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Front Page » November 8, 2005 » Opinion » Change in perceptions, laws and society
Published 3,216 days ago

Change in perceptions, laws and society


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate general manager

I spent the last couple of weeks working on a couple of historical projects for the paper. It's one of my favorite things to do, because I love historical research.

The first was the piece I did on the affects the Spanish Flu had on our country and our county in 1918. I find it is always too bad that I have such a limited amount of space to tell such a compelling story.

But often when doing the research I find a lot of amusing things along the way. It can be as little as something someone did that was reported in the paper long ago, or the way the writer of an article used words, some of which whose meaning has changed dramatically over the years.

I found a couple of these kinds of things while working on that article. For instance one headline in a 1918 version of The Sun stated "Carver not right in head." It was a story about a man who had gone crazy and tried to murder someone. At the time the article was written he was in jail and doctors were assessing his ability to go on trial.

Next I came across a letter by the superintendent of schools that was printed in the paper judging the value of an education. World War I had just ended and there was a definite hatred in this country for those who had made up the powers opposing the United States, England and France in the war. Those countries were Germany, Turkey and the combined country of Austria-Hungary. Soldiers from that side of the battle were often called "The Huns."

The superintendent was writing about different types of students, including what he termed "Slackers" or those who have no desire to excel at learning.

How he tied these two groups of people together was amazing. He wrote, "Slaker. Next to the Hun, the slacker is the most despised person in the world today."

You could get away with this in 1918. In today's politically correct world, a superintendent or almost anyone would be out of a job putting that kind of a thing before the public.

Another funny thing I came across was a reference to a word that we use in a certain way today, but no longer attach the extended meaning to. In the case of this passage the writer said that because of the flu epidemic "many people feel that the time for promiscuous public gatherings has not yet arrived."

Based on our present use of the word it hasn't arrived here in Carbon County ninety years later either.

The word "promicuous" in terms of todays language means of course that a behavior has some type of sexual loosness connected with it. But if one looks at the extended meaning in the dictionary (down to about the fifth definition) it can also mean "casual or not related too." I knew what the author meant, but it was still funny.

The New Advocate also had to add its own personal touch to an article about the Spanish Flu by pointing out on Dec. 19, 1918 that "the illness of Ruby deprives the News Advocate of an efficient typesetter for the week."

With medical privacy rules that are in place today, I could probably be sued if I wrote in the paper that someone on our staff had been sick and wasn't able to do their job.

In another line in the same article the writer was talking about a local merchant whose wife had the disease but that he had been staying away from her so his quarantine had ended. The writer out of the blue wrote "Mr. Sutton's time has now expired" meaning that he could go out in public once again.

The first time I read it I thought the guy had died.

Finally, also in the News Advocate, I read that a telephone repairman had acquired the illness. But how that fact was put was very interesting.

"Lynn Strong found a germ on top of a telephone pole while hunting trouble and has decided he got the wrong line."

Some very creative writing to say the least.


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November 8, 2005
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