Was it really just yesterday? Or does it just seem that way? The years! All those years! Where did they go? Sixty years ago — or to be more specific, it was 63 years ago that I went to work at the Daily Times-Advocate; the rawest of raw rookies. And it was 36 years ago that my relationship with that newspaper ended when I decided it was time to leave.
I had been affiliated with the Times- Advocate, or more familiarly or lovingly — the T-A — for 27 years under three different ownerships.
Now, after all those years and the unforeseen demise of the daily T-A, I have been asked to reflect on some of those early years and my feelings and thoughts, this time for another “T- A”, this publication of the by-weekly Times-Advocate, which has no connection to the newspaper for which I once was employed, except for the name.
In the occasional column I shall be offering for your perusal, I shall toss out names from the past, some of which were influential in helping to carve out the city of today. And some that were “faces in the crowd,” but were a part of my life.
But first, how it all started. It has been said that the word “I” is the least important word in the dictionary. But I hope you will bear with me as “I” reflect on my personal journey on the road to an unexpected life-long career.
Two weeks after graduation from Palomar Junior College in June 1951, I was married in Escondido to an Escondido girl on her 20th birthday. I was 19. The next day we were on a Greyhound bus for a three-day cross- country trip to my hometown of East Liverpool, Ohio, a city of about 25,000 population along the Ohio River, about 30 miles west of Pittsburgh. The plan was to spend the summer with relatives before my enrolling at an eastern university to continue my college education.
Plans went awry. I didn’t enroll. My wife and I found jobs, stayed for a year and decided to return to Escondido in June 1952.
So here I was: 20 years old, no job prospects, a pregnant wife, and living with my in-laws. It was mid-July and I had been walking Grand Avenue, placing an application for work — any type of work — at business establishments along the avenue. I stopped in the Bank of America, hoping to land a job as a teller. In those days, the Bank of America was at the southeast corner of Broadway and Grand, the current location of Draper’s and Damons’.
After filling out an application, I met in the bank’s lobby with a man named Barney Young. He noted that I had listed journalism as one of my courses in high school and college. After telling me he had no openings at the bank, he said something to the effect: “I understand they’re looking for a reporter at the Times-Advocate just down the street.”
That conversation opened the door to my journey of 27 years with the T-A — from raw rookie to editor.
I walked the two blocks to 237 East Grand Ave., the then location of the T-A office and production plant. I spoke to some lady behind the counter of the small office that I wanted to apply for the opening. (It was for a sports writer, I learned.)
The next person with whom I talked was Fred Speers, the editor and publisher. I verbally briefed him on my “writing” background, having taken a semester of journalism in high school and having been a sports writer on the student newspaper; and having taken two years of journalism in college and been editor of Palomar’s student newspaper, the Telescope.
Speers asked me to go home, write out my background and biography and return to see him. I walked back home the 15 blocks to 13th and Orange, the home of my in-laws, wrote out the biography in long-hand, and then walked back the 15 blocks to the T-A office.
Speers scanned what I had written, must have sensed something, said he wanted to hire a sports writer, and asked me to come back the next day and talk with Al Jacoby, his city reporter, who became my mentor.
Speers put me on probation; gave me a 20-dollar bill after the first week; another $20 after the second week; then put me on the payroll at $50 a week as the T-A’s first full-time sports writer and fourth full-time staff member.
My “beat” was Escondido High School and Palomar College sports and the Escondido Nightball League, fast- pitch softball. The other three reporters were Al Jacoby, city news; Eloise Stone (Perkins), county news; and Loretta Sayre, social news. (I neglected to point out that the “daily” T-A then printed six days a week — Monday through Saturday, no Sunday paper.)
Was it fate? I don’t know. I’ve never considered myself a fatalist, but sometimes I wonder. Here I was: 20 years old, a “kid,” no newspaper experience, no college bachelor’s degree, but my goal after graduating Palomar was to be a high school English teacher or a newspaper reporter, neither of which I had any expectation of attaining. Yet I had just been hired on the staff of a small community daily. It was a start!
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Ron Kenney, a 60-year resident of Escondido, was a reporter and editor with the former Daily Times-Advocate from 1952 to 1979 and a copy editor on the editorial pages of the San Diego Union-Tribune from 1985 to 1997.