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TBC TURNS 150: What would Alfred Harrell think? And other staffer musings

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Who better to talk about The Californian through the years than the people who have worked here? So we asked them to tell us their best stories.


The Californian at 150: It's all about connection: Grandpa Self never had much to say to his grandchildren. He wasn’t mean; just Arkansas gruff. He and Grandma had had 13 children and dozens of grandchildren, so I imagine he was pretty much talked out by the time I came along. I don’t remember ever taking it personally.

And so I was surprised at my reaction when an aunt told me a couple of years ago — more than two decades after his death — that Grandpa saved every last one of the articles I had written during my first weeks at The Californian, in the summer of 1988. She said he’d shown the clippings to neighbors, relatives, the mailman — anyone and everyone who crossed the threshold of their modest east Bakersfield home.

I nearly cried. The thought of this man — bent and old from years spent working under the brutal valley sun — showing off my inauspicious, though very earnest, first articles about hot-air balloon festivals and Fourth of July picnics touched me deeply.

But I get his pride.

The paper was important to my grandpa and his contemporaries, many of whom, like him, came to the valley for a chance to make something of themselves. They weren’t educated, at least not in the kind of instruction you get in a classroom, but they were smart, worked hard and cared about the world around them. And they and their kids and grandkids got their news from The Californian. We still call them our core readers.

In bad times, like the Great Depression, they looked for news of President Roosevelt's latest relief programs. During the wars, they looked to the paper for the Kern casualty counts. For levity, they turned to the comics. Sometimes, in frustration, they denounced it as a fill-in-your-political-bias-here rag. But the paper was a fixture in their lives, there when they returned from the fields or the job site or the railroad, to inform, amuse, exasperate and uplift.

And above all, the paper was and is a means of connection — to their city, their world and one another.

I'm a lifer, a journalist who never cared to leave my hometown, though I say with a measure of pride that I did receive interest from some big-city newspapers over the years. My desire to stay makes me a rarity in the news business but not in this newsroom, which is filled with natives, or close to: family columnist Herb Benham, photojournalist Felix Adamo, reporters/editors Mike Griffith, Stefani Dias, Steven Mayer and Kelly Ardis, and design editors Jarrod Graham and Tim Heinrichs. Most of the rest have worked here for so many decades they can get away with calling Bakersfield their hometown, should they want to, and many do.

Why do we stay?

For one thing, the owners know our names, and in a media world run by corporations, that is a rare thing indeed.

Ginger Moorhouse, the great-granddaughter of Alfred Harrell, walks the halls, greeting her employees and asking after our pets and children, usually in that order, Ginger being a passionate defender of animals. When I started here, I worked for her mother and occasionally had a chance to visit with her brothers, Don and Ted, both of them lovely souls who took the time to make a kid new to the business feel like she had something interesting to say.

And another perk about local ownership: The entire organization is made up of people who live in this community. If a decision is made about news coverage — good or bad — it was made right here, in this beautiful old building on 17th and Eye that dates to 1926. We don't get marching orders from some corporate headquarters hundreds of miles away; in fact, the only "suit" in the building is named Michelle, as in Michelle Chantry, who managed our finances for years and recently was named CEO.

Michelle knows her stuff and isn't afraid to ask questions about the stuff she doesn't know. That's reassuring to her staff but should be to readers as well. We're not going anywhere anytime soon.

In the way we do when we hear a quote that rings true to us, I've remembered something the great film critic Roger Ebert once said about the Chicago Sun-Times being his paper, regardless of who owned it.

With respect to the Harrell/Fritts family, I know how he felt. You can't have a decades-long career at a news organization, with its merciless deadlines and the often-thankless nature of the work, unless you love it. One day you just might look up and realize you've invested more of yourself in the paper than perhaps you have in your own family. That's a sobering thought. But with it comes a measure of pride in knowing that you've played a small part in the 150-year mission of this newspaper to chronicle the life of a community.

Our community.

— Jennifer Self is The Californian's lifestyles editor.


What would Alfred Harrell think? Have you ever noticed the small brick building, just north of The Californian on Eye Street? It looks like a “mini Californian.”

It was built in the early 1900s by newspaper owner Alfred Harrell for the “benefit” of the ladies of Bakersfield. Back in the days before air conditioning, the city’s fair ladies would venture downtown to shop. Harrell built them a place to rest and “powder their noses.”

