Happy New Year to LOAC readers and all visitors to this space!
To mark the beginning of the end of the second decade of the 21st Century (yes, it’s true — while the 2020s are starting this year, the century’s second decade ends this year — since the very first year is Year 1, the first decade spans Years 1-10, which means our calendar decades end in “0”. It’s the same reason the 21st Century didn’t officially begin until the year 2001), I wanted to take a trip in time, going back forty years to see exactly which comic strips I was reading in my local newspaper on Thursday, January 1, 1970.
I grew up in a small-sized college town, and we were lucky to have a Monday-through-Friday newspaper, a luxury several similarly-sized towns in my home state did not enjoy. The editorial page of that newspaper was a real treasure trove, carrying syndicated columnists whose work I prize to this day (Bob Greene, long before his career became embroiled in controversy; hell-raising Mike Royko, who made everything he covered seem larger than life; and The New York Times‘s “Observer,” Russell Baker, the most erudite and subtly humorous of the lot), and while the comics section was not the equal of the roster of columnists, it was a very respectable mix of strips, one to which I turned every day without fail.
That newspaper is still being published today, and while it changed hands in 2018 I’m told it remains an independent publication, not a small branch of a very large corporate tree, to which I say, “Bravo!” It has been many years since I read a copy of it from front to back, but it was a major thread in the tapestry of my boyhood, a tie to the larger outside world for a kid who wondered how he might ever reach there from where he was standing.
When we flipped the calendar to begin the 1970s America was still deeply embroiled in the Vietnam conflict, Watergate and the M*A*S*H TV series were both more than two years in the future, Apollo 13 was four months away from flirting with disaster, Bobby Orr would lead the Boston Bruins to their first Stanley Cup victory in 29 years one month later, and Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium would open six weeks after that. It was, like all years, one with its tragedies and triumphs, its positives and its problems.
And when we flipped that calendar to January 1, 1970, the reconstruction below shows the strips that ran in my local newspaper’s comics section, in the order in which I remember them appearing on the page, now four decades ago: