William P. Warford

 

The newspapers tell us that we now have 38.6 million Americans unemployed.

I did a little arithmetic, the old-fashioned way, and figured out that if you lined up the unemployed single-file, keeping the appropriate six-foot social distancing of course, the line would stretch from Los Angeles to Pittsburgh — and back.

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This week marks 40 years that I first came to our fair valley.

I’m reminded of a Jimmy Breslin column about former New York City Mayor Bill O’Dwyer, an Irish immigrant, World War II vet, diplomat in the Truman Administration, and one of the more colorful characters in the city’s history.

Breslin asked him how the city had changed in the decades since O’Dwyer first arrived decades before. The former mayor thought for a moment and said, “People drank more Manhattans back then.”

Likewise, ask me how the AV has changed since I arrived 40 years ago, and I could say people went to bars then — and restaurants and movie theaters and bowling alleys and concerts and ball games and …

Beyond the recent lockdown, of course, the changes here have been myriad and dramatic. Lancaster’s population grew from 60,000 to 160,000; Palmdale’s from 12,000 to 160,000.

We had two newspapers then. I worked first for the Antelope Valley Daily-Ledger Gazette, covering sports. It was an afternoon paper. Remember those?

The office was on Fig Avenue in Lancaster, a couple of blocks from where I live now.

The Antelope Valley Press in those days published just three days a week, and when it expanded to a fourth day, in April of 1982, I made the switch to the VP, also covering sports.

We had no wire service then; we had to fill the paper with local sports, which got dicey when the school sports seasons ended in May.

That’s when we would find local features, and the community was still small enough then that everyone who bowled a high score, got a couple hits in a Little League game, or shot a good round of golf got his or her name in the paper.

The Little Leagues each had a publicity chairman (a chairperson in 2020 terms) who would fill out forms listing who won the game, the winning pitcher, and two or three top hitters for each team.

They would turn these in, and we would type them up and fill the inside pages of the sports section, along with bowling, golf, fishing, tennis, and racquetball news.

Yes, racquetball was all the rage in the early 1980s. Lancaster’s Dan Massari was nationally-ranked in the sport following his days as an all-American baseball player at Oklahoma State.

It was exciting news when we got the United Press International wire service in 1983, started sending sports stories from press boxes via Radio Shack Model 100s in 1986, and installed desktop computers about that same time.

Much has changed in the AV over 40 years, but unlike Bill O’Dwyer’s New York, I don’t know of anyone drinking Manhattans — then or now.

 

William P. Warford’s column appears every Tuesday, Friday and Sunday.

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