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Sample Minnesota's rich history, courtesy of a microfilm archive

Feb. 3, 1959: The day the music died

Stories that belong on page one don’t always land there. On a cold February evening more than 50 years ago, Minneapolis Tribune editors settled on a front-page lineup that included an outboard-motor theft ring, a nursing home strike, a failed missile test, a congressional hearing attended by two monkeys training for space flight, the resignation of the secretary of the Navy and a short about a bleacher collapse in Portsmouth, Va., in which 29 people were injured. The lead story: An American Airlines flight from Chicago to New York’s LaGuardia Airport crashed in the East River, killing 65 of 72 aboard.

The newsy mix was typical for the Tribune of that era, heavy on wire news, politics, crime and mayhem, leavened with a bright or two. What’s missing? Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper were killed in a plane crash in northern Iowa early that morning of Feb. 3, 1959. Tribune editors decided that the deaths of three “rock 'n’ roll idols” merited only this extended photo caption on page 11 the next day:
 

Singers Killed

 
These three rock ’n’ roll singing idols were killed Tuesday when their plane crashed near Mason City, Iowa, en route to play an engagement at Moorhead, Minn. Buddy Holly, 22, left, Ritchie Valens, 17, center, and J.P. (The Big Bopper) Richardson, 24, were killed along with the pilot of the chartered plane. The three took the plane after playing an engagement near Mason City so they could arrive early and get their clothes laundered. The rest of the troupe went by bus. The Moorhead performance went on last night although members of the troupe said they didn’t have the heart to perform. Some 1,000 advance tickets had been sold.

July 2, 1947: A call for driving test

Minnesota issued its first driver’s license in 1934. A single 25-cent fee covered licenses for every member of a household. You didn’t have to prove you were a good — or apparently even sighted — driver: No test was required. A Mr. Inky Campbell of Minneapolis called attention to the situation in this persuasive letter to the editor of the Star. Within two years, Minnesota began testing prospective drivers. But vision was not part of the renewal process until 1972.
 

EVERYBODY’S IDEAS

 
Poor Driver Slow, Poor Driver Fast
 
To the Editor: The other day I saw a man attempting to park his car. He was making a considerable hash of the effort, and it took him a full five minutes.
 
Any person incapable of parking a car properly may well be incompetent to drive a car under any conditions. The man who cannot judge distance at a snail’s pace becomes a serious menace at higher speeds.
 
But in Minnesota how are we ever to know who these bumbling drivers are?
 
We need a driving test in Minnesota. The legislature has refused time after time to do anything about it. We should begin right now to hammer away on this driving-test business. We can’t afford to pass up the next opportunity for putting some sort of check on unfit, unqualified motorists.
 
Inky Campbell, Jr., Minneapolis
 
 

This 1946 photo of S. Fifth Street, looking south toward Nicollet Avenue, illustrates the challenges faced by Minneapolis drivers 70 years ago. Imagine trying to navigate a hulking Chevrolet through this bustling maze of automobiles, streetcars and pedestrians. (Minneapolis Star photo)