Yesterday’s News Revealing To Both Past and Present

Okay, I admit it. I spend an awful lot of time in the past. Maybe too much.  But as a local history junkie, it’s all too easy to invest inordinate amounts of time scanning moldy old newspapers looking for any shard of information that may or may not have significance today.  After perusing thousands of old Toledo Blade, News Bee, and Toledo Times over the years, it becomes apparent that life has changed in many many ways, but, at the same time, in some respects,  very little as changed in our day-to-day story of the human experience.  So with that in mind, I hope to start offering not just individual stories from the past, but a look back at an entire day’s worth of news that may help us understand that the lives, issues, concerns and daily struggles of our parents and grandparents weren’t all that much different than ours. In fact, many of them were eerily the same.

February 6th, 1952

60-Years ago. Seems like a very long time ago.  Probably was. I was just three. My parents still had youth and dreams for the future. The nation was locked into the Korean War. Harry Truman was in his last year as President, and Barack Obama wasn’t even born yet.  Stalin remained the iron fist of the Soviet Union. The “cold war” was  starting to take shape and the arms race gained momentum. The U.S. exploded a hydrogen bomb. England joined the “atomic club”, and Senator Joe McCarthy was busy chasing communists from under everyone’s bed. While the real enemy, however, was a polio epidemic that was crippling young children and adults at a disturbing rate.

In Toledo, the Mud Hens were playing at Swayne Field,  At TU, thousands of area WW II vets were taking advantage of the GI Bill and getting college degrees. There was only one TV station in Toledo, and the popular new popular shows were Ozzie and Harriet, and Amos and Andy. Downtown Toledo was still the epicenter of the city’s daily life of retail and entertainment. Manufacturing was the royalty of local commerce and the glass and auto industry were kings.

Most everyone still listened to radio, but the The Toledo Blade was the most powerful media outlet that was read by just about everyone, providing the day-to-day documentary record of our lives. From the February 6th, 1952 edition of the Blade, here’s what is recorded in black and white.

SOME THINGS JUST DON’T CHANGE

The big news and boldest headline on the front page that day was the death of King George in England- meaning that the young Princess Elizabeth would inherit the throne. Sixty years later, she, Queen Elizabeth, still wears the crown.  I guess the past is indeed prologue. Other front page items of that day may also sound familiar. The Ohio Turnpike was under construction and because of financial problems, planners decided to end the Turnpike just north of Maumee, instead of completing it all the way to the Indiana state line.  In politics, it was a presidential election year, and President Harry Truman had yet to decide whether he was going to run for re-election. New Hampshire and other  key primary states were in a quandary as election officials tried to figure out how to proceed with the ballots.  And in the “everything remains the same department” , it was reported by the Blade that the Lucas County Board of Elections had made a big error when they gave out the wrong petition forms to some candidates for state and national offices. Whoops. What year is it?

Terrorism? Yes, even then. In Philadelphia, investigators were being asked to check out reports of a Nazi-type youth group at a local high school that may have fire bombed a synagogue. And in another    strange foreshadowing of future events,  the stage was being set with  a page 10 story for what would be later be front page headlines, as it was reported that the head of the World Moslem Brotherhood was accusing the United States of “trading away” its friendship with the world’s Moslems.  The organization asked the U.S. to  “help us and we will stand with you against Russia.” The Moslem official, Hodeiby Bey, said his group was uniting up to a half billion Moslems into a force that proposes to “sweep away” poverty and produce a proud and united people.

In local news, there was of course the usual items of what is known in the news business as spot news. Accidents, fires and crime. of fires. In one case a young boy on Waybridge St. had set fire to some paper in the basement which ignited some stored furniture in his parents house. He was not only named, but said “He would never do that again”. Interesting to note that was not charged with any crime..as he might be today.  It was also reported that two women, a 29 year old Hortense Wynn and 77 year old Jesse Greer were both killed in separate traffic crashes in the city. And at the Goodwill Store on Cherry Street, workers taking inventory of a box filled with with knickknacks found a Japanese hand grenade from World War Two. One brave workers “carefully” took it to a nearby fire station to dispose of it.

BACK TO THE FUTURE

In the shadow of World War Two, as young men were still being drafted and dying in Korea, a constitutional amendment was being proposed in Washington to change the voting age to 18. Based on the belief that if you are old enough to die for your country, you are old enough to vote.  It would be another 16 years, however, before 18-year-olds would be allowed to cast a ballot in a general election. I was one of those first young voters in 1968.

On the business page, it was reported that six area businesses had scored some major defense contracts, to produce numerous items from heavy drop presses to aircraft batteries. At the Toledo University, financial literacy was a hot topic, even in 1952, as a practical course in financial investments was being offered to Toledo housewives. City traffic engineers were investigating the use and value of red lights to control traffic at four intersections on the Anthony Wayne Trail. Today, we debate the value of red light cameras.  Speaking of cameras, there was a photo that caught my eye. It was an artist concept of the new three-story, glass and block, administration building at the Rossford Ordnance Depot. Construction was about to get underway in a matter of weeks.  Little did they know at the time, that it would only be used for about ten years after completion. But the new four-million dollar structure would be put to good use. By 1965, it became the home of the Penta County Vocational School and was the main campus for that school for over 40 years, until Penta built a new school building a just few years ago.

