Shootout in the Ship’s Saloon – Chronicles From The Past

Ed Nicholson shares the top news in Ladysmith from December 1913, 1938 and 1963 in his monthly column.

December 1913 — Shootout in the Ship’s Saloon

On Nov. 30, 1913, three local Italian miners got into a dispute over a game of cards in South Wellington.  Two of the men, named Mettga and Piole, assaulted a third Italian named Napoli with knives after accusing him of cheating. Napoli left to have his wounds dressed and then returned to the saloon and fired two shots at his assailants.

Mettga was shot in the chest, the bullet entering just below the heart, and passing through his body to lodge in the wall near the bar. Piole was shot through the leg, and the bullet dropped into his shoe. Both men were taken to hospital and recovered. Napoli made his escape through the woods, but was arrested the following morning.

In the same issue, the Chronicle reported that a hen from Oregon had set a new world record by laying 291 eggs in a 12-month period. According to the manager at the laying station, the hen is identified only as “C513.”

“We did not give her a name,” he said, “because she is not very well liked by the other hens. She is a little standoffish and stays in the outer circle.” [NOTE: The current world record, you will be eggcited to learn, is 361 eggs laid in 365 days.]

December 1938

The readers of the Chronicle Christmas issue for 1913 were supplied with a number of interesting facts to enlighten them during the festive season.

Use of lights on the Christmas tree can be traced to Martin Luther. Walking home on Christmas Eve under a brilliant starry sky, he decided to try and replicate the scene for his family by putting lighted candles on the tree.

The Russian government in 1913 had finally given up on its efforts to change “Father Christmas to “Father Winter,” and “Babushka” was back to give out presents to children.

Mince pies, baked in the shape of a cradle, were popularized in England by Elizabeth 1, who reportedly had a “sweet tooth.”

The original Christmas bird was a peacock, complete with a beak painted gold. During the preparation, the skin, complete with feathers, was carefully removed and then sewn back on the cooked bird before serving.

The year 1592 ended sadly for children in Holland. In order to reform the calendar, 10 days at the end of the year were cancelled, so no Christmas was held that year.

Before Santa Claus took over, Japanese boys and girls traditionally watched for the arrival of Hoteiosho, a kind old gentleman who carried a pack filled with gifts. It was also believed that he had eyes in the back of his head. Children were warned to be good because the all-seeing Hoteiosho knew everything they were doing.

December 1963

In the first week of December 1963, Ladysmith was still in shock after the tragic death in late November of U.S. President John Kennedy. Schools in the district had closed early on Friday, the day of the assassination, and civic flags were flown at half-mast.

Many local churches held special memorial services on the Sunday following the assassination, and editor John McNaughton closed his editorial with these words:

“…the image of John F. Kennedy will shine more brightly because of his tragic and senseless death, and all of us who have survived him will be diminished by the fact that this happened.”

Many local fans returning from the 1963 Grey Cup in Vancouver were shocked at the violence that occurred after the B.C. Lions lost 24-10 to the Hamilton Tiger Cats. Some officials claim the riot was triggered by fans upset over the hit on Lions running back Willing Fleming by Hamilton linesman Angelo Mosca.

People hurtled bottles, rocks, eggs and tomatoes at police officers, who called in reinforcements. The area near Granville and Georgia turned into a battlefront.

“Between 3 p.m. Friday and noon Sunday, 319 people were arrested, including 249 charged with public drunkenness. Vandals toppled street signs, tore down flags and decorations and shattered windows, leaving the streets ‘ankle-deep in broken glass,’” according to one astonished Ladysmith fan who attended the game.

Police promised to be “better prepared” next time but maintained they had never lost control of the situation. Sound familiar?

—Ed Nicholson, Ladysmith and District Archives

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