The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

February 19, 2009

Recycled Newspaper: 50 Years Ago Today on the Eastside

Filed under: Bellevue, History, Kirkland, Recycled Newspaper — Brian Lutz @ 1:05 am

As you probably know if you’ve been reading this Blog, there is a lot of interesting information that can be found in microfilmed newspaper archives available at the Bellevue library, where complete archives of the East Side Journal and Bellevue American dating back as far as those papers were published are available (and incomplete archives of a number of other local papers are available as well.)  Although most of my research in the archives thus far has been focused specifically on particular topics, this is the first of what should hopefully become a regular (or irregular, given my tendency toward dubious punctuality) series of posts on this Blog taking a look at what was in the local papers on a particular day (or as close as I can get to it anyway) in the past.  To start off with, I am looking at what was going on 50 years ago on this date, which not only provides a nice round number, but is also convenient because the days on the calendar in 1959 match those of 2009.  I am also taking these stores primarily from the East Side Journal (at least for now) because the early 1959 microfilm for the Bellevue American is of poor quality and difficult to read, much less take useful photos from.  I’m also probably not going to spend a lot of time on big headlines, and I’ll probably be looking mostly at some of the smaller stories in the paper and the advertisements, which I find more interesting (besides, until the Journal-American was formed in 1977 none of these papers provided much coverage outside of the local area, presumably leaving the rest to the Seattle Times and the P-I to cover.)

To start off with, here are a few stories from the February 19th, 1959 edition of the East Side Journal.  On the front page buried in between a couple of stories about budgets and an accident involving a fuel truck was this story on telephone rate increases:

In a nutshell, it sounds like the phone company got smacked down pretty hard by the utilities commission on their proposed rate increases, with approved increases nowhere near the levels requested.  I suppose putting 10 people on a single line isn’t a great way to win many friends in the community or on the utilities commission.  Even so, I bet we all wish that phone service was that cheap these days.  At least the days are long since past where we’re having to share our telephones with the neighbors in order to even get service (the prevalence of high numbers of people on party lines due to lack of capacity is cited in the article as a frequent complaint by the utilities commission.)  I can recall that in the GTE phonebook as recently as 1996 (possibly even later) there was a section on party line procedures and etiquette, which would seem to indicate that there were still a few in use at that time.  Now with even the landline itself seemingly beginning the long slow descent into obsolescence as wireless phones become ever more entrenched in modern society it’s hard to imagine having to share a phone with your sibling in the next room, much less half the neighborhood.  Not that it stops us from complaining about our telephone service.

From here, the stories get just a bit less earth-shattering. 

Apparently back in those days you could also be practically old enough to drink and still be considered a youth.  It also seems that it didn’t take a whole lot in to get into the newspaper back then.  It’s nice to get some recognition for a good deed, but this begs the question of just how this got from being a letter of praise to one’s employer to getting written up a story in the newspaper.  I wonder if as a reward, John got a set of coveralls with his own name sewn onto them?

Of course, the frivolity doesn’t end there.  It seems that all you needed to do in order to get into the paper these days was go to Mexico for six months and presumably send a postcard back home.  If that’s all it takes to get written up, maybe you could add a PS about that old car you’re trying to sell off and save yourself the cost of a classified ad in the process.  As a side note, the Knights of Pythias, a secret society I have never heard of until now, are still around (and list several dead presidents and vice presidents among their alumni) but do not appear to have a chapter in Washington State anymore. 

To conclude our little trip through the newspapers of a half century ago, I thought I’d put up this picture of the former Bartell Drugs logo that I found in the February 19th, 1959 edition the Bellevue American (one of the few items from that issue I could get a decent picture of from the microfilm.)  Now that’s what you call a good stout logo, the kind that you could drop an A-bomb on (back in those days you had to give consideration to such things) and you’d barely put a dent in the thing.  This logo would end up being replaced just a couple of years after this by the more mundane logo that Bartell Drugs continues to use today.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: