Dec 20

Back in time

Let’s go back in time. Let’s go back 103 years back in time to see what the news was like around here. This is the Bloomington Evening World, which we’ve been reading from time-to-time. We’ve looked back through the contents three times this year — March, May and July — so we’re probably due another examination.

The Bloomington Evening World, went back to 1892 and published under that masthead until 1943. That’s a great run. It merged then with the wonderfully named Bloomington Telephone. A few mergers and name changes later, and what’s left of the current paper, The Herald-Times, will sorta claim the old paper.

This was the front page on December 19, 1917.

One of those stories you saw a lot of back then, and it meant a lot to the readers. These were our boys, after all.

Let’s look at some of those names. The first one listed there, Irvin Alexander, survived the war. He’d teach at West Point. He became an advisor to MacArthur and the Philippine army. In the early fighting in the Pacific he was wounded twice, before being captured and, ultimately, becoming a part of the Bataan Death March. That was a 60+ mile trek that claimed as many as 18,000 lives. He did three years as a Japanese POW, which was a demanding daily existence with little food, minimal fuel and brutal captors. Part of that time was captivity in Korea. That meant time on a boat. The death rates on the Japanese transfer vessels was notoriously high. And there was the risk of simply being on the water. Alexander survived two ship sinkings to even get there. He survived all that. He wrote a memoir a few years later that was published years after his death. It gets great reviews. He died in 1963, on his way to a visit of Mexico, with his wife.

Maurice Parks was a singer before the war, and after he came home he was part of a popular act, the Old Town
Quartette. He died in 1947, and is buried in a cemetery not too far away.

Oscar Dillman came home, and he would be elected commander of the local American Legion. He passed away at 56, in 1946. He’s buried just three miles away.

Leland Highlet was the unlucky lad on the destroyer spotted and sunk by a U-boat between France and Ireland. About 30 of the sailors, on a vessel that had a manifest of 99, survived.

Christmas advertising, front page advertising, it’s all been with us for a while.

There’s a restaurant at that address today.

Charming motorist in the red car. What can I say? Welcome to Bloomington.

This was the first undamaged zeppelin captured in France.

There’s a terrific picture, and more information, here.

It was your decade, so, if you say so …

This is an ad, found on page three. And some ad, huh?

Right next to it was a timeline of the declarations of war from the past three years. And, in no special font or stroke, there was the note reminding you that the US had declared war on Germany eight months earlier, and Austria just three days before.

“So I went down to the drug store and got you this snazzy gift.”

Such was the power of Kodak upon the zeitgeist that simply saying the brand name carried real heft. Wood Wiles bought the place in 1899. He ran it for some 30 years, until he had a heart attack in his store. His son took it over. In 1952 he moved it a block up the street, where it prospered for many years. The company stayed in business until 1985. The original location is today a restaurant, and a nice one. The second location is now a bookstore.

Did you think of the grocery boys? And why have people always been this way? Oh, I know it’s ten below zero, but I want my groceries now!

“We have spared ourselves no pains” … they just don’t write good ad copy these days, do they?

The Harris-Grand was a popular theater for decades. A couple of fires did it in. THere are some small stores and a parking deck there now.

Can you see any of these movies today? Right now? Yes you can.

Sep 20

Back in time

Today’s a good day to go back in time … beeeeeecause I don’t have anything else of note to offer you today. So let’s look at the local newspaper from this same week 103 years ago, in 1917. And the headline writers didn’t really have any idea about that little thing in Russia, did they?

There were a lot of small local sadnesses taking place about this time. Seems odd to see the “final summons” formulation twice on the same front page. Some local soldiers were shipping out, and some nurses, too. There was a war on, remember. A local boy got admitted to the local bar. The judge that swore him in presided over the guy’s father’s admission to the bar a quarter century earlier. Family practice.

There’s an optician advertising on the front page. The last line says “Artificial eyes furnished.” The location today is a commercial business building. It’s the old Masonic Temple, which was still a few years in the future of this newspaper. Notably, there’s a fake radio station in that spot note. From artificial eyes to fake broadcasting.

Anyway, inside the paper … This sounds tasty!

And, in 1917, you would see some national propaganda ads like this. Need work? Move to Canada and help bring in the crops! I wonder how many people signed on for this, and what it meant to their lives.

Yeah … about that macaroni. I think I’ve lost my appetite. Thanks.