Getting back to 1952, police and Toledo Schools officials in February of that year were quite concerned about the growing number of rival gangs between area high school fraternities. One story in the Blade focused on how Toledo Juvenile Court Judge Paul Alexander was dealing with 46 Toledo boys arrested prior to a scheduled “gang fight” between several schools. Meanwhile, a citizens’ drive to stamp out use of narcotics by young people was being formed in Toledo in an effort to get rid of the “pushers” who were spreading narcotics among juveniles in the city.

The first week of February was the traditional Boy Scout Week around the world. That celebration earned far more than just a mere gratuitous mention in the paper. The Blade carried numerous “positive” stories about the various activities planned for Scout Week and the 13,000 area Scouts who would be taking part. It really was the decade of “Happy Days”.

MORE PAST AND PROLOGUE

A big fund raiser was announced for the two greatly anticipated YMCA  facilities that were to be built in the city. One in South Toledo, along the Anthony Wayne Trail, and in West Toledo near Tremainsville Rd. Both buildings were eventually constructed and lasted for about 50 years until they were torn down just a few years ago, much to the displeasure of many South Toledo residents who thought the South Toledo Y building should not have been razed.  In a strange and intuitive juxtaposition, in the column next to the YMCA fundraiser story from1952, was a news item about contracts being awarded for the “new” Lake High School to be built near the Toledo Airport in Lake Township. A building that also was razed two years years ago in the violent winds of a killer tornado.

In sports, the TU(now-UT) Rockets were deep into the season, and Blade reporter Seymour Rothman detailed TU’s win over the first place Western Michigan Broncos. But TU’s sports program was losing its appeal to fans. Poor attendance and budget problems were threatening the Spring sports programs of baseball, track, golf and tennis. And the baseball schedule was released for the new season with the first Tiger’s game set for April 15th and the last game on September 28th. A much shorter schedule to be sure, but , heck there were only eight teams in the American League.

SOME THINGS HAVE CHANGED

The names and faces of the prominent players who occupy Toledo’s stage in the public arena are mostly different, but then again, there are a few family names that stubbornly hold on. The Skeldons, the Blocks, and the Andersons to name a few. And believe it or not, in the early fifties, Toledo’s favorite son, actor, Jamie Farr, then known by his given name of Jamiel Farah,  was being talked about in occasional Blade stories as an up and coming Hollywood star. Little did we know how much of a role he would play in the community’s future.

Elsewhere, in the Peach Section of the Blade, missing now are the ads for the downtown movie theatres.  The popular names on the old marquees, like the Rivoli, the Paramount, the Esquire, the Loop and the Princess and Pantheon are committed to nostalgia. The restored Valentine Theatre is the lone cinema survivor.

Perhaps what is most noticeable, from a newspaper reader’s perspective, is how much the paper has changed. While the masthead of today’s Blade, and general format of the paper remains very similar to the paper from 60 years ago, there are changes. There was no color ink back then as the paper was produced in a predictable black on gray, except for the Peach Section. (Which is no longer peach color)  Also missing from the Peach Section, as a matter of evolving standards and mores, is the absence of the much popular cheesecake photos that featured scantily clad young women from Toledo to Tampa.

BIGGEST CHANGE IN HOW MUCH NEWS WE GET

The most significant change however is the sheer number of stories that were offered. The front page from 1952 carried 21 stories, and the first five pages presented about 60 stories total, in agates of various sizes and importance. Mostly national in scope, with some state news. I didn’t count the jumps or stories that are continued to another page.

Sixty years later, however, in the February 6th, 2012 edition of the Blade, the front page had just four stories on the front page. (including the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth). Four stories!  That’s it. The rest of the front page real estate was filled of promo material, a big color photo and an ad at the bottom.  And in the first five pages of this newer, leaner  version of the Blade, the story and item count was just 19. Compared to 60 stories from 60 years ago.  That’s a reduction of stories by two-thirds.

A quick comparison of other publications from the past would appear to indicate it’s not just the Blade that has reduced its story count, but many others papers have also gone down this road of reduction. Fewer stories. Shorter stories. More photos. Less content. Too bad.

The newspapers, as I have experienced them, were once a wondrous place, jammed with news of all types and stripes. Perhaps, not much in the way of style, a splashy graphics,  but lots of substance. The pages were cluttered with stories. Like an old attic filled to the rafters with boxes and mystery junk just waiting to be discovered by curious eyes.  Never knowing what gem was hidden inside.  Just one of the reasons why I find myself spending so much time exploring these old newspaper archives and files. I call it time traveling-the easy way. Never quite knowing what you are going to find, and just how much you might learn, not only about yesterday’s world…. but also about today’s.

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2 Comments

Filed under The Forgotten and no so famous, Uncategorized

2 responses to “Yesterday’s News Revealing To Both Past and Present

  1. Bill Romp

    Thank you. As a Waite grad 1960 I really enjoy refreshing my great memories of Toledo

  2. Barb (Jackson) Klein

    Thank goodness Sue sent this onto your former classmates; I thoroughly enjoyed the comparisons, insights, and history lesson! As a 32 year veteran English teacher, I can attest to the excellent writing within. Sure wish Erma Johnson was around to read and enjoy this!

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