Thursday, July 04, 2013

“Geauga Newsroom”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
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One of the fascinating things about researching Geauga newspaper history is having the opportunity to peer into the lost world of yesterday. The pace of life was slower and the importance of print reporting, undeniably greater.
Journalists typically wrote about themes that would resonate with modern readers. Often, they spoke with clarity and discipline. Yet the breezy nature of those learning-on-the-job could sometimes be detected.
A report from the era of World War II makes this clear. Incredibly, the writer draws his summation by admitting little factual basis for what he has composed. With sheer speculation, he wanders toward the point:

DOGS FOR WAR EFFORT – Youngstown Vindicator, April 12, 1942

“Since it was announced that the U. S. Army would accept dogs for training as guards during the war, this department has received many requests for information as to the kind of dogs wanted. Obviously there are many dogs in this section that may find their way into the armed forces – but dog fanciers will be obliged to wait until some exact specifications are announced. According to an announcement by the American Kennel Club, regional directors have been named to look after the ‘enlistment’ of dogs for war training. For northern Ohio... Dan Hanna of Chardon, O., has been selected as regional director... It must be made perfectly clear that Uncle Sam’s army trainers are not interested in just any old dog. It is not likely that this war training is going to be wasted on a lot of nondescript dogs that have never known discipline, or that are being shunted off because they are a bother at home. Dogs to be trained for the war effort must be pretty fair specimens... Although we have no authority for the statement, it would seem from a fairly ripe experience with dogs that the first call would include only those dogs which have perhaps been started in obedience training.”

Geauga in the 1940’s was in a wartime mood. Everyone was part of the Allied effort to secure victory against the Axis powers. However, the nation is not what it was in that yonder age. One can only wonder what our modern Supreme Court would do with the rules mentioned here:

PUPILS MUST SALUTE FLAG - Painesville Telegraph, May 14, 1942

“CHARDON – Children attending school here from Chardon and sections of Claridon, Munson and Hambden townships henceforth will be required without exception to participate weekly in a patriotic exercise which includes a salute to the flag and a recitation of the oath of allegiance, according to a ruling unanimously adopted Wednesday night by the Chardon Community Village board of education. The ruling will be enforced with the beginning of the school term next fall. Only two weeks remain before the 1941-42 school year is concluded. According to the terms of the resolution, introduced by County Treasurer C.R. Truman, who is clerk and a member of the board, every child in school will be required, at least once a week, to stand at attention at the command of the teacher, face the front of the room where an American flag shall be displayed, give the regular military salute, and while saluting repeat the oath of allegiance to the flag. Refusal to participate will result in expulsion of the recalcitrant child. the resolution was adopted unanimously after being seconded by Howard Thwing.”

It is popular to opine that modern journalism has fallen from bygone standards of discipline and genuine worth. But a closer look reveals that the truth is more complicated. In olden days, a great deal of ‘fluff’ and ‘filler’ was offered to readers who were weary of wartime reports:

RABBITS FOR RENT – Saskatoon Star-Phoenix, April 1, 1947

“CHARDON, O – Want a rabbit for your youngster at Easter – one that you can return later? Richard Burt, a war veteran of nearby Newbury Township, is renting rabbits this year. ‘A lot of people want rabbits for Easter and then the novelty wears off,’ Burt says. ‘This way the children have a happy Easter, the parents don’t have to worry about getting rid of an unwanted rabbit and the pet is sure of a home to which it can return.’ Burt charges $5 a rabbit and gives a $3 refund if the bunny is returned in good condition after the Easter weekend.” 

An editor from my past used to observe that journalists were privileged to be writing history for citizens of the future. As such, taking a glimpse into the world of newspaper archives is not only informative, but offers a useful sense of perspective for the wordsmiths of today.

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