The May-Stringer House in downtown Brooksville, better known as the Hernando Historical Museum, is a treasure trove of artifacts. It lays out the history of not just the families that lived in the house, but also of Hernando County. Unfortunately, because of Covid-19, the museum has been closed for several months, but they hope to re-open soon.
I was privileged to be given access to some of the archives housed there, particularly copies of the local newspapers dating back to 1925. Morgan Wick, the curator of the museum, happily retrieved the volumes of yellowed newspapers for me, handed me a pair of white gloves and let me pour through the fragile records of everyday life going back almost one hundred years.
On July 16, 1925, the local newspaper was The Brooksville Herald, a weekly publication. The most interesting piece of news the previous week was a false alarm turned in by some unknown person. The excitement on a Wednesday night at 11 p.m. brought throngs of people to the firehouse – probably to gawk rather than to help put out the supposed fire. It was later discovered that a speeding car was seen leaving town about that same time. It was assumed that the vehicle contained either illicit liquor or drugs. Why else would anyone be racing through a small town at that time of night? Prohibition was in full swing at the time, so the authorities concluded that the false alarm was a ruse to divert attention from the felons.
Grocery stores offering pick up service is not something new since the pandemic started. Back in 1925 the local supermarket also offered grocery pick up at its door. Transportation was more convenient in some ways, as well. Back then, a bus service operated three times a day to Tampa for the fare of $3 round trip. Maybe someone should pass this information on to the powers that be. It sure would beat spending money on gas and the stress of driving.
Humorous anecdotes, sayings and jokes were also featured in The Brooksville Herald. Some, admittedly, were pretty corny. “Chicken wire – a telegram a chap gets from his girl.” Others offered good advice: “Happy is the family that lives on last month’s income instead of next month’s.” Some were a reflection of that era’s mores: “We never dreamed that dresses could be as sleeveless as some of them are.” I wonder what someone from that time would think if they were transported here to 2020.
Still, others expressed the chauvinistic attitudes of some of the men back then. “A good many men are getting ready to find out that the first cost of a bride is negligible, but that the upkeep is something terrible.” That one made me cringe. I don’t think any of the humorous remarks could top this one in my book: “We heard of a Brooksville girl the other day who could roll her stockings and a cigarette, but she hasn’t started on biscuits yet. We’re not going to tell her name.” And here’s another one that had me chuckling: “The world’s meanest salesman – the guy who sold the widow an extra pair of pants when she bought a suit to bury her husband in.” And here’s one that’s as applicable today as it was in 1925. “The present excitement over sex might lead a stranger from another planet to suppose that sex had only recently been invented.”
Entertainment was rather limited in that day. Although television was in its experimental stage, TV programs were not broadcast for the average person at that time. Radio was a popular form of entertainment and just about every town had a movie theater. In Brooksville, the Victory Theater featured a different movie every night of the week, except for Sundays.
Advertisements ranged from tonics that cured every ailment imaginable, cars, and appliances to real estate. There was even a lady’s corset guaranteed to “gently and harmlessly massage away excess flesh” for just $9.85. It came recommended by physicians, by the way. Can’t pass up that bargain!
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing other gems that I gleaned from these old newspapers. Some of the stories are heartfelt, such as the article about a local World War II airman killed, not in action, but in an accident. Many reflect political opinions popular at that time. I could relate to all of them in some way. I can’t help but wonder how someone one hundred years from now will view our current news.