1974 - In the beginning… 

What is that old line about snowballs and hell?

From the start, the Arkansas Times has always had a soft spot for the underdogs, the plucky fighters, the ones who don't seem like they have a snowball's chance in hell of making it. If we had a nickel for every time we backed an also-ran in the last 30 years, we'd be lounging somewhere with the Bush twins. Maybe our love of losers is due to our own, shall we say, tenuous beginnings. Looking at back issues of what was then called the Union Station Times - and knowing that they spawned a paper that is still kicking 30 years later - is something like hearing the news that bumblebees are aerodynamically too heavy to fly. That is: Those who are prone to believe such things might sense the hand of God at work. Don't get us wrong. There is an endearing charm about the issues from that first year. Chunky typewriter text (and superfly, '70s-style headline fonts). High-in-the-masthead placement of horoscopes. Poetry. A fist-pumping women's column called "Action Now." All printed on paper just coarse enough that they rejected it as inmate stationery down at the prison. Too, from the beginning, the stories were hard-nosed, Woodward-and-Bernstein-era skeptical of authority, and already showing our penchant for reporting what usually falls through the cracks. Life in a girl's reformatory. A night behind the wheel of a yellow cab. A trip to the porno bookstore. An in-depth interview with the nearly unreachable Frank Broyles (then coach of the Arkansas Razorback football team). The plight of handicapped students before the Americans with Disabilities Act came down the pike. Still, for all the Union Station Times had going for it, for all its emotion and charm, we must admit: If we could somehow transport ourselves back to October, 1974, we would have undoubtedly given that proto-Times just about the shelf life of a banana on a windowsill. In August. The funny thing is, we're still here. Thirty years - and more cosmetic restructuring than Michael Jackson - after those first issues, we're still kicking. It is, therefore, pretty cool reading those back, back, back issues of the Times. It's something like watching a great movie the second go-round, when you know the guy is going to get the girl, the lifeboat isn't going to sink, and they are going to live happily ever after. When all you have to look for is what they did right to make it all happen. OK. Not "right," exactly - not all the time, at least. But what 30-year-old can claim that? Call it fair-to-middlin'.


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