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  • By Zaldy Dandan

So what’s new?

Saipan — Worried about your island and/or nation’s state of affairs? Read the news from other islands and/or nations. Do you tend to glorify the past? Get re-acquainted with it.

On March 16, 1972, Marianas Variety’s first weekly issue was published. Its 10 pages were mimeographed (yes, you may Google it), and sold for 5 cents (equivalent today to 30 cents). On the front-page was the banner story, “Prices Going Up,” an editorial introducing Variety as the “people’s newspaper,” and a cartoon about littering and a cleanup conducted on Managaha — “reportedly the site of some x-rated Japanese movie-making.”

In other news:

A Susupe home was burglarized, resulting in the loss of $1,094 (over $6,600 today) worth of belongings.

Newly installed lighting at Kobler Field (the island’s airport) was “maliciously destroyed.”

A San Jose resident said “an unknown person had stolen a quantity of betel nut from his farm.”

In Chalan Kanoa, a resident said his red rooster was stolen, and that the same rooster had lost in a cockfight.

Police also received a number of reports regarding stray cattle near the Kagman Communications station and on Capital Hill, near the HiCom’s house. “Owners of these animals are requested to keep their stock away from these areas.” HiCom refers to the high commissioner of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands which was administered by the U.S. and had six districts: Marianas, Marshalls, Palau, Ponape (Pohnpei), Truk (Chuuk) and Yap. The TT capital was Saipan, and in 1972 the HiCom was a Nixon appointee, Edward E. Johnston, who served as secretary of the Hawaii Territory under President Eisenhower.

In the same issue, an op-ed piece from a local resident expressed concern about a proposal to build hotels on Micro Beach in Garapan. “I wish we stop now for the sake of our children’s children and look at what we have done for the sake of modern living.”

And how was modern living on Saipan in those days?

Economist Bill Stewart said in a 1993 interview: ““When I arrived on Saipan in August of 1970, there wasn’t an economy. The Trust Territory headquarters provided the economic engine for the Northern Marianas…. [T]he airport was a tin shack, unlighted runway. We’ve got one airplane a day. We had one cargo ship a month…. [T]here wasn’t anything here…. There were only three food stores of any size, and you had to visit each one of them daily to complete a shopping list. The Fire Department consisted of a red Jeep with a garden hose. If you wanted to make an overseas call, you had to go to the RCA booth in Susupe and make that call. There were no recreation craft in the lagoon. None at all. We had one black and white television station that came on about 7:00 o’clock and was off about 11:30. One radio station. And this was a very isolated place.” The roads, he added, were “pot-holed and were either choked with coral dust during dry periods or with deep, water-filled, bone-shattering, axle-breaking craters….”

Government was the primary employer of local residents. “We will hire them,” Bill recalled, “and they’ll sit at a desk, won’t have very much to do, but we just can’t have them going out sitting under a coconut tree somewhere. They’re going to have to sit there eight hours a day and do the typing or push the paper or whatever it was that had to be done in order to justify [their] pay.”

Marianas Variety’s issue No. 3, published on March 30, 1972, included a story about an idealistic young candidate for one of the four NMI seats in the Congress of Micronesia. The candidate, who was in his mid-20s, had a bachelor’s degree in political science and sociology, and an M.A. in education. In an interview with Variety, he said he saw no difference between the two major parties on Saipan, adding that leaders “have been using the parties to promote their own self-interest.” He said he was running for office “to help the people. I am not interested in building houses [for myself] or [having] a business. Rather I will get my satisfaction from helping the people.”

Seventeen years later, he was indicted for extortion and wire fraud and sentenced to three years in federal prison.

Says Albert Einstein: “The distinction between the past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”

Zaldy Dandan is the editor of Marianas Variety, the NMI’s oldest newspaper.

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