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Monday, February 7, 2011


Last week I was looking for an item in the January 1950 Clarion-Ledger for a patron. While I didn't find it, I did discover that when I finally get my time machine working again, I am definitely going to skip January 1950!

Instead of finding what I was looking for--an item about a piece of legislation that was introduced during the legislative session--I learned about a horrible murder in Kosciusko. (Stokes McMillan's One Night of Madness tells the tale; our copy is checked out but when it comes back in, I'll fill you in!) There were several other tragedies, which stood out not just because of their awfulness ("Patient Says She Set Fire: Explains Arson Taking 41 Lives") but because of the differences in newspaper language then and now ("Duplex Blast Kills Mother and Tots: Terrific Concussion Mangles All Bodies"). There was also the photo of the gaunt gentleman who is wasting away due to an unresolved case of the hiccups. Because this was 1950, the headline doesn't play coy: "DYING FROM HICCUPS" it screams.

I was thoroughly depressed. I kept trudging downstairs from the microfilm area on the mezzanine to report the awful things I was learning about. My coworkers deserve various medals for humoring me and listening to me rant ("No, seriously, it really says "'terrific concussion mangles all bodies.'").

However, I was roused by a two-page advertising spread featuring ads from various companies. They were all welcoming the first baby to be born in Mississippi in 1950, little Baby Boy Tompkins! (I'd tell you his name, but I checked the phone book, and I'm pretty sure he still lives in the area.) I first even noticed the spread because of this ad:

My eye is naturally drawn to roasting children. As well as hilarious brand names: Pro-Tek-Tot! (Full disclosure: my great-grandfather invented an athlete's foot remedy called know, so your toe won't be so' no mo'.)

Other companies offered the Tompkins family actual deals (besides illustrations of their baby turning into a marshmallow). A beauty shop offered Mrs. Tompkins a free permanent! Florists sent the baby a bouquet! Other offers were free dinners, free shoes, an electric heating pad that is not recommended for babies today, and best of all, free ice cream.

Thank you, Baby Tompkins, for brightening what would otherwise be a terrible microfilm expedition!

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