Column – Turn of the decade, 1929-1930

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2023

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The year 1929 got underway with rewards offered to come up with a plan to repeal the 18th Amendment. A prize of $25,000 for the best plan to bring (legal) alcohol back into the country was the leading headline on Jan. 2, 1929.

William Randolph Hearst, owner of multiple newspapers, issued the challenge via his newspapers. The call was for “a more liberal and more American measure,” with the article going on to explain the impossibility of enforcing Prohibition. Despite this interesting measure to find a solution, prohibition and the raids and arrests of bootleggers would populate the news pages for another four years.

On Feb. 27, 1929, the newspaper announced a reunion resulting from a letter from a woman in England searching for her family. As a 6-year-old child, Carrie Rountree had been taken back to England by her adopted mother. She grew up knowing she had older siblings, but not knowing their names. According to the story, Carrie sent a letter to the News-Herald that was then published, and within hours of the paper hitting the streets, calls came flooding in. Mrs. J.L. Johnson, who at the time lived on Pinner Street, was overjoyed to discover the little sister she and her siblings thought dead was alive and well in England.

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Newspapers were the primary source of information and communication for decades. The turn of the decade would see that idea, and many more, challenged.

In 1929, the first public demonstration of color television was held, by H.E. Ives and his colleagues at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New York City. The first images are a bouquet of roses and an American flag. Less than two years later, the first TV commercial appeared.

Characters such as Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse and the Looney Tunes appeared for the first time. The first Academy Awards are presented in Hollywood.

However, in Suffolk, the best way to stay informed continued to be the Suffolk News-Herald. During the World Series, the News-Herald set up a player board in front of the office on South Main Street, allowing citizens to gather and get the play-by-play of the World Series throughout the game.

The May 10 front page announced the beginning of long-distance truck delivery of peanuts by Planters. Hauling peanuts by truck was seen as the solution to rising costs in shipment via rail car. Even as truck transportation use began, the railroad expanded. A brief story on the front page Aug. 12 detailed the plans of Norfolk and Western Railway to build two new storage tracks as well as to expand the train depot on Main Street.

In the beginning of October 1929, the News-Herald launched a campaign to boost paper subscriptions. The contest allowed individuals in and around Suffolk to gather as many subscriptions as possible; more points were awarded for new subscriptions. The winner of the contest would have a chance to be a movie star. In partnership with I.P.I. Studios, the paper had movie contracts as the grand prize of the contest.

In a tiny story at the very bottom of the front page on Oct. 28, 1929, a small headline read, “Stock prices tumble again in Wall Street.” The two-paragraph story details the fall of the stock prices dropping at record-breaking amounts by midday. What is now known as the great Stock Market Crash of 1929 got only minor front page headlines. The bigger news that day and the days to follow were of plane crashes, sunken boats and the celebration of Navy Day.

Mid-April of 1930 brought with it a much more localized front page for the Suffolk News-Herald.

Following a change in the managing editor of the paper, the front page of the News-Herald went from featuring mostly national stories to almost 100% Suffolk news. New businesses accompanied by photos of the storefront adorned the paper many days.

It would seem that while the country sank into the Great Depression, the Suffolk economy was growing rapidly. Surrounding the business news were reports of marriages, deaths and announcements of local meetings.

Results of the 1930 Census showed Suffolk growing in people as well as businesses. The front pages of 1930 highlighted a bright future, showing a city growing rapidly, bringing in new businesses and new industry and sending its products out worldwide. This growth and expansion continues to this day.