scorecardresearch Skip to main content

Advice for staying safe in a pandemic from the 1918 Globe, plus more tips from the archives

A selection of how-to advice from pages of the paper past. Plus, see if you can answer these questions submitted to Ask the Globe.

Adobe Stock

From its very first edition in 1872, The Boston Globe was going to be about the news of the day, that much is obvious. But very soon into its run, the newspaper began extending its usefulness to readers in their everyday lives. Find a brief selection below, ranging from 1918 advice for staying safe in a pandemic — those tips might sound a little too familiar to modern ears — to house cleaning and talking to teens.

How to Stay Safe in a Pandemic (published in 1918)

Here are some of the “don’ts” published by state health officials during the 1918 influenza pandemic, exactly as they appeared in the Globe:

DO NOT expectorate (spit) unless the material used to catch the expectoration can be destroyed by burning.


DO NOT swap handkerchiefs, towels, food, pipes, cigarettes, pencils, or other material that may be placed in the mouth.

DO NOT sneeze or cough without covering the face with a cloth.

DO NOT stay in the room with a patient sick with influenza. If, however, compelled to remain in or enter the sick room, cover the nose and mouth with four or six thicknesses of gauze.

KEEP OUT OF DOORS. Sleep with windows open.

STAY AWAY FROM theatres, movies, churches, crowded cars, trains, crowds and private gatherings.

How to Enjoy Air Travel (published in 1945)

Logan expanded its air service after World War II, but very few civilians had ever been on a plane­ — though luckily for nervous passengers, the Globe’s Arthur A. Riley had. “If you haven’t been an air traveler thus far, the chances are that you will­ — eventually,” he wrote in his new column. Below, some of Riley’s advice “to make your first flight enjoyable.”

Try to banish fear. . . . About everybody feels that way when first taking off in a plane. . . . Remember, air travel is a normal mode of transportation. . . . Records show it is safer than some other modes of transportation.

You have to keep your ears open­ — not only for conversation, but to keep you from having ear trouble.

To avoid air sickness, especially in rough weather, don’t take large quantities of liquids or greasy foods before flight.

Don’t chew gum when going up, because when you do, you swallow air, which may cause discomfort when it expands. Chew gum when you begin to descend.

Adobe Stock

How to Build a New Home (published in 1985)

A reader with the pseudoynm “Russ T. Nale” was looking for tips, and “Glad I.M. Done” delivered some clearly hard-won home-building advice. This is some of the best advice condensed from the 1985 original story (including the ALL CAPS):

Decide how much you want to spend, and add 10 percent. That is how much you actually will spend.


You will then be going through a seemingly endless series of choices. . . . It reaches the point where you dread the thought of more sample books!

It is essential that you check the progress on a DAILY basis.

Make a list of uncompleted items before closing and withhold an appropriate sum. The builder is much more likely to finish the job if you’re holding something back.

Adobe Stock

How To Clean Practically Anything At Home

The longtime Ask the Handyman columnist, the late Peter Hotton, famously had a favorite go-to recipe for cleaning jobs big and small: 1 part bleach and 3 parts water. Below is a partial list of problems submitted by readers that he recommended it for, as compiled from years of archived columns:

Mildew, moss, mold, “unusual mold,” rugs, bricks, decks, sheds, old furniture, outdoor furniture, an old bureau that “smells funny,” a “horrendous” smell after a sewer line flooded a basement, gas grill hoods, gaskets on refrigerator doors, holes in shower heads, green spots on a cupboard, black spots on shingles, “black stuff running down shingles,” stains on stucco, fertilizer stains on marble, and “a sort of weird situation on my dining room ceiling.”

How To Deal With A College-Rejection Letter (published in 1986)

In 1986, the Globe’s David Nyhan published a column titled “For All Those Who Got College-Rejection Letters,” which became an instant classic and has been reprinted many times since. Here’s an excerpt:

This college thing? What happened is that you rubbed up against the reality of big-time, maybe big-name, institutions. Some they pick, some they don’t. You lost. It’ll happen again, but let’s hope it won’t have the awful kick. You’ll get tossed by a girlfriend or boyfriend. You won’t get the job or the promotion you think you deserve. Some disease may pluck you from life’s fast lane and pin you to a bed, a wheelchair, a coffin. That happens.

