Today, Charles Buck is a successful and busy businessman.
53 years ago, Chuck Buck was a newly graduated San Diego State College broadcast major with a 1A draft board classification in serious need of a job. Millennials don’t understand that if you were classified 1A in the 1960s, it wasn’t easy to embark on a permanent career path. Potential employers knew it was just a matter of time until Uncle Sam came calling.
A friend told Chuck that The Clairemont Sentinel was always in need of reporters. Looking back, he reflected, “The job was probably the best one I ever had.”
“Monday was a hellish day and I often worked as late as midnight getting my stories filed for Thursday. I also had to take my own photos. I discovered that the better photos I took, the less copy I had to write.”
Chuck has fond memories of The Sentinel’s sports editor and chief photographer, Larry Littlefield. “He taught me how to shoot a Rolleiflex twin reflex. As the chief photographer, he also ‘souped’ all the film from the reporters. Often times, he’d call me into the dark room and show me how he was processing my photos. He was an ardent sports fan.”
The young ink slinger’s first front page headline, “New Tower Plays Vital Role In Air Efficiency,” appeared on August 1, 1965. As a passenger, he chronicled radio communications between the new tower and Crownair flight instructor Henry Miller’s Piper Cherokee as they flew over Linda Vista, circled south to Mission Valley and completed the loop by landing back at Montgomery Field.
Bob Loeb was the editor and once while he was laying out the paper, he called the reporter over to his desk. “Hey, Chucky Bucky, come here. I’m going to run your photo as a four column (on the front page).”
Chuck remembers the buzz of the newspaper. “There were two linotypes machines constantly clacking. The noise in the city room (bull pen) was constant, and then, when the press began to roll, it was really exciting.”
“Some of my fondest memories were when I’d be walking from the city room to the press room with the editor watching the papers print and watching Loeb deftly pull one of my editions from the conveyor belt, so we could admire the front page,” Chuck recalled.
“Then the two of us would shuffle over to the bar next door for a couple of beers around midnight, sometimes even later.”
Other memorable front page articles included, “Samaritanos Voladores Help Mexican Villages” and “Volunteer Therapists Give Victim of Cebrebal Palsy ‘Lease On Life.'”
In 1961, renowned aviatrix Aileen Saunders was forced to land her plane during a dust storm in the small town of El Rosario in Baja California. When she learned of recent floods, devastation and illness, Aileen and other women on the flight organized a return visit at Christmas that included food, clothing and doctors. Chuck’s article was about a 1965 mercy trip made by Clairemont residents who were part of The Flying Samaritans. Today, the Samaritanos number over 2,000 members and operate clinics throughout Baja California.
Beth Navarro was 11-years-old in 1965. Her family lived in South Clairemont. Chuck wrote about the volunteer assistance her parents received to help care for Beth. Coincidently, I have known the Navarro family for almost 50 years. Beth’s mother, Elisa, makes the best salsa I have ever tasted and her nephew, Nolan Navarro, is named after the great Nolan Ryan.
“Two can’t fight sitting down according to an ancient Arabian proverb and Monday evening, Bayberry homeowners sat in the living room of their leader and confronted Victor Wigglesworth, engineer for for C.W. Carlson developer and enemy.” That was Chuck’s colorful lede to an October 7, 1965 front page article headlined, “Enemy Invades Bayberry Camp for Confrontation.” (Bayberry is located east of Morena Boulevard, north of Clairemont Drive and south of Baker Street.)
Buck felt some of his best stories came from the Boys Club in Clairemont and Linda Vista. (In 1990, the name was changed to Boys & Girls Club of America.) He remembers handing out awards in 1965 at the Clairemont Boys Club with San Diego’s first City Council Woman, photogenic Helen Cobb. Chuck is the cool guy wearing shades in the picture. He even became a board member of the Linda Vista Boys Club.
Pretty Helen’s picture appeared often in The Sentinel. On August 15, 1965, she was prominent on the front page buying five boxes of candy bars from a group of Clairemont Hilltoppers Little Leaguers.
A Sentinel headline you won’t see today: “Hefty Ladies To Sell Cakes They Can’t Eat.” Good headlines create surprise and curiosity. Colorful headlines can also create controversy. Political correctness has taken some of the fun out of headlines.
Another story you won’t read today: “Sentinel Honors ‘Top Six’ Carrier Boys.” Photos of the six boys selected as the “Most Outstanding Carrier in his District” were featured below the headline. Two were 11-years-old, the others were 12, 13, 14 and the oldest was 15. Kids don’t have paper routes anymore.
Chuck laughs at a tip he received from an usher at the Clairemont Theater. There would be a “Saturday matinee melee.” His in-depth scoop contained several eyewitness accounts, but the advertising director had the article pulled so the paper wouldn’t lose the theater as an advertiser. The Sentinel had a large section of classified ads and many pages of advertisements from local businesses. It was a lesson in reality for the idealistic young journalist.
He recalled that two teenagers were killed drag racing on Clairemont Drive and the family complained about the use of “drag racing.” The wording came from the police report.
Chuck continued, “I also reported on a couple of brush fires and shot what looked like harrowing firefighters battling the blazes. I was only at the paper for six months – six months of glorious journalism boot camp.”
(The photos were taken October 3, 1965 and show young boys holding the hoses for firemen as they douse a canyon fire between Oglala Avenue and Gaylord Drive. Today, kids wouldn’t be allowed to assist as young firefighters.)
“Hard work. Lots of driving around Clairemont and Kearny Mesa chasing leads. Getting to know and having calls returned by local elected officials. Carrying a press pass from the police and fire departments and, then, seeing my byline. What a thrill. And all that for $65 a week plus $10 for gas.”
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