For those who like a good news-bath, there’s no richer fount of information than a Sunday New York Times.
Even in this vaunted journalistic age, the Good Gray Lady’s Sunday edition is still a potent collection of news, comment, wit, perspective, and what A.J. Liebling used to call “agglutinated sapience.” Few, if any, American newspapers can compare.
Our journey this week involves one of a million such dead-tree doorstops. Specifically, this one made its way to the dinner table of a draftsman and his family in suburban Stamford.
I’ve previously written that my grandfather’s newspaper loyalties lay primarily with the New York Daily News — “New York’s Picture Newspaper” — and with the hometown afternoon paper, the Stamford Advocate.
So why would he leave himself a special note to buy the New York Times?
I’m especially puzzled because I don’t think it was common newspaper practice back then to tease what you had coming up on Sunday.
Today’s newspapers are not shy about promoting upcoming stories. (Many of them will get anything really cracking up on their websites ASAP, rather than hold it.)
I don’t think that was as common a practice in 1964. Papers were more protective of their scoops — in part because many cities were still home to more than one paper, and they didn’t want to tip their hands to their rivals. Which leads me to wonder how my grandpa knew in advance that he had to have a copy of the Sunday Times.
Inevitably, this calendar entry sent me searching to find out what was in the May 3, 1964, New York Times that might have interested my grandfather.
I have a book of historic Times front pages big enough to land a Piper Cub on, and the May 3 edition is not reprinted in it. So there couldn’t have been anything truly historic on the front page that day.
The Web mentions a couple items that might have been interesting at the time, though I don’t think any of them would have enticed my grandpa to buy the paper:
- The weekly magazine ran A.M. Rosenthal’s “Study of the Sickness Called Apathy,” a follow-up article about the March murder of Kitty Genovese, who was reportedly stabbed to death while dozens of neighbors did nothing. (More recent accounts suggest that the Times sensationalized the case, and the paper’s initial reports — which fixed the details of the case in America’s national memory — were largely untrue.)
- In the world of arts, Howard Taubman reviewed a production of James Baldwin’s “Blues for Mister Charlie,” telling readers in New Canaan and Mount Kisco that “Mr. Baldwin speaks fervidly for the Negro’s anguish and passion, and none of us can afford not to heed him.” (However earnest Mr. Taubman’s prose might have been, getting an actual Negro to review the production seems in retrospect like a worthwhile step.)
- Timesman McCandlish Phillips — who became better-known the following year after he unmasked the Jewish background of a prominent Klansman and American Nazi — contributed a story about the high cost of food at the recently opened 1964-65 World’s Fair.
- Wikipedia says the first major student demonstrations against the Vietnam War took place May 3, 1964, in several locations including Times Square. Maybe that got covered in advance somewhere in the Sunday Times.
Perhaps there was a letter from a Stamfordite, or a feature story about Stamford, somewhere in that Sunday’s Times. Again, I’m not sure how my grandpa would have known about that, but maybe some sort of grapevine informed him.
Given the sheer heft of a Sunday Times, I guess it’s impossible for me to surmise what my grandpa would have considered must-read about it. Unless the Internet gods drop a vintage copy in my lap, I’ll probably never know.
(Note to the Internet gods: If you have a copy, try to drop it on me from a low altitude. Catching those Sunday editions upside the head sure does sting.)