Golden 50 — 1994

1994 Recipients

115th Summer Convention, July 1, 1994, Worthington Hotel, Fort Worth

Walter L. "Bud" Buckner, Llano News
Weldon Hillis, Robstown Record
J.G. "Scoop" Richards, Aransas Pass Progress
Joe Vyvjala, Schulenburg Sticker  

Walter L "Bud" Buckner

Walter L. "Bud" Buckner grew up in the newspaper business in San Marcos where he and his family owned and operated the: San Marcos Record and the Daily Record for more than 60 years.

It was a family affair. Bud's grandfather TA. Buckner, who was a, printer's devil and news reporter on the Bandera paper before the turn of the century, purchased the Record in 1921. Bud's father, Walter, was editor of the San Marcos Record for many years while his Uncle Addison was backshop foreman. Cousins Tom, news editor, and Kay, who ran the news and printing presses, were also part of the team.

Bud got his start attending the 1932 TPA Summer Convention with his father and mother at the ripe old age of six months. He has been attending them ever since except for a four-year stint in the U.S. Navy.

He cast "pigs" for the old Linotypes in San Marcos and helped stuff the Record at eight years of age. He worked extensively in the job printing department after school and during summers.

Bud is a graduate of San Marcos High School, attended the University of Texas and has a journalism degree from Southwest Texas State University.

In 1956, Bud marred the former Sarah Jane Haby of Uvalde. They have three children: Gene is married and lives in Castroville; Melinda is also married and lives in Glastonbury, Connecticut; and Sally lives in Austin.

Bud, helped in the Record's advertising department during his college days and spent 44 months in the U.S. Navy. He stayed in the Naval Reserve upon his return to San Marcos from active duty and recently retired with the rank of Lieutenant, Commander.

In 1959, be took over as advertising director of the Record and assumed the same position when the newspaper went daily in 1973.

After selling the papers in 1975, Bud was hired as news editor and associate publisher of the Uvalde Leader-News in 1976. In 1983, Bud and Sarah purchased the Llano News from Hal and Hazel Cunningham and moved to Llano.

Bud has been active in all areas of small-town newspapers: advertising, news reporting, editorial writing and photography. He especially enjoys editorial writing and sports photography.

"I love to point out some of the 'shortcomings' of our county commissioners. I assume they are about the same 'caliber' statewide," he says.

Bud says he is one of the oldest sports photographers in time of service in Texas, having learned the finer points from Uncle Addison. He was using a twin-lens Rollerflex when he was 14. He still takes football, basketball, baseball and track photos of the Llano Yellow Jackets for the Llano News.

"I find it still very exciting taking pictures of sporting events. I never know exactly what I have until the film is developed. I've taken lots of terrible pictures and a few good ones," he said.

Bud has been active in community affairs in San Marcos, Uvalde and Llano. He served as a member and president of the San Marcos school board, director and officer of the three cities' chambers of commerce, South Texas Chamber of Commerce, San Marcos Kiwanis Club president, Llano Lions Club and the San Marcos Library Board.

He spent a year in Washington, D.C., on the staff of Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson, when Johnson was Senate Majority Leader.

Bud has been active in the Texas Press Association, having served as treasurer and director several times. He was TPA Midwinter program chairman in San Antonio when Jim Barnhill was president in 1967. He served on the selection committee to procure the present home of TPA. He has been involved in advertising seminars sponsored by TPA. He is also a long-time member of the South Texas Press Association and was president in 1977. His wife, Sarah, was president of STPA last year. His father, Walter, was president of TPA in 1939.

"I look forward to the meetings of my Texas Press Association," Bud said. "I enjoy visiting with old friends and meeting the new and younger members. I continue to learn something new every day about newspapering. It is a wonderful profession and 1 consider myself extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to serve."

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Weldon Hillis

Weldon Hillis was 20 years old and fresh out of the Texas School for the Deaf when he ended up in South Texas looking for his first job as a Linotype operator. He came to Robstown to visit his friend, Elbert Sikes. The two not only became lifelong friends while in Austin, they also were the top honor graduates of their class.

Weldon arrived in Robstown in September 1940 and went to the local newspaper, The Robstown Record, to seek a job as a Linotype operator.

The Record was owned by Sam L. Fore Jr. of Floresville, who served as president of the Texas Press Association in 1920. The editor, Roy Swift, decided to give the young man a try on "the machine." A short time later, the boss called Weldon in and explained that he was too slow on the Linotype and that he would have to take a cut in pay from 25 cents to 15 cents per hour. Weldon moved over to work around the presses.

The next year, Fore's daughter and son-in-law, Marion and Carroll Keach, moved to Robstown and took over management of the newspaper.

Weldon and his wife, Gerry, married in Robstown in 1941. For a few years after that, they lived in West Texas, where Weldon worked as a Linotype operator at newspapers in Littlefield and Levelland.

