Remember A Day
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Nixon’s Hong Kong ‘lover’, Charlie Chaplin’s grave and a strike over toilet breaks: 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, 19 April, 2018, 12:22pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 April, 2018, 9:55pm

Unbelievable as it might sound, women factory workers in Hong Kong had to fight for toilet breaks and the government had to overhaul moneylending laws to curb a rising trend of public servants borrowing money from finance companies, both of which made an interesting read four decades ago this week.

April 16, 1978

• A 49-year-old man asked the California Supreme Court to hear his argument that his domestic life had been ruined by an article in a weekly newspaper that linked his wife romantically with former US president Richard Nixon. The article alleged that Nixon had helped Marianna Liu emigrate to the United States from Hong Kong, where she had previously worked as a hotel hostess. The FBI later revealed she was being investigated as a communist spy.

April 17, 1978

• Wealthy owners of Britain’s big deer parks hit upon a profitable sideline business – exporting the animals’ genitals to Hong Kong for use as aphrodisiacs. The genitals of young deer, which had to be culled, were sold by the centimetre for use in a variety of medicinal compounds.

An airport taxi racket, a missing nuclear device and a sex-crazed frog: headlines from four decades ago

• Finance companies were preying on civil servants so voraciously that the government was forced to conduct a major review of the Money Lenders Ordinance and consider imposing an upper limit on the interest charged on loans as well as a ban on compound interest. The total sum owed by civil servants was estimated at between HK$30 million and HK$50 million.

• The government announced that Hong Kong’s population had increased by nearly 21.5 per cent to 4,566,900 over the past decade.

April 18, 1978

• China took a big stake in a HK$200 million building complex in Wan Chai intending to use it as a stepping stone to a major expansion of its trading activities. It paid just under HK$130 million for three floors of the new Causeway Centre’s four-storey podium and one of three residential blocks in the complex. The acquisition was to meet a growing need for more trade and finance facilities as well as staff accommodation.

• Charlie Chaplin’s body was stolen from its Swiss grave in the last month, reportedly to extract a ransom from his widow, overseas media said.

China’s very own Watergate-style scandal and a top university post for a former spy: headlines from four decades ago

April 19, 1978

• All water restrictions were lifted from 4pm the day before after 10 months of controlled supply. The government introduced the 16-hour supply restriction in June the previous year, when water storage levels in the city’s reservoirs fell below the average of earlier years.

• Britain’s foreign secretary Dr David Owen had issued 25,000 photographs of himself at public expense, Labour MP Arthur Lewis claimed. Owen’s habit of distributing signed photographs was costing taxpayers more than £5,000 (HK$45,000 at the time) a year. Owen, 38, was the youngest head of the Foreign Office in more than four decades at the time.

April 20, 1978

• More than 200 women factory workers went on strike over the right to go to the toilet. A spokesman of the Yokohama Company, a factory that made radio transformers, said too many female staff went to the toilet at the same time, affecting productivity. It thus imposed restrictions by allowing only two workers to go at a time, and only after seeking permission. The workers returned to work later after mediation by labour officials.

• It rained fish for a second time in a small village in Kenya’s Rift Valley a week earlier, and nobody knew why, according to the Kenya News Agency. A local councillor said he saw red and black river fish scattered over the ground and some squirming in the trees after a two-hour thunderstorm. There had been a similar “fish shower” reported a year before.

• An emaciated seven-year-old girl, said to have been imprisoned by her parents in a wardrobe for five years, was discovered in a police raid after a tip-off from neighbours in the Los Angeles suburb of Lakewood.

• In a national survey of dangerous beasts being kept in private homes, Japanese police found that 1,138 dangerous animals, including a gorilla, a hippo, 874 bears, 91 pythons, 62 crocodiles and four elephants were being kept as pets in Japanese residences. The survey was conducted after a man was mauled to death by his two pet lions.

• Chinese cadres were advised not to rely on their secretaries to write speeches on their behalf as they put everybody to sleep, People’s Daily said. The Communist Party newspaper called on cadres to write their own speeches that “spoke to the heart” and gleaned inspiration from the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, and Chairman Mao.

April 22, 1978

• Two British doctors reported to have perfected a “test tube baby” technique were expected to publish their research soon. Gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe and Dr Robert Edwards of Cambridge University had been working for years to fertilise a human egg outside the mother in a test tube and reinsert it, leading to a normal birth. The process would allow women with Fallopian tube issues to conceive.

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