Write Again … That’s the way it was

Published 7:26 pm Monday, February 20, 2012

Louis (Marty) Martin Jr., an accomplished and competent historian and author (“The War Between the States — Beaufort County Heroes 1861-1865” published in 2003), is in possession of a veritable treasure trove of history.

Marty now owns decades of copies of the “Washington Daily News.” I’m talking years and years of newspapers. He is such a collector and curator of “things historical” that he built yet another building to house such items in his backyard. It’s probably an understatement to say that he has an understanding wife.

He acquired the newspapers from the WDN when he learned that they were to be discarded. Thrown out. Gone forever in the original newspaper format.

Marty very generously gave me the February 15, 1939, edition of the paper. Let me share just a tiny bit of the contents of that issue.

It was printed in the then-standard eight column format, and boy, does the paper seem wide, especially when compared to today’s down-sized newspapers.

The front page is a mix of both local and national news.

In a very detailed story about an upcoming “Music Festival” by the choral groups at WHS, also mentioned is that “Mary and Murray Hamilton rated third best soloists, Mary singing soprano and her brother singing in the unchanged boys’ competition” in a statewide contest held in Greensboro back in 1937. “Frances Roebuck (Larkin) was rated second best alto soloist in her division …”

At the corners of the very bottom of the front page of the paper are movie advertisements. Norma Shearer and Clark Gable were on the silver screen at the Turnage, and Wild Bill Hickok was riding the range at the Reita.

John (Mr. John) Bragaw’s “Now and Then” column was also on the front page. Mr. John was a cousin of Cecil B. DeMille.

There was also a piece telling that the annual Tulip Festival was generating nationwide mention in newspapers.

The headline “Locals Give and Take Tilts with Bath High” has a sub-title stating “Jenrette’s Girls Lose One in Final Seconds 20-19 and Kelly’s Boys March Nonchalantly to a 48-23 Victory; Pack Plays in Tourney at E.C.T.C. Tonight.”

Here are a few headlines from some of the items in the paper:

“Bachelor’s Club Holds Delightful Dance at Armory” — “Valentine Party for Sunday School Boys” (First Baptist — given by Mrs. Paul Waters) — “Belhaven Student Makes Honor Roll” (Mary Lucas, Meredith College).

Subscription rates were one week, $.15; one month, $.50; six months, $3.00; and one year, $5.00. Delivery by mail was just a tad more.

Oh. Let me share with you a really, really important event reported in this February 15, 1939, issue:

“Son to Mr. and Mrs. Houston” read the head. The one paragraph report stated: “Mr. and Mrs. Bartow Houston announce the birth of a son, Francis Bartow Houston Jr., born in the Tayloe Hospital this morning. Both mother and infant son are getting along nicely. Mr. Houston is manager of the local Belk-Tyler department store.”

This late-breaking news item was on page three. One would think such a momentous event would have been on the front page.

Well. Anyway, that’s the way it was 73 years ago.