Nov 22

We only go back a century in this post

We have rapidly moved straight on into holiday mode. It was a sneaky and sudden shift this year. I was wondering how these Dickensian commercials made it into the breaks of football games, and then looked at the calendar. That was surprising. Well, time means nothing anymore, and the weather has, until just last week, been unseasonable.

But I receive a monthly email from the thermostat people. This is our one publicly acknowledged concession to having a smart home, connecting a remotely programmable thermostat to our domicile. It is useful when traveling. But the downside is the emails. The upside to the email is that, once a month, we receive a basic summary of our heat and A/C use. For instance, the heat was up a little bit in October, compared to last year, but the air conditioning was drastically lower.

Also, and this may just be copy holder for all I know, I haven’t consulted the National Weather Service here, the email says our average temperatures in October 2022 were 6° cooler than October 2021. The average high three degrees lower, the average low 44 in 2022, compared to 54 in 2021. So much for the late warmth confusing my knowledge of the seasons.

Enjoy, then, this brand new conspiracy theory that I’m hatching with every keystroke before your eyes: Something about vaccines and wearing masks are altering my perceptions of days.

There aren’t a lot of mask wearers around anymore, are there? Despite, well, you know.

Holiday mode is upon us. We are having guests next week and trying to put a thing or two into an itinerary, such as can be had. I am setting the over-under on trips to the grocery store, from next Sunday to the following Saturday at four.

This means I’m also counting the hours until a few days off work. And, judging by my inbox, everyone else is, too. It’s a delightful thing, the unacknowledged and entirely unified feeling of we’re all just waiting … until … And there’s some solidarity involved in that too. Everyone is looking at different dates. My Thanksgiving begins tomorrow. Some people will push through a few days next week. I’ll be thinking of you while I’m doing my level best to not think of work.

My contribution to the cause today was this. I canceled some things. I reminded some people of something two weeks out. I scheduled a few programs for two and three weeks away. I found myself in a series of tedious emails that will be resolved next week, when I won’t be here. (And saying they were tedious is not a criticism. The tedium was mostly my doing.)

This evening I donned long pants and a long shirt and gloves and ear muffs and a headlamp and ran two miles in the brisk cold and snow flurries. It wasn’t a personal best, but I wasted little time getting that down. Then I sat in the garage and sanded wood for almost three hours. A few more hours of sanding and the longest running project in the history of woodworking will be ready for a dry fit. Saturday, then. I had dinner at 10 p.m., and am planning on reading myself to sleep.

But only after this.

Some unsung hero(es) at the university library has collected and preserved and digitized some ancient newsprint. It makes for a fun few minutes and, now and again, we’re going to dive into some old random stuff from the alma mater. Why should these bits of history exist in only one corner of the internet? If I can’t be there, I may as well bring imagine something now generations past. This is The Plainsman, 100 years ago today.

Remember last year! Centre is Centre College of Danville, Kentucky. It was already 100 years old by this point, and that previous year, 1921, the Colonels whipped up on a young Auburn team, 21-0. No one had forgotten. They all remembered.

Frank McLean Stewart, college student.

Stewart, having gained hard-earned insight from that choice, shared his wisdom with others before graduating with the class of 1923 with a degree in agricultural science.

He became a field rep for the American Cotton Association, then worked for Belle Meade Butter Company before becoming a dairy farmer. He spent a decade as the executive secretary of the Alabama State Milk Control Board and left there to work for the War Food Administration late and just after World War II. In the 1950s he became the state’s commissioner of agriculture.

I wonder how many times he told that story when he was a younger man.

I’m always struck by how ads in smaller parts of the country, for the longest time, didn’t even bother with addresses. Just get to our town. Ask around, someone will tell you how to find The Cricketeria. (I see references online to the Cricket Tea Room through at least the 1930s, but that’s where the trail stops. Similarly, I found William Abbott, born during the Civil War, died, next door in Opelika, just before World War II. He came from a family of photographers.)

I don’t know that I’ve ever run across anything about this ice cream parlor. But everyone knows Toomer’s. Back then, of course, it was an actual drug store. Today, many owners later, it’s a busy gift shop. Same name, same corner.

This was another drug store. At one time, in a walk of two or three blocks you could hit five drug stores. Sign of the times, one supposes.

What do you suppose they’re implying with these quote marks?

