Our local weekly paper, The MidWeek, runs a segment called “Looking Back” that I absolutely love. I look forward to Wednesday afternoon, when the latest plastic wrapped edition winds up in our driveway. I glance at the headlines on the front page, but customarily head straight for page 9. It’s the best page of the paper. It doesn’t have comics (at least, I haven’t ever seen any), or information about upcoming events, or even any recent news. Instead, the newspaper’s staff have compiled snippets of news from the paper’s archives.
The news wasn’t necessarily better then: there were still plenty of tragedies and scandals to report. Houses burned, crops failed, people died. Men ran off with other men’s wives and teenagers skipped school to go to concerts. Reading the archived news is an interesting lesson in the old adage: The more things change the more they stay the same. I think what hooks me the most is the colorful language the old-time reporters used…and what passed for noteworthy back then.
I particularly enjoyed today’s “Looking Back” selections. The clip was first printed about 125 years ago:
Rascally boys have been annoying residents…by stealing grapes. A dose of buckshot would end the stealing.
I imagine it would! I have to wonder if anyone actually employed that solution in the 1880s. Maybe I’ll get to read about it next week. Either way, I can only imagine the lawsuits that would be filed for something like that today.
On a side note: I’ve also found the “Looking Back” feature a great source of inspiration. Whenever I need a good writing prompt, I scan the clips. A few ideas have even made it into my “Future Projects” journal. But whether or not something in it strikes my fancy, I know that I’ll at least get a brief history lesson directly from the people who lived it. And that, in itself, is worth the read.