I am a blogger, have been since March of this year. It was totally unexpected. My wonderful web designer, Michelle Gill, dropped the bombshell on me in February when we first began our discussions about what pages would be included on my website and what they might look like. When she mentioned, almost in passing, that blogging—the weekly kind—was part of the package, I’m sure my initial reaction was: “huh?” At that time, I was a reader of blogs, or maybe I should say a blog, so I sort of knew what it was (emphasize sort of). Michelle said my blogs should be related, at least in part, to my book. Okay, that made sense. World War II—lots of possibilities there. So, I jumped right in. This is number 24.
As you would expect, you can find blogs about blogs on the internet. Reading through a couple of them recently, I discovered some staggering statistics.
• In 1999, there were 23 blogs on the internet. Today, there are more than 600 million blogs found on 1.7 billion websites around the world.
• Almost 7 million blog posts are published every day, and 4,800 blog posts are published every minute.
• There are more blogs published in the U.S. (over 31 million) than any other country by far. The U.K. is second with over 7 million.
• Seventy-seven percent of internet users read at least one blog every day.
Clearly, you have many choices. Thank you for finding and reading Sally’s Soliloquies. I am most grateful.
Of course, in 1944 and 1945, there were no blogs. Back then, only a handful of people knew anything at all about computers and certainly, the idea of the internet was unfathomable. So, how did writers connect with their readers in the 1940s? Many of them wrote regular newspaper columns, and many of those columns were quite popular.
I found one weekly column in The Algona Upper Des Moines (AUDM) newspaper when I began my research for My Mother’s Friend. “Ravings by Reese” (I like the alliteration) was written by Chris Reese, co-editor of the AUDM, from 1941 to July 1945. Mr. Reese was born in Denmark in 1881 and moved to Iowa with his parents when he was ten years old. A Democrat, he was elected to the State Senate from Marshall County in 1932 and served in the 45th and 46th assemblies. He spent most of his career in the newspaper business, although he was also a professional musician, serving for a time as the president of the Iowa Federation of Musicians Union. He even led his own orchestra at a Marshalltown theater during silent movie days.
Mr. Reese’s columns (I’m guessing the average length was around 1,300 words) were sometimes serious, but more often, they were clever and mostly silly, at least by today’s standards. His folksy writing style described vignettes of life in Algona and the surrounding communities in Kossuth County. He often used the phrase “on account of” and he was famous for his run-on sentences. I came across one of them in the April 18, 1944 edition of the AUDM—two hundred and forty-nine words! I’m not kidding—I counted—twice! In that one sentence, he wrote about the possibility of getting some farm equipment for his victory garden before he transitioned to pipe smokers. Very clever.
Initially, as I perused “Ravings by Reese” during my research, I looked for references to Camp Algona, the prisoner of war camp just west of town. I found some. Here’s an example from May 2, 1944:
The Amalgamated Association of Coffee Gulpers is getting places out at the prison camp and the other day I was a guest of Sgt. (Lefty) H. J. Dethmann and we visited the headquarters detachment mess hall and Pfc. Melvin Pflanz (figure that nationality out if you can, but he sure ain’t a Dane) said there wasn’t a drop of coffee in the house and then he and Sgt. Max Cowles got busy and they brewed a washtub full of coffee, regular GI coffee, and I signed the whole crew up in the Gulpers Club and it was darned good gulping and then somebody hollered “Attention” and I didn’t know what it was all about but in comes Col. Joseph Church, C.O., and one of the big shots from the Omaha office, a lieutenant-colonel I guess, and they were inspecting the place and I signed up Col. Church in the Club and he appreciated the honor because on account of he gulps his coffee every day along like I do and one of these days I’ll have all the officers out there in the club, so to speak.
Yep, one sentence.
Here’s a fun (and somewhat relevant) excerpt from August 18, 1944:
And then I hunted up Mrs. R.W. Rash, because on account of she’s the Upper Des Moines correspondent in Burt and she’s doing a good job, and come to find out she also gulps, in fact sometimes dunks, and she has agreed to serve as my official plenipotentiary in Burt and see to it that Gulper and Auxiliary members in Burt are provided with Gulper cards. And about that time the band started to play a concert on the street and there was a nice looking young lady directing the band and I wouldn’t mind playing an instrument in that band with those kids because on account of they have a good band and I can tell a good band when I hear one because on account of in my younger days they used to pay me real money for playing a slide trombone in bands. Next time I’m in Burt I’m going to see if I can’t play in the Burt school band.
(For those of you who don’t know, I met my husband Joe almost fifty-one years ago when we sat next to each other in band at the University of Iowa. I played second trombone, he played bass.)
Mr. Reese’s final column appeared in the June 28, 1945 edition of the AUDM. Here’s an excerpt:
There’ll be no Ravings by Reese in next week’s upper [sic] Des Moines because on account of I’m going to torture a bunch of readers in Osceola county with my bunk after the 1st of July. For three and a half years now I’ve piled a bunch of junk into the column and so far as I can learn I’ve only made one guy mad, but I have tired thousands of readers weekly . . . I like Algona and Kossuth county and notwithstanding my many failings I’ve gotten along swell here and people have been darned nice to me, my bunk notwithstanding. The folks at Ocheyedan [ah-chee’-duhn] are entitled to sympathy because on account of that’s where I am going to continue to spread my bunk in the columns of the Arrow, my own paper after July 1st.
Chris Reese, who once referred to himself as an “iconoclast,” returned to Algona in 1947, working again at the AUDM until he retired for health reasons. He died on February 9, 1957 at the age of 75.
Blessings to all.
Sally Jameson Bond is retired and lives in Southwest Virginia with her husband and two dogs. My Mother’s Friend is her first novel. You can find her web site here: www.sallyjamesonbond.com.