Ridiculous fads of yesteryear
Call it a fad, a craze or perhaps an impending sign of the decline of civilization as we know it. If you’ve been tuned in to the mainstream news lately then you’ll be all too familiar with ‘planking’ – a pastime which involves lying face down in strange, usually public, places.
The media has gone planking-mad at the moment, so out of curiosity I had a look in Trove to see if any enthusiasts had yet submitted photographs to us via Flickr. None so far! Perhaps our users are too absorbed with other hobbies to be lying prone, but surely somewhere there are Trovites out there who can help us to document this phenomenon. If you can, the instructions for adding your images to Trove are available on the forum.
Aside from content pulled in from other websites, there currently isn’t anything in Trove on planking (except links to other, external websites) – at least not that I could find. But I had a look into other unusual activities from bygone eras and found that this just may not be the most ridiculous fad we’ve ever had. I’d say it is easily on-par with pole sitting, which originated in the US but was embraced by Aussies in the 1920’s and 30’s.
Pole sitters would perch on a chair (or in at least one case a saddle) at the top of a pole (of varying heights – 15ft, 30ft, 50ft…) for an extended period of time. Usually several people would have a group ‘sitting’ at one time, in a contest of endurance. Sometimes it was something of a side-show act, with an individual sitter attempting to set a record. I haven’t found a reputable source for the record, but in 1947 the stated Australian champion sat aloft a flag pole for 7 days.
This all took place some 80+ years ago when it’s fair to say OH&S was a little more lax… but pole sitting certainly wasn’t without its controversy. In 1937 one competition in South Australia was called short by the Mayor on ”humanitarian grounds”. A decade onwards and a Melbourne competition was shut down by the local Health Department.
It would seem that even with safety nets there was good reason for concern. There are many reports of pole sitters needing to be rescued by the fire department, collapsing from exhaustion, of suffering from severe cramps and exposure. The latter chap upon recovery was quoted as saying: "I am through with pole sitting. I will get £23 for [this competition]. but I earned every penny. It is worth £10 a day”.
Last edited by sschinde [NLA]; 27-05-2011 at 01:22 PM.
The big thing in the late 1880s was roller-skating. The 1988 Bicentennial history had the story of the roller-skating fad in Wilcannia (an urgent delivery of skates from Melbourne went by train and riverboat), and now searching Trove, I find there're about 1200 hits for 'skating Wilcannia' and over 20,000 for 'skating Broken Hill'!
The SMH 13 April 1889 pondered the question of sporting fads (though they didn't use that word): 'What are " the sports that kill "? Some of our correspondents have been trying to answer the question by making roller skating one of the blacklist. It is called a curse to the rising generation, it is described as ruinous to health and pocket to many, and as tending to consumption and rheumatism. ' The article is quite entertaining, reflecting back to Cromwell and the Puritans.
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