Thursday, March 30, 2017

60-year-old articles store memories of friends, town

This page is the sixth (and last) consecutive post displaying some of Harry’s editorials as a young man in Greenbelt, MD. They’ve shown me more about the history of my childhood town and my dad’s experiences there.

August 13, 1959
“The Editor’s Notebook”
(A Column of Personal Opinion)

The Ratzkins are moving. Jack and Edith, whose two children were born here, went to school here, and grew up here, have sold their house and now they’re leaving Greenbelt. They have a lot of friends and a lot of good memories here. Jack brought one of those memories, in concrete form, over to me the other day to place in the News Review archives along with the great wealth of historical material we are saving for posterity.

It seems that back in 1940, before any of the present churches in Greenbelt were built, all of the various religious groups in town got together with a unique project in mind. It was their thought that possibly the people of Greenbelt could build one big church with an individual chapel for each faith and a common meeting room-auditorium for their social affairs. Imagine the Baptists, Catholics, Jews, Lutherans, Methodists, and Congregationalists together under one roof. This would indeed be a House of the Lord. Though it didn’t actually materialize, it is a tribute to the faith and imagination of our early residents that they even thought of it. In fact, it went even further than the thinking stages. Jack, who is a man of many talents (you should hear him sing), was assigned to draw up the plans for the proposed building. While cleaning out his attic preparatory to moving he ran across these old blueprints and decided to donate them to the News Review.

The blueprints suggest a very impressive building. It would have been the first of its kind in the country, perhaps even in the world, and it came mighty close to happening. The reasons why it didn’t happen are vague, although Jack thinks there are still some old-timers around who might remember, and who might be willing to enlighten us. Are there? Anyway, it all proves to me that Greenbelt is an interesting and wonderful place to live.

By the way, lots of people are moving these days. If you run across any interesting historical material while cleaning out your attics, don’t throw it away. Give it to the News Review. And don’t throw away your old books either. We’re building up quite a library in our office, and everybody is invited to come down any Tuesday evening to see our collection.

September 10, 1959
“The Editor’s Notebook”
(A Column of Personal Opinion)

I heard an interesting item on a TV newscast the other night. A man was waiting at the corner for the light to change so he could cross the street, but when the light changed a car pulled up and stopped all the way across the white line, directly in his path. He could have walked around the front of the car or around behind the car, but this pedestrian was not an ordinary guy. No sir. He was an independent thinker, and he was tired of automobiles blocking the crosswalks, so he walked up the right fender, across the hood and down the left fender. This was a brave thing to do, and I admire him for it; but unfortunately, the driver of that car was an off-duty policeman, and he didn’t take too kindly to a pedestrian challenging the supremacy of a vehicle, so he arrested the poor guy. And do you know, the judge fined that pedestrian $25.00 for malicious destruction of property!

I think that judge made a mistake. He had a perfect opportunity to reaffirm the dignity of the individual in our society and to assert man’s superiority over the machine. He had a perfect opportunity to put some teeth behind those white lines, to demonstrate that they apply both to people and to vehicles. After all, I have seen policemen give tickets to jaywalkers for failing to cross the street between the white lines. Why shouldn’t they give tickets to the cars which stop directly athwart the white lines? This could be the subject of a real crusade. But that judge capitulated, and he set the cause of personal freedom and liberty back at least fifty years. Maybe he figured it would be bad for automobile sales if the pedestrian won the case, since the economy of the whole country is so closely tied in with the automobile industry. Ah well, I suppose this is the price we pay for progress. But if I were that judge, I’d have handled it differently, wouldn’t you?

* * *

A few months ago I started taking piano lessons from a remarkable young man named Martin Berkofsky. All my life I’ve wanted to learn how to play the piano. Those of us who grew up during the thirties will never forget those depression years and how tight the money situation was. Even so, a lot of kids were able to take piano lessons then, but I was not one of them. So you see, I’m really just a frustrated concert pianist – a virtuoso, if you please. All I lack is knowledge, training and talent. What’s more, I don’t practice as much as I should, and sometimes I don’t see how Martin puts up with me. But then, as I said before, he is a remarkable young man.

