To our readers: This New Year's Day, Star Tribune Opinion is republishing old letters to the editor and their original headlines (with print dates added).

Letters to the editor are snapshots of the news at the time, and not every one would make sense ripped out of context and reprinted today (and, given how far our society has progressed on many issues, not every one would deserve to be). But these letters touch on themes that readers of any era would recognize — particularly the complaints about winter.

Happy New Year.

Elena Neuzil, Letters Editor

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The Perennial Story

To the Editor of The Tribune:

About a month ago there appeared in The Tribune a news item to this effect:

Sidewalks in the downtown district of Minneapolis must be kept free from snow and ice by the property owners or the city will clear them and charge it to the property owners, according to W.J. Walsh, superintendent of street commissioners. "The city has not enough money to pay for cleaning sidewalks," said Mr. Walsh. "Property owners must keep the sidewalks clean or the city will do the work for them and they will have to pay the city for it. The city cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars for personal injuries, sustained because of icy sidewalks."

And yet not a single block in the downtown district has been kept free from snow and ice. For a good illustration, take the block in which the West hotel is situated. The same condition exists on Nicollet and Hennepin and the cross streets. In some places the walks have not been cleaned this winter. It would be a small matter for the police in the downtown district to call the attention of the occupants of the different places when the walks are not kept free from snow and ice. In residence districts practically no sidewalks are kept clean except those where janitors are employed.

F.B., Jan. 16, 1918
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Our Christmas Decorations

To the Editor of the Tribune:

Two weeks ago I bought a new car and last Thursday was the first time I drove it alone. The only other person in the car with me was my small brother, John, who is 6 years old. Because I avoided traffic as much as I could, I was driving through residential districts most of the time. I noticed many magnificent Christmas decorations as I drove alone. What struck me the most is that my brother, small as he is, appreciated all of these decorations. Little Johnny showed his delight in this by saying that maybe Santa Claus will move his headquarters from the north pole to Minneapolis because the city is so nicely decorated.

Now I am sorry that I didn't decorate the exterior of my home this Christmas. I realize that I not only would bring delight to many people by doing this, but I also would help many youngsters form hopes that make them forget the stories they have been hearing about the wars that are now going on. If we can make the youngsters think in terms remote from war, I am sure that when they hold the reins of our government in the future they will not have room in their minds to think of war.

Mrs. J.E. Lien, Dec. 31, 1937
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A Few Carloads of Sand, Please

To the Editor of The Tribune:

I suppose the city engineer is having troubles enough these days without me picking on him, but the icy streets of the past few days have given me a real grievance. Has the city run out of sand? Or just out of money?

It seems to me a few carloads of sand dumped judiciously at the heavily traveled intersections after every sleet storm or sudden freeze would be money well spent. Think of what it would save the individual motorist in damaged fenders and dented sides, to say nothing of reducing the chances of grave personal injury or death.

Maybe the mounting traffic toll of 1933 has been due more to economy in street maintenance than to the return of 3.2 beer, as the drys allege. Anyway, I think the city could well afford to dip into the snow removal fund and pluck out a few dollars for sand, if no other means can be found. Surely there has been no great drain on the snow fund yet.

Worried Motorist, Minneapolis, Dec. 25, 1933
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Hearty Approval

To the Editor of the Tribune:

Dear Sir: Accept my thanks for your courage to decry the spirit that prompts Christmas giving. It is time to call a halt when a practice becomes a medium of advertising the size of one's pocketbook. Instead of being a help — as it ought to be — it is a curse to the poor and is kept alive by shrewd businessmen to manufacture and sell and fools to buy. Articles left with another to comply with custom are not gifts, and when so left, hoping and expecting something in return, the act becomes a sin rather than a virtue. If the act is without selfishness, why are they so sure to add the donor's name? The money spent in utterly worthless toys would supply the hungry with the necessaries of life. I have been told that one entertaining such ideas must be a "crank," but as a good definition of a "crank" is "one fifty years in advance of his time" you have reason to be flattered. This is a case of humanity, and I hope you will not weary in trying to be charitable by giving to those who've a plenty.

H.H.P., Helena, Mont., Jan. 3, 1886
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Science As to Politics

To the Editor of the Tribune:

For once in my life I was talking today at breakfast to a scientist. I seized the occasion to ask a New Year's question, the New Year being a season of hope.

"How is it," said I, "that with all our advance during the past century in matters mechanical and scientific there has been such very small, if any, advance in things political?"

The reply was that while scientists worked to advance science, politicians mostly maneuvered to advance themselves.

Some amusement has been previously afforded me by the editor of the "Scientific American," who, in declining to print a communication of mine touching a matter of national and international political regulation, added that his columns were available for only matters scientific; intimating that that most necessary of all sciences, the science of government, was unfit for notice in a serious scientific publication.

Why, Mr. Editor, is this thus?

Is it that we still are open to the charge made and remade, down to Phineas T. Barnum's time, that we like to be humbugged and so are humbugged?

How serious is the need for science in government may easily be shown by the fact that we have been spending over 90 per cent of our resources for destructive purposes and less than 10 per cent for constructive.

And politicians still urge "preparedness" as the sole method of avoiding this ridiculous and contemptible condition. The very same puerile pap is being fed to every people the world over.

How to stop this folly and change the method has been suggested as follows:

When international friction threatens to start the fires of war just put the political and journalistic firebrands into a field with a machine gun for each gang, and say, "Gentlemen! Settle your self-made difficulties in 15 minutes or turn loose your guns on each other."

They'd settle, Mr. Editor, you bet, and the rest of us would have a lot of happy New Years.

Edward Berwick, Pacific Grove, Calif., Jan. 3, 1923
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New Years

The old year goes; the new year comes

To the blare of whistles, the rattle of drums.

Farewell to the old! Hail to the New!

Cheers for the infant; for the dying, adieu.

An hour of joy, an hour of sorrow,

Farewell today! Hail tomorrow!

Old trials, old plans, old joys, old sins,

All forgotten; the New Year begins!

Michael Fleming, Minneapolis, Jan. 2, 1928