There are the usual sorts of short stories in the paper. A lot of society stuff, weddings and vacations and family visits. There’s a brief from New York about a man who’d never before spoken, but then he fell while chasing some punks and suddenly discovered the powers of speech. I googled him, but that story is the only thing about him the Internet knows. Traffic accidents and fatalities were markedly up, nationally, and people were starting to notice. A woman in Colorado had nine grandchildren in the British army. There was a mini-photo essay about treating sheep ticks.

It reminds me that there’s never a local photograph in this paper. They could print them with the technology of the day, and considering I’m looking at scans of ancient newspapers the quality is pretty good. But they didn’t publish their own. I assume this means they were a newspaper without a camera. At one of the local theaters you could see Bawbs O’ Blue Ridge:

Just before mountain girl Barbara “Bawbs” Colby’s aunt dies, she reveals that Bawbs’ deceased father had left her $5,000, but to watch out for men because they would only be interested in her for her money. Her aunt’s warning is tested when Bawbs falls for a new arrival in the mountains named Ralph Gunther, who says he is an author who’s there for the peace and quiet he needs to write.

Also, $5,000 in 1917 would be just over $100,000 today. I imagine every early 20th century matinee reads about like that.

Doesn’t everyone feel this way?

I’m happy to report my kidneys feel fine, thanks.

The circus is coming to town!

Two years prior Buffalo Bill Cody toured with this troupe. He died a few months before this paper was published. Kidney failure at 70. Anyway, the Floto Dog & Pony Show and the Sells Brothers Circus joined something called the American Circus Corporation by 1929 or so. John Ringling bought that group about the same time, and that, friends, created the great circus monopoly.

Jul 20

There’s audio here and I would be appreciative of your listening

No Phoebe and Poseidon on Monday? No. We had other cats to feature. I also had to do my work in the actual building on Monday. And the world has gone mad.

I was going to make that joke. But the local world has actually gone mad. There’s a banner on an overpass right now that says “A man was almost lynched” because a man here was almost lynched. There’s a video of the confrontation. A putrid, two minute and several seconds video of it.

So, last night there was a demonstration downtown about this troubling weekend event, as you might imagine. Someone chose to drive a car through some people. One or two people were hurt. One of them apparently mildly. The other was treated at a local hospital and released with a reported head injury. I’m also hopeful they’ll address arresting the driver of the car that did this terrible thing.

There’s certainly evidence. But there’s evidence of both, isn’t there? You can see it. I’m not putting any of that here, but it is out there if you want it, and it is all repugnant.

This is the thing about video: someone will always say “You don’t see what happened before the video.” And that’s a true and powerful insight you have there. What a keen legal mind you have. This is the real thing about video: no matter what happened before someone whipped out their phone and got the camera up, no action calls for what is seen before the unblinking eye.

At least one of my students was out there reporting. Apparently eye witnesses say the driver ran several red lights. So, in other words, done deliberate. And I’m really stuck on this part: one of my students was out there.

So vehicular assault in broad daylight, that ought to go somewhere, one assumes. One also assumes that state officials, the appropriate authority for where the almost-lynching confrontation happened, will figure out the threatened or attempted lynching. But they haven’t managed to do that yet, despite, you know, daylight video and plenty of incriminating evidence like work shirts, prominent tattoos and faces.


But the FBI came down to look into the first crime, too. This was announced at this evening’s demonstrations which were, seemingly, much more peaceful for everyone.

So we’re having Phoebe and Poseidon on Tuesday this week.

Poseidon should also get a name for his love of cabinets. Cardea, if I recall, figures into hinged doors in Roman mythology, but I can’t think of anything close enough in the Greek, so we’re giving it to the mighty Poe, who was surveying his kingdom with great contentment here:

Phoebe and three of her favorite pursuits: a spring, a stair landing and the pursuit of belly rubs:

And they decided to sit together on the stove cover of my own design and creation. A rare display of getting along in proximity in their sibling rivalry.

So, yet again, spending a few hours building that little thing one weekend was worth it, I guess.

You know what else is worth it?

I talked to an epidemiologist today. We discussed whether the coronavirus is airborne. We talked about looking at the data and masks and the bubonic plague. We discussed whether I should get a haircut.

We also briefly mentioned the task of getting kids to wear a mask. Of course, she said, her children wear masks. She doesn’t have too much trouble with them, she said. But they are of a certain age now. And, being someone that tracks diseases, she probably brings home terrible images and scares them to death, as would be her parental right.

I’m sure she doesn’t do that. She’s a perfectly pleasant individual and probably her children listen to reason. And if they don’t, both of their parents work in public health, which means they’ve got plenty of adult experts in their lives to scare them senseless while mom and dad are conspicuously working on backyard appetizers.