If you’ve been reading the News Review over the years you’ve probably seen his name many times, giving a recital here and a recital there and generally playing around (piano, of course) quite frequently. He has also distinguished himself in other ways – as a winner of science awards in school, for example, and as an authentic young American genius. I am old enough to be his father, and I feel a sort of vicarious paternal pride in him – at least I understand just how proud his parents must be of him, and of themselves, too, because after all they play a vital part in making him what he is. It makes me feel good to go to him for my piano lessons. He kind of restores my faith in the upcoming generation – because it makes me sad to see those bored and restless youngsters who inhabit the Center and who never seem to have anything constructive to do.

For all the bored souls, children, teenagers and adults alike, I recommend piano lessons as a release for their nervous energy and as a creative and constructive outlet. And for anyone who would like to work in the community interest, there is always a job to do on the News Review.

January 28, 1960
“The Editor’s Notebook”

It has been suggested to me that on the occasion of my departure from the editorship of the Greenbelt News Review it would be appropriate to express some final comments. The truth is, however, that I have little to say, and nothing that has not been said before. But at the risk of sounding trite, perhaps I will say a few things that have not been said recently.

As I see it, the News Review is the major unifying element within the city, the force which has done more than any other single civic activity to make a city out of a housing project. It has given Greenbelters a sense of belonging, a sense of participation, and, frequently, a feeling of pride in their community. Our object is to report the local news as fully and as accurately as possible, and if we have not always been as good as we could be, why, this is a criticism which can be leveled at any other newspaper in the country – and at every institution in the country. The point is that we are honestly striving to be better at our job all the time.

Those of us who have devoted our time and our energy to the News Review have been motivated by a genuine desire to further the best interests of our community. We believe that this is one of the best areas of civic activity, and one in which there are too few volunteers.

If I have anything to say at all, it is to urge more of our readers to participate in local activities, to contribute more of themselves in terms of time and talent for the benefit of their community. Today there is a crying need for more active participation by all sorts of people in all sorts of local organizations (and the News Review is only one of many). It is unfortunate but true, I think, that only a tiny fraction of our residents are carrying the great burdens of keeping our town going forward in all its many facets, while the vast majority too often succumb to the temptation of watching television. The community desperately needs more public spirited citizens who will work for their neighbors and for themselves toward the common goal of making Greenbelt a better place in which to live and bring up children.

And the News Review will have fulfilled its function when it succeeds not only in keeping its readers informed about local activities, but also in drawing its readers into these activities, each where he can best contribute to our common progress.

The News Review ran this story about Harry on July 14, 1960

Copyright 2017, Elaine Blackman

Thursday, March 23, 2017

For this editor, honesty was the best policy

As editor of the Greenbelt News Review (in a DC suburb) during the 1950s, Harry infused his honest feelings in the following stories. He also added humor in all but one a comment on the free press. It’s a subject he wrote about for the rest of his life.

November 21, 1957
“The Editor’s Notebook”

After so many years as editor of this newspaper, I don’t know why I should be surprised at the number of anonymous letters I get, but I am. Now there are two kinds of people who send anonymous letters, and I have no use for either kind. First is the kind who writes a fairly reasonable, intelligible letter, condemning someone or something and presenting a point of view which is at least worthy of discussion. Second is the kind who writes a lot of gibberish or nonsense, sometimes nasty or vicious, sometimes just plain meaningless. The fact that neither of these two types signs these letters indicates to me that they are either ashamed to acknowledge authorship or else they have not got the guts of a jackrabbit and won’t stand behind what they say. Yet they obviously expect their letters to be printed, or they wouldn’t bother sending them. For the record, let me once again make it clear – this newspaper will print any letter which does not go beyond the bounds of decency and good taste. We will, if the author so desires, sign the letter with a pen name, but we must – repeat must – know the identity of the author beforehand. Otherwise the letter goes right into the waste basket. I am still holding a few letters which came in unsigned in the last few weeks and which I will print if the authors will communicate with me and identify themselves.

