Community newspaper content, looks change through the years

Jun 20, 2012

After our recent story on the United Daughters of the Confederacy memorial dedicated in 1923, I became curious about local coverage of the event at the time.

The Mountaineer has bound volumes of newspapers dating back to the late 1800s, but sometimes finding a particular year that far back is hit and miss. Sure enough, I found the 1923 volume of “The Carolina Mountaineer and Waynesville Courier.”

I strive to not handle issues this old very much. The pages are yellowed and very fragile, so I disturb them only for very specific research. As long as I was looking through the October issues, however, I took the time to read up a bit on what a local newspaper looked like in Haywood County during that year.

First off, I did find plenty of details about the 1923 dedication. There were several front-page news briefs notifying readers of the upcoming event, and then the Oct. 11 issue featured a lengthy story on the Oct. 9 event.

Back then, there were no photographs in the paper, and only the advertisements had visuals, which were either a brand name or perhaps a graphic. That meant for readers to visualize the  monument, the story offered a detailed description, as well as the word-for-word inscription on it.

It was interesting to see what was going on in during this short snapshot of time as I gently turned the pages. First off, the only visual on the front page, other than the banner, was a boxed-in three-column poem that was featured squarely in the top and center of the page.

The front-page stories were a mixture of the newspaper’s editorial comments, notices of upcoming events, national/international news and a few local events. The weekly farm report was just as apt to be on the front page as was a story about an apple show in New York City or the governor’s proclamation about fire safety week.

Something I found to be a choice bit of information buried on the inside pages was a copy of a resolution passed by Waynesville town leaders stating that no person, firm or corporation could operate a restaurant, fruit stand, ice cream parlor or pool room past 11 p.m. Doing so would constitute a misdemeanor and fetch a $50 fine.

Back then, a serialized romance story by author Zane Grey filled at least two inside pages.

Many of the products advertised back then are still around. Bayer Aspirin, Smith Brothers Cough Drops, Grape Nuts, Wriggley’s Juicy Fruit gum and Ford.

I was pretty amazed at the number of health-related advertisements. Mrs. Winslow’s syrup was touted as a “non-narcotic and non-alcoholic” cure for diarrhea, colic, flatulency and teething troubles. There were ads for castor oil and its substitutes, Babek for chills and fevers and Bel-Ans for indigestion.

A 4-cylinder Nash, straight from the factory, was selling for $1,275 and another Ford ad showed how automobile prices had gone down between 1909 and 1922. For instance, a touring car in 1909 sold for $850 and was being sold for $295 in 1923. A 1-ton truck sold for $550 in 1917 and $370 in 1923.

The papers back then were certainly different from the papers I’ve been part of for the nearly 18 years. The Mountaineer is known as the only paper that consistently offers news about Haywood County that can’t be found anywhere else. Other media, including those with national television and newspapers, have come to our county for the big stories, but we’re the ones that provide those in Haywood with news that matters in their neighborhoods, towns and county week after week.

I hope when someone starts poking through bound volumes decades from now, they will get as much enjoyment out of reading the papers we produce and I did looking through the ones of the past.

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