Slice of Life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 July, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 July, 2009, 12:00am

On July 13, the Post reported that the 'versatility of Chefalo and Palermo will be further exemplified when they play their return engagement at the Wo Ping Theatre on July 15. They will present some startling tricks and illusions which Chefalo has invented during his absence from Hongkong.' One of the new illusions, called the Chinese Noah's Ark, comprised a large cabinet 'from which, after the audience sees it empty, are extracted poultry of all descriptions, dogs, cats and other animals too numerous to mention, until the stage presents the appearance of a zoological garden. Finally a lady emerges from the apparently empty cabinet,' it said. Footnote: Chefalo was an Italian magician who learned his craft as a boy in the United States, according to MagicPedia. He played vaudeville bills around the world with his wife, first as Capretta and Chefalo, then as Palermo and Chefalo. His friend Houdini suggested he change his style to mostly pantomime in 1907.

On July 18, a report in the Local and General column said only three out of 24 insane people sent from Hongkong to Kerr's Refuge at Canton could be taken in. 'Kerr's Refuge for the Insane is the only institution of its kind in Kwangtung and the Canton Times pleads for the establishment of more such institutions.'

'An innocent-looking safe being lowered into a hotel boat from one of Jardine Matheson & Co's steamers a few days ago aroused the suspicions of the river police at Shanghai and a customs searcher,' said a report on July 19 in the Local and General News column. They demanded the key, and the owner unwrapped the safe from the gunny sacks and proved that it contained nothing but air. 'The air, however, told its own story to the delicate scent of the searchers, so the safe and its owner were taken back ... a false back and sides to the safe disclose nearly 100 catties of opium, worth about $12,000. The city magistrate awarded the inventor with a year in prison and a $300 fine,' the report said.

A Post editorial on July 14 reveals a snapshot of societal attitudes 88 years ago towards servants, and argued the need to register this sector of the workforce. 'Servants are hard to keep, of course, and the employed rapidly elevate themselves to the dignity of employer, even though the henchman be limited to an amah at $8 per month ... hence the strikes and rumours of strikes ... we employers have good cause for jumpy feelings: who knows but what amah will ask an extra night off next month, will demand it, in fact, and it will be our turn ... there are rumours of domestic typhoons ... too long have we been at the mercy of our domestics ... we have borne with their foibles, bereavements, ineptitude and their prejudice against prisinity [sic] ... the time is opportune to revive again the call for registration of servants. There is nothing in such a system that is unjust to the servant. Lawyers, doctors and other professional men are all registered ... even the ricksha coolie is registered and photographed. The only opposition comes from unworthy servants ... employers have everything to gain and we look for their support in urging upon the authorities the compulsory registration of all domestic servants.'

'The Time Ball on Kowloon Signal Hill is dropped daily at 10am and 4pm, except on Saturdays when it is dropped at 10am only,' a notice said on July 13. The ball was hoisted half mast at the 55th minute and full mast at the 57th minute. Should it fail to drop at the correct time it would be lowered at 5 minutes past the hour. 'Should the Time Ball be out of order, the above routine will be carried out with the flag 'Z' o the Storm Signal mast. Time signals are also given at night by means of three white lamps mounted vertically on the Observatory wireless mast ... [and] are extinguished momentarily at the even seconds, except at the 2nd, 28th, 50th, 52nd and 54th of each minute [from 8.56 to 9pm].'