20 January 2015

"...that little newspaper..."

Greeting me on my 66th birthday, Baby Sister writes: "My most favorite memory out of MANY, is time you spent reading aloud to me. "Little Women", "Jo's Boys", that little newspaper....shoot, even the funny papers. . . Whatever you read to me came alive. "
Pretty close to my favorite memory also.

January 1949
my birthday month
The "little newspaper" was Capper's Farmer which usually arrived weekly just before noon in Thursday's mail--Rural Free Delivery. We were not allowed to read it until Daddy had finished it. For some reason, the male of the household required a "virgin" newspaper. I know this practice was not only our house rule because it is part of the comic routine of the BBC's "As Time Goes By" which DMP and I greatly enjoy. Twentieth Century movie clips and photos of the family breakfast table often feature the man of the house with a pristine newspaper. I noticed it on several episodes of  Downton Abbey.  The rule which I often considered unfair worked to my advantage since Friday was test day at school and Thursday evening was needed for review but my weekend reward was Capper's Farmer.

Arthur Capper published his weekly beginning in 1913 to inform "dirt farmers" and to support his political ambitions. He served Kansas as governor 1915-1919 and in the U. S. Senate 1919 - 1949. Scion of an abolitionist family, Arthur Capper was first president of NAACP in Topeka. A leader of the Farm Bloc and co-sponsor of the Capper-Volstead Act, he could attract controversy.

I first came across my favorite example of such controversy in this 1922 article from JAMA Vol. 79 No. 17 when doing retrospective bibliography as a medical librarian in the early 1980s. The link is to the only free source I could find on the net. In my youth I remember being shocked, amused, confused by some of the advertisements to be found in the back of such publications. Cures. Quackery. Devices. Pills. Potions. A primer to all the "we don't talk about those things."
 Arthur Capper died in 1951, the year my baby sister was born so "that little newspaper" which I would be reading to her several years later was no longer the product of his hand.
I suppose Capper's Farmer which published through 1986 must have included serious articles about farming methods, issues, and politics of interest to my father but what I remember are the fillers and the articles meant for the farmer's wife.

Recipes. Canning tips. Gardening guides. Dress and quilt patterns.
Short poems.
Quips. Quotes. House plans.

The quilt patterns live on in the quilting blogs like this one.

I have my mother's cookbook which is full of clippings, many from the pages of "that little newspaper."
I remember this cover.

Two examples that I remember:

"Take pride in compliments but keep this tip close by:
flattery is mostly soft soap
and soft soap is mostly lye."

"We eat what we can and what we can't we can."
Which was always worth a smile during the long hot summers when we ate whatever the garden was "making" and spent countless hours shelling black eyes and beans, shucking and silking corn, peeling tomatoes or peaches while wishing for a bit of cool in a kitchen filled with pots of boiling water. No air conditioner for many of those summers.

For Baby Sister and me, Capper's weekly was all about serialized fiction. In fact, most  magazines in our house were valued for the serialized fiction. We adored the simple romance and the thrill of gothic. On those long lazy afternoons and evenings when I read aloud until my throat was too sore to read, we grew to know and love Mary Stewart, Victoria Holt, Nora Roberts, and a host of lesser writers whose names we never learned.
Our most favorite of such stories was published not in Capper's but in The Ladies Home Journal.
In April 1960, I was 10 years old; Baby Sis had just turned 8.  Seems a bit young but we may have read it some years later from a back issue; I know we read it over and over again.
Eleanor Hibbert writing as Victoria Holt, The Mistress of Mellyn.
Decades later I bought a first edition and read it aloud again while we made a long car trip together.

Arleigh's great blog with pictures of LHJ April 1960 issue is well worth visiting.

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