A little bit of history hit home this week when our editor Vanessa Burnside found that the Leader’s sports page made its debut exactly 80 years ago. The issue date of that paper was September 10, 1939, and it was the first issue in the 48th volume of the Leader’s publication.
As you can imagine the Leader looked very different back then, and the writing style was a bit more flowery and colorful than what you typically find in newspapers today. As you read it you can almost hear the voice of one of those old newsreels that they used to show in theaters before TV became a thing.
Some of the content would fit right in with our football preview issue from a couple of weeks ago. The main article on the page is a rundown of the starting lineup for the 1939 Handley football team, naming players with familiar last names such as Virgil Goss, Buster Estes and Bonnie Awbrey.
There’s also a special feature about “rookie lineman” Earl Gay. The article points out that Gay practiced with the team and then followed the post-practice procession back to the showers, after which he had to walk home “5 or 6 miles” in the dark.
“Somehow he manages to get there in time to grab the school bus the next morning,” the article continues. “The mystery is when and where does Earl sleep!”
The Leader sports editor, Frank Stevenson, also adds some blurbs of humor including a brief description of a good football coach (“One who will lay down YOUR life for HIS team.”)
He then goes on to comment on the skeet shooting taking place in the Chattahoochee Valley, and wonders if skeet are good to eat.
“Clay pigeons are fairly tough, but if skeets are fried right, they might be tender.”
There are also a couple of advertisements that don’t quite stand the test of time, including one praising local public officials for investing in concrete streets.
“Concrete saves money,” the ad says, and “is ideal to drive on.”
There is also no shortage of content associated with the state of world affairs at the time. World War II had begun in Europe and headlines in that week’s Leader spoke of Nazi bombs on Poland.
On that first sports page, an image with the headline “Sailor’s Goodbye” shows a British sailor kissing his daughter. The cutline below the image states, “An English naval reservist called to the colors kisses his little daughter goodbye at Waterloo station as he leaves London. General mobilization brought British forces to full wartime strength.”
It’s a fascinating glimpse at the start of a thread that has woven its way to my desk on Main Street almost exactly 80 years later.
Perhaps some unborn grandchild of one of my contemporaries who has taken over as sports editor will find a rewarding glimpse into the past reading this recollection 80 years from now.