“Extra, Extra. Read All About It!”
By Bob Kaster
When I was about ten, I lucked into the best job in the world. My family lived in a small agricultural town on Highway 101 in the central part of California. The name of the town was King City. King City had a weekly newspaper that came out every Thursday afternoon. The King City Rustler-Herald.
Every Thursday afternoon I would go from school to the newspaper office. This was well before the idea of computers had even been thought about. The Rustler-Herald had an old-fashioned printing press where typesetters would arrange every letter into words, then every word into paragraphs, until a newspaper page was complete. Then ink would be rolled across it, and the printing press would stamp each page with the content, and the pages would come out at the end, one at a time.
The first part of my job was to collect pages when they came off of the line and assemble and fold them into fifty newspapers. It would have been boring except for the smell. There is no finer smell than the smell of an old fashioned printing press in action.
By the time I got through with the first fifty newspapers, I smelled like the printing press, but my hands and shirt were black from the ink. No problem.
This was before the interstate freeways were built, so Highway 101 went right through the center of town. It was called Broadway Street, about ten blocks long. There were shops, restaurants, auto parts stores, and the Reel Joy movie theater. I would walk the south side of the street with my first fifty newspapers. Then go back to the newspaper office, do fifty more, and walk the north side of the street. I usually sold one hundred papers. I sold them for ten cents each, and got to keep five cents for each one. Five cents times one hundred equals five dollars. Five dollars doesn’t sound like much today, but this was 1952. Five 1952 dollars today would probably have the spending power of almost fifty dollars. Not too bad of an afternoon for a ten year old kid.
The east end of Broadway Street was a little rough. There were a couple of bars that my parents had told me to stay away from. But a job is a job. And I usually sold quite a few papers in those places.
One time, when I was twelve, a very bad thing happened. A bunch of high school age kids got into a fight. Mexican kids versus white kids. People called it a “gang fight.” Fortunately nobody got killed, but there were some severe injuries, from knives and motor cycle chains, no guns. The town’s small hospital was inundated with people injured in the fight at the same time that my mother was in the hospital giving birth to my sister Mary.
The incident was a big enough event that the Rustler-Herald decided to print a special edition, and it wasn’t even a Thursday. They called me in to sell papers. They told me to yell it out, like in the movies, “Extra, Extra. Read All About It!!” Not my style, but I did it. I sold papers in King City, and also in the neighboring town of Greenfield, about twelve miles away, because some of the kids that had been involved in the fight were from Greenfield.
I made money off of others’ misfortune. I still think about that sometimes, even though it was almost sixty five years ago.
I sent this story down to the King City Rustler. It was published in the June 20, 2018 edition, as Guest Commentary.