I drove 50 miles and spent $16 to find an old issue of Life magazine that figured prominently in a USA Today publication.
The story was about a soldier, Sgt. Francis Farr, who recognized himself in a Life magazine photo of American troops marching under the Arc de Triomphe in Paris at the end of World War II. The story was pretty good, but there was a problem: We didn’t have a copy of the Life photo.
Our photo guys tried to track one down but were unsuccessful. Mr. Farr didn’t have one. We didn’t even know the date of the Life issue, except for two clues: The march took place in August 1944 and Thomas E. Dewey was the cover photo on the Life issue with the picture. Our story cried out for that picture.
“C’mon,” I thought, “there has to be a way.”
My wife likes antique shops and I remembered seeing a room full of old copies of Life at a place called Black Shutter Antique Center in Leesburg, Va. I searched the Internet for the Life-Dewey connection and came up with a logical date: Sept. 18, 1944. I called the store but they had no idea if they had one.
“Maybe,” said the guy on the phone.
So I took a chance and drove to Leesburg on a day off and found it. I bought it and took it back to USAT where the double-truck spread was photographed and digitally reproduced.
We e-mailed a PDF to the reporter, who took it to Mr. Farr, who pointed himself out in the Arc de Triomphe picture. I masked off a yellow circle around Sgt. Farr, just enough to indicate him, cementing his place in both Life and USA Today. In retrospect, it was probably the best $16 I ever spent.