I was a preadolescent in the mid-1950s and one of the best memories I have of that era is the Sunday newspaper. The one my family purchased was The Minneapolis Star and if memory serves me correctly the cost was thirty-five cents. To a young lad like me that newspaper was a flickering candle of sanity in the darkness of ignorance that enveloped the town we lived in. I knew there was much more to the world than the limits of what I had seen in that little backward village and the newspaper was my key to unlock the door to that knowledge.
Believe it or not there was a time before television flooded the airwaves with insanity and misinformation and I have been lucky enough to experience that time. Our vista to the present world of the mid-50’s was the newspaper. There were several local newspapers available, but they were weeklies or dailies and informed you of who died or what the local high school sports teams were doing. There was not much exposure to the rest of the world. Enter the Sunday paper. After going to Catholic mass and breakfast I would delve into the paper. By the time I was able to read it, it had been messed up from its pristine arrival. My oldest brother always opted for the Sunday Peach sports section, my old man was already working on Prizeword Pete, a crossword puzzle that offered a prize beginning at $100 and increasing weekly by another $100 for each week it wasn’t solved. The crossword was tough and always had clues that could trick even the best of minds. To enter a participant would have to cut the puzzle out of the newspaper, glue it to a two-penny postcard and send it to the Star. To my recollection the closest my old man ever got to solving it was when he actually only had one mistake.
My mom would go through the multitude of sale flyers from various department stores to look at items she could only daydream about buying. I’m sure she thought many times of replacing the threadbare terrycloth towels she had owned since her wedding in 1941, but by being married to the man she was, the thoughts of such things had to melt away like dreams and then disappear into the wind.
My first stop was always the Sunday comics, a place of bright colors and humor and knowledge where I could hide from the reality of the world I lived in. My first stop was Dick Tracy, a police officer with a square face and hooked nose who always ended up getting the evildoer. Next up was Beetle Bailey, a lazy goof-off Army private. This comic convinced me the Army was not the place for me if for no other reason than that the food was always bad. I didn’t like it that the cook always had a cigarette in his mouth.
There were only two columnists I read with regularity; one was a man named Jim Klobuchar and the other a man named George Grim. Klobuchar’s column was often times humorous or related to the trials and travails of the Minnesota sports teams. The main reason I read George Grim is that my aunt and uncle had purchased a Persian rug from his mother. An odd reason I’m sure, but I really did enjoy the words he wrote. The title of George’s column was, I Like it Here and it was general information about the city of Minneapolis, a place I would live in for more than thirty-five years and in those thirty-five years a place that became the pathway to the rest of my life. In my writing I have tried to emulate both those men and inform people in much the same way they did. I’ll never match their proficiency, but I can still try my best and that is a noble endeavor.
I no longer regularly purchase a Sunday newspaper. The last one I bought had type so small that my three-quarters of a century old eyes had a difficult time reading it. The comics in that latest paper were lame by the standards of sixty-five years ago. They may work well for the addled minds of today’s youth, but to me they are of no interest; they have no adventure, no challenge, no ability to wrap themselves around my mind. The candle that flickered many years ago has gone out.
Arian is a short story contributor to the Sentinel & Rural News. Arian has written two full-length thrillers which have received critical and popular acclaim. Arian lives in Bruce, WI, with his charming wife, Arlene.Profile
The Sentinel & Rural News covers the news and events of Clark County and southern Taylor County, as well as regional news that affects those areas.