January 2, 1958
“The Editor’s Notebook”

Several readers have asked me to give the general public a glimpse of the editor and the editorial writer as he really is – not the anonymous creature who sits in his ivory tower tossing down advice to the multitudes and gazing deeply into his crystal ball, but the real, living, tax-paying, church-going, mortgage carrying, baby changing, wife loving (my own), whiskey drinking (anybody’s), lovable me.

I have never noticed that knowing me has converted anyone to my point of view. On the contrary, people often look at me strangely upon learning that I’m the editor, and sometimes exclaim, “Well, maybe that explains it,” or something equally obscure.

Certainly, being known as the editor doesn’t do much for your social life. I love parties, I can eat, drink, exchange gay repartee, tell jokes and listen to tales of woe as well as the next man, but I seldom get a chance once people find out I’m the editor. Instead I find myself spending the late hours listening to belligerent critics tell me what’s wrong with the paper, or trying to avoid high-spirited citizens (not public spirited) who want me to undertake an editorial [word not legible] on their behalf(s), without, of course, mentioning their names. There is, of course, one good thing about writing editorials and that is the fact that, as with most papers, several of our staff members do it, and no one knows which ones I write. As any horse thief knows, they’ve got to find you with the horse, to hang you for the horse stealing.

People often ask why editorials aren’t signed. “I wish I knew who wrote that wonderful editorial,” a reader will occasionally say. (Very occasionally, I might add. More often they snarl something like, “What’s the matter, don’t you guys have the guts to sign the trash you write?”) But we have a policy of not revealing the identity of writers of editorials, and it makes sense. For one thing, opinions expressed in editorials are not those of the writer alone, but the products of editorial conferences, which involve a certain amount of give and take and modification. There are stories about editorial writers who went mad with power and somehow evaded the editorial conference and wrote long editorials denouncing motherhood, or the flag, or even their own newspapers (happened to us once), but these freak occasions are too rare to be concerned about. On the whole, we believe that an editorial carries more weight if it is recognized as the considered opinion of the management of this paper, rather than the opinion of a single writer.

Be that as it may, editorial anonymity is a handy thing to have around at times. It’s nice when a large drunk or an overpowering female demands to know who wrote that lousy editorial on taxes, to say cooly, “It is the policy of our paper not to reveal …” and so forth.

And there’s no law that says you can’t dimple, blush, and snigger, “Aw shucks, ma’am,” when someone gushes, “Oh, who wrote that divine …?”

 September 11, 1958
“National Newspaper Week”

This country has something of a mania for “weeks” and “days” celebrating all manner of things and occasions from the sublime to the ridiculous. But some of the observances are far above the common ruck, and deserve the public’s interest and attention.

This is certainly the case with National Newspaper Week, October 1-8. Its theme is “Your Newspaper Guards Your Freedoms.” And that’s more than just a felicitous little slogan. It’s a fact. A free press is the most potent weapon against tyranny and persecution that any nation can possess.

Dictators always take over the press as soon as they gain power and pervert it to their own ends. That’s only logical. For dictatorship can’t stand the freedom of expression and debate a free press stands solidly for.

August 6, 1959
“The Editor’s Notebook”

Normally, I welcome expressions from interested readers about items which appear in the News Review. True, most of the people who call me do so to register a complaint – they don’t like this article or that one, they disagree with the editorial, or they would like to point out some glaring errors. Occasionally, I must admit, their observations have some validity, and, poor mortals that we are, mistakes do get by once in a while. (The majority of mistakes that are blamed on us are made by our printer of course.) But, like I said, I do indeed welcome comments and criticisms from our readers – although it would be nice if only once someone would call to say something nice.

