Lucy Jensen
Lucy Jensen

The day I started work at the newspaper was Halloween 1991. I remember that day so well, because the whole building was decorated in pumpkins and ghouls and all the staff were dressed up in elaborate outfits. Candy was on every desk — it was such a fun, first day.

The lovely Sarah was at reception — the sweetest lady, so kind and nice to everyone. I remember thinking that all receptionists should be trained in the Sarah style of being. I can still hear her smiley voice saying, “Thank you for calling the Salinas Californian, this is Sarah speaking. How may I direct your call?”

Touring the various departments from the lobby to the classified advertising department to circulation, down into the basement to the press, back up again to the business office (“Business office, Cathy speaking,” whatever happened to her?), the Publisher and CFO domain and then upstairs to the newsroom, retail advertising, dispatch, paste up and the dark room, I can still smell the ink and feel the passion, the urgency, the responsibility of putting out that day’s news in that labyrinth of important industry.

I began my newsie career in the classified department. Classifieds in those days were a meaty moneymaker and an extremely busy workplace. From the daily pet line ads to automotive to “Who Can Do It” and real estate, it was a busy and important job. We had clunky machines to input the ads in those days and, being right there in the lobby, we had walk-ins coming to place ads as well as by phone. I loved it.

You also got to see the comings and goings of the building — the complainers of the day headed up to the newsroom, the funeral homes placing the obits that were free in those days and handled by the newsroom “security guard,” Rachel, folks coming by in person to place legal ads that the legal secretary would type like a whizz into the system so that they could be printed out and pasted up upstairs. The memories of all that are so sharp.

Then I moved up to retail advertising and the world of “outside sales” that seemed really frightening at the start, but then I came to realize that we were really just visiting with friends out in the community who needed our services, and we were there to help them improve their business. We weren’t selling them anything they didn’t need. I was proud of our paper and met some great people in my north Salinas territory and had fun designing successful ad campaigns for them.

I would come back from my daily route and pull out the old clip art books to find things to cut and paste on the ads, so much fun. We would create our ad designs and put them into large folders, which the dispatch department would process and send to the back for the layout crew to do their magic. All ads had to have a multiform insertion order and proof of billing or prepay. I remember the accounting department was pretty aggressive about this; but they had a big job, tasked with the money coming into the building and about 150 people to pay. The paper planner was also a tiger about deadlines, because her job was to place the ads, and everything had a drop-dead deadline. (God bless Savitri!)

Sometimes a famous person would come to town — I remember the excitement when Bill Clinton was here — or something momentous would happen in national news and we would put out an “Extra Extra” afternoon edition (remember OJ?). We felt pretty important to the local people in those days in the prompt delivery of their updated news.

In those days, there were no mobile phones of course, and we had to always carry quarters with us to call in for our messages from phone boxes in our territories to the advertising secretary (via the lovely Sarah in the lobby). Most of our clients were local businesses looking for a cost-effective way to promote their business and we were pretty much the only ad game in town, until we weren’t. (Newspapers got caught napping with the arrival of direct mail! It wasn’t even the Yellow Pages that we were always slamming as our competition!)

I remember when they handed us pagers, so they could beep us when we had messages to call in for. That was annoying, especially as the decline of the reliability of the outdoor phones started at about that time.

(Editor’s Note: Look for Part II of Lucy’s column next week.)

Previous articleSalinas Valley News Briefs | Feb. 16, 2024
Next articleGirls’ Soccer | Soledad Aztecs claim Mission title
Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here