They returned to Robstown in September 1944, never to leave again. Weldon retired in October 1993, with 53 active years in the business.

Ten years after his return to Robstown, Weldon became foreman of the "back shop," as it was called. In those letterpress days, the shop alone had 14 men working to produce The Record and a large amount of "job printing."

Current editor and publisher, Sam Fore Keach, was only two days old the first time Weldon saw him. Young Sam began work at the newspaper when he was 12 years old. Weldon has worked with five generations of the Fore-Keach family. Sam Fore's great-grandson, Chris Krueger, 10, writes a weekly column for the newspaper.

Weldon, like others of his generation, has seen remarkable changes in the newspaper industry, including the switch from a flat-bed letterpress to rotary offset printing, and now, highly sophisticated desktop publishing.

In 1989, The Robstown Record was combined with The Westem Star, a suburban Corpus Christi newspaper owned by the Keach family, and was renamed The Nueces County Record Star.

Weldon lost his hearing at the age of nine due to diphtheria, but he never has been a "quiet" man by any stretch of the imagination. Not only was he an active supervisor of his fellow workers, he distinguished himself in the area of deaf awareness long before it was a popular cause.

He served eight years on the Texas Commission for the Deaf, including a term as chairman and has held numerous offices in the Coastal Bend Silent Club and the Texas Association of the Deaf. He was president of the Corpus Christi Area Council for the Deaf when its center was built in Corpus Christi.

Gerry and Weldon Hillis are the parents of a son, Weldon Hillis Jr., who lives in Corpus Christi; two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

"Weldon is like a father to me," Sam Keach says. "I grew up around him. We have become special friends. He taught me much of what I know about the printing business.

"He gave me a special feeling for those who have an inconvenience, not a handicap, because they cannot hear. He has never felt sorry for himself and he has not let it slow him down. He is a shining example to everyone."

Now that he is retired, Weldon enjoys fishing and visiting with friends, especially Elbert Sikes, who still lives in Robstown. Weldon Hillis is indeed a special person.

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J.G. "Scoop" Richards

It is remarkable that The Aransas Pass Progress, which was founded in 1909 strictly as a publicity organ to promote land sales in the area, has endured for 85 years. And it is equally remarkable that J.G. "Scoop" Richards has weathered 50, years in the newspaper business considering his unusual entry into the profession in 1944. None of his relatives before him had been newspaper people and when he purchased his first newspaper he had never even been inside a newspaper plant. But he admits that even while in high school he had an urge to write.

Richards grew up in the Hill, Country, graduated from high school in Medina, Texas in 1927, and was working for Humble-Oil and Refining Co. at Ingleside when he got his first taste of newspapering. While in high school he became well acquainted with J. Marvin Hunter Jr.-of Bandera, son of the weekly newspaper, publisher. They became good friends clue to scholastic events. Their, friendship was renewed when Hunter came to Ingleside and started working for the refinery where Richards was employed.

Hunter bought a home in Ingleside and in a short time moved in printing equipment, which he set up in his garage. It included a two-page newspaper press, an old Model L Linotype and a few trays of type. In a short time, more or less as a hobby, he founded the Ingleside Item, a four-page weekly. The Item was a welcome addition to Ingleside's small business community and it seemed to be doing well in 1944. Hunter heard of what he considered an attractive deal on the purchase of a good weekly in west central Texas. Hunter bought the larger weekly and since he was leaving Ingleside he urged Richards to buy The Item.

Although neither had any newspaper experience, Richards and his wife, Alice accepted Hunter's proposal and promptly found themselves in the newspaper business, although more or, less on a part-time basis.

World War II was under way and Richard full-time in the office at the Ingleside refinery but be found time off the job to gather and write news items for the four-page paper. Hunter gave Alice a crash course on the Linotype before leaving for his new location, so she set type and sold and set ads while riding herd on their, three young children, the eldest of whom was Dick. He was seven at the time.

Although The Item was only a four-page publication, the inexperienced new owners at first encountered many production problems, but each week meant added experience, and in a few months the operation was running well.

World War II ended and right on the heels of that good news came the shocking news that Humble was shutting down and abandoning its Ingleside refinery. Since the community's economy was so dependent on the refinery, Richards concluded that there was no future for the Item and decided to discontinue the newspaper. The equipment was sold to three returning servicemen who were setting up a plant in Victoria.

Thus in short order Richards found himself out of the newspaper business just as abruptly as he had entered it only a few months earlier.

With 13 years' service with, Humble, Richards was planning to transfer to Houston with the company when his work at Ingleside was completed. But influenced by the fact that he had three small children and a home in Ingleside he decided it best to remain in this area.