Harry and Jeanette at the News Review’s 25th anniversary event, 1962
But really now, you have to draw the line somewhere. Despite a lot of opinion to the contrary, I do sleep. I expect and get lots of calls on Thursday evenings, right after the paper is delivered, and that’s okay. In fact, I’d worry if I didn’t get any calls. But why do some people have to wait till midnight or later to call? Maybe it takes them that long to work up their courage and maybe you don’t think they’ll need all the courage they can get the next time they call after midnight! Some people, I guess, must brood about their problems all night because they wait until 6 or 7 a.m. to call me. Of course, I have to get up anyway to answer the phone, but in my early morning semi-conscious state, conversations and complaints somehow fail to enchant me, and I’m sure my responses to indignant questions are something less than intelligible.

There is a happy compromise. Call me any time in the evening, during the commercials on television when you’re in a hurry to get back to the screen for the climax of the show you’re watching. Then we’ll all be happy, and can discuss our problems at length and at leisure.

This is the fifth consecutive post with Harry’s editorials. Look for the sixth (and last) of my chosen editorials next week. Anyone can browse the Greenbelt News Review archives at:

Copyright 2017, Elaine Blackman

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Harry’s 1957 movie review, old Greenbelt anecdotes

In this fourth blog post showing Harrys editorials in the Greenbelt News Review, we see more of his opinions and stories from life in the 1950s. One line in particular is a telling example of Harry’s character: “When I do have something to say I will say it.

 January 17, 1957
“The Editor’s Notebook”

(Below is Harry’s review of the Hollywood movie based on a true episode in Greenbelt. He reflected about the episode much later in his life, in a writing posted earlier on this blog: Harry recounts McCarthy-era case in our Greenbelt, MD, hometown)

On Thursday, January 10, along with quite a few other Greenbelters, I was privileged to attend a preview showing of the movie “Three Brave Men” at Jack Fruchtman’s Century Theater in Baltimore. As everybody knows by now, this is the picture which tells the story of Greenbelt’s, and the country’s, most famous “security risk”, Abe Chasanow. Of course, 20th Century Fox points out that this is not specifically his story, but rather is simply based on his experience, as written in the newspapers by Pulitzer prize-winner Anthony Lewis. But in spite of the liberty which Hollywood takes with the truth, the story is clearly recognizable.

The acting was very well done, as one would expect from such stars as Ernest Borgnine, Ray Milland, Frank Lovejoy, Nina Foch, Dean Jagger, Frank Faylen, and many others. Their characterizations and portrayals were sincere and convincing, the dialogue tight yet natural, the entire effect really moving many to tears. But for Greenbelters there is even more of a thrill than for others, because this is a movie about our town. The names and faces may be changed but the identities are unmistakable. It was fascinating to me to see how Hollywood treated the Chasanow family, and how close they could come to capturing the characters of Abe and Helen and the four children, Howard, Phyllis, Myrna and Ruthie. Equally interesting were the portrayals of police chief George Panagoulis, Mayor Frank Lastner (a truly composite character) and a certain priceless mailman. I personally was delighted with the characterization of Terry Braund, who, cleverly disguised as a Presbyterian minister, wove his own magic spell around everyone. Then, too, there was the co-op housing corporation and the frequent references to cooperatives, pro and con, which are so much a part of our daily lives.

All in all, it was a gripping picture, and, if it wasn’t exactly faithful to the facts, it was still true to life. And as Terry Braund remarked at his farewell dinner Saturday, it was not just a picture about him, or about the Chasanows either – it was a picture about justice and truth, about America. When it comes to Greenbelt (sometime in March) I want to see it again, and everybody else should, too.

 September 19, 1957
“The Editor’s Notebook”

I have been asked recently why I do not resume a column I started writing last winter – a column of comments on the local scene. To answer all those kind inquiries, it is because I have had little of importance to say, and I have always believed that it is not any function to fill up space with trivia. When I do have something to say I will say it.

