As I told Mike, that start wasn’t working at the Tracy Press — that came a bit later — but as a Stockton Record carrier boy in the mid-1940s. (There were no girls involved in those days.)
After serving my “apprenticeship” as a substitute carrier for Rich McFadden in his route south of 11th Street, I became a full-time carrier in 1944, when two events occurred almost simultaneously: I turned 12 (the youngest age for full-time carriers), and my brother Tom’s Route 5, which covered much of Tracy north of 11th Street as far north as Eaton Avenue, was split in two because of increasing circulation.
The eastern half became my Route 12, which covered the area from Tracy High west to Parker Avenue — 110 papers each afternoon except Sunday (the Record had no Sunday edition in those days). Fortunately, we didn’t have to collect from subscribers, as some newspapers required their carriers to do. We were paid 10 cents a copy per month — $11 in my case.
We carriers, with canvas bags strapped to the handlebars of our bikes, gathered after school on weekdays and Saturday afternoon, leaning our bikes along the brick wall on what was then the north side of the JC Penney building on West 10th Street, where Valley First Credit Union is now.
Bill Taylor, the Record circulation manager, who doubled (actually tripled) as classified-ad taker and reporter, dished out the papers.
We didn’t fold the papers; we rolled them. After bending the full pages nearly in half, we rolled them up and then cinched the roll tighter and crimped the top to make the fold hold. Too tight a crimp and you tore off the top — “popped the paper,” in carrier boy lingo. Fortunately, we had one or two extra copies to make up the difference.
Some carriers were better at rolling than others. I can distinctly remember that the best was Kenny Dewhirst. He produced top-quality rolls of amazing uniformity. Kenny’s devotion to detail and precision foretold the talents of a scientist. And he became a very good one: a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from UC Berkeley, a doctorate in chemistry from UCLA and a long tenure with Shell Oil’s chemistry laboratories, mostly in Houston, where he was manager of corporate chemistry before retiring in 1991.
After rolling the papers, we took off on our routes. We rode along the streets and sometimes the sidewalks, tossing the rolled-up copies as close to the porch as possible. The rolled papers were easier to toss than folded papers, which tended to sail.
Sometimes we missed. Most of my problems were at the Wadsworth house, the two-story Tudor-style home at the corner of East Highland and El Portal (in back of the Presbyterian Church). Once in a while, the paper would wind up on the roof the house — easy to do because of the elevated front porch.
On those days, I tossed the paper toward the porch and didn’t see it land. I kept pedaling westward on Highland with eyes focused straight ahead, unaware that the paper had landed on the roof.
That, of course, wasn’t the end of it. After I arrived home, the phone would ring, and it would be Mrs. Wadsworth (Marguerite), wife of Tracy’s leading attorney of the day. Known to have a volatile personality, she was usually pretty upset, and my mother or I, depending on who had answered the phone, had to take the heat. I got back on my bike and got Mrs. Wadsworth another paper. In a hurry.
Other than that, the deliveries went fairly smoothly on most days. Of course, rainy weather was a problem that produced some wet papers, but that was to be expected.
An exciting day as a carrier? Yes, there actually was one: June 6, 1944 — D-Day.
Early that morning, at about 6 o’clock, Bill Taylor called to tell us the Record was producing “an extra” about the World War II Allied landing on the beaches of Normandy.
My brother and I got down to the Record office (where a beauty shop is now located) about the time the truck carrying the extras arrived. The extra addition had a banner headline declaring “Allies Land in Normandy and Open Second Front” — or something close to that — with a story including Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s announcement and a map of the Normandy coast.
After rolling the extras, I headed out to my route and, following instructions, shouted out, “Extra, extra, Allies land in France — start second front.” I can still remember Manuel Rico (later a Tracy mayor), clad only in his pajamas, running out of the front door of his house on Highland Avenue to scoop up the paper.
Later that day, we were given some additional “extras” and went down to the Southern Pacific Depot. After a brief time, a troop train carrying soldiers headed for Camp Stoneman near Pittsburg pulled in.
After hearing our “extra, extra” cries, GIs piled out of cars and grabbed papers, tossing us quarters and dollar bills for the 10-cent edition. We sold out in a hurry. It was an exciting — and, with the tips, profitable — day to be in the newspaper business.
After that, it was taking papers off the Tracy Press folding machine while in high school. I’ve been here at the Press, in one capacity or another, most my life since. And as the transition to new owners of the Press continues, those carrier days of 68 years ago are still vivid reminders of where it all started.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.