Bad habits you can change; bad luck is nothing you can do anything about.

Does it mean you’re not a good person? People like you, if not your résumé. There’s no one else that can be you. Plenty of people think you’re special now, or will think that, once they get to know you. Because you are.

How Readers Like You Are Making Sure Kids Have Happy Holidays

Globe Santa, a program of the charitable Boston Globe Foundation, delivered 29,594 gifts to children this past holiday season, thanks to donations from readers. More than 3 million children have received presents since Globe Santa began in 1956.

Meredith Goldstein

“Ask Beth” Made It Safe to Talk About Anything With Teens

By Meredith Goldstein

I’m an advice columnist who stays away from letters sent by teens. I’m not a parent, nor am I a qualified mental health professional for youth.

Sometimes I’m astounded that Beth Winship — of Ask Beth — took on the quandaries of young people in her long-running, syndicated Boston Globe column. I’m also a bit grateful she took the risk.

To be fair, when I look back at Winship’s column, which she wrote for 35 years, I don’t agree with some of the advice she gave her young readers. Her opinions represented a certain time, and some ideas about how a girl should behave, for instance, ought to be left in the past.

But what transcends — and continues to inspire — is Winship’s commitment to telling people it’s OK to ask questions to begin with. She let teens know it was normal to inquire, even if they were wondering about a topic that would make their parents blush. Even I’ve used euphemisms where Beth avoided them.

I would imagine that many young people who devoured Ask Beth became adults who dared to discuss.

Perhaps they’re the grown-ups who said, “I think we could benefit by talking about it.”

In her honor, let’s continue to admit what we don’t know, and have awkward conversations with great empathy.

Meredith Goldstein is the Love Letters advice columnist and a features writer for the Globe.

Miss Conduct

Miss Conduct On Why We Advice Columns Are Lasting

Question: Why Do We Turn to Advice Columnists for Help?

For a project at work, we’ve been going back over 150 years of newspaper history and have noticed readers turning to advice columnists from the beginning. The striking thing is how consistent our worries have been since then: what to do when we feel judged, how to make amends when we’ve hurt someone, whether we really need to send thank-you notes. Why do readers keep coming back?

— Francis Storrs, Globe Magazine editor

Answer: Because We Can All Use Someone Who Listens

When things get tough, everyone can use the opinion of an uninvolved third party. Humbling though it is to admit, I suspect more people are drawn to advice columns for the chance to discuss the questions with their own friends than by the wisdom of the answers. From my end of the conversation, I find advice-columnry, like stand-up comedy, one of the few venues for the generalist in an increasingly specialized world.

— Robin Abrahams, Globe Magazine’s Miss Conduct

Before There Was Google, You Turned to Ask the Globe for Answers

Long before you could answer any possible mystery on a smartphone, readers sent their pressing questions to the Ask the Globe column, which ran from the late 1980s until 2001 — about the time a little search engine named Google was gaining traction. Do you know the answers to these three questions, condensed from the originals?

Q. What does Massachusetts use as its state bird, state flower, and state animal? – A.M., Ipswich

A. The chickadee (Penthestes atricapillus) is the state bird and the mayflower is the state flower. The Morgan horse is the state horse; the ladybug is the state insect; the cod is the state fish . . . and the corn muffin is the state’s official muffin. (1993)

Q. Who named the Charles River? – J.C., Malden

A. In 1614, when Captain John Smith returned to England from a mapmaking expedition in the New World, Prince Charles of England, his patron, assigned his own name to various parts of the map. The Algonquin called the river Quinobequin. (1982)

Q. Where did the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King live while he attended Boston University? — R.M., Marlborough

A. According to an article in the January 17, 1985, edition of The Bay State Banner, the civil rights leader resided at 397 Massachusetts Avenue. It was while he was attending BU that King met and married his wife, Coretta. (1989)