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Bert Adams: Everybody Reads the Monthly News – the General View

          The year we started The Monthly News, 1942, Will grew 8 inches in 8 months, ten inches in a year, while his weight stayed at 130 pounds.  It was a hard year for him physically, but not mentally.  He was the Editor-In-Chief of The Monthly News, and our Dad, the New Testament professor at Eastern Baptist Seminary, agreed to be the News Editor.  I was Sports Editor, Ann Beatty, the girl next door, was Art Editor, and Will’s school friend Bob Breckenridge was Circulation Manager.  We charged $.03 a copy at first, but in January of 1943, we raised it to $.05 a copy, or $.50 for a year’s subscription.  The motto for Philadelphia’s evening daily was: “Everybody reads the Bulletin.”  So, at the bottom of page one of our first edition, we said: “Nobody reads the Bulletin, everybody reads the Monthly News (that’s supposed to be funny).”

          Nancy Delany lived up the street, and her mother, who worked for A.B. Dick, ran the first few editions at her office.  But after a few months, our parents bought us a mimeograph machine, and Will and I began typing the stencils for each page and running them off.  Also, Aunt Tig (whose real name was Lurie Nell Walton) took over the art work when Ann moved away.  Mother began composing a monthly crossword puzzle, putting the solution in the next month.  She did other features, such as poems, radio program listings, and local news.  Over time, many people contributed features to the paper. 

          In 1943, Will and I began to go around downtown Wayne, seeking advertising.  At a rate of $.50 a column inch, we very quickly sold ads to the Rest-Well Tourist Home, the Main Line Grill Diner, Park Hardware, Cowan’s Flower Shop, Don Gorham Life Insurance, Emidio de Joseph and Son tailors, and others.  Dr. Gorham was a friend of Dad’s, but most of the others resulted from Will and me “tramping the pavement.”  The final element to be added, several months later, was the “Subscribers’ Column,” or letters to the editor.

          World news in August of 1942 included the turning back of the Germans in Stalingrad and the Caucasus, the Chinese offensive against the Japanese, and the beginning of the North African battle against Germany’s General Rommel.  Dad, W. W. Adams, concluded in the first edition (September, 1942) that “August has seen the turning of the tide definitely in favor of the United Nations.”  Looking back, we know it will take three more years for “the tide” to complete its turning.  In 1945, News Editor Adams made a prescient comment about the U.S. – though at the time he was referring to Germany: “a powerful nation must learn to use its strength to aid other countries, not to try to dominate them with military might.”

          Features, besides the crossword puzzle, included the listing of “prime time” radio programs, such as Sunday night’s lineup: Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and Inner-Sanctum Mysteries, introduced by a squeaking door.  Because of its bloody and scary stories, Dad was not in favor of our listening to it when he was in town. However, when he was off leading a Bible conference (which was often), Mother, Will, and I would frighten ourselves by listening to that program.  Tuesday night the Lone Ranger was on, with Easy Aces and Mr. Keen (Tracer of Lost Persons – which Will and I called “Mr. Trace, Keener than most Persons”) Tuesday through Thursday, and Lum and Abner Monday through Friday.  Will and I considered Saturday night to be really special, with Truth or Consequences and the Barn Dance.  A decade later, the Barn Dance had become the Grand Ol’ Opry.  From the mid-1930s through the ‘40s, sitting around the radio was a major form of our family’s entertainment, along with card and board games.

          Will’s feature story, “Stick People,” started with the first edition and continued for three months, and re-emerged several times over the next year.  The opening episode described the stick people coming to life, after Will had made 500 of them, and all but five leaving, never to be seen in Wayne again.  By the next month the stick people who had left William’s house had built a Western town, with good stick people and bad ones.    The town had a sheriff named Capture, whose stick horse was called Flying Chips.  Over several months the Western town had many exciting adventures – all described by Will.

          But not all the features were original pieces.  For example, the first Christmas we published an Edgar A. Guest poem “At Christmas” – a genuine family tearjerker.  Also, in February of 1943 (President’s month), Harriet Weed, an elderly newspaper-woman in Wayne, asked us to print the Gettysburg Address, preceded by this editorial comment:
                    “At the time, almost no attention was paid to the address, it being
                     confined to the inner pages of the newspapers, while Edward Everett’s
                     (two-hour) oration received unqualified praise.  It was not until many
                     years later that it was recognized as one of the classic utterances of
                     all time.
                     It is interesting to note that Everett wrote Mr. Lincoln on the day
                     following, saying, ‘I wish I could flatter myself that I had come
                     as near to the central idea of the occasion in two hours as you did
                     in two minutes.”

          Other features included my essay on Mt. Rushmore and the Black Hills (I was big on geography), one I wrote on Glacier National Park (which I had never visited), and Will’s and my account of “The Petrified Forest,” in Arizona, which we went to in the summer of 1942.  Different from the travelogues was Mother’s mystery story, titled “The House on the Hill,” which was solved the next month.  A light had gone out, a person was heard walking around, a door was banging, and a ghostly figure was seen in front of a bedroom door.  The solution was that the light had been shot out by a b-b gun, the person walking was a squirrel in the wall, the outside door was banging, and a bas relief looked like a ghostly figure.  Another story was the classic: “The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey.”  Here the focus is on trying to please everybody – first by having the boy ride, then the father, and finally by trying to carry the donkey across a river, with nearly disastrous results.  Another month an account of Marco Polo, drawn from the book Minute Stories of Famous Explorers, was published.

          Perhaps the most unusual features were Will’s and my interviews with sports figures Connie Mack (nee Cornelius McGillicuddy) and Byrum Saam.  The eighty-two-year-old Mack had been Manager of the Philadelphia Athletics for 50 years.  We were allowed to go onto the field before the game, to interview him in the dugout, where he sat wearing a dark suit and tie, and holding a scorecard in his right hand.  We asked if he had always been interested in baseball, and he said “yes.”   He said he had worked since the age of nine, but on his lunch hour he played catcher on the workers’ ball team.  In 1883, he and others organized the Central Massachusetts League, which played only on Saturday – a non-work day.  “Our team, East Brookfield, won the championship the first year and received a silver bat, which is still in the fire-house at East Brookfield, Massachusetts,” Mr. Mack told us.  He stood 6’ 2” tall, was white-haired and very thin, with an erect posture, and he made us feel at ease.  We did not ask him why he had sold all his star players – Lefty Grove, Al Simmons (nee Aloysius Simanski), and Jimmy Foxx – in the early 1930s.  (We, of course, knew the answer: $$$).  But he was friendly and open with us.

          “By” Saam, the Phils’ and A’s announcer, told us he started announcing at a small station in Forth Worth, Texas.  He got the job in Philly because he could announce both baseball and football games.  He and Ted Husing, he said, were the only announcers who could watch the game, announce it, and write down what was happening – all at the same time.  He spoke at some length about what it would take to turn the two Philadelphia teams into winners (some good pitchers? some good hitters?).  To interview Mr. Saam we had to walk up the narrow catwalk to the press box, high above the field.  Dad, of course, took us to the games, but left us alone to do our interviews.  Will and I never had a thought about how gutsy it might be considered for two youngsters like us to bother such important people – or how supportive our parents were.

          On the second anniversary of the Monthly News - September, 1944 – the bottom of page one included the following comment:
                    “This is a great day in my life – I am two years old, I can talk, but I
                    cannot walk alone.  It isn’t a crutch I need to help me.  It is the
                    continued loyal support of those who advertise in my pages and
                    who buy me regularly.  I am a strong husky fellow only because
                    you have made me so.  I thank you.
                                                           (signed) The Monthly News . . .

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