Want an enjoyable indoor experience? Visit your local library and learn to work the microfiche. It’s a gadget with a screen whereby you can peruse through old newspapers.
I pulled up an old local paper dated 1929, thinking I would find some news on the infamous stock market crash from that year. I never made it to October. I will read that month at a later date.
I found out interesting information. An ad from a Mercantile Company featured a large ad for Chevrolet automobiles. A sedan sold for $675, while the convertible Landau priced at a whopping $725. Here were some of the many features: an adjustable driver’s seat in all enclosed bodies, better than 20 miles a gallon, smooth 6-cylinder valve-in-head motor, many new colors, chromium plated radiator and headlamp standards, rubber covered steel running boards, and more.
Each daily newspaper had more information than the average person could conquer. A long, daily chapter from a mystery book in small print took up about a page. Social happenings were covered in each area town; short paragraphs, but as many as 15 or 20 events per town. Two or three pages covered little towns in the area. I read where folks were vacationing; which clubs had met and who attended; who was ill and their condition; who was caught in a storm down the road, had to abandon his car and come home on the train the next day; there were several obituaries, and details of what happened at the Golden Rule Club, and Parent Teachers Association; even giving details on the recent evangelist in town and the description of his ministry.
J.S. Dillon and Sons was up and running ads as well. I thought you might be interested in some of the food prices. Lean pork roast sold for 18 cents a pound, a 48-pound bag of flour for $1.44, bulk mince meat for 20 cents; and grapefruit, six for 25 cents.
People were “plenty” busy in their little towns. We often think we have a corner on the “things to do” market, but that is a joke, my friends. The “movie houses” were packin’ them in with Mary Pickford, John Barrymore and Charles Chaplin. Traveling plays were coming to town often, and advertised their showings. Larger towns would boast a Dramatic Club, and usually a Comedy play was a town participation event; high school and community as well. It was a BIG deal.
As I looked over the newspapers from 1954, I found them to be equally packed with every kind of news, and entertainment. Ads were slipped into columns where there were breaks. The ads were numerous, and the paper was prolific with them. Nothing had changed much from 1929 to 1954. I stopped my study there.
National news? Oh yes. They had some. But it was not the dominant subject or filler that it is today. Local news was and still is the LIFEBLOOD of a community. Facebook cannot substitute for all the rich, local details of daily life, and neither can any other social media.
What is going on in the schools? Can each grade send in a summary of what they are doing each week? Why not? People still love their names in the paper. What are some of the studies at the high school? Can someone there take the time to send in current news each week? After all, those in the schools do know the pulse of their workplace.
Who has received special awards in the community? Again, names. What do people do for social activities?
Yes, times are different. But, people are really not so different. We still want to know how Joey Smith is doing in his first year of college. And how is Brett Jones doing since he enlisted in the Marines? We want to know who got engaged, and how they met.
When news is funneling into a newspaper, when folks can read about a business being sold or bought, how many people representing different countries have visited our museums, or who was awarded scholarships in the community ... then it is the job of the newspaper to tell the community about it.
I often wonder which came first, the slowing down of advertisers for the paper, or the lack of covering real community goings-on that led to less subscribers, which led to fewer ads, which led to fewer staff. It’s a vicious circle.
It’s not just the job of the newspaper to find these tidbits. It might be their job to organize call-in people to contribute news from their community or club. But, the news has to come from folks like us. Why? Because, our survival as communities depends on the local newspaper.
Each of us. We are the communities we live in. We are responsible to be the Lois Lanes, (remember her? Superman’s girlfriend) star reporters, and to not sit back and think someone else will do it. Our papers can print the news; we have to help find it. And as for the community newspaper?
Nothing else can take its place.
Judi Tabler lives in Pawnee County and is a guest columnist for the Great Bend Tribune. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or juditabler@awomansview.