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Reading first MT over my grandparents' shoulders

When the Medford Mail Tribune was born a century ago today, my grandparents were toiling away on their homestead in the Applegate Valley.

Unfortunately, Jonas and Harriet Fattig died before I was born, leaving me to wonder what their world was like.

Poring over the first edition of the eight-page Mail Tribune this past week gave me a chance to peer over their shoulders at the world they knew.

"All Mail From South Held Up by Bad Cave-In," reads one front page headline.

The story, noting that U.S. mail would be delayed for a few days, told of a brakeman and conductor killed in the cave-in of a railroad tunnel near Kennett, Calif.

One story made me grimace with its obvious racism.

"Negro Kicks Aged Veteran to Death," declared one headline, referring to a fight that erupted during a street game of dice in Terre Haute, Ind.

But the stories I was interested in most were those shedding light on life in River City.

Take the front page story about a strong-arm robbery in downtown Medford.

"Lewis Martin, the man who was captured Saturday night by Night-watchman Murdock, while in the act of relieving J.J. Fleury of his surplus change in the backyard of one of the saloons on Front street, was bound over to appear before the grand jury," the article reported, noting Martin was taken to the Jacksonville jail.

"His bail was fixed at $200, which he was naturally not able to furnish, having been interrupted in his endeavors to acquire wealth Saturday night," it added.

Then there was the story inside datelined Spokane, the one with the headline, "Bachelors Write to Learn of the Eagle Point Girls."

It seems that young women in Eagle Point put their address cards into every box of red apples shipped from the valley to the national apple show in Spokane. They had requested a correspondence from whomever found a card.

Bushels of letters rained down from throughout the West Coast, including Montana and British Columbia, the story noted.

"One of them, giving his address as Pullman, Wash., is hankering for a wife who is experienced at packing apples," it observed. The reader is left wondering whether nuptials resulted.

A glimpse of life in Southwest Oregon a century ago can also be seen in the advertisements.

"Woodville is to have a new general store," announced one news blurb.

Woodville? That would be what would later become the city of Rogue River.

One ad announced the grand opening of the Bungalow Skating Rink, complete with music by the skating rink band.

"The Great DeNova, champion skater of the Pacific Coast, will give a special exhibition," it proudly reported.

Admission was free but rent for a pair of skates was 25 cents. It didn't mention whether the Great DeNova would hang around to give pointers to the skating challenged.

Over at the Savoy Theatre, silent-movie goers would take in "How to Tame Your Mother-in-law." Admission was one thin dime.

A column dubbed "Benson's Bargains" offered a series of classified ads which, given the prices back in the day, are guaranteed to catch your eye today.

"Four-room shack, lot 50X150, good cheap home and a bargain at $450," read one ad.

"Small house and a large lot on Holly Street, $550," announced another.

For those who didn't want to cook that night: "Why rush home? Try the Spot Cafe's 25 cent dinner."

In 1909, there were jobs to be had. Apple pickers were being sought by the Talent Orchard Co. A dozen wood choppers were needed to cut and split cord wood and tier wood at Tolo.

The Medford Pharmacy offered a concoction that would raise a few eyebrows now:

"This certifies that we have sold Hall's Texas Wonder for the cure of all kidney, bladder and rheumatic troubles for ten years and have never had a complaint," it read. A wag would observe that dead patients don't often complain.

If Grandma Harriet was hoping grandpa would trade in their horse and buggy for the horseless variety, she may have pointed out the notice about a new 1910 Cadillac being on display at a garage on the corner of 8th and Bartlett streets.

She certainly would have wanted her man to see the wire story from London, the one announcing that gray was to be the winter fashion color for men.

"Not a silver gray such as was popular during the summer but a steel gray," it stressed.

I can see Grandpa Jonas decked out in his new steel gray duds as he slops the hogs.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at pfattig@mailtribune.com.