As the years passed, the building was put to other uses. For a while, it even served as the office of a former newspaper chief executive. But from the 1990s until today, it’s been a fancy conference room and a place where the newspaper’s editorial board meets with important guests. As The Californian’s editorial page editor, until I retired in 2009, I logged a lot of hours sitting in that building.

I liked to call it “the outhouse.” But, truth be known, that reference was much more amusing to me than it was to my boss, Harrell’s great-granddaughter, Ginger Moorhouse, The Californian’s co-owner and publisher today. The frown she would give me never really stifled my joking around about it and, bless her heart, she never fired me.

In the center of the room was a large, polished wooden conference table and a circle of God knows how many chairs — too many, if you ask me. Often editorial board members were outnumbered by “important” or “angry” guests, and it could get scary.

Hanging from a wall was a very big portrait of Alfred Harrell. As the luck of the chairs would have it, I usually ended up facing Harrell and his steely, penetrating eyes. During long, tedious meetings, my mind would wander and I would glance up at the old boy. His eyes seemed to move and I would wonder what he was thinking.

Like when a candidate came in for an endorsement interview and threw a $100 bill on the table — daring us to ask him why. (Harrell: Throw the bum out!) Or when another candidate confessed that what we thought was a vicious campaign rumor was, in fact, true. He did have “love children,” causing me to blurt out: “Oh, crap.” Actually, it was a less polite four-letter word. (Harrell: That’s not nice!)

During my nearly three decades at The Californian, I often wondered what Harrell would have thought of us — the journalists who scraped and clawed our way through some of the best stories imaginable, and the people (including some downright weird ones) who still make Bakersfield the best damn news town in the world.

I would have loved to have had the chance to ask him. But he was long gone and buried when I arrived in 1981. Once in a while, someone would call the Opinion section and say they knew him, or had worked with him. Regrettably, I was always too busy to stop working and chat them up.

But I can imagine that he would have been proud of the hard work and creativity of the past, present and future Californian journalists — even when we may have come close to the line.

Did you hear the story about the reporter years ago who was sent to the courthouse to find out who was being called as secret grand jury witnesses in a high-profile murder case? He erected a folding table with instructions: “Witnesses Sign In Here.” Hey, it worked until he got thrown out of the building. (I’m guessing Harrell would have given that one a nod.)

Then there was Bill McCance, who was the hard-drinking, foul-mouthed managing editor when I arrived. He was fired in 1982 after causing way too much trouble. But he also inspired — or maybe terrorized — a young army of reporters to do its very best work. (I’m guessing Harrell would have fired him long before McCance got the ax. Too out of control.)

But what about the reporter who McCance ordered to deliver his booze and cigarettes, after McCance suffered a heart attack in the newsroom? The reporter was able to slip into his hospital room by dressing as a priest and telling staff he needed to be alone with his “son.” (I am guessing Harrell would have had a good laugh, and given the reporter points for loyalty.)

The list is long of the news and personal stories that have swirled around The Californian’s third floor.

The characters appearing on the pages of the daily miracle we call a newspaper ranged from the colorful and corrupt to the heartwarming and heroic. Back in the day, the newsroom would fill with the blue of cigarette smoke and cursing as reporters pounded away on typewriters and later on computers to write stories. Midafternoon, you could hear the printers wrestling giant rolls of paper onto presses that would slowly come to life and spit out a morning edition.

Today, the process is digital and sanitized. The newspaper is printed 10 miles away, in a building near the airport. The air in the newsroom is clean. No smoking or swearing allowed (or at least don’t swear a lot). And newsgathering is much more “professional,” but maybe not as much fun.

What would Harrell think today?

“I made a darn good investment.”

— Dianne Hardisty is a former Californian editorial page editor.


Remembering Phil Klusman: Even in this celebratory moment, it would be remiss not to remember Phil Klusman, a sports reporter at the paper from 1965 to 1986, tragically killed in the line of duty at a track meet in Los Angeles when an errant hammer throw struck him in the head in May 1986.

Phil's application for employment at The Californian in 1965 was in small handwriting on a 1-cent postcard. He was a community college student in Sacramento at the time. But he knew sports, was enthusiastic and developed special working relationships in the local sports community.

No one would mistake his writing as lyrical prose but he knew good story angles when he encountered them.

One that remains vivid in my mind through all these years was his lead on a Cal State Bakersfield basketball game story: "The lowdown on Wayne McDaniel is, never let him get the ball down low."

Phil was soft-spoken and self-effacing and he was a mainstay in local sports coverage for a generation, devoting himself to thorough coverage across the prep sports spectrum. As I recall, his parents, from Woodland, established a scholarship in his name at Bakersfield College.

