Small town has large impact
by Ron Swift | Patterson Irrigator
May 09, 2013 | 1118 views | 0 0 comments | 164 164 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ron Swift
Ron Swift
In recent weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to read many issues of the Patterson Irrigator from the World War II era.

And what a story they told of this community’s involvement in the war effort — from small bombs falling on the downtown district to highly successful Red Cross drives to the sacrifice of more than 30 lives and the direct military involvement of more than 600 of our finest from Patterson Township.

It was in late 1945, after the war had ended, that Irrigator Publisher R.C. Fleharty singled out one particular group in his weekly column, The Spillway. That was the Patterson High Class of 1938.

Fleharty noted that 26 of the 28 males in the class enlisted in the armed forces. With the tragic death of Major Louie Martin in a plane crash after the war’s end, the figures from the Class of ’38 rose to four dead and one missing in action (later confirmed dead). That’s a casualty rate of nearly 20 percent — just from one class.

But get this: Two others were prisoners of war, and 14 of the 26 were commissioned officers.

As Fleharty, whose two sons also served, wrote in his column, “Here is a showing of service hard to beat for any similar-sized group of boys.”

He went on to note that the national casualty rate for the war was about 2 percent. Patterson’s figure was about 5 percent — two and a half times the national average.

From the mail bag

Ron: Last week you wrote about retiring 10 years ago after 40 years at the helm of the Irrigator. What happenings that you wrote about do you remember most? — Lifetime Patterson resident

Dear LT: You challenge my memory, but I’ll make an attempt. These aren’t in the order of most memorable, but instead are listed somewhat chronologically.

The first are personal: writing my own wedding story in 1962 and then the birth notices of our kids in 1964 and 1968. I dare not omit these, along with the obituaries of my parents in the 1990s.

The downtown South Third Street fire in the spring of 1964 —soon to have its 50th anniversary — was certainly a newsy day, as was the devastating fire in 1996 that destroyed the Del Puerto Hotel.

The levee break in the river bottom that forced ranchers to flee in the spring of 1969, followed by the floods in town in 1983 and twice in the late 1990s, were traumatic.

Being on the founding committee of the Apricot Fiesta in 1971 is memorable, as was reporting about the volunteer construction of the Patterson Community Stadium the same summer.

I can’t ignore Patterson’s change to the city manager form of government in 1973.

Then came a pair of tragic incidents: Fifteen-year-old Mary Vincent getting an arm chopped off by an attacker in Del Puerto Canyon in 1978 and, the next year, police officer Richard Bull getting shot six times in an ambush one night behind City Hall. Fortunately, both survived.

Early in 1986, 14-year-old Donna Ashlock received a heart transplant, the donor being Felipe Garza Jr. Both were Pattersonites, and it was the only time in medical history a heart recipient has known the donor. Ken Carlson, then an Irrigator staffer, broke the story that Donna desperately needed a transplant, and the surgery itself led to international news coverage.

And of course, who living on the West Side could forget the Westley tire fire in September 1993?

I’ll not list human tragedies that made the pages of the Irrigator — only to say that we on the news team felt them deeply, along with the rest of the community.


Loyal readers have long recognized my aversion to modern technology.

Way back when I joined the Boy Scouts (waaaaay back), I received a compass and quickly learned how to use it. I still have the trusty 65-year-old device, and it remains in perfect working condition. I might add that I seldom get lost using it.

Now comes along GPS. Arrrrrgh!

Even the Boy Scouts have gotten modern. BSA has added a geocaching merit badge to its list of more than 125 badges, and one member of my troop has already earned the dang thing.

Spare me. Such inventions are not only annoying, but embarrassing.

Have you noticed?

Way out in the very southwest corner of Patterson — south of Sperry Avenue and just off South Baldwin Road — is a housing construction project in full swing. More than 30 new homes either are being built or are finished, with several sold and others already occupied.

Could well be a sign of an improving economy.

Class, come to order

This week’s lesson for those readers who are using Fast Talk as an educational tool is on the subject of physiology.

The premise is this: Senior citizens are the nation’s leading carrier of Aids.

The reasoning: We use hearing aids, band aids, Rolaids, walking aids, medical aids and government aids. And, most of all, we provide monetary aid to our kids.

And don’t forget our HIV status — Hair Is Vanishing.

For the sports fan

A youth soccer official dies from a punch by a 17-year-old in a match in Utah.

Despicable. Has our violent society now reached down into youth sports?

>b>And finally…

I was always taught to respect my elders, who are lately becoming harder and harder to find.

By the way, those of us who originated in Iowa are known for our quirky sense of humor. Take this, for example:

A Scandinavian up in Minnesota is known for inventing the toilet seat. But it was an Iowan 20 years later who invented the hole in it.

Now, I think that’s funny.

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