118th Summer Convention, Friday, June 27, 1997, Radisson Airport, Amarillo
Over the last 50 years, owners and editors have come and gone at the Pleasanton Express. Computers have replaced typewriters and hot-lead composition has given way to cold type and offset printing.
And one outstanding staffer has been there for it all: Sammie Franklin.
Franklin, 70, joined the Express in 1947, five years after contracting polio and losing full use of her legs and leaving her with limited use of her hands. Though she uses a wheelchair, she has refused to acknowledge barriers in pursuit of a story - or in life.
Her first job was as Poteet correspondent. "At that time, the paper was so rural you wouldn't believe it," Franklin recalled. "Nothing was too small - new babies, weddings, and of course, obituaries, where the Joneses went for vacation and who spoke at the Rotary Club."
Through the years, she has become especially well known and appreciated for her detailed wedding stories. "When you read her wedding story, you know you're married," said Bill Wilkerson, publisher of the Express since 1975.
"A small newspaper does a lot more than a big city newspaper for a couple getting married," Franklin explained. "People involved are your friends and neighbors, and they want something more than just their names in the paper.
"I often think they'll stay together and on their 50th anniversary they'll read this and their grandchildren will read it."
Franklin combs South Texas for stories of rural life and times, and though she moved to Midland in March 1996, she continues to write stories for the Express.
Express editor Jerry Black said he can't remember the last time anything but a computer problem kept Franklin from making a deadline.
Franklin said she will keep writing "as long as I can type, I guess" which means using two pencils with new erasers "for good traction" to tap out her stories on her computer keyboard.
"I have no plans to retire. What else would I do?" she asked.
"I'm like an old fire horse. When the fire bell rings, they go beserk. And I cannot let a telephone go unanswered. It might be the next big story."
Antonio Herrera Mendoza began working at The Hondo Anvil Herald on Sept. 16, 1946, about four months after Jerry and Bill Berger purchased the publication. Except for his military service in Europe during the Korean War (while his younger brother Alex was serving in Korea), his entire career has been with The Anvil Herald.
Everyone knows him as Tony, and he has attended many press conventions, especially South Texas Press Association meetings.
Tony has two sons, Ted Anthony Mendoza, who is the father of his grandson Jacob Anthony, 3, and Michael A. Mendoza, who fathered his granddaughters, Mercedes, 9, and Olivia, six months old.
Tony's first job was cleaning and sorting leads and slugs, and throwing in hand set type. All headlines and most of the ads were composed with handset type when he started. He also remelted the metal and cast the Linotype pigs. He soon graduated to running the Linotype, feeding presses and helping with all facets of the old hot metal newspaper operation.
He learned every phase of job printing, and ran platen presses ranging from 9 x 12 size up to the Miehie Vertical. When new technology came along, he learned maintenance of the Compugraphics. He also took and developed pictures sold advertising.
Early one morning, at 4:35 to be exact, he learned about Linotype squirts the hard way. Molten metal went all the way to the ceiling, and some of it landed on his head, leaving him with a small bald spot, which remains to this day an unwanted souvenir.
Tony has taught the printing trade to many apprentices, everything from the Linotype to bookbinding. He now operates a small offset press along with some of the old presses, and even pitched in during the difficult days of starting up the web offset plant located in Hondo and jointly owned by the Pleasanton Express and the Uvalde Leader-News. The plant now produces up to 17 publications.
Tony can explain type lice, and the bones once used for hand folding the newspapers. He has also found time to serve for several years in the Air Force Reserves with the 433rd wing at Kelly Field. He has been commander of his American Legion post, and is a long-time member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Hondo.
His current duties include supervision of the printing department and circulation department of The Anvil Herald.
He recalls helping Jerry Berger run the old newspaper folding machine, which required two feeders whenever there were more than eight pages in the section.
Tony's newspaper experience runs from the old hot metal days to today's pasted up pages - and he says the new way is a lot easier on his back. All those night sessions making up pages and feeding the press are a thing of the past, but late hours are still part of his routine because of his circulation duties every Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
Although Wendell Tooley received more than 50 press association awards while editor and publisher of The Floyd County Hesperian and The Tulia Herald, his greatest contribution to journalism and newspapers was probably the establishment of three offset printing plants.
