On Lee Anderson’s first day as a newspaperman, a bottle of Coca-Cola cost 5 cents, a postage stamp would set you back 3 cents and you’d only pay 19 cents for a gallon of gasoline.
There was no such thing as a Big Mac, reaching the moon was more than a quarter-century away and the man who invented the iPhone hadn’t been born.
But presses were churning out pages at the Chattanooga News-Free Press, where Anderson started work in 1942.
When Anderson started pounding out stories on a manual typewriter, he was a just teenager. Many Chattanoogans were away fighting World War II or working in the factories that supported the war.
For seven decades, Anderson has practiced journalism here, first at the News-Free Press, which later became the Chattanooga Free Press and, ultimately, the Times Free Press. He retires on Wednesday, 70 years to the day from when he started.
His career spanned the ranks of a newsroom. He reported and wrote, edited, managed the newsroom and cranked out many an editorial. He was considered a strong, unwavering conservative voice before many Southerners identified themselves as conservatives.
Long before the modern conservative movement took hold, Anderson’s editorials called for individual freedom, limited government and unlimited markets. He battled with the competing Chattanooga Times in what became a hard-fought newspaper war.
You can read about his life and career in a special section published with today’s paper.
As Anderson moves on, there’s been some speculation about the future of the Free Press page.
When the Free Press merged with the Chattanooga Times in 1999, the paper’s owners and leaders made a commitment to the community: They agreed to keep both the liberal-leaning Times editorial page and the conservative Free Press page, where Anderson has been associate publisher and editor for the past 13 years.
The two pages make the Times Free Press unique. Most American newspapers only have one editorial page, reflecting one viewpoint.
The Times and Free Press pages often disagree — in the last presidential election, one endorsed Barack Obama and the other John McCain — but the pages offer readers two viewpoints. Each page can argue its point and, in the end, the readers get to decide which one they agree with.
While Anderson’s retirement will no doubt change the Free Press page, it’ll still be there. We’re in the process of finding a new editor for it.
And the Times page isn’t going anywhere, either.
The newspaper will retain the tradition of two opinion pages — the Free Press page will remain on the right and the Times page will remain on the left and readers can lean whichever way they please.
Bonus opportunity for reading this far into this column:
Somewhere in the newspaper, a date is incorrect. The first 10 readers to email in today’s planted date error gets a $20 gift card from Target.
Send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and place “wrong date” in the subject line.
Alison Gerber is the managing editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Reach her at email@example.com. Send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.