I still have fond memories of Phil, and more than occasionally recall the bizarre circumstance of his death, so unimaginable that it was even reported in the Paris edition of the International Herald-Tribune.

Sports was long regarded as the "toy department" of the daily newspaper, but local coverage of high schools' athletic activities has become more and more important over the years. We called them "the preps" and much of the results appears in agate (small) type. Friday night high school football was always stressful, but getting those stories into the Saturday morning edition was a high responsibility.

Dwindling are the ranks of those of us who actually lived and breathed old-time daily print journalism, to the drumbeat of Linotype machines and dirty hands from galley proofs. The Californian then was huge in the community; it survives with heritage and hope even though news dissemination is now largely shouldered through new technology.

Those still daily encountering print deadlines are a vanishing breed, still beholden to a high standard of public trust. Hopefully, they and their daily newspapers will somehow carry on.

— Larry Press is a former longtime Californian sports editor.


Two stints, two decades apart: Thanks for the opportunity to talk about my two stints as a reporter for The Californian. They were 25 years apart.

I was first hired in the summer of 1944, soon after graduation from East Bakersfield High School. I had just turned 17. World War II was raging and there was something of a local shortage of news reporters.

So I got the job.

Alyce Rossi, 1944 graduate of Kern County Union High School, was also hired that summer. We sat next to each other and sometimes giggled. The newsroom was on the ground floor on the north side of the building with a two-story ceiling.

Editor Jim Day sat at the east end of the room, overseeing the news desk and bevy of reporters. In between was Local Editor Ralph Kreiser, who was responsible for getting all the local news filed by the 10:30 a.m. deadline. The Californian was an afternoon daily in those years.

There were two formidable women on the staff: Mae Saunders, who covered straight news, and Beth Dye, Women’s Page editor. I worked a lot under Beth, but I was also assigned general news stories, especially relating to agriculture.

A highlight of that time was meeting Publisher Alfred Harrell, who occupied a rather small office to the right as you came in the front door. He was such a courtly gentleman. On his visits to the newsroom, he would stop and chat at reporters’ desks, asking cubs like me about their future plans. I was mesmerized, but I left toward the end of the year, aiming at further education.

Forward to 1970: My husband, Joe Shell, and I spent much of the year in Sacramento, where Joe represented independent oil producers and refiners. A friend of mine wrote columns from the Capitol and I took some samples to Californian Publisher Don Fritts to see if the paper would run them.

Instead, Don asked if I would write columns when I returned to the Capitol in the fall. (Note: I had recent news experience as a reporter and editor of a semiweekly in Bakersfield.)

For the next nine years, I wrote a weekly column for TBC from Sacramento. It ran on Sunday, so I had to get it to Bakersfield by Friday. There was no internet and I never had anything ready in time to mail it so I used the Greyhound Bus that left Sacramento at 11:30 p.m. Thursday.

More often than not I barely got my copy on that bus each week. I also did occasional news stories with photos. I enjoyed every minute of that time and thank The Californian for the opportunity.

— Mary K. Shell is a former Bakersfield mayor, Kern County supervisor and Californian reporter.


The Tyack trial: The first murder trial I ever photographed was the sensational double homicide trial of William Robert Tyack, a Bakersfield tire shop owner who shot and killed his two gay neighbors in a Kern County mountain community.

On April 20, 1982, I was assigned with reporter Michael Trihey to go to Glennville. I was a 23-year-old rookie, just seven months into my photojournalism career. I knew the Tyack trial was a big one, but I didn't know that I was going to photograph something that virtually no photojournalist working nowadays will ever get to photograph; something rare even for the 1980s and something that I can't ever imagine being photographed again, especially with the unrestricted access I had that day.

But I need to start by giving you a little background on the murders of Jack Blankenship and Sidney Moses Wooster and the trial of Tyack. Tyack owned a Bakersfield tire shop and became angered that two homosexual men, Blankenship, 38, of Big Bear City, and Wooster, 26, of Los Angeles, had become his neighbors. According to testimony presented by the prosecution, he had openly expressed his anger and stated that if given a chance to kill the men, he would. In August 1981, Tyack encountered Blankenship and Wooster on one of the isolated roads outside Glennville, and they engaged in a confrontation. The incident ended with Tyack shooting Blankenship once in the chest, and Wooster four times, including twice in the back. Both men died at the scene.

