The magazines and newspapers of yesteryear
I subscribe to only several favorite periodicals, such as the Reader’s Digest, Ideals and Guidepost. I think back to my parents and their reading materials. They read voraciously in order to increase their knowledge of the English language. Magazines were read from cover to cover, and now I realize this was the reason they had such good vocabularies. They read to increase knowledge and become more adept at the written word.
Some of the old-time magazines they subscribed to were: Liberty, Colliers, Capper’s Farmer, Successful Farming, Woman’s World, National Geographic, Needlecraft, The Agricultural Farmer, Saturday Evening Post, and, of course, the Farmer’s Almanac. There were others, but I can’t recall their names, although I do remember certain covers and poems I had clipped from them.
My father also had some special pamphlets and small magazines on silver fox farming, which he was always studying. Only at the end of the work day was there time for my parents to read. I can still see my father staying up late, reading by the light of the old kerosene lamp. Mother read or sewed on her sewing machine, or was busy with knitting or doing some sort of handwork.
Mother retired early, but my father would stay up the late hours studying in books, magazines or newspapers. He was a well-versed man as far as knowledge and reading was concerned, but his speech betrayed his Danish heritage. Mother was much more verbal, and did not hesitate to give her opinion, regardless of her Danish brogue.
In my early years we received the Rhinelander local paper in our rural mailbox daily, but after the Depression hit, we could not afford to buy either daily paper or the huge Sunday paper filled with lots of good comics. Instead, we would get from more prosperous neighbors their cast-off papers. When we received their week-old paper, we devoured it thoroughly, and were able to read the comics. My favorites were “Bringing up Father” (Jiggs), “Katzenjammer Kids” (Hans and Fritz), “Popeye,” “Little Orphan Annie,” “Tillie the Toiler,” “Toots and Casper” and “Dick Tracy.” People were willing to share or trade favors, as my father was a carpenter, and would help wherever necessary, taking no money, just neighbor helping neighbor. I can still taste the treat of homemade kielbasa sausage he would receive as a “thank you” for a fix-up task when he helped a dear neighbor.
Two of the most interesting things that happened, covered well by the local and city papers, was the kidnapping of the Lindberg baby boy, giving daily accounts of “who did it?” and then the final trial of Bruno Hauptman and how he apparently carried out the kidnapping. The visit to the Northwoods by John Dillinger, a noted gangster, was brought close to us because of the “fast” car owned, by our teacher’s husband, Izzy Tuchalski, and having him bring the car to school for us to see, complete with bullet holes and stories of the adventure. These two incidents stand out vividly in my mind today, as both were well-written up in the papers.
There were many books to read as I was growing up. Perhaps they were not exactly “kids'” books, but my father had the complete works of Charles Dickens, a great number of the Horatio Algier series (poor boy makes good) and many other good works by famous authors.
As we got older, each Christmas we could select two books for ourselves. That is when I started to collect the Nancy Drew series and the Merriweather Girls books, and my brother began his collection of the Tom Swift series. Living on the farm, at a distance from our neighbors, we spent much of our time reading and living vicariously through the lives of the characters in the books-quite a contrast to now, when we watch TV and don’t have to use our imaginations to figure out what the characters look like, or have to read, as all the roles are spoken for us. We only look and listen.
Today we have large and well-filled libraries for all to use, offering all kinds of reading materials. We are so fortunate, and that is perhaps why young people are advanced in learning and information. I, too, feel privileged to have grown up in an atmosphere that provided good reading material with magazines, newspapers and books.