What archeologists might find in the ruins a few thousand years from now.
The top portion of the historic marker to be dedicated May 5.
By Mark Esper
A few days ago the historical marker for the Silverton Standard & the Miner newspaper arrived in my office.
You may recall the Standard was designated a national historic site in journalism by the Society of Professional Journalists late last year.
The designation involves us receiving a large bronze historical marker, which will be dedicated on Saturday, May 5 (first-train day).
Since the marker arrived I’ve been thinking about how, of all the things ever written in or about the Silverton Standard, what was written on that marker may last the longest. It could probably survive a nuclear war.
Future archeologists, combing through the ruins of ancient Silvertonia a few thousand years from now, may come upon the bronze marker.
“Ah yes,” the archeology professor will explain to his students. “This is obviously a relic from the Pre-iPhone era, recording the existence of what they used to call a news paper.”
“What are all those funny markings?” a student would ask.
“Those are what they called letters. This relic apparently dates to the era just prior to the widespread adoption of emoticons to communicate, and the abandonment of the alphabet. The emoticons started out very primitively as smiley faces made out of combining two dots they called a colon, with a curved line they called an ‘end parentheses.’ Don’t ask me why. Few alive today can decipher those scribbles.
“Back then they used to grind up trees and make this stuff called paper,” the professor explained.
“How barbaric,” the student would say.
“Yes, but remember this is a period in which they still used a keyboard, and even the most modern devices had touch screens.”
“Ewww! You mean they actually touched the screen?” a student will ask.
“Yeah, I know. It’s kind of sickening these days to even think about it,” the professor would say.
“Primitive man was not known for its hygiene. Of course the touch screens were eventually banned after being linked to a bizarre behavioral disorder called T-Mobile Syndrome — the cause of the Zombie War of 2021.
“But anyway, it appears from this relic that Silvertonia was once home to a very important news paper.”
“How can you tell?” a student would ask.
“Well you see at the bottom, it says ‘Society of Professional Journalists.’ That was the name of the handful of ruling priests who maintained an iron grip on information and news for decades, right up until the Googlian-Facebook Missile Crisis and the seizure of power by Facebook the Terrible in 2027 AD. Believe it or not, they even charged people MONEY to read the news back then. Amazing. They’d have vending boxes all over town and people would go and put coins in them.”
“How repressive,” the student would comment.
“Indeed,” the professor would say, “Legend has it that this particular news paper was so ruthless that it even refused to print death notices if those who died didn’t subscribe to the paper.”
The professor would explain how Silvertonia’s population peaked at around 50,000 by 2400 AD.
But then the Cascade-Ouray Tunnel was built, leaving the 6-lane Interstate some 900 feet below town, with no up ramp.
Railroad operations ceased about 50 years later when the nation’s coal reserves were exhausted.
The professor would point to the flat-topped Kendall Mountain, where the town’s space port once stood. That too eventually closed, in 2479 AD.
The town was soon abandoned.
But, the professor would explain, the Silverton Standard apparently survived.
“How is that possible?” a student would ask. “The town didn’t even exist.”
“Yes, but the Standard was turned into a popular video game involving a quest to deliver news papers to vending machines while dodging avalanches, flash floods, stray dogs and news paper critics,” the professor would say.
“In fact I actually have the game right here on my iSleeve,” the professor would say.
“Well that’s probably about all we’re going to find here,” the professor would say. “Let’s get back into the iJeep. Next I want to show you some amazing finds south of here in what was once a suburb of Silvertonia called Durangonia.
“There is a controversial theory that Durangonia may have had a news paper too,” the professor will say. “But not a trace of any real evidence has been found.”