The group included a former Press sports editor retired for a year from the Modesto Bee (Larry Minner), a one-time Press columnist and reporter recently taking a buyout from the Contra Costa Times (Pat Craig) and one more-or-less-but-not-quite-retired Press publisher emeritus (yours truly).
I mentioned food, which is always hearty at the Reichs’ restaurant, and conversation, and we had plenty of that, punctuated with chortles galore.
We hashed over the “old days” in Tracy and also at the Press before, during and after lunch. The late 1960s and early 1970s, an era when Larry and Pat were at the Press, took center stage.
As we talked about those times long past, we raised our glasses — two iced teas and a Bud Light — and toasted the memory of the third member of the troika of young news hounds who breathed so much life and energy into the Press of those days — Carol Jo Gillan.
Carol died March 19, 1973, at the age of 26. Her death, caused by a brain tumor, came six months after she had left the Press in October 1972 to become women’s editor of the Argus in Fremont. It was sudden and devastating.
She had come to Tracy in 1968 fresh out of Kansas State University, where she had worked on the student newspaper while toiling summers at her hometown paper in Concordia, Kan.
Over the years — and there are more than I can imagine — we’ve had some great young talent in the Press newsroom. But none had more ability and good ideas than Carol. She transformed what had been a traditional “In Tracy Society” section into the “Today’s Living” section that included feature stories on a variety of topics to augment the club news, weddings and engagements.
And heart. She had that in spades, accepting any assignment and showing a willingness to go the extra mile to get things done.
It’s strange what you remember about people. On the nights we were putting out the paper and we were getting close to deadline, you could hear Carol making sounds like a radio Morse code message: “toooot, toot, toooot.” We knew we were cooking and things were coming together.
Pat, Larry and I remembered Carol’s presence — and those sounds — as we sat around the table at The Four Corners reviving memories of those newspaper days gone by.
Back on the job
News circulating in newspaper world reports that former Tracyite Brian Wilkinson is back at his old job — editor of the Sierra Star in Oakhurst.
He had worked at the weekly that circulates in eastern Madera County from 1978 to 1982. He then worked in sales and marketing for the Pines Resort in Bass Lake and more recently for Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino near Coarsegold.
Brian, whose dad, G. Clayton Wilkinson, was a member of the Tracy City Council, city attorney and president of the Tracy Rotary Club, has followed in Clay’s footsteps as a community volunteer.
He has been president of the Bass Lake Chamber of Commerce, Madera County Economic Development Committee and Madera County Private Industry Council. He was volunteer director of the Madera County Film Commission for 15 years.
There’s no doubt Brian knows the territory of eastern Madera County.
• Sam Matthews, Tracy Press publisher emeritus, can be reached at 830-4234 or e-mail at email@example.com.