'Things do change'

The cover of the first Southeast newspaper, published in the spring of 1975.

One day last year, a reader called to ask if there was any chance I could locate a certain article for her. Turned out it was one featuring her mom, now departed, that had run in the Southeast paper back in the late 1970s.

“How could she even remember that?” I thought. No matter. I was up for a challenge, and I pulled out the bound copies of Southeast: A Journal of a Minneapolis Community, vols. I-V, 1975-1980.

An hour later, my head was swimming. I had the eerie feeling that I wasn’t reading 30-year-old papers at all; the news sounded awfully familiar. “Report calls for closing Marcy and Pratt within five years.” “Co-op struggles for survival.” “Tom Sengupta: he cares about you.”

Dan Nordley sometimes jokes that we could print an entire paper made up of articles from old issues of the Seward Profile and Southeast Angle, and folks would be hard-pressed to tell that the stories were written a generation ago. There’s some kernel of wisdom about the enduring nature of a community in his comment.

But then I stumbled on a picture that propelled me into the present. It was a photo of my friend Soupy Schindler, grinning widely through his cheesy mustache, that familiar mop of black hair swirling around his head. It was similar to the many photos I’d rummaged through a few years before, after his sudden death.

Things do change.

That reader who called me, hunting down an old article about her late mother, knew this instinctively. And I was reminded of it again as I pored over those old papers. The issues we tackle may have an age-old ring to them, but we own them as they happen. That’s what makes them news. It’s just that one generation’s news becomes, in time, the next generation’s history.

last revised: June 8, 2009