During his Greenbelt years, Harry found time to teach flying, too
Last week, for example, I received in the mail a package for the staff of the News Review. It was a box of candy, and with it was a card which read, “We have always appreciated the newspaper.” Now incidents like this are all too rare. In fact, we are normally on the receiving end of an incredible amount of abuse, and it is with sincere gratitude that we accept this token from a faithful reader. It helps us to renew our determination to do the best job of reporting and reviewing local events that we can, as our contribution to community life. In this respect, we also renew our perennial plea to those residents whose interests and talents lie along similar lines. We can always use more reporters, copy-readers, proofreaders and clerical workers on the papers. There is, of course, no money involved, but I doubt that anyone could find a more satisfying or rewarding way to spend two or three hours each week. Call me if you want to try it.

November 14, 1957
“The Editor’s Notebook”

Last week I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the co-op gas station now vacuums every car that comes in for a grease job. This sort of customer service is a welcome innovation, and I’m sure that all the car-owners appreciate it. It is also an indication that the co-op recognized the fact that it is in a competitive business and is making every effort to meet that competition. After all, a satisfied customer is a come-back customer, and it’s only good sense to try to outdo the competition down the street in attracting and holding customers. That is, when there is a competitor down the street.

Unfortunately, there is no competitor down the street in the food business. In this situation, I think the co-op is not quite so concerned about satisfying its customers. I make that statement because I noticed two weeks ago that sirloin steaks were selling for considerably less in the Piney Branch store than they were in the Greenbelt store. Is this because there is competition in the Piney Branch neighborhood, where there is none in Greenbelt? Naturally, I wonder about that, and if there is another explanation, I hereby invite GCS to use this space to make it. Until they do so, I can’t help thinking that it seems unfair for the co-op to charge its Greenbelt customers more than its customers pay for the same thing in any of its other locations.

He was often a master of ceremonies in Greenbelt
Just for the record, four people approached me personally, and three more by telephone, to report this situation and to ask what the newspaper was going to do about it. Actually there is nothing the paper can do about it except to publish it so that the people know about it. I would welcome any letters to the editor on this subject giving our readers’ views.

* * *

My carpool has quite a unique arrangement which I think others would be interested in. There are six of us – characters all – five drivers and one passenger. The passenger, of course, has to pay three dollars a week for his ride, which amounts to sixty cents a week for each of the drivers. Now sixty cents a week may be a lot of money to some of the carpool characters around here, but in our pool each of the drivers agreed to forego this pittance. Instead, each week, the passenger makes out a check to the favorite charity of one of the five drivers, who take turns deciding to whom the three dollars will go. As a result, several local organizations will be receiving mysterious donations in the mail, and if any worthwhile group wants to get on our list, just send your applications to Sid Barnett, 45-F Ridge, our executive secretary and general factotum. All applicants will receive equal consideration and prolonged discussion in our carpool – this I can safely promise.

Copyright 2017, Elaine Blackman

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Editorials spotlight changing times in old Greenbelt

On this page, we see more views of Greenbelt life in the 1950s. And, we see Harry’s budding passion for independent, community newspapers. This blog post is the third in a series of Harry’s editorials as volunteer editor at the Greenbelt, MD, News Review.

May 13, 1954 
“Time Marches on Greenbelt

(Harry reviews Time magazine’s coverage of a McCarthy-era case involving Greenbelt residents. He reflected on the case in an earlier post on this blog, Harry recounts McCarthy-era case.)

Although we may be dubious about the circumstances under which it has happened, Greenbelt is now definitely in the national spotlight. Not only is the story of our community and the Chasanow case featured in a big spread in Time magazine; but on last Thursday afternoon our town was also mentioned at length in a phase of the nationally televised McCarthy-Army hearings.

