Dad was a columnist for the Boston Star-Telegram which, being the “second” newspaper in town, had been hemorrhaging money for a number of years due to various incarnations of inept management. Recent years had seen a steady stream of advertisers and readership abandoning the Star-Telegram for its hated cross-town, blue-blooded rival, The Boston Observer. The corporate body politic was now so sickly that its loyal, albeit ever-shrinking, band of readers, still attracted by the paper’s gritty crime reporting, top-notch local political coverage and sports beat writers, could not keep it afloat. Even such handy features as the addition of the local mob’s illegal number at the bottom of the first column in each day’s racing results failed to stem the tide. The migratory wave out of the cities and into the suburbs that took place during the post-war years was finding its suburban sensibilities increasingly put off by the hard-boiled brand of tabloid journalism the Star-Telegram offered.
Finally, after years of whispering and rumors about the paper’s imminent demise, the publisher, Harold Harlen, had announced just after Thanksgiving that he was putting the paper up for sale. If an agreement to purchase was not executed by December 24th he would shut the paper down forever, closing a memorable, if at times spotty, era in the annals of Boston journalism.
Harold, a pure man of business, attached perhaps less significance to the announced deadline than the fiercely Irish Catholic majority of his readership. To him, I was sure, it was no different than giving a deadline of August 3rd or some other equally insignificant date. Others suggested more darkly that Harold knew exactly what he was doing in setting the deadline, figuring that an outpouring of holiday sympathy for those who would be thrown out of work on Christmas Eve might attract some hanky-wringing sap–er, prospect.
To us, frankly, the date, when originally announced, carried about as much significance as did the goings-on in that insignificant, faraway country called Vietnam. In the ever-trusting way of children, we blithely assumed that “of course the paper will be sold.” Joblessness was not the omnipresent threat in those days that it is now. Long-term employees, middle management and the like felt safe in the corners of the employment world they had carved out for themselves. The fear and desperation that linger just below the surface of every employee’s soul these days would have been totally foreign to that World War II generation. Incurable optimism, not the naked cynicism that rages through the masses today, was the operative mood of society’s legions. Mere babes at the time, children of parents who never, ever spoke of the Depression in which they were raised, we naturally considered employment to be akin to divine right. We were completely, blissfully unaware of such real world concerns as cash flow and balance sheets.