Remember, this is 1922. The technology was ascendant. It would have been farther along, but the government stepped in during the Great War and took over the airwaves as a matter of national security. You could study radio, the engineering and broadcasting elements of it, that is, and it was understood to be a military endeavor at the time. Radio at Auburn has a big history. I’ve written about it a bit here, you’ll see a bit more on the subject … right now.

This is the next issue of the paper next one in the collection is from about two weeks later, Nov. 29, 1922. Since we’re here we may as well breeze through it. (Oh, and, yes, Auburn avenged the loss to Center. It was a 6-0 game, the Tigers mauled ’em. Every bit of overwriting possible was used to describe the game. We’ll skip most of that here.)

It’s about time radio did it’s part! Remember, this is 1922, so all of this is an incredible step into the modern age.

On page 4 — it’s a four-page newspaper — there’s a long column that turns this into a process story. They’d just gone through some upgrades and expansions. Now 5XA and WMAV boasted four radio telegraph sets. More technology was coming, but by the time you read this in the paper they were already at 500 watts. Not so much these days, but that was a huge range considering there was less interference in the atmosphere. The paper in Birmingham — the publisher was on the university’s Board — had donated a radio phone, so they had the strongest setup in the South. They would soon be able to get weather reports directly from Washington. All of this led to WAPI, which was a station I had the great honor to broadcast on for a year or so.

The more things change …

It’s easy to take water out of the faucet for granted, if you have it. It’s easy to laugh at a time when you couldn’t take it for granted. It must have been some kind of experience to have lived in that time in between. I assume this is part of that time.

The guy that wrote the above, Reid Boylston Barnes, Itchy to his college friends, was born in 1903, went to law school, and eventually entered the U.S. Army as a captain during World War II, serving in the military judicial system.

He mustered out a lieutenant colonel and continued on his path of becoming something of a legal giant. He died in 1984. He saw some changes in his life. Including …

I was not aware that this was a thing … nice to see some humor in an old newspaper ad, though.

Speaking of literary societies … I wonder how popular they are these days.

This really takes you back.

Maybe I should keep that one. It could be recycled every term, for any generation of college student!

Nov 22

A last word on election coverage; more words about riding bikes

They started planning their election night livestream in September. I was pleased to see my friends at IUSTV trying something new and so ambitious. They held several fax out practices. They prepped for days, huge binders, names, contests, context. I was happy to see all of that prep, and I was excited to see them collaborating with Indiana Daily Student and WIUX.

The different outlets work together on a few projects here and there, something The Media School has been hoping to see. I’ve always advocated for that to happen organically. Building natural momentum and enthusiasm from seeing the impact and the benefit of their ideas, will create lasting success.

It was an entirely student-conceived, produced and delivered project. They got great support from my colleagues in bringing together a few technical achievements, but everything else was theirs and, last night, they covered a lot of ground, all of those reporters. It was a great experience for them, a fine service to their community.

Ella Rhoades and Ashton Hackman were on the desk at the top of the first hour. They rotated out over the course of the evening with some great reports from Carly Rasmussen, Anna Black, Haley Ryan and a lot of others. They did drop-ins with their colleagues at WIUX. They ran packages, had scheduled panels with IDS reporters, they even did their own big map segments. Olivia Oliver and Emma Watson were just a few of the star producers of the evening, which ran for almost four hours. Andrew Briggs was his usual indispensable self, producing this, directing that, making it all come together.

Not everything went perfectly, live productions don’t go perfectly, but there are plenty of lessons in that, and they handled the rough spots with grace and good humor. It was an impressive lift. They’re in the middle of their school semester, after all. Some of them left one studio and one show to come directly into another studio to run this stream late into the evening.

So, while I was pleased they had the idea, and happy to see their substantial preparation, and excited for the collaboration with their peers, the best part was watching them work, off camera, on deadline.

That’s where the real magic happens. A lot of people showed us last night that they’re figuring that out. Could’t be prouder.

And their attitude was infectious!

This morning, on one of the last beautiful days before winter arrives and sets in between now and April, I got out for a little bike ride. It was sunny and in the 50s, so it seemed important to get out for a few minutes.

It doesn’t matter to anyone but me, but I keep a record of my annual mileage. I am sneaking up on some of my best years now, and so I wanted to get just a few more in before I have to put my bike on the trainer. If I threaten my record, it will most likely be in a muggy bike room, wondering why there’s an actual puddle of sweat below me.