In one of the most closely followed trials of its time and one that still resonates and is referenced today as violent crimes against LGBTQ people remain a major social issue, Tyack, 42, was acquitted of killing Blankenship and convicted of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter against Wooster. The case would reinforce a national impression of Bakersfield and Kern County being a place where violence against gays is tolerated, but many courtroom observers pointed out the verdict was likely more a result of defense attorney Timothy Lemucchi "out-lawyering" prosecutor Joe Beckett, whose slow and plodding courtroom style may have caused him to lose the attention of the jury.

The Tyack case and trial almost always surface as a reminder of what many believe is a tolerance in society of crime against the LGBTQ community. According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, while overall violent crime against LGBTQ people decreased in the past year, homicides rose. And a pair of newer, clearly defined targets has seen an increase in violence: gays and lesbians of color and transgender people.

On that day in April 1982, I had no idea I would photograph one of the most remarkable scenes of my career. The trial was being moved to the location of the murders. Trihey and I joined the caravan of court officials, police, Tyack, the jurors and, remarkably, just a few other media members, to the scene outside Glennville. My access was unhindered and unrestricted. I was free to shoot everything, including the jurors (something completely unheard of today), and it wasn't until I found and looked at these images recently that I realized what a remarkable piece of history had been filed away in my assigned metal filing cabinet for the past 34 years.

One picture was published in The Californian the following day. No others from the day the Tyack trial moved to the murder scene have been published in The Californian, according to my best recollection.

— John Harte was a Californian staff photographer from 1982 to 2009 and currently provides the newspaper photos and videos as a contract photojournalist.


Growing the next generation: Over the years, Californian editors and reporters contributed greatly to our local journalism programs in the Kern High School District. Especially memorable people like Jim Varley, Bryan and Pat Nolan, Robert Bentley, Robert Price and Herb Benham came either to our classrooms to talk about writing, layout and careers or to workshops at Bakersfield College (especially during the Bona Dillon years in the 1980s and '90s).

They also helped judge student writing in competitions and evaluate our newspapers. The Californian management frequently contributed to our scholarship programs at individual schools and even helped low-income kids make it to state and national competitions where they could hone their skills. When KHSD kids won state and national awards, The Californian enthusiastically publicized our successes to the community.

For a time, the management also sponsored teen pages in the newspaper and paid stipends to students to work on stories.

Californian professionals were an inspiration to aspiring writers: some tackled journalism in college and became professional writers still at the craft. They also helped our newspaper advisers in providing up-to-date advice in areas that needed improvement.

Occasionally speakers made us laugh, but mostly kids were impressed that these professionals knew their stuff and cared deeply about their work.

Thank you to all who helped strengthen local high school programs and escorted us into the computer age. You are (and will likely always be) among the brightest lights in this town!

— Margie Bell was Bakersfield High School's Blue & White journalism teacher from 1980 to 2004.


The girl on TV: I worked at The Californian from June 2004 until the spring of 2006, first as an intern and later as a reporter. I was, perhaps, best known around town as the gal on the billboard who did terrible live TV spots.

In those days, we had a wall-mounted camera in the newsroom and reporters would go on the TV news each night to talk about a story that would be in the paper the next day.

The camera was mounted too high on the wall, so reporters doing these spots had to sit in a tall director’s chair on a wobbly little stage and talk at a hole in the wall. If you were short, like me, you had to sit on two phone books. On the tall chair. On the wobbly stage.

I have a tendency to fidget when I’m nervous, and cameras (even ones mounted in a hole in the wall) make me nervous. As you can imagine, this fidgeting led to the phone books slipping. On a couple of memorable occasions, the phone books slipped, the chair tipped, and I went flying through the air on live TV.

I ended both of these segments standing on stage, only my forehead showing on the screen, saying “and now back to you” over and over again.

I got a lot of hugs in the grocery store from empathetic strangers who’d seen it. Thank God there was no YouTube in those days.

— Stephanie Tavares-Buhler is a former Californian reporter.


My top three memories: Having started as a part-time sportswriter at The Californian in 1980, and worked mostly in the Sports section for nearly 35 years, I have countless great memories associated with the newspaper, as well as the sports and athletes I covered. Here are perhaps the top three from my figurative "front-row" vantage point:

1. Covering a five-overtime high school basketball game between Foothill and Bakersfield highs inside a jam-packed and electrified Bakersfield College gym. Probably the most enjoyable prep hoops game I ever covered. Foothill won that marathon and the teams tied for the 1988 South Yosemite League title with 13-1 records.

