Bring it back: Weird competitions

by Chelsea Hughes

I am very competitive.  Very.  I’m only writing this blog post because I’m not currently winning this blog.  I don’t even know what that means.

I am also not a very good sport.  I’ve tried to change this, but I’m American.  I will cheat on Trivial Pursuit by adding extra pie pieces when no one is looking.  I enter colouring contests for children under false pseudonyms (Suzie, age 8), and if push comes to shove, I will shove.

That brings me to the next instalment of Bring it back: weird competitions.  They’re still around in one form or another, like Bet On Your Baby (warning: you cannot unsee this), but weird competitions of ye olden days were much more creative and entertaining.

Ladies nail hammering competition

Wow, two competitions happening simultaneously: a ladies nail hammering competition and a see whose child is the first to get a hammer in the head competition!

Ladies nail hammering competition, Tututawa picnic. McAllister, James, 1869-1952 :Negatives of Stratford and Taranaki district. Ref: 1/1-012821-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Bad tie competition

I’m guessing this photo was the single reason John Key began his government employee slash-a-thon.

Ministry of Works and Development, Architects division, bad tie competition – Photograph taken by Ian Mackley. Dominion post (Newspaper): Photographic negatives and prints of the Evening Post and Dominion newspapers. Ref: EP/1984/5169/10-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Table setting competition

I don’t know who Mrs. Blennerhassett is, but she’s a freaking genius!  Look at this table setting.  It’s exquisite.  Nothing says ‘casual table setting’ like a lobster tablecloth, Coca-Cola, a portable BBQ, celery sticks in a bowl, vegetables covered in toothpicks and a set of racially insensitive salt and pepper shakers.

Casual table setting by Mrs Blennerhassett, in a table setting competition, Majestic Cabaret, Wellington. Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1958/1308-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Hair styling competition

In the old days they had things called Limbless soldiers’ picnics.  At these picnics they played embarrassing party games, which included a hair styling competition where people would laugh and watch men fail miserably at styling women’s hair.  The women would either sit quietly, looking unimpressed or smile politely and wring their hands with discomfort.

Party game, Limbless Soldiers’ Picnic. Crown Studios Ltd :Negatives and prints. Ref: 1/2-204888-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Singing? competition

I love this one.  The cataloguer of this photo, unable to determine what the hell is going on, has titled the image ‘Two unidentified women at the Hutt Valley [singing?] competitions’.

Forget American Idol or X Factor or The Voice, I want to see a singing competition where the point of the show is to determine whether the person is in fact actually singing.

Two unidentified women at the Hutt Valley [singing?] competitions. Negatives of the Evening Post newspaper. Ref: EP/1958/1505-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Better Homes Week Monster competition

The best competitions are the ones where you have no idea what the competition actually is.  What’s a monster competition?  Why is Mrs. B. Styles looking at Mr. B. Styles with a suspicious look that says, “We totally rigged this thing!”. Why does Mr. C. Huckstepp look happier to award the prize than the winner looks to receive it?  Why can’t we know their full first names?  So many questions.

Mr and Mrs B Styles are presented with cheque for 200 pounds by Mr C Huckstepp as part of the Better Homes Week Monster Competitions. Ref: EP/1958/3320-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.



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Casey May 23, 2013 - 4:24 pm

You will be very pleased to know that the table setting competition field is still hoppin’. A simple google search will provide you with many examples and links to competitions that should get you started. This seems like a really healthy vehicle for your competitive drive.

Chelsea Hughes
Chelsea Hughes May 23, 2013 - 4:29 pm

Thanks Casey! I’ll definitely look into it. I have a lot of creative ideas for how best to set a table (that don’t involve racist salt shakers). If you watch Bob’s Burgers, you’ll see the popularity of table-setting competitions has spread to cartoon comedy:

Casey May 28, 2013 - 2:30 pm

I haven’t seen that show before but I think I might after that clip. Do you watch Amy Schumer’s comedy?

Chelsea Hughes
Chelsea Hughes May 28, 2013 - 2:37 pm

Bob’s Burgers is hilarious! No, I hadn’t heard of Amy Schumer. Will definitely check her out!


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