Remember A Day

Boa constrictor strangling, lazy British workers, and Australian drink-driving convicts show up for rehabilitation – drunk: 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, 23 August, 2018, 1:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 23 August, 2018, 10:11pm

A poodle with a huge appetite swallowed an interesting array of items, and skiving British workers accused of hurting the national economy also made headlines four decades ago this week.

August 20, 1978

A common Chinese herbal medicine used as a cure-all for children had been found to contain a potentially deadly chemical. The substance, chloramphenicol, was discovered in phials of bo ying powder by government forensic staff after complaints were filed to the health department. The chemical is an antibiotic that can prevent bone marrow from producing red blood cells properly, and can lead to fatal aplastic anaemia when the body fails to replace worn out blood cells.

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

August 21, 1978

The secretary for the New Territories, David Akers-Jones, admitted that the small-house policy could not be made “watertight” to prevent abuse by villagers obtaining concessionary grants from the government, either in the form of land or free building licences, and then reselling the houses at a profit. The policy, first introduced in late 1972, was meant to provide better housing for indigenous Hongkongers.

August 22, 1978

As 150 people watched in horror, Le Grand Melvin, a 25-year-old entertainer dressed as a vampire and performing morbid acts, was strangled by his two-and-a-half-metre boa constrictor at a nightclub near Montreal. Police arrived within minutes and cut the head off the snake to release Melvin, but unfortunately it was too late.

A royal letter delivered 382 years late and a plot to kidnap the Pope: headlines from four decades ago

An anaesthetist stung by a wasp while sunbathing in his garden in the Belgian town of Verviers died 10 minutes later. George Latour, 48, died of asphyxia as a result of a relatively common allergic reaction to the poison of a wasp sting.

Macau’s newest form of gambling – trotting – would be under way by the end of 1979. The franchise for the trotting track and its operations, the first of its kind in Asia, was given to Macau Trotting Co Limited, a joint venture between Macau and Hong Kong businesses.

Test-tube trees, a Soviet space baby and a dead pig on the French president’s helicopter: headlines from four decades ago

August 23, 1978

The French government outlawed the use of Greenwich Mean Time – accepted throughout the world as standard since 1884 – because it claimed GMT was no longer considered an accurate enough measure.

A drunk Japanese welding equipment salesman was killed by a speeding train in Tokyo while he and a friend were lying on a railway track for a dare. The friend jumped to safety in time.

August 24, 1978

A 49-year-old Filipino schoolteacher personally switched off medical equipment supporting her life, and died in a Manila hospital after being told she had terminal cancer.

A number of convicted drunk drivers sent on courses to help their drinking problems were turning up drunk at the lectures, a court in Darwin, Australia, was told.

August 25, 1978

A vet in London opened the stomach of a young poodle and removed a diamond-and-sapphire ring, a silver locket and chain, a watch, a ball bearing, part of a roof tile, six stones, and a doll’s head.

A nude beauty pageant, long-lost siblings reunited and an escaped elephant: headlines from four decades ago

Terrorist warfare in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, had forced the closure of hundreds of black schools and a few white schools, according to local officials in Salisbury, now known as Harare.

August 26, 1978

A 17-year-old Canadian boy claimed a place in the Guinness Book of Records after reciting, by memory, the first 8,750 figures following the decimal point in the mathematical ratio, pi. Luc Lapointe attributed his achievement to having devoted four months to intensive memory work and jogging.

Wasting company time was found to be the biggest undetected work misconduct in Britain and would cost the country’s battered economy an estimated £5.3 billion in a year, according to a US manpower organisation. It claimed the average British worker wasted three hours and 20 minutes a week by arriving late, leaving early, taking long breaks, or simply doing nothing.

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