Mid Valley Publications staff members and supporters celebrate 50 years of publishing community newspapers during a party Saturday in Winton.
The Story Of The ‘Times’ BY JOHN M. DERBY It all started on the kitchen table, with a Noiseless Remington portable typewriter that was given to me by my dad. It was the fall of 1964, after I had completed a five-part series on the “Last of the Braceros” for the daily newspaper in town. I was mad because the editor had taken so long to publish the complete five-part series, and I didn’t like working right under the thumb of the city editor. I wanted to start something new: a newspaper which would be positive. The little town of Winton had no newspaper, and it was there that we started the Times. First it was the Winton Times, a 2,000 copy weekly. My family moved into a twobedroom trailer parked in back of a small office on Winton Way. A string went from the front door to a bell in the trailer, so when a customer came to the door, we could answer it. It was a good newspaper, but I had no idea of the business of running a newspaper, and after eight months, I was fighting for my life. Close to starvation, I had long since gone through the $500 which my brother had loaned me. I opened up a photo studio to help makes ends meet, but I had never studied portrait photography, and I didn’t know how to make babies laugh. I had decided to close the doors in May of 1965, when a gentleman from Delhi came and asked about the paper. He said the folks up in Delhi had seen it and wanted one for Delhi. I told him we were out of business, and he was too late. We were quitting next week. He said he was the president of the chamber of commerce and
Publisher John and Kathy Derby in front of the Mid Valley Publications printing press in Wintion.
A feature story on the front page of a 1964 Merced Sun Star, at top left, would be one of Derby’s last for the daily. He decided he wanted to start his own newspaper. owned the supermarket in town. “Would you consider publishing a paper in Delhi if I agreed to run a full page ad?” he asked I asked him if he would sign a contract for a year. And it was that contract that kept the company going. Rolland Beard owned the pharmacy in Delhi, and when I first asked him about advertising
The company’s first typewriter, a gift from John Derby’s father. The ‘Noiseless Remington’ portable typewriter sounded like a machine gun, Derby said, when he was well into a hot story.
in the new Delhi Express, he said he would not, and it would go broke in the first year. But he ended up advertising a quarter page ad in the paper form the first issue until he retired 40 years later. When he sold the store, he told the new owners that the one thing they needed to do was continue to run their ad in the local newspaper.
Beard, by the way, was the Master of Ceremonies for our 50th Anniversary Celebration this year on Oct. 18. After that first year, we moved into a new office space that was once a Mennonite church on Gerard Avenue. The property would later be purchased and we made room for our very own offset press — modern technology
at the time. Meanwhile, Atwater merchants saw the little paper from Winton, and wanted me to publish an Atwater Times. They said they would advertise in it if I published it. In those early days, grocery markets were the big advertisers in newspapers, and we had three or four of them running in our papers. Now we were printing three different newspapers a week with about 13,000 circulation. There was another newspaper in Atwater which was faltering, and the owners asked if I was interested in buying. I didn’t have the $70,000 they wanted, and besides we were about to run them out of business. That was when the Merced Sun-Star purchased the Atwater Signal, and lowered the advertising rates. Nevertheless, I had been asked by 22 Merced merchants to start a newspaper in Merced, but I was thinking it would tax our resources, and I had hesitated. But after the Sun-Star-Signal deal, I agreed to publish a new newspaper called the Merced Guide. And we hand delivered it to about 10,000 lawns in town. Then one day, two officers from the Merced Police Department came to the office and said that if we didn’t stop throwing our papers on the lawns of Merced homes, they would have to arrest me — the publisher. According to the warrant, the company was violating the antiliter ordinance in Merced. That very next week, we asked to be placed on the Merced City Council agenda. That was when the Council met upstairs in the old firehouse building. See Times, Page 2