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I read it in the paper, so ...

City Sage


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Let's see: Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, YouTube ... what have I missed? Oh, the hundred or so sites on my "favorites" menu, not to mention incessant e-mails, texting and even some actual phone calls.

Yup, be it an obscure development in the Greek bailout, a B-level celebrity arrest, a mildly notable death, or an amazing meal that one of my FB friends just had, I learn about it in microseconds.

Or I did, anyway. But not so much anymore, because I'm tired of the moment, tired of following and being followed, tired of knowing so many inconsequential things.

Giving up social media fills your day with time that you once wasted — blocks of time that you can spend on useful endeavors. Cleaning out the basement qualifies, especially if it contains scores of boxes that haven't been sorted or opened for decades.

I found treasures galore, but one old trunk contained a trove of information: complete copies of the Rocky Mountain News, the Denver Post, the Camp Carson Mountaineer and the Montrose Daily, all printed during the summer of 1943.

What do you do with such a find? You take the papers upstairs, brew a cup of coffee, and sit down for some slow news.

Banner headline in the Montrose Daily: "Grand Junction Narrowly Escapes Destruction." The city, according to a United Press International story, was saved by a "whim of fate" from a bombardment that might have destroyed the town! Reading further, it wasn't such a big deal after all — sparks from a train's brake-shoe ignited two carloads of munitions, which created a spectacular but harmless fireworks show. But just think! "The town got a break," the reporter wrote, "because the shells did not explode all at once. If they had, it might have been the end of Grand Junction."

War news dominated all four papers. From the Rocky: "Allies Cut Mt. Etna Line, Open Road to Catania," "250,000 Nazis Face Death Trap at Orel," "Yanks Reach Rim of Japs' Munda Base." From the Post: "Surprise American Raid Demolishes Foggia Field — Lightnings Dash in at Tree Height/Snarl Up Defenses then Bombers Complete Job." Great headline, and here's the lead: "Roaring swarms of Lightning fighters hedgehopped all the way across Italy and shot up ground defenses at Foggia Wednesday..."

Roaring swarms? Whim of fate? Now that's two-fisted, hard-drinking, flask-in-the-desk-drawer journalism.

And that's nothing compared to a photo caption on the front page of the Post:

"If you had to look death in the face, how would you react? If you had to charge up the beach of a Jap-infested island toward a jungle that might blaze rifle and machine-gun fire at any moment — as these US troops are doing here on Rendova in the South Pacific — would you have the guts to take it? ... And soon you'd go charging into the jungle to KILL Japs — as these men did."

Was Colorado in the 1940s really so bloodthirsty, casually racist and focused on war? Or did wartime triumphalism and tabloid sensationalism sell papers? Or did drunken reporters slip this stuff past drunken copy editors? Dunno — all I know is what I read in the newspapers.

And it was certainly alarming to read in the Rocky that, according to then-Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes, U.S. petroleum reserves will run out in "14 or 15" years. The remedy: "... immediate steps to develop synthetic fuels from the vast stores of coal and oil shale."

Sixty-nine years after Ickes' prediction, you can read similar stories on your smartphone. This time, it's President Barack Obama's fault!

Newspapers are, as we've all read, the first draft of history. That's true, but they're very often the last draft as well. Consider this feature in the June 30, 1943 edition of the Gazette and Telegraph:

"Spectacular Ascent of Peak Proves Stamina of Pack Artillery Unit." The story, amply illustrated with wonderful photographs, concerned the five-day trip of a "75 mm howitzer unit," consisting of 790 mules and 793 men from Camp Carson to the summit of Pikes Peak.

My friends, you ain't seen nothin' until you've seen 790 mules on Pikes Peak with their howitzers! Why haven't we heard about this?

No room for the photo here, but tell you what: I'll post it on Facebook.

P.S.: Still haven't cleaned the basement...


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