Column – Small city life

Published 4:38 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2023

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The theme in 1934 and echoed in ’35 was of building, securing and growing. Through federal, state and local programs, finances were stabilized and business and commerce were growing. The headlines of the News-Herald highlighted this many times over, with stories about local banks being federally insured and the construction of a bridge across the Nansemond River at the foot of North Main Street. 

Technology began to show up in the daily life of citizens. The police radio system was installed, with four officers trained to use it and two cars equipped with receiving units. 

Overseas, tensions continued to mount. A March 9 headline stated “Germany announces rearmament: Promises to do so moderately.” Other articles detailed the buildup of the Japanese Navy. One such headline in late October reads, “Japan’s program of Navy building is taking shape.” By the end of 1934, war and air attacks were showing up in news stories. 

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Local news focused on daily life, with alcohol sales being a popular topic. On March 21, 1934, the sale of liquor became legal for the first time in 14 years. A front page story announced the occasion: “A state liquor control plan came into existence (without any legalized liquor to control) this morning.” 

Trains have always been a large part of Suffolk commerce, and stories of accidents and derailments were fairly common. A short story on the bottom of the March 22 front page details a very amazing tale. A 7-year-old boy survived with no more than a bump on the head after being knocked down and unconscious and then run over by a railroad engine and two cars. The incident happened in the yards between Main and Saratoga streets. The boy ran from under a box car into the path of the engine. When the engine hit him and knocked him unconscious, he fell directly between the rail ties, allowing the train to pass over him without injury. 

Proof that daily life can be entertaining and interesting was revealed in this very short story on Nov. 16: “Bull runs amok in Main St. Rodeo.” The story read: “A slightly peeved bull ran amok in the business district this morning but did no other harm than frighten a few of the more timid minded citizens out of their wits. Breaking away from the Lee Holland stable, the bull made a ‘bee line’ up East Washington Street, veered to the right on North Main and was in front of police headquarters when an amateur cowboy, astride a quickly saddled horse, roped the animal after a few unsuccessful attempts. But Mr. Bull, not content to have his newfound freedom so rudely interrupted, squatted on his forelegs and refused to budge despite a few walloping blows on his ‘midriffs.’ In fact, he displayed a stubborn streak by laying on his side and would not respond to the violent tugging and other efforts to urge him to his feet. Finally someone suggested stepping on the animal’s tail and rubbing it firmly against the pavement and, to the surprise of the onlookers, the bull got up and slowly walked away.”

Although bulls don’t roam the downtown streets any more, other stories highlighted that some things are still the same. 

Traffic problems were the topic of many meetings throughout the years, as they continue to be. Citizens were demanding action be taken relative to the dangerous condition on U.S. 58. The community was concerned at the “terrific loss of life and limb” as well as property damage during the two years the road had been opened. 

On a more positive note, Suffolk always has and continues to be a very charitable city. On Dec. 18, 1934, an editorial ran on the front page below a drawing of a child with Santa. The editorial beckoned the community to donate to give children the needed food to provide a good Christmas. It was the beginning of what would later be called the Cheer Fund. Over the next six days, the community raised $501.61. In 1935, $509.42 was raised. This year, we raised a record $49,425.