Beeper craze, 1996

Cutler Camera employee Craig Miller displays a variety of beepers, which were the must-have item of high-tech fashion circa 1996.

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Excerpts and summaries of news stories from the former Intelligencer Journal, Lancaster New Era and Sunday News that focus on the events in the county’s past that are noteworthy, newsworthy or just strange.

25 years ago

In the era before we all carried mobile phones that are also powerful computers in our pockets, the humble beeper or pager was the must-have electronic accessory.

The New Era of August 8, 1996, ran a front-page story about the beeper craze, with the cheeky headline, "From doctor to expectant dad to drug dealer, pagers are all over."

The "Hula hoop(s) of the '90s," as the article referred to the electronic gizmos, were sold at several local stores, including Cutler Camera in Park City Center. Cutler employee Craig Miller said the trend began a couple of years earlier, but had reached critical mass by 1996 - beepers were so popular that teenagers were asking if they could buy broken ones cheaply, just to wear them and get in on the trend.

Sold in rainbow colors as well as basic black, the beepers began as a useful business tool, allowing employees who had to be on call - from doctors to computer network administrators - to be easily reached. They then developed a reputation as a must-have for drug dealers, but also were useful for parents to keep in touch with their kids, spouses to keep in touch with each other.

With an average cost of about $70, plus about $10 a month for unlimited "beeps," the pager had clearly moved into the realm of affordable, fashionable technology.

In the headlines:

GOP agreement will avert fight over abortion

America Online goes off-line for 19 hours

Mars discovery raises questions for theologians

Check out the August 8, 1996, Lancaster New Era here.

50 years ago

In 1971, Lancaster  city had its first-ever "garage sale," with a variety of old vehicles and other items being pulled out of city storage facilities and placed on the auction block.

More than 600 people attended the sale, which was held at the city garage on Chesapeake Street.

Sixty vehicles were sold, with the highest price going for a former police chief's car, which garnered $1,660. (The cheapest car? One that didn't even run, which fetched $95.)

Various "specialty vehicles" were sold, including the city's vintage armored car, which was sold with the stipulation that it be dismantled, presumably so it would not be turned into some kind of personal tank.

Also sold were fire trucks dating to 1947 and 1938, a brass fire bell, office equipment and more - including a mysterious locked safe with no key, which sold for $11.

All told, the city made $26,209 from the sale.

In the headlines:

Apollo 15 back on two chutes

US dollar is declared overvalued

Nixon, family try lobster in Maine second straight day

Check out the August 8, 1971, Sunday News here.

75 years ago

In 1946, Los Angeles resident C. Earl Fuhrman was looking for someone in Lancaster County who might remember him.

A Lancaster native, Fuhrman left his hometown for the West Coast in 1913. Three decades later, he was trying to get a passport and needed to prove his place of birth.

That's when he decided to write a letter to the Intelligencer Journal, asking for anyone who could verify his place of birth to get in touch. 

The letters and phone calls came pouring in to the newspaper office, with "oldsters" also dropping by to relate childhood memories of Fuhrman.

No less than four notarized letters providing proper legal documentation of Fuhrman's birth here were mailed to his Los Angeles address as well.

In the headlines:

Munitions probe records raided

Radioactivity from atom test found over U.S. cities

Russia questions right to query UN applicants

Check out the August 8, 1946, Intelligencer Journal here.

100 years ago

A small item on the front page of the August 8, 1921, Lancaster Intelligencer listed the result of a "man-on-the-street" survey asking people what Lancaster needed most.

Two answers dominated the list: Better roads and "comfort stations," or public restrooms.

Some of the more unusual - but also more vague - answers included more "hustle and bustle," particularly in the world of business, and people who would "put this city on the map" with other progressive towns.

A better sewage system and more affordable rental properties for residents who couldn't afford to buy houses were also asked for.

In the headlines:

Steamship 'Alaska' hits rock and sinks

Special training given Atlantic dirigible flyers

Check out the August 8, 1921, Lancaster Intelligencer here.

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