Christmas through the years, always a mix of good and bad

Dec 24 2012 - 6:05pm



I got into the news business in 1971 and, as low man on the totem pole, had to come in on holidays and cut the wire.

That meant, then, ripping apart and sorting teletyped stories on endless streams of paper.

There was always a budget of the day's national stories. That first Christmas I saved it, thinking, "I'll look at that again in 42 years and see if anything's changed."

I can't find that actual budget, but did look through old New York Times and Standard-Examiners from 1971. To be honest, things are a bit better now.

Christmas of 1971 was not the best of times, to quote Dickens, and anyone who thinks now is the worst ought to ponder.

In Vietnam, a Christmas cease-fire was in place, but American F-105 fighters were attacking missile sites in North Vietnam, B-52 bombers were supporting a South Vietnamese offensive in Cambodia, and South Vietnamese forces were dealing with attacks.

That war eventually killed 58,000 Americans and nearly 1 million North Vietnamese and Vietcong.


Ireland was exploding, and we were a year away from the 1972 murders at the Munich Olympics.

In Chicago, a "long-haired young man" claiming to have a suitcase full of dynamite seized a Boeing 707 and demanded $300,000 ransom. He surrendered after a five-hour standoff.

A group of self-proclaimed guerillas, called "Project Achilles Heel," claimed it started a Nov. 4 fire at the Indian Point, N.Y., nuclear power station that did $10 million damage.

Terrorism wasn't in the media spotlight in 1971, so the nuclear reactor story was buried inside. The airplane story did not kick off immediate national inspections of all carry-on luggage. Can you imagine that happening today?

The Dolphins beat the Chiefs, the Cowboys beat the Vikings. President Nixon's family was having a Christmas party. Job Corps was facing budget cuts.

Theater producer David Merrick took out a two-line add in the Times that said, "My Chrysler Imperial is a piece of junk" after it died in traffic.

In Utah things were not much different.

Christmas was a Saturday, so that paper was unusually skinny. I suspect everyone at the paper went home early Christmas Eve.

The big local story was that Farr West was slashed by a storm, rain and snow from "unusually warm Christmas weather," which is exactly what we are having this year.

I know you're thinking, "But it's worse now. Loonies are shooting babies and the national budget is about to explode. On Monday some nut in New York shot firefighters trying to put out a fire."

It is reported that House Speaker John Boehner, before admitting he'd been skunked by his own party on those budget talks last week, recited the "Serenity Prayer."

That prayer asks for help accepting things we can't change, changing things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.

More wisdom would be nice.

We can't make the murder of babies not have happened. We can make it not happen again.

We can't make our nation's leaders become responsible. There is good evidence the Founding Fathers assumed they never would be.

We can't make the whole world a nicer place, but we can do as much good as we can, when we can. Maybe the idea will spread. Who knows?

So start with yourself.

Which is why I'm enjoying my loving wife, my amazing children, my gorgeous grandchildren this Christmas, and letting the world take care of itself.

You should too.

Have a merry Christmas. Trust me, the world will still be there tomorrow.

The Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. He can be reached at 801-625-4232, or He also blogs at

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