Anyway, she says wear a mask. And be willing to leave places that have people not wearing masks. Stay distance and stay in well ventilated areas she said.

It keeps coming up: we had the stay-at-home orders handed down to give hospitals a fighting chance. Supplies were needed. Beds were needed. Crush the curve. Remember that, a few months and oh so many outrages and personal inconveniences and national outrages ago? Medicine and science needed time. Well, we gave it a bit of time, and now hospitals are filling up. There are a few more supplies headlines popping back up. And the consumer knows it. Stores are limiting paper goods and cleaning products again.

Let’s say everything about your health, and the health of the people around you. Mortality rates are lower than earlier projections. Thank goodness. Hard, hard earned trial-and-error have been teaching physicians for future rounds of patients, hallelujah. One of those things we’ve learned is this isn’t just about the sniffles, and it’s not just about your lungs. There are big, and varied impacts. One of the things still to be learned is how varied those impacts. Is it your lungs? Some other organ? Your mind? Medical science is still trying to figure that out. Another thing on the board, how lasting can the problems be? You can find nightmarish stories aplenty about that, too. You’re living in a big world of uncertainty right now, friends.

What’s amazing, according to every doctor and epidemiologist I’ve interviewed and seen interviewed, your best defenses are something so exotic as washing your hands and putting a protective covering over your mouth and nose. As most of us would prefer not to have our quality of life impacted in a negative way, please and thanks.

We didn’t discuss the charts, but we should have. They now have death projections stretching out to November 1st as a status quo, wherein some restrictions are being held and many are being eased, versus mandated mask wearing. And it looks like this.

In Connecticut 4691 – 4551 = 140 lives.

In Georgia 3,856 – 3,403 = 453 lives.

In Indiana 3,400 – 2906 = 496 lives.

In Alabama 3,442 – 1,682 = 1,760 lives.

In Texas 13,449 – 6,442 = 7,007 lives.

In Florida 17,472 – 9849 = 7,623 lives.

Wear a mask. Yeah, it’s itchy, but you can be that kind of hero.

Jul 20

New month, old paper

Here’s video from dinner the other night, because I uploaded it and never shared it. And because we needed something colorful here.

Doesn’t hurt that it was quite tasty, either.

Anyway, not much here right now, so we go back, back, back in time. This is 105 years ago, 1915. Let us see what was going on around here.

Newspaper design was not going on, that is for sure. This is a four-page rag, and it was a slow week in a sleepy town and we’re going to get into all of the news and, this time, ignore the society pages altogether. I am inclined to think there was the editor, the typesetter and, otherwise, the old Evening World was a slim operation. There’s not a lot of unique local stuff to see. Let’s see what there is to see, though.

Do not go fast. Charley Stevens, who doesn’t pop up in a lot of search engines today, is warning you. You’re supposed to do 10 miles per hour, and no more. Ten miles to the hour, excuse me. Town squares are fascinating features. It looked exactly like this in 1915. It looked nothing like this in 1915.

This is the editor of the other paper in town. And this is a big description about an out-of-town trip. And this has to be an inside joke or something. Also, this is on the front page.

No one was in trouble. Grover Lazelle messed around got a triple-double. It was a good day.

This seems impressive. Remember, it was four years before Dwight Eisenhower’s transcontinental Army movement. His caravan covered 3,242 miles through 11 states in 62 days, an average of 52 miles per day, going from Maryland to California. Ol’ Willie Curry did the hardest part coming the other direction.

Ike lost two days in Nebraska. Curry apparently lost two tires over the whole trip.

There’s a big block of text about the fireworks you couldn’t buy anymore, and an editorial bit about the stuff you can buy. Some stories, it seems, never change. But to get SAFE AND SANE you had to be unsafe and insane, right?

Someone surely looked at the mangled hand of some kid the year or two before and said, “Y’all. This is insane.” Then there was legislation, and the marketplace kicked in to high gear. And, sure, stuff got safer, and more refined over time, thank goodness, but some of the stuff you couldn’t use anymore, by 1915, even, sounds kind of awesome? And terrifying?

Finally, this news update is brought to you by this advertisement. You figure Mr. Man, sitting there at his desk, let his eyes drift over the society mentions and saw that and thought, “You know, I haven’t had any look keeping the books all week … ” It’s easy to think he put two and two together there, but, you know.

It went on for two more paragraphs, but given what we know of the digestive habits of the time, surely this is all anyone need read. Sentanel, despite the unfortunate spelling, stayed an operating concern until at least the 1930s, but you don’t see much of it after that. I guess their job was done.

And so is mine, for now. Tomorrow … I’ll have something or other for you here. You’ll see!

