Monday, February 22, 2016

More Oz Fun Facts


Continuing the facts series sent to me by Graham.

The cane toad's 'highly satisfactory' introduction to Australia:

Cane toads seemed like a great idea. They were introduced from South America to Hawaii in 1932 to feast on insects that threatened crops, and after Australians heard "excellent reports" of this strategy, the toads were brought to Queensland in 1935. This pair was photographed at the Meringa Sugar Experiment Station shortly after the species' introduction.

At first the so-called giant American toad was deemed "highly satisfactory": a 1937 report declared some success at eradicating bugs, and there was little concern about population numbers. But we all know how the story turned out. The poisonous, near-indestructible amphibians are an ecological disaster and have spread all across north-eastern Australia. FYI, they're now as much of a pest in Hawaii as they are here.

Additional comment:

The natural habitat of the cane toad is southern Texas, Mexico, to Amazon River Basins in South America. They were introduced into Hawaii about 1932 when 148 were released on Oahu to control sugar cane beetles. They are now found in all main islands. From Hawaii, cane toads were introduced into Australia.


Government urges Australians to eat more bread:

After the Great Depression, the Australian government tried to get the economy humming again with a campaign urging farmer to "Grow More Wheat". But they grew too much wheat — so much they were faced with selling it for less than the cost of production. So the government launched another campaign: "Eat More Bread". It was estimated that if every household consumed an extra loaf per week, it would use up 1 million bushels of unsold wheat. To support the campaign, master bakers distributed "a most attractive little volume" titled 75 Delicious Dishes Made with Bread, offering housewives "economical, appetising and healthful" inspiration with what to do with all that dough.

How pink cockatoos earned the strange nickname “wee jugglers”:

This black-and-white picture of four Major Mitchell's cockatoos was taken around the turn of the 20th century, before colour photography — so it doesn't show off the vivid crests that explain why the birds are also called pink cockatoos. The cocky is named in honour of Sir Thomas Mitchell, the surveyor-general of New South Wales who led several exploration missions of inland Australia in the 1800s. Mitchell's hopping mouse and Mitchell grass are also named after him, as are several Australian places. The cockatoo's scientific name is Lophochroa leadbeateri, after the British naturalist Benjamin Leadbeater, which is why they're sometimes known as Leadbeater's cockatoos. They're also known as "wee jugglers" — a nickname bushmen might have corrupted from an Aboriginal name for the bird, "weejee galah".

Additional comment:

This will give an idea of the colour . . .


The bread wars of the Great Depression

One symptom of the Great Depression in Australia were the "bread wars" that broke out in Sydney in the early 1930s, with shops dropping the price of bread to dangerously unprofitable levels to vie for customers. (Nothing new — Australians have been sparring about the price of bread since the early 1800’s all the way up to the current day.) Newspapers of the era carried daily reports of the ever-dropping cost of a loaf — none more ridiculous than the duelling stores in Camperdown who beat their prices down so far they both ended up giving away free bread. It was custom for bread prices to be loudly advertised in shop windows, as seen in this 1934 photo of a Surry Hills corner store. The site is still a corner store today.

Additional comment:

The shop is at the corner of Bourke and Foveaux Streets Sydney. Here is a Google maps image photographed from my computer screen:


Sydney’s Ghostbusters

In November 1944, a group of boys on bikes tore through Sydney in pursuit of a ghost. Sadly it wasn't the real-life inspiration for Ghostbusters, but a publicity stunt for the new film Ghost Catchers, which had opened at the Capitol Theatre. The scariest thing about the US musical-comedy, starring vaudeville duo Olsen and Johnson as "sleuths who clean out some pugilistic ghosts from the home of wide-eyed neighbours", was its Aussie reviews. Women's Weekly deemed its "bodies in closets, screams and gunfire" as "too much of a good thing", the Sydney Morning Herald complained the pair's schtick "is wearing thin", while the Advertiser decried it as "strictly juvenile fare … entirely devoid of rhyme or reason".

Additional comment:

Film poster -


Vicious lion attack at Sydney zoo

Sydney's first public zoo opened in 1884 in Billy Goat Swamp — the area of Moore Park where Sydney Girls High School now stands. Garfield, the zoo's first lion, came via San Francisco in 1885, and at one point the park's leonine population numbered a dozen. This lion was snapped by photographer Henry King around 1900, and its skeletal appearance and plain surroundings indicates how zoos used to house animals for human entertainment, not for conservation and study.

Disaster struck in 1902 when three-year-old Emma Huntingdon wandered too close to the lions' cage while keepers were on their lunch break. When her 73-year-old grandfather William George Renn rushed to rescue her, one of the lions viciously mauled him through the bars. Though seriously injured — "his back [was] furrowed with deep cuts" and "all his clothes from the waist up were ripped to ribbons" — he survived.

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