There are many reasons I idolize The Seattle Times

Posted by Tom Camfield

That photo above by Alan Berner as reported in The Seattle Times Weekend+ features Ginny O’Leary (in red) and Lindsey Wonder at last year’s Capitol Hill Block Party in Seattle, publicizing this year’s event that concluded July 26. I’m envious not only of the mood of the photo but also of the photographic expertise that recorded it. I was a low-level photo-journalist myself as far back as 1954, and I’ve been a background member of The Seattle Times outlying extended family (at least in my own mind) since my paper-carrier days 76 years ago.  But loyalty’s one of our strong points in both directions—the Press, the public.

My introduction to the world of newspapering and journalism came not long after I turned 13, early in 1942, shortly after the U. S. surged fully into World War II. I was enlisted by a circulation employe (Grenfell by name) of the dying Seattle Star as the carrier boy for the entire town—and I voluntarily added in the military barracks at Point Hudson and Fort Worden in hopes of selling my small quota of extra copies. The poker table at the Coast Guard station refused to pay off on my unexpected four kings one day, and I learned to play pea pool the hard way at Fort Worden while carrying my bag of monthly collections from subscribers—but I soldiered on, wise beyond my years about then but holding no grudges.

After a time I switched over to the Seattle Times’ route which made me a rather prosperous standout among my peers. I bought government “war bonds” at $18.75 ($25 maturity) that eventually helped pay for my first year of college.

All those years ago, my papers came in aboard John Lafferty’s local extension of the Greyhound bus line. I crossed the street and dropped off one large bundle of the Times at the Baker’s Drug newsstand on downtown’s main intersection; I drew a bit of commission on those. Easy money. Then I loaded up and hit out for the local Coast Guard barracks en route to my closest home-owner subscribers. 

On Saturdays, I got the “bulldog” (early) Sunday edition, a bit bulkier but still manageable in the canvass bags hanging over the rear fender of my bike—a balloon-tired Schwinn that was typical of the times. It was September of 1944 that I moved on to become an after-school and weekend printer’s devil at the Port Townsend Leader.

Bless also at this point Capitol Hill, subject of today’s photo. One of my daughters was a regular at the block party during her youth a significant number or years ago. I currently have a grandson in his early 20s living there—building some great memories, I hope.

The Times is one of today’s determined privately-owned survivors in this electronic age wherein a Free Press is under constant attack by demented Donald. Numerous papers have fallen by the way due largely to broad dispersal of advertising revenue to opportunists. But others, such as the Times, have just trimmed fat and muscled up. My Times subscription is part of my contribution to the health of American journalism’s prime directive: the public’s right to know. 

I’m pushing 90 now, still blogging at the end of a lifetime of journalistic involvement (blogging heavily these days on politics, and it’s no secret I detest the immorality of lying Donald Trump, whom I also consider both stupid and ignorant by virtue of egomania). 

I still treasure a metal plaque I received from the Times around 25 or 30 years ago for a letter to the editor recounting my experience as a  late-life DUI driving offender. They still use one of my briefer letters periodically on the op-ed page—or the Sunday second sports page.

I respect the Times today for the way it keeps me apprised of local and world affairs. In large part, it is the source of my information—news and editorial pages—for this volunteer blog I have written for many years here at the Port Townsend & Jefferson County Leader, another major love with which I lived the major part of the years between 1944 and 1988—and with which I have continued to associate these past 30 years since surrendering to professional exhaustion.

As for Times personnel, I have freely dropped off notes to columnists, photographers, sports writers, et al, whenever the mood strikes me in recent years. Every one of these dedicated journalists has responded to my emails. I’m sure some, such as columnist Danny Westneat, get some rough stuff from readers. There’s a lot of stupidity in the world around us. I get some expressions of it myself here as a small-town blogger.

Most recently, I have corresponded with Alan Berner, whose photo I have borrowed above. He filled me in on some of the detail of daily  paper operation these days. Love it! By my way of thinking, learning is one of those “use it or lose it” things. The Times helps keep me hopping at least mentally if not physically these days.

I can’t ride a bicycle any more, but I like to feel now and then that I’m still delivering The Seattle Times, at least in part as I forward items from the on-line edition that also comes with the print edition with which I spend my pre-breakfast hour.

Along through the years, from those childhood roots of 76 years ago, I worked at the Leader for publishers Ray O. Scott, Dick McCurdy and Frank Garred—and had a kinship with Scott Wilson in later years. I also moonlighted for a time evenings with the competitive Jefferson County Herald (Rod Weir) as a printer in 1950. In 1947-’48 I was a part-time printer on the Pullman Herald while attending WSU. 

At UC Berkeley in 1953 I researched and wrote an exposé on the California Newspaper Publishers Association that caused some statewide consternation. During a later sojourn in California I partnered for a time with Rod Alden of the Feather River Pullman in Quincy and also published my own paper (The Record) based in Greenville for a few years. I’ve also been a “stringer” for Associated Press, a writer for the old Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Sunday magazine and a contributor to Marine Digest magazine. I’ve written 8 books of history and genealogy.  My latest stint at the Leader was from 1960 through 1988; and, of course, I’ve been a Leader blogger here for  8 or 10 years.




No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment