Cooktown’s bugler much dodgier than a burglar

Libby Stevens sent these photos of the cigarette cards her family collected and put into albums...
Libby Stevens sent these photos of the cigarette cards her family collected and put into albums many years ago. I can smell the stale tobacco and feel the gritty dust on them from here! Photos: Libby Stevens

Welcometo another week and to spring. What are the chances it’s turned cold?

A shorter column today so we can enjoy some old cigarette cards in all their glory.

Libby Stevens, of Alexandra, shared these a few weeks ago when we were chatting about cards and other items that used to be given away with jellies, cereals and cigarettes.

"I was interested in the card collections and thought you might like these pictures.

"My mother was given an album from her brother for collecting. It was on April 17, 1926. He had brought it back from the Dunedin Exhibition.

"My grandfather was a smoker, so I guess that is where the cards came from.

"On looking through the album, I too found lots of memories coming back. Weet-Bix boxes used to have cards too, I think.

"My grandfather used a cigarette holder and blew smoke rings — we had to shut the fanlight windows so there would be no draught to spoil the rings."Imagine doing that today! My grandkids would probably ask what fanlights were."

For the pedants, the Dunedin exhibition’s full title was the New Zealand and South Seas International Exhibition. It was held from November 17, 1925 until May 1, 1926 on what we now know as Logan Park.

Bugler’s holiday

Talk of us not knowing our burglars from our buglers in the ODT the other day prompted Ian Smith to send in this tale, which he believes is most probably true.

"The Last Post played by a ‘burglar’, as mentioned in your column, reminded me of a tale told to us by Port Douglas-based tourist guide Gary Zillfleisch some years ago on a day trip to Cooktown, halfway up Australia’s Cape York Peninsula.

"Preposterous though it may appear, many other agencies also vouch for its authenticity.

"A year or so after the conclusion of World War 2, Cooktown had a visitor. He had apparently looked at the map, decided that Cooktown — where in about 1946 there would have been next to nothing but a wharf and a few rudimentary buildings — might be a good place to ‘drop-anchor’.

"The individual had asked for directions to Cooktown in a thick foreign accent, to be informed ‘this is it, mate, you’re here’ by a couple of locals fishing down by the wharf.

"He produced a map which indicated that, in view of the size of the dot marking Cooktown, he had been expecting quite a major city. Marooned, in effect, for the time being, he had settled in to make of Cooktown what he could.

"Came Anzac Day, and the local RSL lacked a bugler for the commemoration ceremony and parade. It seems that old ‘Hans’ had listed among his accomplishments the ability to play a bugle, so his services were co-opted for the Anzac Day service.

"He duly rendered the Last Post (likely picked up on a ‘you-hum-it, I’ll play it’ basis); then, his duty performed, responded to the invitation to join the rest of the ‘troops’ for a beer.

"It was then, with everyone likely to be in a receptive mood, he had confessed that he had been a member of Hitler’s elite SS Stormtroopers during the recent conflict. Apparently the ‘Allied’ troops, likely well lubricated by that time, saw that as no particular impediment.

"Old ‘Hans’ never left Cooktown. He became a well-known and respected local identity, and played the bugle at each Anzac Day commemoration for as many years as he was still able.

"Never make the mistake of confusing the people of Queensland’s far north with ‘other’ Australians. They are a race apart.

"If his acceptance by the Cooktown natives might seem a bit incongruous, bear in mind that people in North Queensland would have been mobilised against the Japanese, not Hitler’s Germany."

Post box

Brenda Hyndman writes about the now marooned post box by Dunedin’s North Ground, isolated from the highway since the cycle lane was put in.

"Maybe my memory is faulty, but I seem to remember the post box was installed at a height and position to enable disabled people to lean out of their car window to post letters. I think it is the only one on the driver’s-door side."

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