Happy New Year ’22 to Owensboro! Looking ahead, the city expects to see unprecedented building activity this year. The front page of the Jan. 1 issue of the newspaper reports that “the number of inquiries for material is unusually large for the season and the better trade and financial conditions, together with lower costs, should, it is felt, tend to increase building operations.”
The article goes on to note that while “the cost of material has changed but little during the past year, there has been a marked decrease in the cost of the labor in building. The wages of carpenters and labors are much lower” while “brick, masons and plumbers are still receiving wartime wages.”
First Baptist Church is nearing completion of a fine educational building at a cost exceeding $50,000. In the downtown district last year, the Callas building on Frederica, across from the post office, and the nearby Standard Oil service station, were built, and the new county stables at the foot of Locust Street are also completed.
Oh! We’re looking at the Jan. 1, 1922, edition of The Owensboro Messenger!
The Owensboro Inquirer, in the meantime, bedecked its front page with a festive banner featuring bells and wreaths and a wish to all for a Happy New Year. The news published on the same page, however, reveal a rather mixed bag of happy and unfortunate news.
A brief article documenting the arrival of the new year in Owensboro notes many local residents attended watch parties, and all was quiet—“rather tame”—for the most part, until bells, whistles and fireworks were set off in the downtown district at the stroke of midnight.
Unfortunately, three boys sent up skyrockets in the neighborhood of Frederica and Fourth streets, igniting a blaze on the dry grass plot opposite Karn and Carpenter’s. “It was like touching a match to powder,” the paper reported.
“Flames leaped up in an instant and but for the quick arrival of the fire wagons, would have taken the lunch wagon and billboards that stand on the lot.”
The main headline trumpeted plans to add a four-story annex valued at $100,000 to Rudd House. Current occupants of the hotel were informed they had to vacate the premises by Feb. 1.
A photograph of former president Woodrow Wilson is prominently featured on the front page, commemorating his recent 65th birthday and noting that “he appears in better health than at any time since his breakdown.” As of this date, he had only a little more than two years to live.
In the meantime, diplomatic relations with Germany were resumed for the first time since 1917, but closer to home, neighboring West Virginia struggled to provide for coal miners and their families. “Starvation kept a watch party here tonight,” the grim article began. “Six hundred miners and their families, out of employment for months, with food exhausted and without sufficient clothing to guard the bodies against winter blasts, are facing death and disease epidemics. … All food gone, the gaunt hollow-eyed people of the hills had resigned themselves to starvation or freezing when the Red Cross sent in a detachment. The food brought was scarcely sufficient. The famished people attacked it like wolves.”
Meanwhile, back at the Messenger, a collage of drawings illustrated various highlights of the year gone by. “Peace in Ireland” offered hope for the dawn of a new day, but Germany was being drawn ever closer to Bolshevism; the anchor of 226 billion marks in reparations threatened to keep Germany from “flying much for the next 42 years.” Nevertheless, a war-weary world took its first tentative “steps in the right direction, anyway.”
A large editorial cartoon summed it up as Father Time watched as a weary and cynical 1921 stepped off the stage, leaving behind challenges of business depression, labor disputes, strikes, excessive taxation, armament, high rents and the high cost of living … while welcoming Baby New Year 1922, optimistically committed to “prosperity, everlasting peace and disarmament” among its new resolutions.
Happy New Year, Owensboro.
Then as now—we hope for, and work toward, a better world for all.