ATHENS THRU THE YEARS
Adventures in Editorials
By Anne Adams
Today’s newspapers usually have editorial pages, and like the current Athens Review, typically feature local opinions such as in a column labeled “Letters to the Editor” as well as national columnists. Yet many years ago newspapers like the Athens Review at the time also published opinion pieces and notices reprinted from other newspapers as well as editorial comments by newspaper management. Often the result was some inter-community rivalry.
These practices were demonstrated in one 1928 paper but one editorial in that issue later may have proved embarrassing with a resulting news story.
In the Athens Weekly Review of June 21, 1928, there was a notice that the editor of the Terrell Tribune commended the Athens milk industry and suggested that the Terrell community might have the same success. The Tribune editor wrote: "Terrell might borrow some of the energy and enthusiasm necessary to obtain such an industry as the one Athens has just secured …and profit by watching its methods.”
Then the Review published a reprint from a national publication and it dealt with an issue in New York State that concerned a timeless issue - audience reaction to a controversial speaker from a controversial organization.
The article related: “Governor Al Smith ordered the police to protect Sen. Heflin when he delivered an address in Albany on Sunday. We don't know how many policemen it required to protect this Kluxer speaker, but he admits getting $250 per speech. He ought to at least tote fair with Governor Smith and pay part of the protection cost."
One less than serious notice was from the Gilmer Mirror. The editor related: "When arrested for intoxication Rev. Arthur Abernathy of Salisbury, N.C. told officers he took a drink because he needed a stimulant while delivering a prohibition address."
Then in the same issue the Athens Weekly Review editor of the time, Mr. Craig, discussed an important community issue - traffic at the Courthouse square.
He wrote: "Autoists have become rather well reconciled to the law of stopping on entering the square. It is a matter of safety and doubtless, these stop signals have prevented many accidents. It is a matter of safety and doubtless, these stop signals have prevented many accidents."
Then he became specific. "But as much cannot be said of the stop signals off the square. A driver with the right of way naturally expects the other car to stop at these signals and hence does not slacken his speed."
And the solution? Mr. Craig suggested: "A little enforcement on the streets just off the square should have [sic] a wholesome effect and will prevent a serious accident. And the shame of it is that city drivers are the ones ignoring the signals."
Of course, that was an important issue, however, a few weeks later the subject became more personal for the editor who had written those words. It came in a later news article in the July 19, 1928 issue with the headline "Editor's Wife Pinched for Passing Stop Signal."
After reminding the reader about Editor Craig’s previous editorial on stopping at the signs placed in the courthouse square, the reporter related: "And now the editor is wondering if his wife ever reads the editorials in the Review." It started when Editor Craig arrived at his office to find a summons from Athens policeman Shug Stirman ordering Mrs. Craig to appear in city court to pay a fine for "failing to observe a 'stop' signal on the square."
So what happened? Apparently the incident derived from a point of controversy that involved the makes of the cars involved. Which vehicle was better? Was it the new Ford (probably a Model T – popularly known as a Tin Lizzie), or a new Dodge? The reporter explained, "A heated argument over the respective merit of the two cars led to a race down Tyler Street in which the Ford driven by the editor's wife easily took first place."
However, just as Mrs. Craig seemed to be winning the race, suddenly there was a problem. The reporter explained. "The speed of the new Lizzie was such that the brakes could not be applied in time for the stop signal." And then maybe she noticed that "Policeman Stirman happened to be lurking on the corner and hence another shekel was added to the city coffers."
The reporter wrote: “’Anyway, the Ford won’ was the comment of Mrs. Craig when informed by her husband that it cost one dollar to demonstrate that the new Lizzie would make sixty per.”