On a recent drive through Portlaoise, I visited Tynan’s Restaurant in the Store Yard. The food was gorgeous but what was more exciting was the journey through The Store Yard premises to reach it. The Store Yard is like a large warehouse, full of salvage, retro, vintage furniture and curios. It is no wonder that it has prominently featured as a prop supplier for the film industry. Items of its stock featured in Little Women, The Widow, Ripper Street, and others. I can also imagine that it has been the source of many interesting features for home and garden projects throughout Ireland.
Amid this trove of treasure, my find of an old edition of Reader’s Digest, might seem insignificant. However, it sparked memories of bygone days and very different publications and afforded me the opportunity to have a long chat with one of the dedicated sales team in whose home Reader’s Digest had featured strongly too.
I know Readers Digest is still being published – I think it can even be accessed on line now but I was really delighted to find this January 1964 edition. I’m not sure why or when my parents started to purchase Reader Digest but I know I was still in Primary school. My Fourth class teacher had a vocabulary enrichment programme: each of her pupils had to list “new” words and phrases every week into a Vocabulary Diary. At least one of these words had to feature in your weekly essay. Readers Digest had a page devoted to enriching your word power and so was a favourite of mine.
I remember hearing the story of DeWitt Wallace who while recovering from shrapnel wounds after WW1 came up with the idea of combining samples of favourite and interesting articles from many publications into one magazine. And so Reader’s Digest was born! The magazine’s format for several decades consisted of 30 articles per issue (one per day), along with a vocabulary page (It Pays to Increase your Word Power), a page of “amusing anecdotes (Laughter I, the Best Medicine), some personal glimpses (Life’s Like That), and a lengthier article at the end, usually condensed from a published book. These were all listed in the Table of Contents on the back cover. Each article was prefaced by a small, simple line drawing and sometimes a relevant quotation.
There was some criticism during those years of Reader’s Digest’s sales procedures. Large colourful mailings arrived in houses informing you that you were among a small lucky number worldwide who were now close to winning astronomical sums of money. It was insinuated that a subscription to Reader’s Digest for the following year or recommending it to a friend would enhance your chances further. This form of advertisement was forced to finish at the turn of the century.
Compare the 1964 edition to a 2019 (July) edition, with its flashier, more colorful eye-catching graphics throughout. There are still short bits of data interspersed with full articles illustrated with glossy pictures. The Table of Contents has been moved inside.
Somehow it doesn’t seem to be half as romantic or interesting and will probably never feature as “a ten year old’s favourite magazine any more. C’est la vie!