‘Old Post Files’: Simpler and honest time

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, September 13, 2017

In my years as a reporter, one of the things I’ve enjoyed reading in newspapers is the history columns; the features like The Post’s “Old Post Files” that look back on an area’s history through its newspaper articles.

Within those lines, you can find the pulse and character of a community — how people lived, what they did, what was important in their daily lives. And while I’m no social historian, I’ve always been interested in the way people lived and went about their days.

One of my favorite books in my scattered home library is a book on the home front during World War II entitled “Don’t You Know There’s a War On?” that chronicles the events and activities that went on during the war; information about movie theaters serving as babysitting services for single mothers working the late night “swing shift,” how people tried to get away with hoarding and buying items on the “black market.”

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When The Post produced its special publication for the Sesquicentennial of the Siege of Vicksburg, one of my stories was on life in the city before and during the siege, and during Reconstruction. I found it fascinating that Vicksburg was a melting pot of nationalities and cultures. That it constantly competed with Natchez as the state’s largest city. That during the Union occupation after the city’s surrender two women were expelled from town for walking out during a prayer for the nation at Christ Episcopal Church on Christmas Day.

Which brings me to “Old Post Files.”

I was sitting at my desk preparing the column for one of our papers last week, and as I read through the different entries, I wondered about how much has changed.

Many of the entries in the column involve little notes about people from other cities and states visiting family and friends in Vicksburg and city residents leaving town to visit family out-of-town or going on vacation to some other area of the country or a foreign country.

Those little entries were from another time; a time when people behaved differently and respected the property of others.

I doubt very seriously if people will ever read again that Mr. and Mrs. Jones are visiting their son in Brusly, La., or are in Florida on vacation. Papers refrain from doing such things now because of the potential for some criminal to break into someone’s home. Another periodic entry in the files involves people being in the hospital for surgery or some illness. Again that is something we rarely see nowadays, mainly because of HIPPA, the patient privacy act.

One thing good about reading items like “Old Post Files” is that it allows us to remember a period when things were simpler, people were more honest. But it also reminds us how much society has changed, and we have reached a point where many people cannot be trusted.

Still, it’s nice to know that with the craziness around us, we can leave it with the flip of a page.

John Surratt is a staff writer at The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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