We were particularly interested in the Time article, which reviewed the beginnings of Greenbelt as well as discussing the controversial case that the Washington papers spread over their front pages recently. Our interest of course, is aside from the fact that the Cooperator has received mention in a national magazine. As might be expected from a magazine of Time’s caliber, the facts in the story are brilliantly presented. In addition, Time’s pungent style struck hard at what it obviously believed was the chief aspect of the case.

Harry and Jeanette with then-associate editor Izzy Parker, 1953
However, there is an implication in the story which we believe may give the thousands of readers of Time the wrong impression of Greenbelt. The articles did not, or perhaps could not, make clear that the bitterness of Greenbelt’s stormy period is largely a thing of the past – at least, we have every reason to believe that this is so. Ever since The Great Move of last summer, when hundreds of residents moved out of Greenbelt because they did not wish to purchase homes here, a new spirit has begun to transform the city based principally on the pride of home ownership. Those who felt that Greenbelt offered something only as long as they could live here under low Government-subsidized rents, or who violently objected to the management of a cooperative housing corporation, have left. Those who remained and the newcomers who have since joined are now helping to plan and are looking forward to a greater Greenbelt.

On the other hand, we believe that Time’s statement that “in Greenbelt, where most of the residents are Government workers, the suspensions (of Chasanow and others) cast a pall of fear and dismay” is unfortunately generally true. As we indicated in our front-page editorial of a few weeks ago, the Government employees here are concerned that a false impression of Greenbelt may have been created by the publicity. They fear that Greenbelt may be regarded as a “queer” place with an unhealthy atmosphere. Such fears, if not put aside, could lead to the destruction of our community spirit.

It is to be devoutly hoped that the people of Greenbelt will not succumb to these fears. No one can be certain how all this will work out, but it could be that Time will tell.

May 20, 1954
“Registration Day”

There is never any excuse for the citizen who fails to take advantage of the golden opportunity to participate in his government by voting in the local and national elections. Certainly the excuse that he forgot to register is a poor one. Furthermore, Greenbelt residents can register without the slightest inconvenience since they can do so at the Center School on Registration Day, May 25, until 9 p.m.

Many of us, while we are usually anxious to vote in a presidential election, forget that all elections are equally important – whether for representatives in Congress or local dog-catcher. We have no right to complain about the kind of job our officials are doing if we have not even taken the trouble to register, let alone vote. It is no argument to say that the particular official we loathe was elected by the people in some other district or state. He may well have been elected because others, like ourselves, were not interested in participating in the election.

There is no guarantee that all those elected to office from this area will serve us well, but at least let us be able to say that we did our best to put into office the type of men whom we personally believe would be the most capable for the job.

July 29, 1954
“On Changing Our Name”

The publication of this issue marks an important change in the history of this newspaper – and in the history of this community. For some sixteen years the Cooperator has been an institution in Greenbelt, not only on the scene but a vital part of the scene. Every organization in town, every church, every group, every club, every regularly scheduled activity, has, at one time or another had something to do with this paper, if not in direct participation, then by reading accounts of its doings in our pages. Legions of residents and ex-residents have at one time or another served on our volunteer staff. The publication of this issue, therefore, without the Cooperator banner-head, signals the end of an era.

For the last five years, repeated attempts have been made to change the Cooperator name. On several occasions the membership of the paper has voted to do so, but invariably the same situation arose. While agreeing to change the name from Cooperator to something else, the staff could never seem to agree on the something else. Standing committees, appointed to come up with a recommendation, have remained standing, so to speak, until they finally faded away. Every possible alternative name has been explored, discussed and re-discussed, examined and re-examined, debated and rejected. Difficult indeed to fill the void!

Now, however, to mix our metaphors, we have taken the bit in our teeth and have cast the die. We have decided to make a decision – with the help and understanding of our readers. For an interim period we will publish the paper without a name, meanwhile conducting a public opinion poll on suggestions for a new name. Eventually, we hope, we will arrive at a decision – one which will take the sentiments of our readers into account. Incidentally, it has been suggested that most of our readers might possibly prefer to see us retain the name Cooperator, so that name will be among the names on which the poll will be conducted.

