Thursday, July 21, 2016

Totalisator Counter in Context

Bob Doran continues his discoveries into totalisators on NZ, writing: Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision is New Zealand’s moving image and sound archive. Recently they put online an amateur movie made of the 1940 Manawatu Hunt races at Awapuni in Palmerston North, called “Racing at Awapuni”.  This is worth viewing for a peek into the fashions and way-of-life in New Zealand 75 years ago.
However, for us it gives a fascinating glimpse of an operating totalisator, the special purpose machines designed to count bets at race courses. We have a display on the second floor with some totalisator remnants of this era, and also a detailed exposition on totalisators and their history. In our display, we have one large counter from Awapuni that was saved from scrap. It was used to show the grand total of all bets on all horses. Although used up until the 1970s, this device was from the 1920s, retained when the old totalisator of  “Racing at Awapuni” was replaced with a modern machine in the late 1940s.
“Racing in Awapuni” shows us where our counter was located back in the 1920s. It was placed behind the rectangular window just below the top of the “tote house” as shown in this still from the movie. It also shows us that the 1920s  Awapuni tote was win-bet-only and could handle races with up to 24 horses.
Thanks to Brian Carpenter for a “heads up” about this film and to Nga Taonga for making it available on-line.