2. That Foothill team went on to win the state's Division II crown that season, and covering those state playoffs was an extraordinary experience.

3. Watching Bakersfield High's football team go on a 39-game win streak (1988-90), and winning three Central Section Division I titles in the process. Adding to the fun, but also serving as an anti-climax, was accompanying the team to Hawaii the following fall, where powerful Honolulu-St. Louis ended the Drillers' win streak with a convincing victory. That was such a cool "road trip" for a reporter, though!

The great coaches and athletes I covered are too numerous to mention. All quality "Kern County" people. I became an editor in 1993, the same year my brother Gino took over the Garces Memorial High basketball program, and enjoyed watching his teams immensely, most notably when the Rams reached the state semifinals in about 2001.

All the sports were enjoyable. The jobs were enjoyable. Often stressful, but enjoyable!

A couple of things I'm particularly proud of were going from 1993 to 2012 without using a single sick day; and when times got tough at the paper, once working 27 consecutive days due to limited manpower.

The Californian is celebrating a birthday, 150 years, that few other entities on Earth are able to celebrate. There is a reason for that: a lot of very skilled and hardworking people have been behind the scenes, as well as the dedicated family ownership headed by Virginia Moorhouse.

I was fortunate to be part of this very special Kern County entity and I feel honored to have helped to chronicle so many wonderful things. The jobs I had enabled me to raise a family and be a productive member of the community. For that, I am ever so thankful. I wish TBC nothing but the best.

— Tony Lacava is a former Californian sportswriter and sports editor.


Photography over the years: I began my career at The Californian in 1979 and have covered many stories over the years. I have been fortunate to document events such as the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, the 1987 Super Bowl in Pasadena, the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, the Malibu Wildfires of 1993 (one of my photos of the fire made the cover of Life magazine), the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994, and several Indy 500s.

Throughout those years, I've seen many transformations in the newspaper industry and these changes were quite prominent in regards to photography. When I started out, all of the photographers at The Californian only shot 35 mm black-and-white film. We used manual Nikon cameras with fixed focal-length lenses (we didn't use zooms). There was no such thing as auto-focus back then. Every photograph was the result of hand-eye coordination.

The photo department was located on the fourth floor of The Californian’s downtown offices. In addition to our studio and office, the fourth floor was where we had our black-and-white darkrooms for processing film and printing photographs.

The darkroom at The Californian was the same as any other, with safelights, enlargers, trays of chemicals and plenty of photographic paper.

Covering local high school sporting events — especially football — brings out the contrast between the old days of film and our current digital workflow. In the age of film, I’d shoot three rolls of 36-exposure, Tri-X film, staying for just one half of a football game. Because of the tight deadlines, I kept it at three rolls, for once back at the lab, I usually only had about an hour to develop and edit the film, then print the photographs.

To get photos in the dimly lit stadiums of Kern County, I had to “push” my Tri-X film from its standard 400 ASA to 1600 ASA (now called ISO). "Pushing film” is underexposing the film so you can use use a faster shutter speed to freeze action, then overdeveloping the film to compensate for the underexposure.

We used Acufine developer for the push-processing and used D-76 developer for standard processing. After editing the negatives on a light table (we didn’t use proof sheets), I would then print three to four black-and-white prints of the best shots from the game. I usually printed each image at least three or four times before I was satisfied with the one I would eventually turn in for publication.

I would use two enlargers to print. That way I could print double the number of photographs in the limited time I was given before my deadline. I would then turn in four 8-by-10 black-and-white photographs from the 96 frames I shot that night for publication in the following morning’s Californian.

— Felix Adamo has been a Californian photographer since 1979.


Finding work — and love — at TBC: A last-minute decision to attend a newspaper industry job fair in San Francisco would forever change my career and my life.

It was 1989. Summer was fast-approaching and I needed to find an internship — soon. But — believe it or not — print journalism was in its heyday and competition for jobs, even internships, was tough.

My final interview appointment of the day was with an editor from a midsized daily newspaper, The Bakersfield Californian. With nothing to lose, I simply asked for a chance — and got it.

Turns out the internship was not only the start of my newspaper career, it was also the beginning of my future family. That same fateful summer, I would meet my husband-to-be — Californian photojournalist Felix Adamo.

We were married in 1992. The following year, I came on board as a part-time copy editor at The Californian, when our oldest son was just a newborn. As I would start my night shift on the copy desk, I brought the baby into the newsroom, handing him off like a baton to Felix as he ended his day.

