Friday, May 17, 2013

The way things used to be

A neighbour, knowing that I am a newspaper junkie, presented me with a real blast from the past the other day.
During his move west, the former resident of Winnipeg had discovered a copy of The Weekly Telegraph that is dated Wednesday, January 6, 1909. Yes, it is yellowed and cracked and worn. But, really, it's in terrific shape for a 104-year-old. (The Telegram began publishing in 1894.)
For the past couple of weeks, this newspaper has been sitting on a table in our kitchen as I have perused it. To say it is an interesting read is something of an understatement.
For starters, the subscription rate was $1 per year in Canada or Great Britain; $2 in the United States. If you wanted to contact the newspaper, you wrote to: The Editor, The Telegram, Winnipeg.
The lead story on the front page is headlined: CORRESPONDENT RETURNS FROM MESSINA BRINGING STORY OF HORROR. It is a first-person account of a devastating earthquake in Italy and area. In fact, the earthquake all but wiped out Catania, Sicily. A grainy photo shows Catania with what appears to be a smoking Mount Etna in the background.
On the Manitoba front, a Jan. 4 fire in Brandon had destroyed "the large Codville company's warehouse on Pacific Avenue." There is some nifty writing here, too: "The building was . . . in the grip of the fire fiend and do whatever they would the firemen were unable for the next two hours to make any impression whatever on the object of their attack."
On Page 3, which carries the slug "News and Gossip of Sport," there is news from Montreal where "the Edmonton seven sprang one of the biggest surprises of years when they defeated the Wanderers in the second game of the Stanley Cup series tonight by seven goals to six."
The story, which was dated Dec. 30, later noted: "With a little more time to play together the westerners showed that they would have stood a good chance to carry west with them the trophy emblematic of the hockey championship of the world. Unfortunately for western hopes the four goal lead scored by Wanderers on the opening night's play proved too great to overcome and the cup remains in Montreal."
Imagine that! The Stanley Cup decided late in December, as opposed to sometime in June.
In a story dated Jan. 3 and datelined Ottawa, the Edmonton "hockey team clashed with the Senators, the new 'pro' hockey team in the capital here Saturday night in an exhibition match, and the western team won out by a score of four to two." The game was played in front of "about 4,000 people."
The Senators' lineup included Harry Smith, who had helped the Wanderers beat Edmonton and win the Stanley Cup a few days earlier. According to this story, the Senators "expect to win the Federal league series and challenge for the Stanley Cup." (The Federal League was new on the scene and, in fact, a few of the Edmonton players would stay in the east to play in it.)
In Brandon, meanwhile, the host Shamrocks beat Portage 10-7 in a Manitoba and North-western Hockey Association game. "Currie, playing centre for Brandon," reads a story that is devoid of first names, "was the fastest man on the ice, his individual rushes being all that could be desired." Currie had a fine night, finishing with five goals.
In boxing, H.M. Walker filed this lead from Los Angeles: "James J. Jeffries, the retired and undefeated heayweight champion of the world, is the only hope of the white race now.
"The well meant offers of Jim Corbett, Tom Sharkey and Bob Fitzsimmons to give battle to Jack Johnson, the negro champion, are appreciated to the full extent of their true worth, but it is to the mighty Jeffries who has never known the sting of defeat, that the American sporting public is now looking to for succor from an embarrassing position."
An advertisement on the sports page blared: To earn the big salary learn railroading. The ad suggested that you could advance to Engineer or Conductor in two to three years "and earn from $90 to $185 per month."
"There is no line of work today that pays the princely salaries as does that of Railroading," the Dominion Railway School ad boasts.
Meanwhile, another ad brags that Black Knight stove polish is "the shine that won't come off."
The Universal Remedy Co., based in Winnipeg, was offering "a family doctor for $1." Actually, it was a "handy and useful medicine cabinet containing remedies for Diarrhoea, Dysentery, Colic, etc." The kit was guaranteed to contain no poisoin.
On Page 5, the Manor Hotel on Main Street in Winnipeg was offering rooms for $1 per day. Those rooms, according to the ad, were "thoroughly repaired, newly furnished, equal in every respect to any $2 hotel in the country."
The classified ads also were on Page 5, where William Tough of Bassano, Alta., was looking for a "Widow with boy eight or nine years old; woman for general housework and boy to look after cows. Reasonable wages."
For $600 cash, you could purchase near Swan River, Man. "160 acres good black loam, clay subsoil, 25 acres under cultivation, log house and stable, 30 acres tamarac swamp, 100 acres scrub land, good homestead adjoining, on which 300 tons of hay can be cut each year."
In big bold letters at the top of Page 9 is "A MESSAGE FOR PILE SUFFERERS, from one who has been cured of an unusually severe case by Dr. Chase's Ointment." That ointment would set you back 60 cents a box.
At the bottom of that page is an ad for a Columbia Graphophone. For $39.50, you got the graphophone and 12 selections. That would be a record player and 12 recordings. The Winnipeg Piano Co. would sell you the package for "$9.50 cash and $5 monthly -- no interest."
Buried on Page 9 is a story dated Dec. 31 and datelined Gull Lake, Sask.: "The Pacific Express, due here at 17.45 last night, was wrecked four miles west, a broken rail the cause. The diner and tourist cars were thrown down a twenty-five foot embankment on a new division completed a month ago. One passenger was killed and three injured." Charles Tanby, 40, of Omaha, Neb., "travelling home by way of the coast, was thrown through window" and killed.
On Page 10, Dr. T. Claye Shaw debates the issue: "Is woman the inferior of man?" Of course, I'm not going to get into that here, but Dr. Shaw ends his piece with: "Woman has a much superior religious instinct than man. But she may be expected to do so. Church-going is a regular occupation with middle-aged women of the upper-middle class, and hence they find an outlet for their emotionalism. The same may be said of other fads."
An ad on Page 12 really caught my eye. The Central Okanagan Land and Orchard Co. Ltd. was offering "Kelowna fruit lands ready to plant, in 10 and 20 acre lots" for $200 per acre. The terms were "cash deposit $250, $250 in 60 days, balance in one, two and three years."
Over on Page 13, The Arnott Institute of Berlin, Ont., was promoting "The Arnott Method . . . the only logical method for the cure of Stammering."
On Page 14, which is the one-section broadsheet newspaper's back page, there are ads for charcoal that can purify any breath and something that is guaranteed to cure dandruff and "stop falling hair." That stuff would have set you back 50 cents for a large bottle.
And if you were wondering, there were political scandals.
A story on the front page told of Abraham Ruef, a "former political leader" in San Francisco, having been sentenced to 14 years at San Quentin. His crime? He had offered a bribe of $4,000 "to supervisors in the overhead trolley franchise matter."
Closer to home, the Ontario communities of Brantford and Guelph were embroiled in scandals related to their city councils. There apparently were hints of bribery in Brantford, where a proposed by-law of some sort had been killed. In Guelph, there were reports "of graft in council."
It's worth pointing out, too, that The Weekly Telegram was far, far ahead of the curve. When USA TODAY launched, it contained one page that included a dollop of news from each state in the union. Well, The Weekly Telegram, on its last page, featured 51 news items from all across the Dominion.
That included news that William D. Jones, who had broken out of a Toronto jail, had been captured in West Virginia. Why was Jones in that Toronto jail? He had been captured in Toronto after escaping from a jail in Newcastle, Penn., of course.

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