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Not-so-good old days
Sometimes issues raised in a decades-old newspaper can almost eerily resemble items in today's world. Here's one about a former Norway man who played a role in a controversial criminal case in another state. A role, we might add, of which his hometown can be proud.
From the Norway (Oxford County, Me.) Advertiser, February 24, 1933:
Soldiers of the Common Good
Walter Lyman Sanborn
We have already called attention in our columns to the widespread abuse of the "Third Degree" by the police and prosecuting officials. If this inhuman and illegal practice is to be abolished it will have to be kept before the people persistently until such laws as will definitely prevent it shall have been put on the statue books. Mr. Walter L. Sanborn, editor of the North Penn Reporter, Lansdale, Pa., has done his bit in fighting this evil through the columns of his paper.
Born in Norway, Maine, November 28, 1879, he received his education in the public schools of that town and was graduated from Bowdoin College in 1901. After teaching school one year and studying law for another he joined the editorial staff of the Boston Globe, working a night editor for nearly 12 years when he took over the Lansdale Reporter, then a weekly newspaper. In March, 1923, he sold his interest and went into the paper brokerage business, later heading a company which repurchased the Reporter and turned it into a daily. The fight he won against an assistant district attorney and a county detective and a township chief, demonstrates the spirit of his efforts.
The case began in the night of May 9, 1931, when an attempt was made to blow up a Negro's home in Fort Washington, near Philadelphia. Another Negro we arrested that same day and confined for a time in the police prison, from which he was removed to the county prison and subsequently to the barracks of the state police in Jeffersonville for the questioning. According to Campbell's story he was questioned in an attic where, during the examination he was beaten on the shins and across the kidneys with a black jack and finally strung up to the rafters with his own overalls. When he lost consciousness he was cut down, further manhandled and then removed to the borough lock-up in the assumption that the officers did not care to return him to the jail in his beaten condition. After several days in the jail he was permitted to go on his own recognizance.
The physician who dressed Campbell's wounds took steps to have the matter investigated, but without results. In the meantime the colored residents of the section became greatly exercised about the matter and it was arranged to hold a secret investigation under the auspices of the local bar association, since the alleged assault involved a number of the group. It was at this step, about a month after the incident had occurred, that Mr. Sanborn received a tip on the story and published it immediately, giving all the information that could be secured. In spite of efforts to suppress the matter Mr. Sanborn continued his protest in which he was joined by a neighboring editor, both papers denouncing the perpetrators of the outrage on Campbell in vigorous terms.
In their effort to portico themselves the accused officers organized a raid on Campbell's home and caused his rearrest. Advance information of these plans were also published in the Reporter, as a result of which the accused officers were arraigned and held for court in the same bail as fixed for Campbell. After various efforts to keep the case out of court, which were prevented by the persistent publicity given to the case in the Reporter, the three officers were indicted and condemned. Motion for a new trial was sequently denied, and prison sentences were finally imposed in March, 1932. While the case has been appealed, it is not expected that the verdict, said to be the first "third degree" conviction the history of Pennsylvania, will be reversed.
A few more instances of courageous publicity of this sort will go far in preventing similar flagrant abuses elsewhere.
The Evangelical Herald.
Some may find it interesting that Lansdale, PA, is a moderately posh suburb of Philadelphia and doings there are still published in the "Reporter."
Another topic that could have been written about today's political and economic situation is from the Norway (Oxford County, Me.) Advertiser of February 24, 1933:
More About Taxes
In common with our state and nation, the town of Norway is trying to solve the serious problem of how to raise sufficient money to keep its various departments operating efficiently and at the same time keep taxes low enough so they can be paid without too great hardship.
This is a real problem and we should appreciate anything that aids in its solution. There is so much being said that is not supported by facts, it is a pleasure to read an article like the one printed in last week's Advertiser, "Norway's Expenses for Last Year" that deals with facts.
In the same issue, in the article "How a teacher spends her day" the writer states "The teachers took as high as 22 1-2 per cent cut" and asks, "Why should all our tax reduction be taken from the school when other departments of the town have either been increased or shown no reduction?"
This is one example of the specious arguments that are constantly being offered, and why I say we should be grateful for any facts that throw light upon our problem.
We should know for ourselves what our town has done, is doing and must do that we may not be misled by false statements, and the specious arguments of zealous partisans, into raising more money than we can afford, or so little the proper functions of our various departments are crippled.
Kicking about high taxes may help reduce them, but after all our town taxes are not the cause of our distress.
It is more important, that existing conditions be changed so that it is possible to pay taxes, than it is to reduce them. Just so long as large amounts of property, public utilities, etc., fail to bear their just and proportionate share of the tax burden, taxes will be burdensome to those who do pay, and just as long as the average citizen finds his income cut in half or more, while his main expenses have been only slightly reduced, or not at all, there are other problems than high taxes that demand our attention.
I wish after we have settled town appropriations to everybody's satisfaction (I) we, the common people would continue to give our attention to these other problems that affect our very livelihood.
Arthur H. Holman
It might be said that the writer's need to call for reasonable consideration of issues, based on facts indicates that the "old days" were just as prone to political irrationality then, as now.
As is our custom, we try to exactly reproduce the grammar, spelling, punctuation and style of the original. Commas might appear where least expected and remain absent where we’d expect them if the item was written nowadays. On the other hand, consistency was not considered of utmost importance, so variations of a spelling might appear within one story. In addition, some words were abbreviated differently than today. Where brief explanations of terms are considered necessary, they are presented in brackets  within the quote. Otherwise, explanations appear at the beginning or at the conclusion, without quotes. Parenthesis () used in a quoted passage appeared in the original.