Our 50th Year Icon

Sixteen pages, if you include the front and back covers. A twenty-five-cent cover price. Each issue sold by hand on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, then a “cosmopolitan stew of creative chaos,” in the words of former Sun assistant editor Elizabeth Rose Campbell. The office: the backseat of founder and editor Sy Safransky’s Nash Rambler. And a fifty-dollar loan to get the whole thing off the ground.

This was in January of 1974, when Sy, a displaced and disillusioned former newspaper reporter, started (with coeditor Mike Mathers, who departed shortly thereafter) the magazine you now hold in your hand. Watergate had put a ticking clock on Richard Nixon’s time in the White House. The oil crisis was in full swing. And The Sun’s circulation was two hundred — or, at least, they printed two hundred copies of the first issue. Sy was still working his day job at a juice bar. He was fond of psychedelics, meditation, and Gauloises Bleues, the French cigarettes preferred by John Lennon. The magazine, its beginning so precarious and unlikely, would come to define his life.

“I didn’t start The Sun with a recipe,” he wrote in our January 2004 issue. “I made it up as I went along. I’m still making it up, even though the kitchen is so much bigger and more elegant now, with decent knives and sturdy pots and pans. But water still boils at the same temperature, and hunger is still hunger. I mean the hunger to break bread, and the other hunger: to break bread together.”