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Monday, March 4, 2024
The Observer

From the Archives: The lost art of the classified ad

Diane Park | The Observer
As newspapers have been forced to innovate, adapt and eliminate features in the digital age, one of the most notable victims has been the classified section. Once a bastion of hope for those trying to sell their old television, seek a new job or solicit help with their word processing needs, this section is mostly a forgotten relic of the past now.The Observer’s classified section was as vibrant as any newspaper around. This week, From the Archives looks back at some memorable classified ads from over the years. This edition is organized primarily according to the original section of the ad — “Lost/Found,” “For Sale,” “Wanted” and “Personals” — with a bonus “Wild Cards” section featuring some of the more out-of pocket-examples. Overall, the entertaining, perplexing and outright unbelievable ads to follow show that the classified ad is truly a lost art that will likely never be replicated.


Notre Dame overbites

Sept. 3, 1985 | Dec. 11, 1985 |  Researched by Erin Drumm

Observer archives, Sept. 3, 1985
Observer archives, Dec. 11, 1985
Notre Dame students were welcome to claim their lost retainers in the 1980s. But they were faced with two options: accept their overbite or try on different retainers until they could find their own.

Man claims stolen black overcoat actually ‘transmogrification’ of baby brother

Feb. 17, 1988 | Researched by Thomas Dobbs

Observer archives, Feb. 17, 1988
It seems like someone had a wild night at the Knollwood SMC dance and ended up taking something that wasn't theirs. If you're the one who took Mike’s black overcoat with a crystal keychain and keys, he’s got a message for you. In fact, he has a whole top-ten list of reasons why you should return them. From the fact that it’s his coat to the possibility of divine smiting, Mike’s reasons are pretty compelling. But the number-one reason? It’s an actual transmogrification of his baby brother.

No hope and no reason

Jan. 23, 1978 | Researched by Lilyann Gardner

Observer archives, Jan. 23, 1978
The lost and found section was typically the place where students searched desperately for lost jewelry, glasses, textbooks and other items of sentimental value. Other students gave up entirely and finally succumbed to the reality that being in college can drive you mad. 

For sale

Scalping airplane tickets

April 22, 1988 | Researched by Thomas Dobbs

Observer archives, April 22, 1988
Back in 1988, you could sell airline tickets to strangers like they were hotcakes at a county fair. No legal or social barriers to stop you — just your charm and ability to convince someone to fly through the sky in a metal tube. Nowadays, trying to sell a plane ticket to a random person might get you some strange looks and warrant a TSA investigation. How times have changed!

The perfect pet

Nov. 8, 1974 | Researched by Lilyann Gardner

Observer archives, Nov. 8, 1974
College can feel isolating from time to time, but having a pet (or three) may be the perfect solution to an otherwise companion-less existence. After all, who wouldn’t want cuddly piranhas to keep them company on a lonely Friday night? And for just $150, it’s a “real bargain.”

Clickbait in the classifieds

Dec. 2, 1986 | Researched by Spencer Kelly

Observer archives, Dec. 2, 1986
This enticing ad, ostensibly promising to illuminate all the answers for academic success, grows more mysterious the longer you look at it. What type of exams are we talking about here? Math? Science? The LSAT? What is Cosmos International, and why does it sound like some intergalactic crime syndicate? And how does one obtain said book? Mail a letter? Drive to St. Louis and pick up a copy yourself? While Cosmos’ promise is alluring, it seems an easier path to test success would simply be to study on your own.


Odd requests

Dec. 2, 1982 | Researched by Cade Czarnecki

Observer archives, Dec. 2, 1982
Sometimes students had simple requests… and other times, they were not so simple. This student was hopeful that their very specific transit schedule could be accommodated.

Muscle mania

April 21, 1975 | Researched by Lilyann Gardner 

Observer archives, April 21, 1975
Although this message could be found in the “personals,” it is clear that Mary wanted one thing and one thing only in 1975 — a muscled man. Unfortunately, one will never know if she found such an individual on Notre Dame’s campus. 

Eternal recurrence

April 2, 1979 | Researched by Spencer Kelly

Observer archives, April 2, 1979
Providing irrefutable proof that history does indeed repeat itself, this wanted ad could have been printed in the Observer last year — with an equal degree of desperation — and been just as relevant.


Soliciting companionship… or something else?

Feb. 9, 1972 | Researched by Cade Czarnecki

Observer archives, Feb. 9, 1972
Epitomizing the “personals” section of the classified ads of every issue, the 1970s saw many hopeful students solicit companionship of all kinds through The Observer. While the outcomes of such efforts are unclear, the boldness of Notre Dame students is unmistakable.

Observer insults 

March 30, 1977 | Researched by Erin Drumm

Observer archives, March 30, 1977
Not every breakup was lamented in The Observer. Some Notre Dame students opted to insult one another or seek revenge through the classified section. 

A question of existential import

Jan. 29, 1988 | Researched by Spencer Kelly

Observer archives, Jan. 29, 1988
In the pre-Google era, people had to get creative in searching for answers to life’s most pressing questions. This student’s query was simple: Was a certain Kraft Heinz-manufactured mayonnaise alternative of the “lite” variety, or was it not? No word on whether this conundrum was ever resolved.

Wild Cards

Harsh wishes

April 8, 1976 | Researched by Cade Czarnecki

Observer archives, April 8, 1976
Fighting Irish students sometimes had quite the feisty feeling and were not afraid to share them in the classified section. While there are likely no aardvarks in South Bend, a chilling message was sent.

      Hey, Jude 

Dec 6, 1985 | Dec. 11, 1985 | Researched by Erin Drumm

Observer archives, Dec. 6, 1985
Observer archives, Dec. 6, 1985
Observer archives, Dec. 11, 1985
After a semester of prayers and petitions to St. Jude filling up the classifieds section of The Observer, Andre felt he needed to clear the section and lighten St. Jude’s workload by asking everybody to “leave him alone.” It didn’t work.

“oh, gee”

Feb. 3, 1983 | Researched by Spencer Kelly

Observer archives, Feb. 3, 1983
oh, gee.