Day in May in Waco — 1910

By: John Young, Waco Tribune-Herald

The price of shirts was Page 1 in 1910 in Waco. It wasn't, however, like the price of gas in 2004.

Unlike the anvil-dropped-from-six-stories cost of gas today, these shirts were a manna-from-heaven bargain — 59 cents at Goldstein Migel. And these were dress shirts, pleats and all.

The thing is, we aren't talking about a news story in 1910. We're talking about competing advertisements — Goldstein-Migel vs. Sanger Bros. The latter was selling shirts of all sizes for 63 cents each.

This glimpse of how things have changed, in retail and in newspapers, came into my hands courtesy of Nathan Hoffman, a Waco native who was a few years away from being born when this copy of the May 21, 1910, Waco Times-Herald hit the street.

Today it is most rare to see advertisements on the front page of any daily newspaper. Not in 1910. Most of the front page of the Times-Herald was ads. Anchored beside the flag (the paper's name) daily was an ad for Waco 's native soda. " Drink Dr Pepper... free from caffeine or cocaine."

Dr Pepper doesn't make that claim today. About either stimulant.

Flipping through this brittle yellow field of type I felt self-pity. I imagined that when people find a 2004 copy of the Trib 94 years from now, they'll be more fascinated, as was I, in the ads than what the wordsmiths have to say. O fleeting novelty.

One reason for this is that in some ways the news never changes, only the names.

Consider the top story that day — "A terrific tornado." It wasn't in Waco. The tornado was in McCarty, Okla. Two dead. Many in Waco read it and thanked Providence that they were in a safe place. Waco was a place where tornadoes didn't happen. Legend said that's why the Waco Indians chose it, because of its position below the chalk escarpment along the Brazos.

The Wacos were long gone when, on May 11, 1953, a tornado killed 114 people and tore out Waco 's heart.

The 1910 paper reported the return of a group of " Waco missionaries" — a business delegation on a four-day trip on the Cotton Belt line. Destinations? The far-off town of Lott. Rockdale. Cameron. Rosebud ("one of the most thriving little cities on the trip.")

Places near were far-off those days. Befitting that reality was an inside advertisement for Herrick Hardware touting "buggies, surreys and driving wagons." They weren't even ready to call a car a car. Yes, the hardware store is where Waco picked up its modes of transportation in 1910.

Even trusted means of motion were problematic in 1910. The paper reported a wreck of the Missouri , Kansas and Texas Ltd. near Waxahachie. Injuries: scalding and bruises to the engineer and fireman.

One of the boldest headlines was about a British import of note: "Boy Scout movement invades America." It actually meant no alarm, talking about the "civic usefulness of training youths in semi military fashion."

But with all the fascinating stories of a time gone by, the eyes keep heading back to the ads of a community deep in commerce and self-promotion. Here's a Times-Herald promo Nathan Hoffman made sure I saw:

"Given away! Two weeks trip for two to Hot Springs. Passenger bill paid and $10 spending money.

"This will be open for white people only."

A day in May in Waco , 1910.

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