Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Yesterday's News


People sometimes donate weird stuff to our library. They imagine we want their tattered old paperback books or their back issues of Variety magazine. We got one of the strangest donations ever yesterday. Someone dropped off a plastic bag containing an entire issue of The Miami Herald from Sunday, April 7, 1985 -- as well as three old Florida state driving handbooks (the kind you study before you take your driving test) and a British magazine from 1983.

There are so many questions.

Why April 7, 1985? The front page isn't particularly compelling (above). Why is this old newspaper in London? Has it been here all this time? And why did the donor imagine a school library would want it?

It is a strange twist of fate, though, that it landed on my desk -- since I'm from Florida and spent some memorable weekends in Miami in the 1980s. The newspaper isn't much use to the library, but it's been incredibly entertaining for me.
 

There's a big article by TV writer Steve Sonsky on "Miami Vice," the flashy '80s TV phenomenon that helped put Miami on the map for millions of viewers. When this newspaper came out, the show was just wrapping up its first season. Locals were still musing over what it would mean for the city and its image:

"South Florida, thanks to Vice's filtered, candy-colored, candy-coated image of the tropics, will never be viewed in quite the same way again," Sonsky wrote. "We are hot again. No, we don't look as good as the show makes us look, just as crime was never quite as bad here as the rest of the country thought.

"But they didn't believe us when we told them about the crime, and they won't believe us now when we tell them that Vice's Miami is not all there either -- that the landscape is not all wide boulevards, magenta sunsets and crystal blue seas; that the buildings are not all brilliant mirrored towers and curvaceous Deco treasures; that the entire city is not neon and pastel hustle-bustle once the sun goes down."

This article seems the most likely reason someone might have saved this issue of the Herald. But if so, why did they save the whole thing, and not just those few pages? (And look how terrible that photo looks. Fortunately color reproduction eventually improved and within a few years newspapers looked a lot better.)


There's also a byline by Edna Buchanan, the legendary Miami police reporter who a few years later would write one of my favorite journalism books, "The Corpse Had a Familiar Face." I don't think I've ever read one of her daily stories before. It's a very Miami tale, about a "construction worker and amateur taxidermist" who tried to kidnap some guys he believed ripped him off, and thus wound up in the hoosegow himself.


The grocery ads are kind of fun. At Publix, they were still giving away S&H green stamps, and you could redeem stamps and pay just 19 cents for your tuna fish or 29 cents for a roll of paper towels. You could also buy an Easter hydrangea for a little less than $5, but if you planted it outside in Miami, it was bound to fry.


The personals were kind of intriguing. I wonder if the 25-year-old "considerate, trim, attractive Oriental male" ever found his "sincere female"? He'd be 60 years old now. And what about those four women who all went in on an ad together? Looks a bit fishy to me, but who's to say.


Finally, at the movies, quality fare like "Porky's Revenge" and "Police Academy 2" was on offer. It's easy to forget, when looking back, how much crap was foisted upon audiences then too. We only remember the good movies now. For example, we all know "Return of the Jedi," but who remembers "King David," starring Richard Gere? I had no memory of it and had to look it up -- it was a box-office bomb and was panned by the critics.

On the other hand, I do remember going to see "Desperately Seeking Susan," with Madonna. It wasn't exactly quality either, but I enjoyed it.

I could go on and on down memory lane -- the ads for Barnett Bank, where I had an account until it was swallowed up by some banking behemoth or other. Likewise the ads for Burdines, a Miami department store that was a favorite of mine until it was absorbed into the Macy's empire.

Another interesting note -- the pages are huge. Newsprint was pretty cheap then, and broadsheets were really broad. These measure roughly 14 by 24 inches. Nothing like the downsized newspapers we see today.

I have no idea what I'll do with this newspaper, but for now, I'm keeping it.

39 comments:

Alphie Soup said...

So many questions and no answers, only conjecture. Hoosegow. There's a word I've not seen before, I'm guessing it means jail/gaol.
Alphie

Yorkshire Pudding said...

The old newspaper gives a fascinating glimpse into what life was like thirty five years ago. You went to see "Desperately Seeking Susan" with Madonna? That's amazing. You never said that you knew Madonna. Do you still keep in touch?

Moving with Mitchell said...

What a trip! Oh, the memories. But I'm stuck on the personals. When the first guy wrote SUCCESSFUL BACHELOR, do you think he meant he was successful at remaining a bachelor?

Unknown said...

I enjoyed walking down your memory lane via the newspaper. While I had no idea where it was back then, I think Miami Vice was my first memory of Miami. While I understand the US has some very cold weather in weather and snow in the winter, I can never understand the attraction to old people of a hot and humid climate to live out their final years.

Colette said...

What fun that must have been to receive that paper.

e said...

Yep, that is a saunter down memory lane, several in fact. I grew up reading the international edition of that newspaper, among others. Do you know who donated the papers?

Ms. Moon said...

The eighties! What a strange decade that was. Miami Vice was HUGE! I remember watching it on my honeymoon in the Chanticleer Inn on Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. Now THERE'S a memory. Was the same night that I saw my father for the first time since I was five years old. Drama-free way to start a marriage, right? Well. That was a rabbit hole for sure.
Newspapers can do that, can't they? Quite odd how that one fell into your hands. Did you throw the driver's manuals away?

robin andrea said...

