Small community left in mourning
Dec 19, 2012 | 1111 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Fast Talk

Ron Swift

Newtown, Conn.

A new name sickeningly thrust into our memory banks.

Newtown — a community 60 miles north of New York City, one that is home to more than 27,000 residents. A site originally called Quanneapague that was purchased in 1705 from the Pohtatuck Indians. Not taken — purchased.

A community that manufactures fire hoses, tea bags, furniture, buttons and hats. One that is proud to claim that the game of Scrabble was developed there.

Newtown must pride itself on being a small community. One of its listed attractions is a tall, 110-foot flagpole that flies a huge Old Glory in the summer months and a smaller flag during the winter. A public ceremony is held twice a year when the flags are changed, and a former police lieutenant has the honor of being called “Keeper of the Flag.”

Another Newtown site is a park named Ram’s Pasture. You don’t get much more small-town than that.

Newtown boasts of its historical roots. The French army camped there during the Revolutionary War. It has had its own weekly newspaper since 1877, and that business has been owned by the Smith family since 1881.

Bruce Jenner, the decathlon winner in the 1976 Olympic Games, attended Newtown High School. Joseph F. Engelberger, considered to be the “father of robotics,” is a Newtown resident.

Newtown — a small community in shock and deep mourning this holiday season.

Nothin’ but the facts

With Patterson’s new Walmart store slated to open late in January, let’s review some facts and figures.

Its size, 158,000 square feet, will make it the largest Walmart in Stanislaus County — by far. Even the chain’s superstore in Modesto is 60,000 square feet smaller.

And just how big is that? Well, you could place more than three football fields (not counting the end zones) under one roof.

More than 2,600 applicants vied for more than 300 local jobs, and the hiring is about complete. Some workers started training nearly three weeks ago in Modesto, and a few have already logged some overtime hours.

By the way, it’s said that Panda Express will open on the Ward-Sperry Avenue corner in front of Walmart. But maybe you already knew that.

Make room for two more

Our 90-plus list just increased by one more. No, make that two.

Wayne Brooks of rural Patterson recently turned 90, along with his twin sister, Emmy Lou Schroeder, who lives in Mesa Verde and is a former Patterson resident. The two celebrated with a family Thanksgiving dinner at Marriot’s Shadow Lodge in Palm Desert, with Wayne’s five boys and 16 grandchildren in attendance, along with Emmy Lou’s daughter, two sons, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren from four states. The party’s head count was 49, with 33 of them blood relatives.

The twins grew up in the Santa Ana area. Emmy Lou married Ken Schroeder, and in 1956 they moved their family to Patterson and grew apricots. Wayne served in the Army Air Forces from 1942 to 1946, then married Beverly Moerman 59 years ago. They moved to Patterson in 1962, where he grew apricots, retired early and served full time for 28 years as a volunteer fireman, many years as first assistant chief.

Here’s an interesting tidbit: One of Emmy Lou’s bridesmaids was Shirley Moerman, Beverly’s twin sister. And two other sets of twins attended the birthday party, Wayne’s 3-year-old grandchildren, Michael and Megan Brooks of Patterson, and Emmy Lou’s 14-year-old great-grandchildren.

For the brainy

Fast Talk’s educational offerings will conclude for the holiday break, giving our students out there time to rest their brains for final exams in January.

The following philosophical offering is meant to improve one’s understanding of life.

n It’s hard to make a comeback if you haven’t been anywhere.

n Some days you’re the dog; some days you’re the hydrant.

n It’s not hard to meet expenses. They’re everywhere.

And this question: If all is not lost, then where is it?

From the mail bag

Mr. Swift: You’ve been around the small-town newspaper business for a while. What are the major changes you’ve experienced? — Askin’

Dear A.: The changes fall into two categories. The first is the newspaper’s production.

Here at the Irrigator, we started with a Linotype (hot metal) in 1962, then went to Justo-writers and a Morasawa (printer’s talk), then to photographic typesetting and finally to computers.

I experienced it all in the past 60 years (I started in Iowa when I was 2).

But what readers see is the news content. Every birth, death, fire call, stolen bicycle, drunken driver, building permit, broken arm and grade school sports score made it into ink until recent decades, and almost all of the weddings, engagements and golden wedding anniversaries (sometimes silver, too) filled the pages. A vast amount of local history was recorded every week in most small towns across the country.

It’s fun to read the pages of the 1912 Irrigator. Trips to and from Crows Landing made the front page back 100 years ago. (Just why you went to Crows Landing was your own business, but probably everyone knew.)

Let me not forget the arrests for making moonshine down near the river. Those interesting tidbits made the news, too. After all, Patterson was supposed to be a dry community its first 20-plus years. Apparently, it wasn’t quite dry.

For the sports fan

Here they go again. The college basketball season is well under way, and yet some of the top-rated teams around the country are still playing patsies.

How else would you explain the No. 7-ranked Ohio State men dumping Savannah State 85-45 last week, while No. 3 Michigan trounced Binghamton 67-39 after leading 38-12 at halftime?

And finally…

Remember to support your favorite Chinese sweatshop this holiday season as you sing praises to God.

n Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at

Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet

We encourage your online comments in this public forum, but please keep them respectful and constructive. This is not a forum for personal attacks, libelous statements, profanity or racist slurs. Readers may report such inappropriate comments by e-mailing the editor at