These days it’s nice to immerse yourself in something that has nothing to do with the pandemic, and we’ve got a project like that underway here at the TH.

There’s nothing like a look back at a bygone era as a distraction, especially if it brings back childhood memories. That’s what the 1970s conjure for me.

Over the past several years, the Telegraph Herald has produced books of decades-old archived news photos. We started with the 1950s, two books covering five years each. Then came the 1960s books, gleaned from painstaking paging through every paper and searching through our not-always-organized negatives for the images. Mike Day, senior editorial artist, is our resident historian and the master of this task.


Right now, Mike is up to his elbows in the 1970s. These days of social distancing are working out all right for Mike, who is generally alone in a room with the microfilm and lots of scattered papers and printouts.

Every now and then, he emerges and shows me something he has stumbled across from that era that he just has to share.

Like the time Bill Haley and his Comets performed in downtown Dubuque. It was a one-night-only event on Sept. 10, 1973. For $4, Dubuquers could see the iconic band at the Plaza at 1101 Central.

Then in the Sept. 12 paper was this item: Bill Haley, referred to as the “father of rock and roll,” was released from the Dubuque County Jail about 6:30 a.m. after spending the night there on a charge of intoxication. Haley, 48, was arrested near 17th and Elm shortly before midnight after a citizen’s complaint about a disturbance.

How the reporter resisted the urge to say something about rocking around the clock, I’ll never know. The story went on to say Haley had been arrested the previous week on a similar charge in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Another thing Mike and I had to chuckle about was the movie ads of the 1970s. This was back in the day when Dubuque and East Dubuque, Ill., had establishments that featured X-rated movies, and even regular theaters showed some pretty raunchy fare at times.

Salacious ads for films like “Virgin Hostage,” “The Swinging’ Pussycats” and “Million Dollar Mona” regularly filled a corner of a page. Some had taglines like: “Country Club Ladies” — Golf is not the game; or “The RoomMates” — They shared more than their rooms.

Then in October of 1972, the TH announced a new policy saying all X-rated and unrated movie advertising would be limited to the movie’s title and cast. “No illustrations or descriptive copy may be used.”

Bill Woodward, then general manager of the TH and father of our CEO Tom Woodward, wrote eloquently about holding firm to the principles of the First Amendment while being sensitive to the feelings and reactions of readers. “The policy that emerged is one which refuses to embrace censorship but establishes guidelines which will result in the removal of material from motion picture advertising that many of our readers consider to be objectionable.”

The 1970s must have been quite an era to be in the newspaper business. A year later, the TH sued Dubuque police for refusing to make arrest records public. A new Iowa law at the time briefly had police thinking some documents were no longer public records — something the governor and attorney general eventually straightened out, and the TH suit was dismissed. Lots of drama, back in the day.

Our first 1970s photo book will be out in late summer. I’m sure it will bring back memories and bring out even more stories about Dubuque 50 years ago. That will be a pleasant diversion for all of us.

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