Sunday, February 18, 2018

47 years ago: The ‘Express’ in 1967


first edition: The front page of the first edition of the Express newspaper published on June 6, 1967.

Mark Fraser

A new model Vauxhall Cresta for $4,999.

A Tobago vacation package at $13.95 per night in Arnos Vale. 

The front page featured a picture of models in paper clothes.

And the lead story—the possible failure of an agricultural project.

The year was 1967.

The date, to be exact, was Tuesday June 6 and for eight cents a paper, the Express had hit local newsstands for the first time.

To turn the delicate and yellowed pages of a copy from that first day is to turn the pages of time, to an era of hand-drawn advertisements and a glaring absence of the now-ubiquitous crime reports.

The lead story that day, written by Radcliffe Joe, looked at attempts to turn Wallerfield into a food basket that could ease Trinidad’s then $80 million annual food import bill.

The unhappy discovery that the soil in that part of the country was unsuitable for most crops led to the project being turned into a dairy farming venture instead, as creating pastures was the most practical use of the land.

On the front page in full colour, a kaleidoscope collection of the newest rage in quirky fashion—paper dresses—was being modelled by local beauties Margaret Hadeed, Margaret Lloyd and Susan Laughlin. According to the photo caption, the dresses were in stock at NS Sabga’s Fashion House in Port of Spain and Carlton Centre, San Fernando, and the designs were also expected to arrive at Fogarty’s, direct from Hallmark.

Inside, an article by late editor-at-large, Keith Smith, told the nation that, “Yes, you want another paper”.

Of the handful of photographs in the paper, one showed then Chief Justice, Sir Hugh Wooding, shortly after he had pressed the button that set the press running for the first print of the Express. 

The machinery at the time was considered revolutionary—a Cottrell Model V22 Press.

The opening function was held at Express House at 35 Independence Square, Port of Spain, and was broadcast live over Radio Trinidad.

Many of the stories contained in the first edition show struggles that are still being fought today.

Unions fought for workers who were then, too, going on strike; questions were raised over the spending of public funds; the touchy subject of sex-education for minors was explored and Trinidad’s energy industry featured prominently in news about economic development.

There was even a little bit of technology news—the Port Authority had received its first “electronic brain”, a computer touted to “do five days’ work in two-and-half-hours”.

According to a story by Chester Morong, the IBM system was the second largest on the island, the first being the “giant-sized” computer used by the Trinidad and Tobago Electricity Commission.

The new “brain” was not, however, the property of the port and was actually a “rental” from IBM at $2,000 per month on an initial two-year contract.

In other news, as it turned out, wrecking in the capital was also then a “bug-bear” to motorists who chose to park illegally.

In energy news, the Port of Point Lisas was newly built and held a fascination for those marking Trinidad’s progress.

A story by Jai Sitahal called the new Port “the embryo” of the ambitious South, where then still-functioning Caroni Ltd had just set up a fully automatic terminal for the loading of raw sugar.

At that time, up to 180,000 tons of raw sugar were being shipped out of the port annually.

Labour struggles at that time were among the juiciest sources of news.

The Express had reported that Max Swerdlow, who spent a year in Trinidad setting up the Cipriani Labour College, had criticised a “struggle for position and struggle for influence” in the union movement as he left for his native Canada.

Naturally, there was a comics section and the first edition also advertised what readers could expect on Sunday, with many characters that are still popular today—Hi and Lois, Archie and the Gang, Tiger, Moose and Bringing up Father.

The movie guide was a who’s who of old Hollywood—Elvis Presley was starring in Double Trouble and a poncho-clad Clint Eastwood was in his heydey in Fistful of Dollars at Globe, Port of Spain.

In National Cinema 1, Marlon Brando and Sophia Loren were to be seen in A Countess from Hong Kong and in Deluxe, Paul Newman was, simply, Hombre.

There were many local company names that even if no longer operational—are still recognisable today— The Imperial Stores Ltd, Bata, Standard Motor Supplies, Catelli Primo Ltd, Maraj Bros and Solo.

Female models in photos and artists’ renditions used in advertisements all sported the original winged eyeliner that has recently made a  comeback in a less bold incarnation.

Reading through the Express of that day in 1967 was a step back in time, yes, but the first edition of this newspaper also showed up the fact that in many ways, the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

In sports, Mervyn Wells, now a night editor in the Express newsroom, reported that multiple gold-medallist in cycling, Roger Gibbon, had shunned the World Cycling Championships in Holland that year because the weather would have been too “cold”.

 In football, Nigel Holder lamented the loss of young players to foreign countries.