Newspapers are (or used to be; now it’s the web) the first draft of history
Compiled by Jenn Brancaccio
Blue Valley Times, May 20, 1914 – Plenty of gas buggies in Dillon
Nearly 100 years ago cars were still fairly novel, but apparently already in widespread use in the Colorado high country. The editors of the Blue Valley Times, a Dillon-based newspaper, said they were willing to “bet dollars to donuts” that Dillon holds the world’s record for the proportion of automobiles to number of inhabitants.
Never mind the odd grammar — that’s quite a claim to make, but not unusual in an age when newspapers were all about boosterism. According to the article, the town had about 100 residents back then, but already had one seven-passenger and four five-passenger automobiles. The four smaller cars were Fords, while the larger vehicle was a Stanley Steamer.
“Everybody Rides in Dillon, and to Walk is a Disgrace. Ranchmen Fall in Line,” was the subhead for the story.
The same edition of the Blue Valley Times reported that 15 eighth-graders graduated in Breckenridge, and also previewed a baseball game between the Dillon Perpetuals and the Breckenridge Majors. Click here to read the stories.
Summit Sentinel May 9, 1986 – Remember Richard Simmons?
Today, fad diets, fitness magazines and television programs hurl more “get thin quick” schemes at people than they could try in a lifetime, but the 1980’s marked the beginning of the weight loss craze in American culture. The bodacious decade of leg warmers and warm-up suits that saw celebrities like Jane Fonda, Olivia Newton John and Richard Simmons sell aerobics tapes to housewives everywhere.
The Summit Sentinel reported on the issue with a story from the Colorado State Cooperative that approached the weight management craze with a health-conscious approach. The article gave the example of a 45-year-old man with an extra 25 pounds on him, explaining that it could cut his life expectancy by 25 percent.
Along with the modernization of the Food Pyramid, the article explained how sales of diet books and products in the ‘80’s peaked between the months of January and February as well as from May to June. As New Year’s resolutions wore off, sales during fall and winter plummeted.
However, instead of showing svelte thirty-somethings doing sit ups, the article stressed that in order to succeed, one had to define the problem they had with themselves and assess what led them to the current stage of their life. People who wanted long-term results were urged to take the time to define the factors that stood in the way of weight loss and better health.
The Summit County Journal May 15, 1964 – Health coverage lacking in today’s media
We’ve all been in the doctor’s office, wearing paper smocks that leave us vulnerable to a sudden draft and the cold stethoscope tethered to the physician. Physicals have been required everywhere from the workplace to our children’s schools, approached with trepidation and self-consciousness. The Summit County Journal published an article by Colorado Medical Society wrote explaining how a tiny cup of urine can diagnose life-threatening diseases in their early stages, saving lives.
Numerous results of a urinalysis can tell both positive and negative aspects of a person’s state of health such as how well the endocrine system and the thyroid glands function. More obvious organs tied to the test, the kidneys and bladder, rely on urinalyses to show doctors how well blood and nutrients are filtered through the body.
The article went on to explain different tests that are administered to a fresh sample. Reasons why the sample must be obtained during the time of the exam include the reliability of the number of bacteria present. Bacteria multiply over time, and an older sample would give doctors false reads of their concentration. Certain solids and other chemicals present in the urine would dissolve over time, eradicating the chance for doctors to make a diagnosis.
Publishing informative articles about health and the prevention of disease was popular in the 1960s. A national focus on families, longevity and self-empowerment encouraged newspapers to inform their readers about how medicine didn’t need to be a foreign topic to them. These publications made people more knowledgeable about the human body and how it functioned, giving them clues to their overall health and helping them to be more self- aware.
The Summit County Journal May 15, 1926 – The tale of Kiddie Katydid
Going back farther in journalistic history, a May 15, 1926 story in the Summit County Journal shows how newspapers used serialized serialized novels and short stories to keep readers coming back. Famous authors like Charles Dickens, George Eliot and Joseph Conrad published new stories in newspaper installments, which made literature to the poor. Though fiction in major newspapers is all but absent due to lack of popularity, some publications still run the occasional tale of a private eye or cult classic adventure.
People who follow their favorite story eagerly await the sound of paper hitting pavement or wake early to log on to read the latest installment of their favorite story while out of town. During the 1920s, short chapters of children’s stories were prevalent. As comics entertain children today, short fables brought families together to talk about life lessons in humility or inner strength. Some stories, for children and adults, were published just for a laugh.
The Summit County Journal published a chapter from the Tale of Kiddie Katydid entitled The Two Grasshoppers, written by Arthur Scot Bailey. The story was part of a collection called ‘Tuck-Me-In Tales’. The short chapter introduced two insects living on a farm. Kiddie Katydid and his neighbor, Leaper the Locust could only be told apart by their ‘horns’ or feelers attached to their heads. Kiddie had long flowing antennae while Leaper’s were short and blunt.
The chapter ended abruptly with the aforementioned change of heart concerning the katydid and locust. Greed was shown to have changed the minds of the two bugs on the topic of titles. The following chapter, The Quarrel, went on to describe their fight and any hope of resolution. It may have been published in the following issue of the Summit County Journal. Readers no doubt looked forward to reading the contents of the letter and learning how the two resolved their conflict. Click here for a link to Bailey’s The Tale of Kiddie Katydid
The Colorado Transcript May 11, 1898 – Ralston Ramblings
In the early days, newspapers sometimes published neighborhood gossip in an early version of social media. Akin to many small neighborhood papers created by homeowners associations, many newspapers in the 1800s had a section set aside for town news and input, a place where people could write in about themselves or their neighbors. More than just wedding announcements and crop reports, the Colorado Transcript published firsthand accounts by residents in and around Golden and Central City in a section called ‘Ralston Ramblings.’
Howard Miller reported ‘a great deal of sickness of his family lately’; while farmers were written to have smiled with joy at the recent storms though some had complained about the condition of the roads as a result of the storms.
Ailments of townspeople like E.L. Newcomb and his rheumatism were often listed like obituaries in local papers. A prominent member of Central City, council member Frank R. Rule, attended the funeral of his cousin.
A girl visiting a family in Ralston entertained her audience with a true tale of being chased by bees.
“I ran as fast as I could,” she said “crossed a narrow foot board across a rapidly running stream.” A farmer came to her assistance when she felt her exhaustion would lead to her demise.
Issues of the homeless were also addressed in the segment, describing them as bold and dedicated in their asking of alms but “nary a work will they do”.
School meetings, families setting off to other states and town elections were also included in this installment of happenings in the area. Though not as technologically advanced, these sections were a sort of ‘Facebook’ for the town. Upon hearing of a death or tragic happenstance, condolences or advice could be given in person or through the paper itself. See the story here.