Awards for New Zealand music, televised live, at which he was a presenter.

He says just as he was about to go on stage, he was handed a telegram. It was from Mr Kirk, wishing the group Ebony "good luck" with their hit from earlier in the year, Big Norm, which was nominated for an award. Rodney says he read the telegram out to the audience.

[According to Wikipedia, the Bulldogs Allstar Goodtime Band won the recording artist/group of the year title and the best recorded composition was John Hanlon's Is It Natural.]

It turns out the show was held just 24 hours before Mr Kirk died. The listing in the ODT for Friday August 30 that year said: "8.06pm , 1974 Rata Awards (colour), live from the Christchurch Town Hall."

Alison Hebbard of Albert Town says she was driving a taxi around Mosgiel on the night of the prime minister's death.

"The dispatcher told the drivers over the radio telephone. It was a big shock at the time."

Dave Pettersson recalls where he was when the announcement came through.

"I was 10 and being babysat by my teenage sister and her friend at her friend's house. They were washing each other's hair and playing with a hairdryer, and I was watching TV in an unfamiliar lounge.

Dave Pettersson's great-grandfather sold the land that the Wellington Home of Compassion - where...
Dave Pettersson's great-grandfather sold the land that the Wellington Home of Compassion - where Prime Minister Norman Kirk died on August 31, 1974 - was built on. This photo from December 1908 shows some of 220 Wellington residents taking part in a working bee to construct a reservoir at the home. PHOTO: OTAGO WITNESS
"The announcement came over, and the thing that got my attention was that it was said he had died at the Home of Compassion in Island Bay, Wellington.

"I was too young to appreciate that our prime minister had died but, because of where he died, I was intrigued, because the Home of Compassion was built on land that my great-grandfather had sold the nuns.

"My dad had told me several times over the years that his grandfather, Charles Pettersson (born Karl), was a sailor from Sweden who jumped ship in Wellington and hid out in a cave at Red Rocks around from Island Bay, eventually melting into the Island Bay community.

"He bought land in Island Bay, and made a market garden in Rhine St (it may have had a different name then), some of which he sold to the nuns, where the Home of Compassion was built. My dad was born in 1923, so we are talking very early 20th century."

Thanks Dave.

Television memories

Aaron Phillips emailed the photo in the column this morning of Smiley Brothers, which featured in a voice-over advertisement on the first day of DNTV2.

"I was reading your column and saw you mentioned Smiley Brothers shoes and thought I would send you a picture of a Smiley Bros advertising card that I have. It is 37.5cm high x 30.5cm across."

Bruce Barnett of Taieri Beach says he was working at Russell Oaten's Disk Den in the first days of television in Dunedin and coping with the interest from the slogan "Don't Dilly Dally see Russ for your Telly".

"We kept getting requests for installations out in the country, so after most of the local work dried up we decided to see what could be done.

Aaron Phillips found this advertising card for Smiley Brothers' "sporting footwear" after reading...
Aaron Phillips found this advertising card for Smiley Brothers' "sporting footwear" after reading in this column that the first advertisement on DNTV2 in the early 1960s was a voice-over for their shoes. PHOTO: AARON PHILLIPS
"We first tried receiving signals in the Middlemarch area and found that, by installing 50-foot masts on top of the roof, with twin-stacked, five-element yagi aerials, we could get a reasonable signal and the customers were happy to pay.

"But going further afield, the signals became marginal and not what we considered acceptable. However, almost always the clients insisted on completing the sale and were quite happy peering at a snowy, flickering picture, as long as they could hear the sound.

"Those 50-foot masts didn't fare to well in the occasional gale so several had to be revisited for repairs.

"I retired last year after 56 years in the trade and having gone from the black-and-white era through to colour, plasma, LCD and now LED technology, broadcast TV, satellite TV and now streaming.

"It is a lot easier now to get that programme to watch."

Sure is, Bruce. And it is a darned sight easier to tune in, too.

Have a good weekend. More on Norman Kirk on Monday and lots of memories of Dunedin cable cars to share next week as well.

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