I guess it’s time I confessed. As an employer I was guilty of abusing some kids over the half century I operated the Champion. I thought I’d better get this off my chest before some present-day grandfather I used to hire came forward to spoil my record.
Two things brought this situation to a head. One was a newspaper article about young people having a tough time getting summer jobs. It seems that increases in the minimum wage are preventing employers from taking on teenagers during school vacation.
The second nudge came from a letter I received from a former highway patrolman. Seems that I put him to work when he was in high school, running some equipment I’d probably be taken to court for these days. Fortunately, we got rid of this stuff before anyone made an issue of me endangering these kids. Hopefully, the statute of limitations has run out.
Over my 60 years as owner we employed more kids than I can remember. One of them was that future CHP officer. His name is Ray Wagner, who wrote me a letter about my April 20 column “Opinion journalism” and added a trip down memory lane which I treasure highly. Ray, a 4-year print shop student at Chino High, worked for us in 1958 and 1959, soon after I acquired the Champion. At that stage of the game he probably knew as much as I did about the printing side of the paper, and we worked him handling equipment that would have the labor people on my tail these days.
After graduation he served two tours in the Marines on Okinawa. “Within spitting distance of Ie Shima where Ernie Pyle was killed,” he wrote in response to my mention of the famous World War II news correspondent. From the Marines he went to the Ontario police department, then the Highway Patrol. He retired as an insurance industry investigator with lots of courtroom experience.
Ray got me thinking about some of the other kids we hired, many of whom went on to important jobs. I remember Eddy Metz, practically a kid off the streets who learned all aspects of our shop. Later he went to work for the Ontario Daily Report and ended up as one of the production chiefs for the Donrey Media Group out of Fort Smith, Arkansas, which bought the Report and the Progress Bulletin. Eddy is now retired in Van Buren, Arkansas.
Other student workers from the same era included Don Underwood, a Chino High student who ended up in a fine job with a large printing company and “Pete” Ayala, who became a doctor practicing in Wisconsin. His brother Moises, who was born with a mental handicap, was our hard working and loyal janitor for over 30 years and outlived by a long time the predictions of his school psychologist as to his future chances.
That “dangerous” equipment we used to have the kids using, such as presses, typesetting machines and lead casting boxes, is no longer around, thank goodness, replaced by harmless desktop computers from which our newspaper is sent directly to the press with the push of a button.
While their work was not as hazardous, we’ve had a long string of student writers and production workers who have done quite well for themselves, including a Chino High Lariat editor named Brenda Alberson Dunkle, who is now managing editor of the Champion. The list includes Henry DeVries, co-valedictorian of the Chino High Class of 1975 and ASB president, who wrote the high school column and now is owner of his own marketing company in San Diego. Later came Kristy McCray, a Don Lugo student now an assistant professor of sport management at Otterbein University in Ohio. Kristy got two degrees at USC and was academic advisor for athletes at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Both she and Henry can be found online.
Two or three years ago I was introduced to San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford Lim. “I used to work for you,” she said. As a student at Ontario High she did the high school news column for the South Ontario News which we published back then. She was an activist in school and community even in those days. She has been a county supervisor since 2010, and before that served on the Fontana city council.
I remember my own start as a bike riding, bike-pushing (in the hills) newspaper boy for the Berkeley (CA) Gazette when I was 12, as a 16-year-old pear picker in the Sacramento Valley during World War II, a YMCA camp leader during the same era, when high schoolers filled in for older men off to war. My first newspaper employer took me in when I was 17. I hope he knows it turned out to be long-term deal.
It’s important that youngsters are not shut out from jobs that teach them responsibility and how to earn and keep track of money.