Later, I became a full-time reporter — first in features, then for the Local section. I also spent a year as an assistant city editor.

But the best of my Californian moments were spent when Felix and I teamed up on projects. Some favorite Adamo husband-wife bylines included: a three-day series on the history of Filipinos in Kern County; a travel story on the Hard Rock Cafe in Las Vegas; and the opening of the Getty Museum.

After the birth of our second son, I knew the hectic pace of newspaper life would be a bit too much. So I became a contractor for the next 12 years, freelancing for all sections of the newspaper as well as its subsidiary publications, such as Family Matters, MÁS Magazine and Bakersfield Life.

Today, I am fortunate enough to still write and edit for a living, but in a different capacity — in the world of public relations and marketing at San Joaquin Community Hospital. Once in a while, I take on a Californian freelance assignment.

Felix remains The Californian’s chief photographer and those “babies” are both in college, setting their own futures and finding their own paths. I can only hope fate will be as kind to them as it was to this former Californian intern.

— Teresa Adamo is a former Californian reporter and editor.


Learning a Californian — and hometown — tradition: I'd only been in town briefly when I started hearing that it was time to get treats for the newsroom from Dewar's. On the second or third mention I said to myself, "These people order Scotch up here?"

I'm probably not the first outsider to confuse Dewar's famous milkshakes with something else, but I came to look forward to the shakes — an occasional newsroom tradition — as much as anyone else.

I only spent 3-1/2 years as editor of The Californian but I loved every minute and was sorry to go. Bakersfield is a great news town and I was proud to work with a hardy band of true professionals. I met some truly wonderful people in town, too. I even enjoyed going to my wife's reunion at East Bakersfield High.

Congrats to all who have made The Californian a superior local news organization for 150 years.

— John Arthur was The Californian's editor from 2010 to 2014.


A good place to work: The Californian’s 150th anniversary made me think. I’ve been here 30 years. I’ve seen the walls move, the carpet change and friends come and go, but like Bakersfield, there is something about the paper that remains stubbornly the same.

Maybe it’s the grit. If this were sandpaper, the paper would be somewhere between a fine and a medium.

This has been a good place to work. Some think the people who work here are like zombies, eyes sunk far back in their skulls, walking shiftlessly with their hands in front of them.

They’re not that bad, although they’ve startled me a couple of times (Kathy — that could be you). Mostly they’ve been great. Interested, smart and passionate about what they do even though a job with a newspaper is not exactly like working for Google in terms of getting rich quick.

Most reporters do this because they believe in the mission statement: Trying to be the best source of local news or something like that. That’s impressive.

That’s also not me. I’ve never hurdled a police barricade in my life to get the story. If I came to one, I’d apologize, turn around and go the other way.

I like it for different reasons. It’s always killed me, “killed me” in a Holden Caulfield kind of way that readers see The Californian as a community trust, something in which they have a piece. There is a sense of pride and sometimes loathing, when readers think the paper has lost its way or missed the mark.

I like it when people get mad, write letters and even dress me down in the lobby of the Fox because the sparks show that the paper is a part of their lives, albeit sometimes an annoying part.

The paper is this giant collaborative effort. It’s like a team penning event where everybody has an interest in branding, castrating and jettisoning our charges.

Telling stories for a living is about as good as it gets. No campfire can be without stories, no childhood or life, either. It’s a way of making sense of the world.

I’ve been around some good storytellers. Bunches of them. Some here, some not. Reporters who have you at “hello,” and don’t let you go until they type the final period.

Bob Jones, Larry Press, Joe Stevenson, Steve Swenson, Jack Smith, Herb Caen, Al Martinez and Pete Dexter. The camaraderie can be good and that’s important because writing can sometimes drive you to the gates of the funny farm.

Better than the professional storytellers are the people you meet while trolling these waters. They haven’t assumed the guile that sometimes trip professional writers. They just let it rip.

Readers are the final part of the penning team. People who still believe in the paper, get the paper, read the paper, get mad at the paper and sometimes take joy in the paper. People who call when their mother or grandmother is turning 100 because the paper is where they’ve always gone to record important moments in their lives.

I’ve gotten to know the town differently working here. Most of you are wonderful but a few of you need help. Don’t change. I like crazy.

This has been fun. The Californian remains a gritty little paper. Smooth, rough, and like Bakersfield, tons of character in between the sheets.

— Herb Benham is The Californian's family columnist.

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