For most of us, what happened on Whidbey Island exactly 50 years ago today is a mystery. History books might tell you something, but they usually focus on the big-picture story of a community’s development or delve into one specific issue.
Of course the people who were there remain the richest source of information, but memory usually isn’t so specific and is different for everyone. For example, while my mother can recount barn dances at Bayview as a teen in the 1960s, my memory is so terrible it’s a wonder I find my way home after work.
No, the easiest and quickest way to find out what happened on any specific day remains the local newspaper. Whether it was 20 years ago, 60 years ago or 80 years ago, The Record was there and documenting the story of daily life on South Whidbey.
Newspapers are a source of current events and serve as a government watchdog, but they are much more then that — they are a community’s first draft of history and it’s an awesome privilege.
What Gabelein almost drowned in Holmes Harbor on Tuesday, March 10, 1964? Where was the Lions Club’s annual Crab Feed and who were the teens who survived a car wreck on Maxwelton Road that same week? When weighed over the span of a century, these may seem like small and insignificant events, but they are not. They are priceless snapshots of life, South Whidbey’s history and it’s all captured in The Record’s archives.
Incidentally, those three tidbits can be found on page 2 of today’s paper. Beginning with this edition, we’re resurrecting an old tradition of publishing a history corner, a small section that summarizes the headlines of one-half century ago.
Newspapers survive by focusing on what’s happening now, so it’s with no small sense of irony that old news can become new news when enough time passes. Yet, it shouldn’t be too surprising.
Community journalism isn’t about the news of the world, and it never has been. It’s about people. It’s about our neighbors, our friends and what’s happening in our lives. And whether your finding out for the first time or rediscovering who the “big bear” of Freeland was, the story of our community is one topic that just never gets old.