Just over. month ago, a dear friend sent me a package without notice. Judy Lewis Gray is one amazing woman. Incredibly beautiful, she is also well grounded, well thought, promoting the good in all of us.
Recognizing my interest in the connections of Lebanon past, she sent me the copies of The Lebanon Democrat her mother had saved.
i went back, back in a wonderful period of my life, pouring through the newspaper like i did on Thursdays through the first years of my life.
The first thing that struck me when i opened the package was how thrilled i was Judy would think of me as the one to receive this walk back to home years ago. The second thought was i am old enough for her and others to think i immensely enjoy rambling about the past. i am old enough and i do enjoy these trips.
Then, the old sports writer journalist kicked into gear. i was sadly awed by two things immediately. The old Democrat’s size was huge compared to today’s postage stamp papers. It measured 22 1/2 inches long and 17 1/2 inches wide. My San Diego Union-Tribune of now has the same length but is only 11 inches in width.
Even more shocking was realizing the amount of news that has disappeared from “news”papers.
The August 23, 1962 edition of The Democrat has 41 news stories on its first two pages. The news covered state issues as they applied to Wilson County and the remainder was local stories, many correspondents from various communities i’m pretty sure were contributing for nothing more than a byline.
As i recall, those Thursday papers ran about twenty-plus pages with about a half-dozen full-page grocery ads. So, some quick Jewell math suggests there were likely over 150 articles for reading pleasure. i suspect my math is faulty as usual and the total was likely much fewer.
Today’s San Diego Union-Tribune had eleven articles on the first two pages. They covered international, national, state and local news on 86 pages, but most of those were more ads and special features. Communities, unless something bad had occurred there had no place in the U-T as we call it.
And today, there was nothing, nothing close to the Route 7 column penned by correspondent Mrs. Wesley Thompson. If nothing else, Judy’s old papers corrected my search for Mrs. Thompson’s columns. For years, i had looked to retrieve them as “Route 9,” not “Route 7.” i will renew my search in earnest. You see, in 1970 when i was deployed carrying Republic of Korean troops to Vietnam and back, my grandmother would cut out Mrs. Thompson’s column. Knowing that i loved to read those stories, she would send them to me, usually arriving about a month late.
i pored over the Route 9 news, even though i wasn’t really sure then and have absolutely no idea now just exactly where RFD 9 was in Wilson County. Occasionally, my adored correspondent would mention Watertown. i guess it must have been southeast of Lebanon somewhere.
i learned who was visiting who from where and who had dined with whom. Ladies visited other ladies in the afternoon, and i even knew a few. A couple were planning to move to their home (new?) in Emory Gap before winter.
i learned about who was sick or who had died. Mrs. Thompson relayed her and Wesley’s sympathy (and perhaps Wilson’s too) for the cited bereaved family. One lady who had been ill was “much better.” i was glad. “Crinnie Edwards” fell while hanging tobacco and hurt his back. i hoped not badly.
And with every column, i immediately searched for news of “Wilson” of Route 9. Since the correspondent was “Mrs. Wesley Thompson,” and she never mentioned her husband, i deduced Wilson was the Thompson’s son. i further concluded he must have been a young single man in his late teens or early twenties who lived at his parent’s home and was part of the farming team. Wilson had to have been a saint.
Nearly every column told of Wilson’s deeds. In the weekly edition of August 9, 1962, “Wilson plowed corn and the garden for Mr. Wilson Baskin last Monday. In a later edition, which i have somewhere in my trove of deployment memories, Wilson helped another neighbor when the neighbor’s cows got out (in a hole in the fence, i presume). They rounded up the cows (and i’m thinking of my cowboys riding herd and getting them back to the pasture on that route 9 road) and mended the fences.
“What a man,” i think. i’d like to meet Wilson when i get back home. Never did.
And in this August 9 edition, our esteemed correspondent relates “The O’Possum, racoons, and ground hogs have been eating Edward Woodall’s corn. He has been successful in killing some of them and caught some by trap.”
Now folks, you don’t read anything like that in the newspapers nowadays.
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And i could go on and on and on about the memories, these Lebanon Democrat newspapers of the 60’s has evoked. i intend to occasionally browse these treasures Judy sent me and list other articles that enchant me.
In Sassy Ward’s column “Teen Tales,” (Sassy, a.k.a. Sarah, Ward was my classmate and my co-star in the LJHS eighth grade play “The Sunshine Twins”) relates how my sister Martha attended a slumber party at Gayle Martin’s home on Spring Street along with Marjorie Lloyd, Lynne Martin, Gayle Walker, Judy Jackson, Kay Lucas, Judy Osborne, Tina Igou, Pam Austin, Jeanne Steele, Diana Davis, Evelyn Knight, Susan Huntsberger, Cheryl Woolard, Patricia Bland, and Jean George. Man, what a great bunch of girls. In another of Sassy’s columns, i attended a party at Sharry Baird’s home on West End Heights. i have no recall of that one.
And it would be bad journalism not to mention the editor. J. Bill Frame, was esteemed. His columns “Sense and Non-Sense” were thought provoking, informative, and interesting even now. He and Bessie Lee lived across from the street from us as well as their daughter Laura Lee until she married Glenn Mingledorff and the couple moved away to return years later. Marvelous, marvelous people.
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As i mentioned, i shall return to these old newspapers, now crinkly and faded yellow, to live for a while in a past that no longer exists. i liked it then and enjoy visiting…and hope i make Mrs. Wesley Thompson’s “Route 7” column.