Naturally, there are questions as to why we wanted to change the name in the first place. The reasons are difficult to put into words. When the paper was first organized, in 1937, we assumed it sounded like the ideal name to those who originally adopted it. It may very well have been, because in the beginning the paper was closely associated with, and in fact subsidized by the co-op store. This, of course, is no longer true and has not been true for many years, but the idea still seems to persist that the paper is a house organ for the co-op. Although we have repeatedly asserted our status as an independent newspaper, we believe that a change in name will be a more positive means of affirming the fact of our independence.

In addition, there are a number of Cooperators published throughout the country, at least one of which is circulated in Greenbelt – and this has added an element of confusion to some of our newer residents. Without exception, these Cooperators are closely identified with the cooperative movement or with scientific cooperative organizations. We do not have this feeling of close kinship. It is true, of course, that the paper is published by the Greenbelt Cooperative Publishing Association, Inc., and that, in fact, we are a cooperative organization. But this means only that we are a newspaper – which is published as a cooperative venture. In seeking to change our name we are not seeking to hide our identity. We are rather seeking to clarify our identity.

In the final analysis we are engaged in the business of putting out a newspaper, a typical example, if you please, of “free enterprise” in action. While we are concerned with publishing news of local interest, we are also concerned with selling what we publish, and the feeling is inescapable that we have encountered some sales resistance in trying to sell the Cooperator. Unfortunately, some recent publicity in the metropolitan papers has tended to hurt us, too. This, perhaps, has accentuated our desire to change our name – but this desire was there to begin with. We can just hear the accusation that we are retreating in the face of fire, but that viewpoint, we submit, misses the point completely. The truth is, our newspaper is a public service, and we are trying to perform this service as best we can. We believe that a change in name will make it possible to render a greater service to our community by increasing our readership acceptance, and we are asking our readers for their opinions. We are counting on them to express their opinions, not only at the polls, but also in letters to their editor.

In any event, we are embarked upon an experiment which we believe will have beneficial results. We await your reaction.

Anyone can skim the newspaper archives at:

When he wasn’t the editor, apparently Harry wrote a column called “Words and Music”. (This is not surprising, knowing he wrote a column on music for his retirement community newsletter.)
Copyright 2017, Elaine Blackman

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Editorials recall events of the early ’50s

This is the second in a series of posts showing Harry’s editorials from the newspaper in Greenbelt, MD, in the 1950s. Greenbelt is a DC suburb founded in 1937 under FDRs post-depression New Deal. The articles offer snapshots of Harry’s writings unknown to most family and friends he left behind, plus history lessons we can appreciate today.

December 4, 1952 
“Sunday, December 7

Most of us think of December 7 as Pearl Harbor day, and truly none of us will ever forget that tragic day of history. Every year thousands of newspapers throughout the country editorialize on the occasion of this solemn anniversary, its meaning, its significance and its implications. It is a convincing reminder that we must never allow our defenses to so deteriorate as to become vulnerable to surprise attacks by a ruthless enemy. It is a warning and a symbol of the ghastly costs of unpreparedness. We have taken that lesson to heart. We are currently expending huge sums of money to build up our military strength, and the whole purpose of this buildup is to make it unmistakably clear to any potential enemy that it would be most unwise to attack us. The sheer horror of the damage that we can deliver with our atomic weapons should make anyone think twice before risking a war. And it is our hope that behind this shield of military might, our diplomats can work out with the diplomats of the world, a true and lasting peace – a world in which the threat of war can be completely abolished – a world without weapons – a world in which men and nations can settle their disputes in a meeting room instead of on a battlefield.

But in a way, perhaps, December 7, has an even deeper meaning for us in America. For it is also the symbol of another war – a war against an enemy far more relentless and implacable than mere man. It is the birthday of a great and cherished American tradition – the birthday of the Christmas Seal. On December 7, 1907, forty-six years ago, the Christmas Seal was born.

