Twenty years ago, I rented the back half of a cool old house just off downtown Tempe. The whole place was falling apart. I broke up with my girlfriend there, and spent the entire summer sweating and sulking alone within its dingy confines. It had a huge hole in the living room wall, through which an ancient evaporative cooler blasted fetid rusty air.
That fall, the city condemned the entire block to make way for new office buildings and high rise apartments. I pocketed a sizeable relocation allowance and moved in with friends. A couple months later, I went back to inspect the rubble of my former domicile. There under the floorboards, I found a bunch of tattered pages from the Phoenix Gazette dating back to 1951. I took them with me, and kept them all these years in the bottom of a file cabinet, where they grew slowly darker and more crumbly. I finally threw them out last month after scanning the still-legible highlights.
Imagine my delight as I discovered their historic significance. Amid the old funnies and goofy ads for local businesses and movies gone by was the story of a great event from our nation's past: the fall of General Douglas MacArthur. It's no wonder these papers were saved; the sacking of MacArthur by President Truman during the dark days of the Korean conflict was a profoundly emotional experience for many. His subsequent speech to Congress -- where he implored the country to reject "defeatism" -- elevated him from national hero to spiritual icon. Well, for a little while anyway.
The quality of some of the Gazette's reporting makes Bill O'Reilly seem Solomonic by comparison. The paper evokes nothing less than the final battle between good and evil, with Truman and the Kremlin on the winning side and MacArthur, God and America on the other. Meanwhile, a town in Southern Arizona is wiped away to make room for a huge strip mine, and readers rage over some local ordinance or custom or another that makes western wear "mandatory" (???). Happily, there's also plenty of diversion in town -- Hollywood's finest is playing downtown, and Nancy still rules the comics page.
Here are the links: