Weekly Feature

2018-08-08 / Editorials

‘You Can’t Put That in the Paper’

Managing Editor

It is a little project that I should have started sooner. As a journalist with access to more than 125 years of community newspapers, a trip down memory lane sometimes involves some eyesores.

I call it “You Can’t Put That in the Paper.”

Many newspapers from a century or so ago published jokes, quirky stories and observations that are no longer fit to print. Some of these items were racist, sexist and just plain inappropriate.

I feel it is important to preserve them for posterity to demonstrate how far we have come as a society – and how far we still have to go. I like to share this project with college interns and new employees as well.

I will share a few of the less offensive items here, so hang on.

June 16, 1887: “Peace-loving Williamsvillites were aroused from their slumbers Sunday night by the wild ditties of an old Irish woman from Buffalo on her way to Rochester. She was put in the lockup for the night and given a proper length of time to get out of the village in the morning.”

Aug. 18, 1887: “Wanted: German girl for general housework. Small family; one child. Wages $2.50 per week.”

Sept. 15, 1887: “An experienced and well-qualified gentleman teacher is wanted for school in District No. 2, Cheektowaga.”

Dec. 12, 1889: “A husband is always in a better humor after a good dinner. If this is so, it is a strong reason why a wife should be a good cook, or, at least, capable of teaching her help to cook well.”

It gets worse.

July 21, 1892: “A Sycamore Street man cut his throat with a razor in a vacant lot on Genesee Street at Pine Hill. He was without doubt insane.”

May 20, 1937: “Members of the Williamsville High School Board of Education, together with their wives, are being entertained this evening by the high school faculty at the Old Orchard Inn, East Aurora.” (Apparently all the board members were male. Today, four of the nine members are female.)

Sept. 21, 1939: “Count Basie, the swing idol of thousands of local dance fans, brings his famous orchestra of 14 sizzling sepia syncopators to the Eagles Auditorium, Pearl and Tupper streets, on Sunday, September 24.”

Aug. 3, 1939: “Help Wanted: Steady job for a married man to work on a poultry farm. Good pay, modern living quarters. Only clean, able man need apply.”

Aug. 10, 1939: “The wise housewife will be found alert by ridding her home of the summer pest — the fly. Screens and screen doors should be provided whenever possible.” June 21, 1962: “Help Wanted: Woman, white preferred, general cleaning, two adults, references.”

April 18, 1963: “Attractive women, over 25, capable of meeting public. Earn up to $5 an hour.”

Dec. 3, 1964: “A new teachers’ group, the Williamsville Men Teachers Organization, will meet regularly on the second Wednesday of every month. Membership is open to men of the Williamsville Senior High School faculty.”

Dec. 1, 1966: “Help Wanted: Man age 25 to 38 for established wholesale firm. Steady salary, no commission. Must be good driver, draft-free and aggressive. Preferably married and with responsibilities.”

I have intentionally omitted items from this project that used degrading terms and phonetic spellings that fit racial and ethnic stereotypes. Some of today’s public figures should do the same.

(David F. Sherman is managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at dsherman@beenews.com.)

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