Friday, August 14, 2009

Crazy Uncle

Old-timer San Diegans may recall when the San Diego Union Tribune was two different newspapers: the San Diego Union and the San Diego Tribune. Before the two papers merged and became "the U-T," and before it's office building was located in Mission Valley, our San Diego newspaper building was located dowtown at 919 2nd Street. Thus, the "919 Gang" was formed, an email group consisting of most of the original reporters from the downtown building . My grandfather, Charlie Ross, was a founding member of the 919 Gang. He worked for the SD Union from 1956-1992. My Uncle Jerry also worked for the U-T, and here's an unauthorized excerpt from his contribution to the latest 919 Gang email message:

"It's appropriate that my first contribution to the 919 gang would involve Fred Kinne, as he hired me when I was jobless and broke.
I had quit AP-Sacramento in 1970, not wanting to cover the Unruh-Reagan election, and as the only single guy in the bureau I would have spent months with them, instead of with various girlfriends.
I hopped a British freighter, the Blue Star Line's Canadian Star, and sailed from Oakland to Liverpool, where I saw no sign of any beetles, and almost died from bad British food.
After a few months of spending all my money, I sailed back to New York on the Bremen, an ancient art-deco German liner, where I almost died from the bad German food. Fortunately, I encountered a boon drinking buddy, a hilarious guy with a moustache like the propeller on a Constellation. His name was Dali and he could drink as well as he painted. By the end of the night, we looked like figures out of one of his nightmare works.
I stayed at a Greenwich Village apartment with the late, great AP reporter John R. Morganthaler, looking for work. Turned down a stint on the Daily News copy desk but learned where the Editor & Publisher printing plant was, so I flew the press and answered an ad for an "enterprise" reporter on the San Diego Evening Tribune.
Got a quick response from a guy named Fred Kinne, followed by conversations with Dick Eby and Dick Sullivan, who I knew from his Sacramento sojourns when state government was covered by newspapers.
Fred hired me, which was useful as I arrived in LA with 7 cents in my pocket after a cross-country adventure aboard the wackiest Greyhound bus rolling.
I didn't know Fred from Brute Krulak, but without even meeting me Fred liked my clips, the fact "Sully" endorsed me and the AP training, and he took a flier on me. The thing I'll never forget is that he hired me despite my earned reputation as a union goon-troublemaker and public skepticism over the U-T editorial policies.
His decision changed my life. It was my first newspaper job, I worked mostly with real pros, loved working across from the Press Room and living on Coronado and met my eventual wife, Anne-Jeannette (Charlie Ross's kid).
I left two years later for Santa Barbara, much to the relief of U-T non-news management. But I have never worked with as nice a bunch of human beings again, people who personified simple human decency -- Mike Richmond, Dick Eby, Jerry Remmers, Neil Morgan, Frank Saldana, Jack Gregg, some copy kid named Preston Oregano or something, Don Coleman, Bob Dietrich, et al.
And among all these good guys, these inherently decent human beings, Fred Kinne stood out."

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