Today in millions of American homes the Christmas Seal with the red Double-Barred Cross is as much a part of the holiday scene as the Christmas tree or Santa Claus. It carries a message of hope and good cheer, that tuberculosis can be defeated if all of us work together. In the forty-six years since the first Christmas Seal sale, tuberculosis has been forced down from first to sixth place among the causes of death in this country. But despite this progress, tuberculosis today kills more than all other infectious diseases combined. It attacks 115,000 Americans every year.

Those who buy and use Christmas Seals are helping to protect themselves and their neighbors from this killer, which attacks without obvious symptoms. They are helping the voluntary tuberculosis associations acquaint more and more people with the basic facts about TB, with the need for chest x-rays in an effort to find TB early, when it is easiest to cure. They are supporting medical research in the development of better ways of treating and preventing tuberculosis.

This is part of the personal contribution millions of Americans are making during the Christmas season. By buying and using Christmas Seals they are helping to save lives and to reduce the suffering of their less fortunate neighbors. Dec. 7 is indeed a date to remember.

December 24, 1953 
“Decision for Darkness

Most men are able to make the vital decisions in their lives without fanfare or publicity. The twenty-two young Americans who have elected to remain in Korea with their Communist captors have had the eyes of the world focused upon them while they were making up their minds. They had a chance to stand up and testify to freedom; instead they renounced their country.

It is hard to understand the thinking of these deluded Americans. They must have witnessed the treatment given their fellow prisoners who refused to fall for the Community line. They must realize the enormity of the lies they have been told.

The time may come when they will regret their decision. It is likely that when that time comes, however, it will be too late for them to salvage the liberty they have forfeited with apparent indifference.

Americans can sympathize with the parents and the loved ones of these men whose minds have been poisoned by the Communists. It is always tragic to look upon men who have turned their eyes away from the light and entered into the kind of darkness which can consume them.

December 24, 1953 
Harry and family in 1953

“How far that little candle throws its beam”, says an old poem. It could be paraphrased, if unpoetically, to read, “How far the consequences of a strike extend”.

The New York newspaper strike, which deprived the world’s second largest city of its principal media of information and advertising for 11 days, is a perfect example. Moreover, it illustrated how unique a place the newspapers hold in a community.

The strike was brought by a photoengravers’ union which has 400-odd members employed on the major New York papers. Actually, only 207 votes were cast in favor of the strike, but it was a majority. The papers, of course, could have appeared without pictures but other unions honored the engravers’ picket lines and made publication impossible.

As a result, some 20,000 people were temporarily forced out of work, and a very large payroll was temporarily suspended. And a huge amount of holiday advertising business was lost.

This was only the beginning. To most stores, the newspaper is the dominant factor in advertising. It is the top medium for visually offering goods to vast numbers of potential buyers. No one will ever know how much retail business was lost because of the strike but many store executives are sure it was substantial. Time was bought on radio and TV stations. But these media are of only limited value to retailers for the most part and, on top of that, relatively little desirable time was available.

New York City has 10,000 newsstands and about 2,500 of them shut down entirely. All of the rest, naturally, suffered from the lack of papers to sell, which are the backbone of the business. Movie theaters and sports arenas had no effective means of publicizing their attractions.

Finally, of course, the public, which buys 5,000,000 copies a day of the New York papers, was discomfited. The news magazines diverted extra copies into the city, but there were not enough of them to meet the demand and they did not carry news with the local slant.

Whether or not the photoengravers’ wage and other demands were justified is a matter of argument. But there can be no argument about the fact that the action of a very small number of people in a case like this can directly affect the lives of many millions. New Yorkers, today, really appreciate their newspapers.

Look for more of Harry’s editorials in the next post on this blog. (Anyone can skim the newspaper archives at: )

Copyright 2017, Elaine Blackman