But today, I’m merely moving up the ranks of my annual chart. After today’s little spin 2022 is now fourth place, all time.

The year 2013 was a very good year. It was a comeback year, and that’s a big part of why it is third all-time. The second and top spots are 2021 and 2020, respectively. No surprise there. Couldn’t really do much except ride my bike during the hardest part of the pandemic.

Between now and the end of the year, I have plenty of time to move 2022 into second place. Hitting that 2020 mark … that’s going to be a real challenge.

Now that I’ve written about it here, it is, of course, a big thing. I’ll keep you updated. And hopefully a few of those updates include some version of “and I got to ride outside today!”

Those are good days, just as this one was.

Hope yours was a dandy, too!

Nov 22

An apple, a bike, and some venerable newspaper departures

Another day, another new kind of apple. This is the Cosmic Crisp — a cultivar of the Enterprise and Honeycrisp varieties. It is another product of Washington state, and also Washington State. The producers say it has the perfect balance between sweet and tart.

It was firm, it was crisp. The skin had a tartness, but the flesh had a nice, mild sweetness. There was a little spice to it, which seemed to come and go, so every bite was something of an adventure.

I didn’t want this apple to end, and how often do you say that about produce? So I’m glad I bought an extra for another day.

I went for a bike ride this evening, which means I can get a new shadow selfie. Let’s check in.

Looking good, shadow self, looking good.

This ride was my third ride since The Yankee crashed in September. I think I’m finally getting back to being able to spend some time in the saddle again, just in time for the season to end. But you take what you get in a place that has winter — and you wonder why you subject yourself to such a thing. Anyway, just three rides in six weeks gave this one a distinctive “your ride is hard, but good, and you don’t know if your lungs or legs are burning more and you’re amazed at how well you just got over all three hills and then realized you weren’t on the third, but just topping out on the second hill” feeling.

It was a 22-mile ride, over the usual roads. I was just racing the sunset, and I’ve done these roads enough, and I’m slow enough to do the math, so I know exactly when to get back before it gets dark and spooky outside. And, today, that means 22 miles. Actually it meant 21, but I snuck in the last mile cruising around in front of my closest neighbors.

And do you know what? I’m going to go for another ride this weekend.

Let’s do something different. Let’s check in on a social media account I started a long time ago.

This has been an inevitability since 2010 or so, in keeping with the evolving ecosystem, so it isn’t surprising. It is still sad. It is still unfortunate.

I worked for the predecessor of AMG for four years, from 2004 until 2008. and it’s parent, Everyday Alabama, were in a huge growth phrase. Those three papers were in a growing pains phase. Each of those papers were still dailies, and their newsrooms were filled with brilliant and talented print journalists. Some moved on. Some retired. The ones that could cross the philosophical divide that argued against being strictly a print journalist stayed on, with some success. They went to an online-first model in 2012, well after I’d returned to academia, and now the next phase is upon us. These are the three last dailies in three of the state’s four largest cities. (The state capital’s Montgomery Advertiser is owned by Gannett, a lament for another day.) I grew up reading The Birmingham News and The Huntsville Times, and the Press-Register is a paper that inspired us all as journalism majors.

The News debuted in 1888, The Times launched in 1910 and the P-R traces its roots as the state’s oldest paper back to 1813. Just as the newsrooms have lost a lot of institutional knowledge in the last 20 years of change, the three cities are losing the last of their civic center, good corporate neighbors, a vast trove of history and a lot, lot more.

Alabama Media Group has had its successes, and their newsroom is growing. There are some talented people there, still. As the product has changed, though, so has the work.

I was, perhaps, among the last groups of print journalists trained by journalists who were themselves directly inspired by Woodward and Bernstein, hard-writing scribes who cut their teeth on civil rights era coverage. I was trained by some of those people as a watchdog journalist and that was an amazing education. (The difference between me and them and some of my peer group is that I was more interested in the journalism than the medium — and that has been an important distinction at various parts of my career.) This is where we get to the hammer-nail part of this conversation.