Jun 20


Here are some crinoids I picked up last weekend. I was wondering down by the creek bed enjoying myself quite nicely and it quickly became a scavenger hunt. Right there at my feet I found three of these at a glance. Why, then, I had to wonder around a bit to discover a few more.

Old seaborne fossils. Or, around these parts, definitely freshwater fossils. You can find them most anywhere that has water, seems like. Why do I still pick them up? Why do I bring them back to the house to take pictures of them?

These are, I believe, crotalocrinites. They are the sort I’ve always found. They are extinct now, but they appeared about 300 million years before the dinosaurs.

I’ve just discovered, online, there are star-shaped fossiles called pentacrinites. I want to find some of those.

Let’s jump in the time machine, though, and move up a few hundred million years. I pulled back the break lever just a bit too soon, however, and we’ve stopped 103 years before. It’s June 4, 1917. What’s going on in the world?

Oh. That. So the summer before there was a massive sabotage in New York. And two weeks after this Congress passed the Espionage Act, something Woodrow Wilson had been on them about for several years. I can’t find any details today about this person. So we’ll just have to be satisfied with these news briefs:

The next day you had to go sign up for the draft. Married men couldn’t duck it. You’ve already seen that peaceful registrations were predicted. And we now from earlier editions of the paper that several American men, even some locals, are going off to war in some capacity or another. Just down the page there’s a brief listing another handful of names. In New York, when the draft went into play, it was anything but peaceful. So, I’m sure, people were hoping for the best.

There are two creeks on either side of us that have these names.

And while people are out surveying damage, and you’re reading in another column the news that a former local who had moved to Illinois just had his house destroyed in the storms, you get this little ad:

A.H. Beldon had been a grocer. By the teens, he was doing insurance. He made it to 80 or 81 and died in 1939, the same year as his wife. Their son flew planes for the Army in World War I, in Texas, it looks like. That guy’s son served in the Army during World War II.

Enoch Hogate had some paralysis, and then he did not. Much improved was he, a relief to all it was.

Hogate had joined the law school in 1903 and served as the dean from 1906 to 1918. He also had a turn in the state senate prior to all of that.

Polio caused paralysis. I wonder if that’s what it was. He passed away in 1924.

This was the vessel, The Success. It was not built in 1790, but rather 1840. It was not a prison ship, unless it was. Sometimes Internet searches are contradictory. Anyway, it was by now a museum ship. A good fraud well executed, from the looks of things.

She was scuttled in 1891, re-floated the next year, restored and then sailed to England. In 1912 the vessel came to the U.S. and returned to cargo service in 1917, after which it sank. It was re-floated and turned into a museum in 1918, appeared at the Chicago World Fair and fell apart. The Success was to be scrapped on Lake Erie, but it sank for a third time. Someone pulled it up again in 1945 and it promptly ran ashore. In 1946 there was a fire that consumed it. The moral to that story, I guess, is don’t make up a fake history about your ship.

Get ’em a camera!

I wonder if they’re still hiring …

The second and third pages of the four-page rag were just poorly scanned photos of the graduating high school class, which is why we jump immediately to the scolding baby.

Look, baby, nobody likes a scold.

This one had a column jump, which is why it looks weird at the top. But let’s get a load of those people. George Washington Henley had graduated from the law school here three years prior. He went into private practice and got married soon after.

The well-known home boy would serve as a state lawmaker for a decade and, later, sat on the state Supreme Court bench for two months. He was a replacement until the end of a term, but he didn’t want to stay on. He needed to get back to his own clients and he just wanted, Wikipedia says, the prestige. He died in 1965 and was eulogized by the university president. His wife survived him by a dozen years, and was living in California when she passed away.

This is why you should keep Googling names. One of the attendants of their wedding was Paul Feltus. He would become a newspaper editor, witnessed and reported on the atomic bomb tests in 1946 and served as a board member for the university. He wrote four silent film scripts, served in the artillery in World War I and was a colonel in the state guard in the 1940s.

Now, a life of 81 years can’t be distilled into a paragraph, but a paragraph like that hints at an interesting life.

Because the second and third pages were poor artifacts, and because the last page was torn right through the copy, you’re getting a second wedding announcement.

This was Melvin’s second wife. His first died young after just six months of marriage. She was ill most of that time. They had 17 years of unalloyed happiness, I hope. His second wife had a child and died in her 40s, in 1934. Fender kept on farming, retired, and passed away in 1958 at 74.

OK, “Bobby.”

I spent a lot of time looking into this ad. I’m not sure Bobby was a real person.