SLICE OF LIFE
Compiled by Anna Healy Fenton
From the South China Morning Post this week in 1953
Although it wasn't known yet, history was being made as Edmund Hillary's team attempted to climb Mount Everest. Though relegated to the inside pages, the Post's reports expressed fascination with the large number of Sherpas, 50, carrying the expedition's supplies up the Himalayas. They were referred to as coolies.
Less spectacular were British premier Winston Churchill's futile attempts to persuade the superpowers to get around a table 'to stabilise East-West differences'. US President Dwight D. Eisenhower scotched the idea, saying there was not sufficient evidence of Russia's good faith to justify such a meeting.
In a burst of pro-British fervour, communities in the New Territories and Outlying Islands organised theatrical performances, lion-dancing, street processions and school athletics meetings to celebrate the June 2 coronation of Queen Elizabeth.
Royal fever was also reportedly in full swing in Japan, with fashion houses enjoying a boom as sales of red, white and blue blouses, skirts and scarves soared. Royal blue ties with crown and sword motifs were best-sellers in Tokyo menswear shops and a replica display of the crown jewels stopped pedestrian traffic outside a downtown department store.
Little happened in Britain that was not reported in Hong Kong, so the colony knew it had been a bad week for England's 25-year-old motor racing champion Stirling Moss. Not only had he crashed while practising for Sunday's big race at Silverstone, he went on to suffer a defeat and then returned home to his London flat to find he had been burgled.
Mass air travel was still in its infancy, so much so that visiting tourists were faithfully recorded, along with noteworthy cruise-liner passengers and the guests coming and going from the Gloucester Hotel. The average length of stay has increased little: 'A group of 28 Americans on a sight-seeing and educational tour arrived yesterday by PAA from Manila. The party will visit Macau during their two-day visit here.'
It wasn't April 1 but there were some strange stories around. 'Girl who claimed Dracula bit her' went one headline. The chief medical examiner of the Manila police said the 18-year-old girl who claimed a black-cloaked Dracula figure was biting her in her jail cell was in fact an epileptic.
Bites on the girl's arms and back were self-inflicted, he insisted, without explaining how she could have done this. But reporters and photographers remained unconvinced, claiming to have seen saliva and bite marks spontaneously appear when she suffered fits.
Meanwhile 'Mouse at the Ball' was an odd tale from the first debutantes' ball of the London season. The Duchess of Gloucester could hardly believe her eyes, it was reported, 'when a debutante walked up to her and curtsied prettily, while sitting on top of her head was a white mouse, calmly washing his face'.
This prank was even more shocking since organisers had been on alert to prevent such japes following the previous year's event when a prankster had stuffed a three-tier cake with fireworks.
Disgraced deb Caroline Combe said she had smuggled in the mouse 'to liven things up a bit'.