Part of the problem with those newsroom cutbacks in the aughts and teens meant that more and more local government got less and less coverage. It is hard to be a watchdog when you’re not in the room, you can’t be familiar with the ins and outs when you’re not in the room, and if no one is on the beat, no one is filing the stories or the FOIA requests. Eventually, the locals notice the reporters aren’t there anymore, and they start acting like it. Sunshine is a disinfectant, and offers a fair amount of accountability, but without that … what are we left with? There’s a level of granular coverage that has gone missing that won’t come back in this model, and the people are the losers. The truth of that is obvious, even as these business moves reflect consumer appetites.

And how is all of this going over? Let’s just look at the quoted retweets.

A former colleague:

A friend who runs a nearby hyperlocal paper.

Another of those former colleagues, one who moved on to greener pastures.

I could write several hundred more words on this before delving into the highly technical, but maybe the point is already here. Some things will be gained; a lot will be lost. I suppose entropy and progress have always been that way.

Aug 22

I didn’t know Derdriu and Noisiu either

I sat on the porch for too long this evening, enjoying the stillness of the air. That pushed the rest of the day a little further into the night. Get cleaned up, play with the cats, have a bite to eat, and so on until, finally, it was late and dark by the time I got around to watering the flowers.

I did that in the darkness, because we don’t have lights right over the flowers. Easy enough, though, especially in the dark. Give the spigot a half crank, make sure the sprayer is on mist and then move back and forth a lot. The sound lets you know if you’re on target. I was thinking about different types of leaves and the sound the water makes on them. I was thinking of how this wouldn’t happen to me:

Watering plants, with a gardening hose, being a terribly suspicious activity and all that.

Watering his neighbor’s plants.

The charges against the pastor were rightfully dropped. Seems fairly perverse that they were filed to begin with.

Let’s check in on the Poplars Building, the one too wild to tame, too tough to implode, too slow to be scrapped to death. The cleanup continues on the ground. No tearing down of what’s left of the building today. (Maybe they found the room Elvis stayed in?) Elvis stayed there.

And people know that. It is a remarkable thing for here. It is remarked upon. That’s something to hang your hat on, one supposes. Of course, there’s also a statue honoring the future birth of a fictional war criminal. (The war criminal joke is one of the best in Star Trek. It’s a reliable chuckle. That we have people who put a bust up for a character that’ll be born in 2336? That’s hysterical. There are layers to this, the tongue-in-cheek joke, the get-a-life joke and, finally, this-is-a-remarkable-thing?)

I read this in Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization this evening. It’s one part of a poem in the “Táin Bó Cúailnge,” an epic of Irish mythology. Noisiu was killed by a jealous king, and is lamented by Derdriu. “Though for you the times are sweet with pipers and with trumpeters …”

The whole of it is merely excerpted here by Cahill, and I’ve done it an even greater injustice, but if you pull it out and let it stand on it’s own, it’s just as heartrending as the rest of the lament.

A bit later, he gets to Patricius, the fifth-century missionary and bishop in Ireland, the “Apostle of Ireland,” St. Patrick. The first two paragraphs here, they are drive-by sociology, dangerous and liberating, and good enough for a book that I’ll read.

Fragments of a great papyrus.

The next time I need to name something portentous, that’s on the shortlist.

Jul 22

Big bicycle ads

We’ve come to this, filling slow July Fridays with newspaper copy of old. And advertisements! Don’t forget the advertisements! The real wonder and whimsy of newsprint are in the ads. And for the old ones, that means clip art. Clip art gets dismissed, but clip art should be celebrated. For this effort I’ve searched the word “bicycling” in the digitized newspapers of three states — Alabama, Connecticut and Indiana — for the year 1922. These are the 10 best returns from the bunch. Some of them are wonderful.

“Bicycling is the ideal exercise for women and young girls.”

This ad was in the August 3, 1922 edition of the Montgomery Times. That paper is hard to pin down. There was more than one publication with that name over the course of 150 years or so, and the peculiar way mergers are observed in the news business are always tricky, too.

Similarly, Rambler and America Bicycles would merge before going defunct. Rambler, though, was started by Thomas Jeffery, an Englishman who emigrated to Chicago. He was one of the inventors of the clincher tire/rim (still stopping strong!) and sold out to … make cars.

Klein, the national brand anyway, was in the marketplace until the 1960s, at least.

Meanwhile, in April of 1922, this ad was published in The Huntsville Times, which is still publishing, sorta, today. The magic tonic, this ad says.

