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Variations | Old news never gets old

IF you read daily news stories from all over the world, you will likely come to the conclusion that things are not as bad as they are in the NMI — especially when it comes to crime. But crime, of course, still happens in these peaceful islands.

On the front page of Variety’s second issue on March 24, 1972, the top stories were the murder trial of a man charged with the slaying of his wife; and the Saipan municipal council’s complaint that “a disproportionate number of [police] officers are being stationed in the predominantly American housing area on Capital Hill.” At the time, the NMI and what are now known as the FAS were still under the Trust Territory government administered by the U.S. The TT public safety director was quoted as saying that of the 63 DPS officers on Saipan, 25 were assigned to protect government buildings on Capital Hill, and “during the last calendar year, the [TT] government lost $100,000 due to arson alone.” (According to an online CPI Inflation Calculator, $100,000 in 1972 is equivalent to $604,727.27 in 2019.)

Among the issue’s police reports:

A man said his cow was slaughtered south of another person’s residence in Garapan.

In San Antonio, a man reported that his battery was stolen from his car. Another person said his pickup truck license plate was stolen while a Kagman resident said $95 ($574 today) was stolen from his home.

A prisoner in the Saipan jail was charged with assaulting a police officer after he attacked the desk sergeant at the back of the police station.

Variety’s third issue, dated March 31, 1972, reported the acquittal of the man accused of murdering his wife due to lack of evidence. It was a bench trial and the judge was Harold Burnett. In other news:

The Head Start school in Garapan was burglarized: one case of chicken, one case of hot dogs and five dozen eggs were reported missing.

A Garapan resident reported that his black rooster and his spotted red hen were stolen.

While fishing near Bird Island, a local man said a tire from his car was stolen.

In Kagman, a movie projector and other items with a total value of $75 (worth over $450 today) were stolen from an unlocked house.

At the As Lito Agriculture Station, a baby pig was stolen.

In Gualo Rai, a local man said $160 ($725 today) worth of roof tin was stolen from his residence.

Arrested in separate cases were several individuals for negligent driving, drunk driving, disturbing the peace, illegal possession of firearms and malicious mischief for shooting a cow.

The main concern for many local residents, however, was the price of consumer goods. “It seems that prices are going up all the time,” one of them told Variety. Our consumer columnist said she interviewed three families who were having difficulty stretching their food budget. “There never seems to be enough money to feed the family from one payday to the next. Solution? [T]ake credit at a neighborhood store which generally charges somewhat more than the supermarkets.”

One of the families interviewed by Variety had 10 children. “The oldest son works with the father at the Public Works department. The rest of the children are either school age or preschoolers. The net income is about $140 [$846 today] bimonthly, Every payday they buy about $50 [$302 today] worth of groceries [which] will last for seven or eight days. The remaining days before payday the family must charge at their neighborhood store. On the next payday, they still have the same amount of money for food but with fewer groceries because they have to pay their debt at the nearby store. This in turn makes them charge more item than the weeks before.”

Our columnist urged readers to learn how to budget by, among other things, finding out which store offered “the lowest price for the same quality.” A 50lb bag of rice cost $6.25 ($37.80 today) at one store, and $5.90 to $7.95 ($35.68 to $48.08 today) in another. The other basic items listed by our columnist were Hillbros coffee, salt, sugar, Kikkoman, vinegar, real fresh milk and onions.

By the way, Variety’s issue no. 2 reminded readers that “On Saipan…It’s the law… No person shall throw, place or put any rubbish, garbage, cans, bottles or other debris upon any road, highway or upon any land within the Mariana Islands District, unless designated as a dumping area.” Violators “shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction, be punished by a fine of $50 [$302 today] or imprisoned for…30 days, or both….”

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