While publishing the Ingleside newspaper, Richards had become well acquainted with E.W. Terry and Wayne W. Welch, publishers of The Aransas Pass Progress, and not long after Richards terminated his employment with Humble, Terry offered to sell him his half interest in The Progress. A deal was promptly completed and on Oct. 1, 1946, Richards became a partner and half owner with Welch in the operation of The Progress. Welch was a veteran newspaperman especially, strong in advertising and Richards took over the news side. They shared many other production duties, but before finding a dependable Linotype operator they went through what seemed like half the drunk operators west of the Mississippi.

In due time the operator problem was solved, business was good, and The Progress enjoyed a long, period of steady growth under direction of the partnership. Welch died unexpectedly in 1959 leaving Richards to run the newspaper without the help of his good friend and capable partner.

The newspaper operation became a family affair when in 1963 Richards was joined in business by his son, Dick, who had just completed a tour of duty in the U.S. Navy.

Then in 1964 came the conversion to offset. To accomplish this, Richards teamed up with neighboring publishers James F. Tracy of Sinton and Caroll Keach of Robstown and set up a central printing plant at Sinton. It was incorporated as Roto-Lith Printing Company and was among the first offset newspaper printing plants in South Texas. Richards recalls that the switch to offset generated many problems at first and several press runs were well below usual quality before the new technique was mastered and things returned to normal.

The Richards purchased the Ingleside index from Carter Snooks in the early 1970s and in 1980 set up a corporation known as Richards Enterprises, which includes The Aransas Pass Progress and The Ingleside Index, Progress Office Supply, and Progress Printing Company.

Richards attended his first South Texas Press Association convention in 1947 and has been an active member of the association since that time. He was STPA president in 1964-65. He treasures his many friendships within the association and enjoys pointing out that at the time, he served as STPA president, the president of the Texas Press Association, the governor of Texas and the president of the United States were all from the STPA district.

If all goes well, Richards will receive the Golden 50 Award in recognition of 50 years service to journalism at the TPA Summer Convention in June. Making the occasion even more special for Richards is the fact that his son, Dick, will become president of TPA at the same convention.

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Joe Vyvjala

Slugs and chases, Linotypes and Klueges. No, they're not creatures from deep within the earth or from another planet.

For Joe Vyvjala, former publisher of The Schulenburg Sticker, they were part of a livelihood that started in 1942 and ended Aug. 13, 1993, when Vyvjala retired on his 65th birthday.

While a freshman at Flatonia High School in 1942, Vyvj ala began working for The Flatonia Argus and publisher T.F. Nycum, where he learned to operate a Linotype machine. 

"When I started, newspapering was a different world," Vyvjla says. "Back then, whole pages of metal lines of type were locked into a 'chase' to bold them together and the 50 pound newspaper-size forms had to be lifted into position on the press."

Vyvj ala said putting out an eight-page paper in the early 1940s was a labor-intensive operation vastly different from today's computer-produced variety.

After working at the Argus until he graduated from high school, Vyvjaia was offered a job at Nycum's newspaper in Irving. While working in Irving, he attended the University of North Texas (North Texas State at the time) in Denton. He graduated with a B.S. degree in business administration and a minor in journalism.

Beginning in 1952, Vyvjala spent two years in the U.S. Marine Corps, with an assignment to work in darkroom photography and the printing of maps. He spent seven months in Japan before returning home to Flatonia and going to work for the LaGrange Journal.

In 1956, he got job at the Sticker, where he spent the remaining 37 years of his newspaper career.

For several years beginning in 1967, Vyvjala and his wife, Maxine, leased the Sticker. In 1975, Joe and Maxine, along with Maxi J. Nickel bought the Sticker. But because of a previous lease agreement, Nickel and Vyvj ala did not assume the title of publishers until 1977.

In 1984, Vyvjala purchased all the assets of the Sticker and became its sole owner.

"During the- past half-century new technology has revolutionized the newspaper industry," Vyvj ala said. The appearance of today's Sticker would have been impossible 20 years ago, he said.

In 1988, the newspaper converted to Macintosh desktop publishing and in 1992, the last Linotype, occasionally used by Vyvjala for job printing composition, was disassembled.

Although he is "retired," Vyvjala devotes part of his time to his two favorite hobbies - tarocks (a card game) and carpentry. And his carpentry skills are being put to good use at Flatonia Argus where he started his career. In March, Joe's wife, Maxine, and their son-in-law, Paul Prause, purchased the Argus from Don and Beverly Clark.

In January, the Schulenburg Chamber of Commerce presented Vyvjala a handsome plaque in recognition of his many contributions to the business community.

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Publication of The Schulenburg Sticker remains very much a family endeavor: Joe is publisher emeritus; Joe's wife, Maxine, is business manager; daughter, Diane Prause, serves as editor; and son, Darrell, is a staff writer.

Joe Vyvj ala, a newspaperman's newspaperman, likes it that, way.