captainsblog (captainsblog) wrote,
captainsblog
captainsblog

♫It's the mossst, longiest day, of the yearrrrrr....♫

Feels even longer when you're chained to your desk for five hours to keep your continuing ed credits up. It's on Zoom, and unlike committee, poetry and writing group Zoomings, only the mods and presenters have their pictures on the display.  Hopefully they aren't recording me in the background.

Since bar associations don't trust their own members, we have to pay attention at least six times out of the five hours. They embed numerical codes into the speakers' schticks, and all six of them have to be entered onto the course credit form or you've spent your tuition dollars for nuthin' the thirst for knowledge and nuthin' else. 

Even better? I get to do it all over again tomorrow with five more hours and six more codes.

But having Day One be June 21 makes it seem even longer. The animals are expecting their morning hog-slopping earlier and earlier, being encouraged even more first thing today by a laser light show of thunderstorm right outside my window.  Noting the date reminded me of a Summer Solstice that occurred a few weeks later than June 21, long ago in an Ithaca far far away.  Also contributing to the memory was hearing over the weekend that a rare first edition of Action Comics #1, containing the first appearance of Superman in any form, sold at auction for over half a million bucks.  I wonder what this first issue will go for some future Solstice from now:



That's from my first summer in Ithaca, following my first year as a reporter on The Cornell Daily Sun. It was indeed printed daily back then, but only during the academic year; over the summer, the staff would meet back up downtown only once, to assemble a thick Freshman Edition to be handed out at August orientation, but that was it.

Nobody had ever tried to restart Sol in the summertime, although an attempt at a Sunday paper separate from The Sun was apparently tried and failed shortly before my time. Maybe it was just the coincidence of a number of us with 12-month leases staying in town that summer. So an assemblage of staffers, including Yours Truly, decided that the Cornell community needed to keep up with the Rhodeses even over the summer, and  a smaller, less frequent print edition was conceived, likely in one Collegetown watering hole or another (likely not the only thing ever conceived in one of those;). 

If I remember correctly, we contracted with The Sun's composing room to put the paper together in much the same way they did it five nights a week during the year. Likewise, probably the Ithaca Journal, then still having an actual press in town for printing its afternoon paper (and The Sun in the mornings) was approached to roll it off the presses.   We only got what we bought, though, and had no access to the wire services, typewriters or office space for the effort.  Likely we met in the back room of Hal's Delicatessen, downtown around the corner from our unavailable newsroom- roast beast sammiches and egg creams were the fuel of our schoolyear dinner breaks- to assemble the reporting and design the pages.

Naturally, being broke college students, we had no fountain of money for any of this. So a few of the flusher souls threw in a dollar here and there, opening an actual bank account at the First National Bank of Ithaca with no identification whatsoever of who the hell we were.  It would never be enough, so we had to get out there and pound pavement to sell ads.

That was a new thing for us Newsies.  Back then, the news and business sides of The Sun were as separate as church and state were intended to be. The circulation and advertising departments on the second floor had no influence whatsoever in what we wrote or where we put it, and not a soul in the third floor newsroom would ever think of speaking to an advertiser, much less selling them space in the paper.

One thing that helped was that we had no structure to our "organization" at all. That first edition lists us as only "Solstice Staff," twelve in strict alphabetical order. We were basically an anarcho-syndicalist commune! We took turns to act as a sort of executive-officer-for-the-week-But all the decisions *of* that officer had to be ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting-- by a simple majority, in the case of purely internal affairs….

(Sorry… just got a call from the composing room telling me to shut up;)

We were also, not exactly, filling a vacuum in the summertime. Back then, Ithaca had a plethora of publications that kept up even in the summer: the New Times, the Good Times Gazette, the Grapevine, and the Chronicle, the always entertaining house organ of the university that we referred to as the Cornell Comical.  All of them were free, and all of them except the Chronicle were competing with our merry little band for that scarce summer advertising dollar. (The two Timeses merged around the same time and the surviving entity still put out a print weekly last I checked. We no longer hear anything through the Grapevine, alas.)  Also, the target for our ads was not only scarce but limited: much of the university community in summer is "Camp Cornell," where alumni bring their kids for reunions and summer non-credit courses and the colleges bring in high school students for accelerated summer programs. That effectively ruled out the bars and beer distributors as major advertisers, although we did slip one or two into that initial edition.  Neither of them is still with us: Nite Court (where I missed my first chance to see Talking Heads) was turned into downtown condos; and the queen of the Collegetown dive bars, the Royal Palm, finally got chopped down in 2012 at the age of 71.

Of the other advertisers we actually snagged for that first issue, many were Sun mainstays: Stone Travel,  Fontana's Shoe Store, Bird's King Sub, The Flower Basket, Revival, Goose Dance, Commons Clothing and the best named store of all time, Isle of You. Plus, of course, Hal's, our home away from home which probably paid us in trade.   Best as I can tell, Fontana's is the only of them to survive, consistent with their motto: Since before you were born.

Our top story? The kiddies in the Camp Cornell dorms wanted a later curfew.  Second, PCBs leaking into a creek. Not exactly if it bleeds, it leads material.   Our introductory editorial was a warning to the administration building that WE'LL BE WATCHING in case they try slipping any major changes past us in the middle of summer.

We weren't watching long.  Since we were also in charge of our own circulation and those who had cars had old beaters (I didn't that summer), the paper limped along to a second and final issue a couple of weeks later.  Volume 2 never came to be, and the only legacy of our paper, named for the Longest Day, was Shortest Duration. 

At least none of it impeded any of us in any professional way. That list of twelve staffers from the debut issue includes at least one future Pulitzer Prize winner, several other full-time working journalists, a former spokesman for state government, at least a couple I can't figure out WHAT they do, and some stupid long-winded lawyer....

But was anyone hurt financially? Years later, for shits and giggles, I wandered into one of the four banks then holding down all Four Corners of Rochester's main business intersection. It was called Security Trust, or Security Norstar, or Fleet Norstar, or Fleet Enema, or SOMETHING by then- but it had swallowed the remaining business of the former First National Bank of Ithaca, which it had previously owned but separately run.  I wanted to see if any Summer Solstice money remained to be returned to the now-graduated members of the anarcho-syndicalist commune.  Nope. Long gone. Eaten up by service charges. Nothing even sent to the state as abandoned property.

Maybe somebody should do a story about that....

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