We Greenbelters are rightly proud of our weekly newspaper, the famous Greenbelt News Review, which hasn’t missed an issue since its first on November 24, 1937. And now with the archiving of all 83 years of issues, I was curious to see that first one – the makeshift mimeographed banner and top stories shown above.
And it’s a super-fun read! There’s the excitement of everything just opening – the grocery store, citizens association, student council, gas station, and of course the newspaper, which was called the Cooperator in those early years. It got the News Review name in 1954.
Reactions to Greenbelt
A history of the paper in Greenbelt Patch noted that “On Nov. 24, 1937, six weeks after the first 197 families moved into Greenbelt, 19 volunteers from the Journalistic Club decided to jump in the water and learn how to swim.”
“Outsiders viewed the experiment as socialistic and extreme, feeling discomfort over the federal government’s town ownership. They also winced at its numerous rules, including the demand that residents have their laundry off the line by 4 p.m. and the prohibition against hanging pictures on home walls. An article in the Nov. 25, 1937, Baltimore Sun stated, ‘It is seriously to be feared that life in Greenbelt is going to be dull.'”
In the paper’s own first issue there are boasts about Greenbelt making news. From the article titled “In the Public Eye,” “Greenbelt is receiving national attention time and again. Notice the spread in Life magazine, November 15. A week before, November 6, Literary Digest told the world what the ‘First Resettlers’ thought of their adopted town. Feature articles will continue to appear and all Greenbelters can help make the facts clear when any camera man or reporter comes a-knocking at the door.” Don’t you love “comes a-knocking”?
The paper made sure to post their mission/purpose/editorial policy in that very first issue, summarizing the “sphere” of the Cooperator thusly:
- To serve as a non-profit enterprise.
- To remain non-partisan in politics.
- To remain neutral in religious matters.
- To print news accurately and regularly.
- To develop a staff of volunteers.
- To create a “Good Neighbor” spirit, promote friendship, advance the common good, and develop a “Greenbelt philosophy” of life.
.I’d say the now-Greenbelt News Review has admirably lived up to all that.
Shaming Greenbelt “Parasites”
The editors didn’t hesitate, however, to call on fellow Greenbelters to get with the program! They target a problem that persists to this day – that not everyone moves here to join committees and take part (surely a problem everywhere). The editorial ends with a plea for even “slight activity among the phlegmatic,” and if the phlegmatic ones resent the editorial, too bad!
The Sexist ’30s
I’m old enough to remember when even major newspapers had “women’s pages,” and the Cooperator of the ’30s was no different. For a trip back to the bad old days of strictly defined gender roles, check out its Mrs. Greenbelt page!
Because it’s so damn funny, here’s the continuation of the article above about “cooperative bachelors:”
that they bonvoyaged him into a new home when Mrs. L. arrived.
A typical and favorite menu is pork chops, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. Coffee, tea and milk is served with white, raisin and rye bread to fill the empty spaces.
The dishes, we gather, are done in a haphazard fashion. When it reaches “that point” they all take turns (some controversy over this) washing dishes. Lazy members are threatened with dinner served on their breakfast plate unless a little COOPERATION is shown.
The boys were in accord that their noble experiment in womanless living has been a great success (in the same breath) they also stated that all contributions of home cooking would be gratefully received). [parentheses error in the original.]
However, the bachelors’ days are almost over and in the near future there will be an influx of wives. The CO-OPS were heartily in favor of a project to be built for bachelors, but at the same time Bob Jacobson quietly but definitely commented that he intended to go into the city Sunday to get something to eat, whereupon he was almost overwhelmed with the number of fellow-travelers he acquired pronto.
Oh, those poor bachelors who couldn’t feed themselves! Reminds me of the proudly progressive college I went to – the first co-ed one in the U.S.! – that as late as 1970 was providing men but not women with maid service in their dorm rooms. And we all paid the same for room and board.
More Stories for the Missus
Imagine the bonding that went on among the first families of Greenbelt, creating an exciting new town together but having plenty of inconveniences to commiserate with each other over. “When will the furniture arrive?” was surely one of many inconveniences and deprivations they endured. I can’t even imagine.
But notice that “society” in Greenbelt hit the ground running – with a shower at 39B Ridge. Curiously, the type of shower isn’t mentioned, so should we assume that baby showers were the only showers happening in those days?
Historic photos via Library of Congress.