The year must have been about 1938 when one of my older brothers decided I was too attached to my mother’s apron strings. He told mom and me I was to start working at the Citizen newspaper as a newsboy selling the paper.
My brother had been a newsboy but was now working inside. Giving out the papers and checking in the vendors was one of his duties. He had been recruited by two friends and neighbors, Frank and Ed Casanova. Frank later became circulation manager for the Citizen.
When the Casanovas took my brother to the Citizen, they signed him up as Mandrake, a nickname they gave him because of a “Beanie cap” he used. I was signed up under the same name. People thought it was a family name.
There was a code among newsboys at that time that was honored by the vendors. Some of the boys had “corners” or areas where only they could sell the paper. I was assigned to the Pioneer Hotel, the best “corner” of all. I am sure my brother and the Casanovas had something to do with that.
A corner across the street from the Pioneer Hotel, where Steinfeld’s and later Jacome’s department stores were located, belonged to the Carr brothers. They were the only African-American newsboys at the time. Their given names were Robert E. Lee and Daniel Boone.
While selling the Citizen at the Pioneer Hotel, I often saw entertainment stars.
One day the Pioneer Hotel bellhop captain asked me and my friend, George Arce, to pose with a tall gentleman for a still camera picture. He later gave us a picture copy each. It turned out the tall gent was Marion Morrison, better known as John Wayne.
I remember that when I started as a newsboy, the Citizen was located at a building that later became the Chamber of Commerce, in the area close to St. Augustine Cathedral. The newspaper at that time cost 3 cents, but soon went to 5 cents. Newsboys were better off when the paper cost 3 cents because you checked in 2 cents and kept 1 cent. Many people gave you a nickel and said “keep it,” so you made 3 cents. When the paper went up to 5 cents, you had to check in 3 cents and kept 2.
Close by the Citizen building and across the street from the cathedral was Brichta’s Service Station, which was a newsboy and carrier hangout. Some of us left our bicycles there while we sold the paper.
Many newsboys became carriers and office help, as with my brother and the Casanovas. Edgar Suarez sold papers during my time and kept working for the Citizen until his retirement. He must have worked there over 50 years. Some other relatives were printers at the Citizen: Cousin Albert Elias, cousin Arturo Moreno and his father before him, Francisco Moreno, who founded “El Tucsonense,” a Spanish-language Tucson newspaper. Most of Arturo’s 10 children worked for the Citizen in some capacity. The Tully family was employed for many years and there were others.
After 70 years of reading this newspaper, I will miss it very much. The sports pages through the years, especially when Corky Simpson wrote, were top-notch. The comics were for the most part superior. I still remember Blondie, Joe Palooka, Lil Abner, Dick Tracy and many more.
Some people say the paper became too liberal, others say it was too conservative. Older readers like myself just took it all in and formed our own opinions. I would say a contributing factor to the demise of newspapers is all the new electronic media. People now find it easier than reading a newspaper. I regret the loss of jobs for the staff and wish them well in relocating.
Adios. Au revoir. Auf wiedersehen. And goodbye.
Thomas F. Elias