What an interesting donation. It would be so cool to find the back story on why that edition of the newspaper was saved and why it's there in London? Makes me want to look at the obituaries. There's got to be a personal connection somewhere. The eighties, oy, that seems like a million years ago.

Linda Sue said...

Well, THAT was fun! The classifieds are hilarious, as they generally are, I was in university in the eighties - i don't remember much of movies then. No money for it. I love that you kept this odd paper and offered such curious tid bits. Seems a million years ago!

Sharon said...

That is a strange donation but I had fun looking at the pieces you selected. It's a trip down memory lane. I bet a creative teacher could think of ways to use the paper to spur some creative writing or investigative skills.

ellen abbott said...

yep, back then newspapers were still full size. well, at least you got a trip down memory lane from it.

Catalyst said...

Mem-or-ees . . .

Ellen D. said...

Last week my daughter and I were going through the plastic bin of her memories that I have saved in the basement. She wondered why a bag-wrapped entire issue of the Chicago Tribune was in her memory box and I said because her Dad would always save the whole issue of the paper from the day our kids were born so that in the future they could see what was happening on the day of their birth!
I imagine someone is cleaning out their basement crap and decided they don't need that stuff anymore.
It is so interesting, though! Thanks for sharing it, Steve.

Vivian Swift said...

That was engrossing. I loved the '80s, and 1985 was peak coolness. I was 29 and when I die, that's how old I want to be in heaven.

IN 1985, the "East Village" was a new and debatable concept in New York City, and there was a bar called Downtown Beruit on Avenue A because the neighborhood looked as if it had been bombed. It felt like wandering into Needle Park every time I went down there.

Just looked Downtown Beruit up and Google says it was on First Avenue, and I don't remember 1st Ave being that scuzzy. God, the 1980s were fun.

jenny_o said...

Like Ellen D's husband, we saved the provincial paper from the day each of our kids were born. So maybe that's the answer for your donation too!

Debby said...

I love looking at old newspapers. We found some fascinating ones from the 60s covering the racial unrest. We were shocked at the language.

Stefanie said...

I suppose 42-43-54 are the bust-waiste-hips measurements of this young woman looking for a lasting relationship. Just a thought ...

Stefanie said...

Just noticing "women", so no measurements, only cost cutting between four women.

Ursula said...

Since ebay has lost its original charm (the chase aka the bidding) I haven't been on their site for a while. In the olden days you'd find treasure there; probably still do. It is fascinating what people will sell/auction/give away. What's even more fascinating that there were sellers/takers of the most unlikely stuff.

On the momentous occasion of the Angel's birth I asked his father to go and buy the papers of that day. Inspired by you I shall dig them out, twenty nine years on, and actually find out what happened on that most momentous day of my life (and I suppose the Angel's considering he drew breath for the first time). Who knows when, in a distant future some sweet Librarian will be handed those copies not knowing what's behind the history of that particular date. Good on you, Steve, to be curator of the one above. And imagine, one day in the, I hope long distance, future someone clearing out your study or your loft finding . . . see above. That paper may live forever more.

U

PS I am the daughter of an investigative journalist. He was, still is, most derisory about YESTERDAY'S NEWS. He calls it yesterday's snow. But then, he is also the man who keeps nothing.

Steve Reed said...

Yes! I don't know where the word comes from, but it means jail.

Steve Reed said...

She owes everything to me! I am her inspiration!

Steve Reed said...

HA! Except then, presumably, he wouldn't be advertising? I was perplexed by the random capitalization in some of the ads.

Steve Reed said...

Well, a lot of retirees come to Florida in November and leave to go back up north in March or April. So they skip the hot part of the year.

Steve Reed said...

It was fun, partly because it was so mysterious!

Steve Reed said...

No idea! It was just on my desk after lunch. Someone apparently dropped it off at the front entrance of the school.

Steve Reed said...

I still have the driver's manuals, but I suppose I will throw them out. They're not very interesting!

Steve Reed said...

I didn't even think of the obituaries! I should check them out...

Steve Reed said...

Somehow I kept going to movies even through college. They were a priority for me. Which is strange, because now, I never go to cinemas.

Steve Reed said...

I told the journalism teacher about it in case she was interested, but like me, she was mostly just perplexed!

Steve Reed said...

Yeah, it was fun!

Steve Reed said...

Sing it, Barbra!

Steve Reed said...

THAT is a very good thought! I hadn't even considered it might be a birthday souvenir.

Steve Reed said...

Downtown Beirut was long gone by the time I moved to NYC in 2000, but the East Village still retained a bit of its edge. I think now it's entirely gentrified, except possibly Avenue D.

Steve Reed said...

Yeah, that seems VERY possible. Although why the driving handbooks? And the British magazine from 1983? I think someone may also have simply been a hoarder!

Steve Reed said...

Yeah, the racial terms used routinely in the '60s seem pretty appalling now.

Steve Reed said...

Yeah, based on the plural usages, I think it must be multiple women looking for multiple men. I don't think I've ever seen several people place a single ad.

Steve Reed said...

It will be interesting to see if the Angel is at all intrigued by those old newspapers!

Unknown said...

Ah, as here they head north for warmer weather.

Sabine said...

Oh wow, we used meet up on a Friday night in our commune's one decent room, the one with a woodburning stove, to watch the latest episode of Miami Vice after the babies were put to sleep. Or was it Hill Street Blues? Maybe both.