Dayton bikes were manufactured by Huffman, which sounds familiar in the bike world. That story goes back to the 1880s, when George Huffman bought a sewing machine company and then moved it from New York to Dayton, Ohio. The first Dayton bike dates to 1892. George’s son, Horace M. Huffman, Sr., later founded Huffman Manufacturing Company and they made Daytons until 1949. They made high-end bikes, invented training wheels and, later launched the popular Huffy brand in the 1950s.

There’s nothing at that address now, assuming the roads and numbering systems are the same a century on, but there is a spin shop nearby today.

Back down to Montgomery, then, where the Montgomery Advertiser (today the largest daily in the state) published this great clip art in the state capital in October of 1922. Obviously, Klein was a big believer in print advertising. (That’s an Oswald joke.)

Have just as much or more fun! Try it and prove it.

This clip art was used a few times that year for Klein ads around the country. I’ve cleaned it up a bit, but a dirty newsprint and a hasty scan make it look like this little trio is escaping a devastating fire behind them.

Mostly I’m excited to see the cartoon women in the advertisements. Bikes were a big equalizer, socially speaking, and you see it in the retail spots.

Let’s go to Connecticut, and visit the New Britain Herald, and check out this Christmas ad from 1922. The Herald was opened in 1880, and is still in operation today.

Make my Christmas gift an Indiana bicycle! (They were works of art, Dad!)

Hadfield Swenson made planes and motors, dating back to at least 1916. They closed earlier in 1922, which is why Charles E. Hadfield lists himself as the successor. He’d previously tried his hand at car accessories. There’s a bank at that location today.

There seem to be a lot of Hadfields in that area still, but the web doesn’t know a lot about what came next for Charles E.

Look at this beautiful, happy woman. “I will miss you while I am off having fun on my bicycle!”

The power of bikes:

As it became safer and less expensive to own, the bicycle became the mainstream transportation tool for everyday use. For women, it also gave them newfound freedom of movement.

The previous generation of Victorian women were culturally expected to stay at home. Idealized for virtues such as domesticity and motherhood, the Victorian woman’s role kept her away from public life. The bicycle afforded women an accepted way to be outside as part of society including when it came to business and politics. Through simple mobility, the bicycle also helped to accelerate many women’s rights.

The departure coaster brake was the one many of us experienced as a kid. Need to stop? Pedal backward. This was in an April 1922 edition of The Hartford Courant — started as a weekly in 1764, a daily since 1837 and, today the largest in Connecticut. The ad was the centerpiece of one side of a double-truck spread marking national bicycle week, in the Sunday edition.

Opposite that advertisement in The Hartford Courant is this amazing graphic.

Ride a bicycle!

I think I will, tomorrow morning!

Other brilliant art from this special will be saved for a later date.

This bit of copy is from the Evansville Press, in Indiana, in May of 1922. I’m all but certain that it is a delightful bit of fiction.

That’s old-fashioned!

This, you see, was about 15 or 25 years after the first real cycling craze in the United States. And a lot of the writing about bikes around this time in the early 1920s was devoted to pointing out that bike sellers were moving more frames now than they were in recent years. It isn’t just for kids anymore, seems to be part of the selling point.

But that pretend city editor definitely needs a tandem.

Also from the Evansville paper, where they were still thinking about the flu, I guess. Why squeeze in with the germs?

Koch is still a big name in Evansville, of course. They stayed at that Third and Pennsylvania location until 1962.

Still in Evansville, the home of H.H. Shaffer.

There’s an apartment complex there now, if I have the correct street. He’d been advertising in the paper for several years. In 1929 he died at home at 46 years of age. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of the Rayo bicycles. brand, but yet I’m hardly an expert in this area. (Or any area, really.) I can use an inflation calculator, however. The $30 quoted in that ad would apparently be equivalent to about $529.13 today (modern inflation notwithstanding).

And we’ll wrap this up in Muncie, Indiana, because what could top Muncie? This bit of copy is from the Muncie Evening Press, which started in about 1880, and was part of a two-paper daily town until 1996. This was the end of a copy-and-paste piece slugged “Bicycles are coming back.”

We’ve ridden bikes, as the piece notes, “a legitimate aid to health and sport,” in Muncie. We might do it again one day. I just discovered, after all, the Cardinal Greenway which goes right through the town.

And now, having expected this to be a brief Friday space filler, but somehow having written a thousand-plus words around 10 zealously selected graphics we’ll wrap it up, thusly:

Ride a bicycle!