Remember A Day

Madrid overrun by rats, penile implants for impotence and a balloon crossing the Atlantic: headlines from four decades ago

A journey back through time to look at significant news and events reported by the South China Morning Post from this week in history

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 August, 2018, 10:45am
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 August, 2018, 9:04pm

Officials in Madrid, Spain, which was overrun by millions of rats, took matters into their own hands, and the invention of penile implants to cure impotence in India made the headlines four decades ago this week.

August 13, 1978

China and Japan signed a treaty pledging themselves to peace, friendship, and fostering positive relations. The document, which took six years to finalise, recorded their opposition to hegemony but it also stated that the treaty would not affect either nation’s relations with other countries. The treaty was denounced by the Soviet Union, which alleged that it conflicted with detente and posed a threat to stability in Asia.

August 14, 1978

Three Americans attempting the first balloon crossing of the Atlantic travelled 400 miles (643km) on the first day of their voyage. With just 3,000 more miles to go, the only danger the trio faced was sunburn, according to a spokesman at a weather tracking station. The balloon successfully landed near the French town of Evreux in Normandy three days later.

Negotiations on civil aviation rights between China and Britain would be resumed, according to British Secretary for Trade, Edmund Dell. An agreement was initiated in 1973 but had since been dormant because of problems over the status of Taiwan’s flagship carrier China Airlines, which flew to Hong Kong.

August 15, 1978

In what was thought to be an unprecedented move, China placed an order with an American chemical firm for the supply of a small amount of commercial explosive, Tovex, a water gel. A DuPont Far East (Hong Kong) spokesman said China’s trial order of about two metric tonnes (2,000kg) cost about HK$22,500 (US$2,800). The explosive was commonly used in mining excavations and road building projects.

August 16, 1978

Toyota Motor Corporation said it had received orders for 670 air-conditioned minibuses worth about HK$44 million from China. The large-scale order was believed to be tied to the country’s increasing tourism.

Two Finnish brothers claimed a new world record: sitting naked on a red ant hill for two hours and 45 minutes.

August 17, 1978

Almost all of the office space in the two tower blocks of the yet-to-be-built Admiralty Centre on Queensway in Central was snapped up on the first day of sale, fetching HK$1 billion. The centre was a joint venture of Cheung Kong Holdings and the Mass Transit Railway Corporation.

Six million rats – double the size of the population of Madrid, Spain – were living under the capital’s streets. City officials revealed an extermination campaign had cost about HK$374,000 and killed 800,000 rodents to date.

August 18, 1978

A second baby conceived in a laboratory was expected to be born within the next six months to a 31-year-old Scotswoman. The technique was pioneered by Dr Patrick Christopher Steptoe, who also helped in the conception of the first test-tube baby. It involved the removal of a maturing egg cell from a woman’s ovary, fertilisation with the father’s sperm in the laboratory, and finally placing the resulting embryo back in the mother’s womb.

August 19, 1978

Impotence could now be cured by inflatable penile implants, the Indian Medical Association Journal reported. It claimed the treatment could offer “artificial sexual potency capable of normal or even more efficient performance”.

Several widely used patented medicines containing an ingredient labelled “deadly” by the US Food and Drug Administration were being sold without restriction in Hong Kong. Called oil of wintergreen or methyl salicylate, the substance could kill a person if a teaspoonful or more was swallowed. Products that contained it included Koong Yick Hung Fa Oil, White Flower Embrocation, Red Flower Oil, and Cinnamon Leaf Oil.

Remember A Day looks at significant news and events reported by the Post during this week in history