By Stephen Press
Hometown Weekly Editor
This week, with Hometown Weekly celebrating its 25th anniversary, we’re looking back to March of 1997 to see just how differently home looked when the first edition of our paper (then known as The Home Shopper) debuted.
• A 50-year-old Bill Clinton was president, having just begun his second term on January 20. The British Prime Minister was John Major, who was months away from defeat at the hands of an ascendant Tony Blair. Boris Yeltsin was president of Russia, while Jiang Zemin was president of China.
• The Boston Bruins were in the midst of an NHL-worst season, with their leading scorer being current Harvard coach Ted Donato (he potted 25 goals on the year). A few months later, the B’s would select Joe Thornton (who is still playing at the age of 42) with the first pick in the 1997 NHL Entry Draft.
• In March of 1997, a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline in the Boston area cost $1.28; it cost $3.38 in January of 2022.
• “The English Patient”, “Fargo”, “Jerry Maguire”, “Secrets & Lies”, and “Shine” were nominated for Best Picture at the 69th Academy Awards. “The English Patient” would eventually claim the top prize on March 24.
• The New England Patriots, coached by Bill Parcells and quarterbacked by a 24-year-old Drew Bledsoe, had just lost to a historically good Green Bay Packers team in the Super Bowl. Later in the offseason, Parcells would depart and be replaced by a young Pete Carroll.
• According to the U.S. Federal Housing Finance Agency, between the second quarter of 1997 and the second quarter of 2021, the Massachusetts All-Transactions House Price Index more than tripled, rising from 309.73 to 1010.42.
• Moviegoers looked forward to Howard Stern’s biopic, “Private Parts”, which came out on March 7, while a generation of children flocked to theaters to see the “Star Wars” trilogy re-released on the big screen.
• The Boston Celtics, coached by M.L. Carr, were in the midst of what would be a 15-67 season, their second in the new TD Garden (then known as the Fleet Center). Rick Pitino would relieve Carr at season’s end.
• At the 39th Annual Grammy Awards a week earlier, Eric Clapton and Babyface won Record of the Year for “Change the World”, defeating Tracy Chapman’s “Give Me One Reason”, “Because You Loved Me” by Celine Dion, “Ironic” by Alanis Morissette, and The Smashing Pumpkins’ “1979”.
• J.K. Rowling’s first Harry Potter novel, “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone”, was still over three months away from hitting store shelves.
• Comet Hale-Bopp made its closest approach to earth, lighting up night skies and dazzling observers around the globe. The −1.8 magnitude comet (making it more luminous than Sirius, the brightest star) will next return to the solar system in the year 4385.
• Long-running television shows “King of the Hill” and “Antiques Roadshow” had debuted only a couple months before.
• The Boston Red Sox were at spring training ahead of what would be a losing season. The 1997 team would be led by an in-his-prime Mo Vaughn (the “Hit Dog” was two years removed from an MVP season) and a young Nomar Garciaparra in his first full MLB campaign. Pedro Martinez was still in a Montreal Expos uniform, and would only join the hometown nine after the season via a Dan Duquette trade. Meanwhile, in Minnesota, a 21-year-old lefty first-baseman named David Ortiz took his first cuts for the Twins.
We can only hazard a guess as to what Hometown Weekly’s world will look like in another 25 years — but we’ll look forward to telling your stories every week on our way there.