Blanco Offset at Floydada, Brazos Offset at Slaton and Palo Duro Offset at Canyon, print over 55 newspapers and publications per week.
Tooley was also a stockholder in the second offset printing plant in the Panhandle of Texas, Southwest Offset in Hereford. His partners were Jimmy Gillentine, Sam Williams, Bill Turner and Troy Martin.
Tooley's greatest honor was his selection by his peers into the Panhandle Press Association's Hall of Fame in Amarillo.
He owned all or part of several weekly newspapers at Littlefield, Floydada, Lockney, Crosbyton, Olton, Slaton, Tahoka and Canyon.
He wrote a weekly column "Caprock Chat" every week at The Hesperian and "Country Editor" at the Tulia Herald.
He usually wrote an editorial also. His most controversial and successful editorial campaigns caused the school board in Floydada to fully integrate the school system and helped to prevent the Department of Energy from digging a nuclear waste repository in Swisher County.
Upon graduation from Kress High School in 1944, Tooley's newspaper career began with a job at The Plainview Daily Herald sweeping the floor and delivering office supplies.
He then attended McMurry University for a year before being drafted into the U.S. Army where he served in the 38th Regimental ski and mountain troops.
When released from service he completed his bachelor of science in journalism at McMurry in 1949. He worked nightside at the Abilene Reporter News while at McMurry.
After McMurry, he and his wife, Mary Tom, spent a year in Missouri where he received his master's degree in advertising from the University of Missouri. He worked part time for Brown's Advertising Agency while in Missouri.
In 1950 he was back at The Plainview Daily Herald in the display advertising department.
In 1955 and 1956 he was professor of advertising art Whitworth College in Spokane, Wash.
He returned to the Daily Herald as advertising manager.
In 1958 the Tooleys moved to Littlefield when newspaper publisher Sam Williams offered him a chance to buy stock in the Littlefield newspapers. He was a partner with Bill Turner and Williams until 1963, when he sold his stock to Dick Reavis.
The Tooleys moved to Floydada when they purchased The Floyd County Hesperian from Syl McBeath, picking up McBeath's note to longtime Floydada publisher Homer Steen.
While at Floydada he and Speedy Nieman bought the Slaton Slatonite. Tooley also bought the Tahoka newspaper from Frank Hill and the Crosbyton newspaper from Hubert Curry. He later traded Crosbyton to Jim Reynolds and converted Floydada and Lockney into a twice-weekly.
In 1979 he sold The Hesperian to the Bluebonnet group and bought the Tulia Herald from H.M. Baggarly. He was editor-publisher of the Tulia Herald until 1992 when Reynolds became editor and co-publisher. Then Tooley taught a semester of journalism at West Texas A&M University in Canyon.
Reynolds published The Herald until Tooley sold it to Chris Russett in 1994.
Tooley remains president of the three printing plants and a partner in the Canyon News. He sold the Slatonite to Jim Davis in 1996.
He was president of the Panhandle Press Association; served on the Texas Press Association and West Texas Press Association boards. He has served on the United Methodist Reporter board in Dallas for over 20 years and the McMurry University board for over 20 years. He was on the Texas Tech Mass Communications School advisory board for six years.
In closing, Tooley pays tribute to his wife of 48 years, Mary Tom Kirk, a Methodist minister's daughter he found at McMurry. She has worked for the Tooley newspapers, taught school and is a fantastic homemaker.
Tooley adds, "I'm also extremely proud of our children." Brad is editor-publisher of the Canyon News; Keith, editor publisher of North Lake Travis Log; Karla and Chuck Hutchison, publishers of the Thrifty Nickel in Abilene; and Wendy and Kent Bridenstine, stockholders and manager of Palo Duro Offset in Canyon.
Wendell and Mary Tom sang in the Methodist choir 38 years, and he has held about every office in the church. He is a past president of Rotary, Kiwanis and chamber of commerce.
The couple has traveled to over 20 foreign countries, now seeing the U.S. in an RV. They have seen it all except two states. Mary Tom is an accomplished artist. Wendell plays tennis, golf, fishes and plays guitar. They sing gospel at church and RV camps.
Oh yes The Tooleys have seven grandchildren!