Superman and hometown newspapers

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

These short stories really have nothing in common except they are being published on the same day…

I don’t remember what aroused my interest in Superman a few weeks ago. Was looking for something else and lost track of time – when, “Look! Up in the sky!” There he was, on my laptop screen. No, actually it was a TV movie I had never watched. So I did, and found it winsome.

On a summer road trip with plenty of time, in 1984 we were in Metropolis, Ill., the only town so named in the U.S., across the Ohio River from Paducah, Ky. It was almost like running into an old friend, and we had plenty of time to learn how life had treated him.

Our travel guidebook indicated that there was a small town square dedicated to The Man of Steel, complete with a statue, and indeed there was. Traffic was light in the square, and we were able to wander easily. I resisted the temptation to dial up the special phone that Superman answers and talks to his admirers.

The honoree, the last of the residents of doomed planet Krypton, was taken in by the Kents, who adopted him. He became a reporter for the “The Daily Planet.”

According to the Metropolis Planet, the local newspaper, the town had plans to build a thousand-acre $50 million theme park, with a 200-foot tall statue of Our Hero. Cars would drive between Superman’s legs to enter the park. Then the Arabs shut off the oil and the bankers shut down Metropolis’ dream.
We haven’t been back to Metropolis, but I’ve tried to check the progress of a small town (about 7,000 people) to gain a bit of fame through their native relationship. The Man of Steel and the efforts of the theme committee to capitalize in a fun way to distribute the wealth generated by a huge amount of material posted on the Internet.

Learn more, much more, at www.supermansupersite.com. Curiously, it’s hard to find a notice that the event will happen again in June 2011 but in only a couple of months the 33rd annual Superman Celebration will open.

We saw the first statue, a rather unfortunate rendering of Our Hero about 1984, but a newer, more human, 7-foot fiberglass Man of Steel replaced that one in 1986.

A local passerby said she hoped we’d come back to see the new one, because the statue was “cross-eyeded” and didn’t think it “looked like him.” Hello? We’re talking about a legend at best, a manmade cartoon. Who knows what he “looked like?”

Citizens of Metropolis tried again, and unveiled a new 15-foot bronze statue of the Caped Wonder that stands proudly in full color in front of the courthouse on Superman Square. Tens of thousands have since visited the statue, and it has become a focal point of the small town’s revival in both an economic and cultural sense.

Here are a couple of vintage clippings from small-town mid-western newspapers sent me by a friend. He rather likes the whimsical style of the writing.
125 years ago, Feb. 14, 1884

A little daughter arrived at W.T. Knight’s south of town.

Headlight coal oil — 5 cents a gallon — best in the market, at the city bakery.

M.C. Scott, professor of criniculture and abscission, has opened an office next door north of Smiley’s cigar store where he will be glad to meet many of his old customers and a liberal share of new ones. If you wish best work call on Scott.

February 18, 1886
J.H. Morse, Esq., has employed a stenographer — Miss Louie V. Dietrich of the Oswego (NY) Photographic Institute. Any persons who desire copying done upon a type-writing machine can have it done satisfactorily by her.
The city well which is being put in for the waterworks will undoubtedly find an ample supply of water. At a depth of some 30’ a strong vein of water was reached and Messrs Trimble and Grayson, the contractors, were obligated to get a steam pump to get the water out fast enough to work.

February 11, 1886
There was almost a fire at Lon Miller’s grocery store yesterday. It caught from the stovepipe in the upper story, but was discovered and extinguished before any serious damage was done. A similar case occurred at J.D. Catons the same morning.
While D.D. Perry was driving a cow through town on Monday the animal made a dash at F.C. Bush and his wife who were in the street at the time, and but for the quick movement of Mr. B in pushing his wife out of the way she could have been perhaps torn in pieces by the vicious beast. It was a narrow escape.

We are informed that the building lately occupied by the GAR has been rented for a billiard saloon. Now we hope the city council will not make any more concessions to such establishments. The city ordinance prohibited having a billiard saloon in either an upper story or a basement or allowing them to have curtains or blinds to screen the occupants from public view, but the city council repealed the clause relating to basements and since then the basement saloon has been the scene of many disturbances and it is alleged by some that liquors are sold there. (You don’t think!)

More later.

Reach me at SallieS@Juno.com.