Small town opinions, letters to the editor
by Ron Swift | Patterson Irrigator
Dec 05, 2013 | 1092 views | 0 0 comments | 172 172 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Ron Swift
Ron Swift
Over the past 50 years – no, make that 51 – I’ve had the pleasure, the bewilderment, and, a few times, the experience of hair rising on the back of my neck when reading letters of the editor of this newspaper.

And let’s face it: Letters are probably the most well-read portion of the paper.

But I’ll say this: 99-times-out-of-a-100 they are written by those who have the fortitude – the guts, actually – to put their thoughts on paper for all to read and judge. And that’s what makes small-town journalism so special. We often are acquainted with the authors.

Letter writers have friends and neighbors, just as we all do. And speaking their piece publicly does, on many an occasion, require some fortitude. And it’s even been known to lose a friend or two, depending on the subject of the letter.

But, you ask, what about that one-in-a-hundred? Well, that small number is the category in which we put those few whose printed word the writers consider to be gospel. Yet, we can live with that small number.

And in a small community such as Patterson, the hometown newspaper prints them all, eliminating only those rare few that are libelous. It prints letters that are critical of the newspaper itself, individual reporters, and even the lack of press coverage of certain topics or events. Just name me another business that makes public the feelings of an irate customer.

It prints letters critical of elected officials, even when it agrees with those same officials. It runs letters on many viewpoints on which is disagrees, enabling its readership to draw their own conclusions on a wide variety of topics.

Politics and religion draw out a particular brand of letter-writers. And their feelings run deep and aren’t likely to be changed by someone with an opposing point of view.

A number of years ago – nearly 30, actually – the major issue in Patterson was growth and whether the community was ready for it. Growth measures appeared on the ballot twice, and both times the pro-growth proponents won out by large margins. Thus, when I read letters that proclaim Patterson is against growth, I argue that it certainly hasn’t been in the past.

Sure, longtime residents can point to the days when the level of major crime was minute; when traffic flow was different (very few stop signs in town, and we often parked on the wrong side of the street); when school-crowding didn’t exist; and when four grocery stores, two drug stores, five clothing and shoe stores, a couple of appliance stores; a variety store; a good department store; and three hardware stores were all locally owned and located downtown. This is not to mention service businesses, which were plentiful.

But growth has meant chain stores, which were generally welcomed by the newer residents of our city. And that in turn closed most of the mom-and-pop businesses that served of our shopping needs for decades.

Yes, longtime Pattersonites do feel the impact of growth while new residents do not. And those feelings are sometimes vetted in letters to this newspaper – but certainly not as they once were.

I recall a week back many years ago when one of our growth issues was on the ballot. Letters ran hot and heavy on both sides of the issue. They came flooding in – dropped off in person, arriving in the mail, and stuck under the door at nighttime.

Some expressed repetitious points of view. All, of course, included the names of their authors – a requirement of publication. Three long letters came from the same person the same week. We decided to run them all – dozens of them – without editing (except for spelling and grammar), nor did we trim them for length.

That week the Irrigator had three full pages of letters – and that’s when the page size was twice what it is now.

Everyone got their say. And no one complained.


Like everyone else, newspapers (or their staffers) make mistakes. We used to just laugh it off (if possible) and move on. Here’s a heading on this week’s web site of the Irrigator:

“Police to hose Coffee event at Blue’s Café”.

I thought that was the Fire Department’s job.


You’ve read about Patterson’s 2014 Community Calendar, and now you can have one in your hot little fist. (Speaking of mistakes, the word ‘calendar’ is misspelled on the front page of some, but not all, of the copies. Save yours. It might become a collector’s item.)

Members of Boy Scout Troop 82 will set up late this week in front of Patterson Family Pharmacy and will soon be visiting local organizations. The Irrigator also will have copies available.

Everyone needs a calendar, so why not use one that has no fewer than 199 Patterson activities on it. And you can’t beat the price.

By the way Judy Mullens was the first to purchase one of the new calendars, making the transaction Sunday at the Federated Church. The seller was Scout Calvin Langstaff, who recognizes a buyer when he sees one.


It’s hard to remember how many times this scribe has pointed out to Bob “Spokie” Kimball the trials and tribulations of riding a bicycle. Yet he persists.

Someone apparently agrees with me and e-mailed this bit of wisdom:

“A bike can’t stand on its own because it’s two-tired.”

On the other hand, camels have four feet, but of course Bob knows that.


Word has arrived that Jane Chaney, who lives east of the river over on Sanders Road, will turn 90 this Thursday, Dec. 5. She’s a longtime member of Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church.

Happy birthday, Jane.


If you’ve followed college football, you know that Auburn is a team blessed by a higher power.

How else would you describe the Auburn Tigers wins the last two weekends?


Some e-mails are downright humorous. Check out this one.

A Polish immigrant went to the DMV to apply for a driver’s license. First, of course, he had to pass an eye test. The optician showed him a card with the letters CZWIXN OSTACZ.

“Can you read this?” he was asked. “Read it? I know the guy.”

Admit it. That’s funny.

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

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