As I punched out last week’s effort on my trusty computer, I knew that the three-quarters-of-a-century anniversary also coincided with another milestone in my life — and that of the Matthews family.
That milestone, of course, is the sale of the Tracy Press. That has now been completed, and the new publishers, Ralph Alldredge and Will Fleet, have taken over direction of Tracy’s hometown newspaper.
I welcome their arrival and feel confident they will do a conscientious job of producing a newspaper that meets the needs of our community as a news and advertising medium.
That confidence is based on the new publishers’ backgrounds. Both Ralph and Will have extensive newspaper experience — Ralph as publisher of the Calaveras Enterprise in San Andreas and Will as general manager and publisher of several newspapers, most recently the Fresno Bee.
And I’m well acquainted enough with the newspaper business in California to know they are well-respected in the field. Publishing newspapers in today’s economic climate is a challenge, but they have the skills and experience to succeed.
The new publishers are both becoming acquainted with Tracyites, but people around town will see a lot more of Will than Ralph. Ralph, a veteran antitrust attorney, publishes the weekly Calaveras Enterprise and an entertainment publication for the Mother Lode. Will is making Tracy his headquarters in concentrating on the Press and our website, www.tracypress.com, and overseeing operations at Patterson and Scotts Valley.
And I’m sticking around.
I’ll continue my role as “publisher emeritus” — something of a vague title. It means I’ll be turning out my weekly column, writing news stories and even snapping a photo or two along the way. I’ll continue serving as a resource for the news staff here at the Press.
The past couple of years have been tough ones for us at the Press. After promised financial backing failed to materialize, we filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2010 in order to continue publishing while attempting to deal with debt.
As we continued in Chapter 11, it became more and more apparent that sale of the Press’ assets was the only logical path to take. But we were determined to keep the Press publishing while reducing the frequency of publication and, if I might say so, putting out a solid news and advertising product in the process. Support from our readers and advertisers has made that possible.
A strange thing happened on the way to the sale of the Press to Ralph and Will. The original successful bidder for the assets failed to complete the deal. That development caused several months of confusion and delays, but as things turned out, the right people purchased the paper.
Although the sale has been in the works for several months, when it was finally completed, a lot of memories of the past 69 years of Matthews family ownership came to mind — too many to adequately cover, but a few stand out.
When my dad bought the paper in 1943, after working there for five years, the office was on Seventh Street, in a location just west of Central Avenue that is now a vacant lot. It was cramped and dingy.
In 1949, the Press moved to A Street into a new, larger building constructed by contractor Ben Engstrand. The excitement of the move and the installation of new printing equipment quickly turned to grief, however, when my dad died of a heart attack on the morning of the grand opening.
Without a second thought, my mother stepped in to become publisher. I suppose my brother, Tom, and I, both high school students at the time, didn’t realize what a courageous and unusual effort that was. As time wore on, we became more aware and thankful.
Changing our publication schedule in 1960 from twice a week in the afternoon to three times a week in the morning was the smartest move we ever made. It provided Tracy with a newspaper concentrating on local news with enough frequency to stay abreast of Tank Town happenings.
A year later, we installed the first Goss rotary offset press in Northern California, becoming a pacesetter in the rapid changes taking place at that time in newspaper-production technology.
In 1970, the present two-story building on West 10th Street was completed, thanks to the determined efforts of my brother, Tom.
We were proud that a third generation of our family took over in 1997 when Tom’s son, Bob Matthews, became publisher. Bob plans to move on to new ventures, most likely in Portland, Ore., after the first of the year.
Thank you, Tracy, for your decades of support and words of encouragement. And as I said earlier, I’m sticking around.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or by email at email@example.com.