MANZANAR TO PICO AND LOS ANGELES STREETS:
AN INTERVIEW WITH DAILY NEWS LIBRARIAN MARY KITANO AND HER HUSBAND,
VETERAN LOS ANGELES JOURNALIST DOUG DILTZ.
PIONEERING ASIAN-AMERICAN JOURNALIST MARY KITANO left a
life of incarceration and displacement at Manzanar "Relocation Camp" in
World War II to return to Los Angeles, where she worked for City News
Service, the Daily News, and eventually KNX Newsradio. She and her
husband, veteran L.A. wire service journalist Doug Diltz, met when Mary
worked in the Daily News libary, and Doug worked for United Press, which
was just down the hall in the old Daily News building at Pico and Los
Angeles Streets. They are pictured here in 2007 at the time of this
interview. (Note: the Daily News seemed conducive to weddings, as
this is the third couple to have met there (and stayed married ever
since) that I've encountered in doing research.---RR.)
Q&A with MARY KITANO and DOUG DILTZ
As a girl, Mary Kitano dreamed of becoming a reporter. She was well on
her way, having become editor of the Compton Junior College newspaper, and
writing for the L.A. Japanese Daily, Sangyo Nippo. Then
Japanese-Americans were ordered by the federal government to surrender their
freedom, their property, their careers and report to so-called "relocation
camps." Mary and her family spent a year at Manzanar, yet she continued
journalism there by writing a
column for the
camp newspaper, the Manzanar Free Press. Furloughed early to work in
beet fields in Colorado, Mary eventually landed in Chicago, and was about to
take a job with a local news service when her father summoned her back to
Los Angeles. There, Mary continued as a pioneering Asian-American journalist,
spending two years as a reporter for City News Service before becoming
librarian (and eventually television columnist) at the Los Angeles Daily
News. She went on to joined KNX Newsradio, where she spent several decades
in marketing before her retirement. The Daily News building at Pico and Los Angeles Streets was
a funky affair, and it shared offices with what was then United Press. The
UP guys were frequently hanging out in the Daily News offices---they shared
tips and scoops---and it was there that a handsome young UP writer named
Doug Diltz noticed the very pretty and very popular Daily News librarian,
Mary Kitano. They soon married, raised a family, and still make their
longtime home in the San Fernando Valley. Kitano's contribution to Los
Angeles journalism at a time when minorities and women were not widely hired
cannot be underestimated. Mr. and Mrs. Diltz were interviewed by Rip Rense.
Mary Kitano (right) while at City News Service in Los Angeles,
1945. Holding the paper is Betty Lyou (Korean-American); next to her, her
husband, Rodney Voight, manager of City News Service; Fusako
Takemoto and Kitano. Mary had just received a $25 check from Readers
Digest for a picturesque patter item, and also has a commission to
write for Now magazine. City News Service had 15 reporters at the
time, covering metropolitan Los Angeles for nearby small-city
papers. Mary's job included reading and finding news items in over
100 papers. She was hired over the telephone even before a personal
interview, and brought her chum, Fusako Takemoto, who was hired as
well. A Chinese rewrite man and three Russian women were also
employed by Voight. Photographer: Charles E. Mace. -- Los
Angeles, California. 5/14/45 (photo and caption courtesy of
Online Archive of California.)
RENSE: Please recount how you got into L.A. journalism, from the
so-called "relocation camp" at Manzanar. Well, let's start with Manzanar,
because you were involved with the camp newspaper, right?
KITANO: We had a series of editors, and they had been very good ones,
professional people on the ethnic papers. They were terrific. They moved
out, and the juniors started moving up, and I got one of the positions. But
I was only in Manzanar for one year. Because as soon as we got into camp, my
father said, "go to the administration and get us out of here." We had
already started part of the procedure before we got caught in the
evacuation. We were supposed to go to Colorado to a huge ranch, and we were
all prepared to go, with our papers and everything, and they froze the whole
area, so we couldn't go.
When my father told me that, I went to the administration office---do you
remember a name, Walter Heath?---I went to see him. He was in charge of a
lot of things, and he asked me all sorts of questions and took information
down, and that started the whole thing rolling. But he said, "I don't expect
anything to be happening for some time." I don't remember exactly his title,
but he worked for the War Relocation Authority.
RR: So you tried to get the ball rolling to get out as soon as
possible. . .
KITANO: So then he said it would take some time, and we settled down
and I started working on the newspaper.
RR: Did you always have an interest in journalism?
KITANO: Oh, yeah, before I went to camp, I had worked on a Japanese
language paper. I had done a column there. Sangyo Nippo. I understand all
those columns are in the UCLA archives, and I hope nobody ever looks at
them! Because, when you think of it now, you know, you were seventeen years
old, writing a column! All I knew at that time was. . .use names. People
liked it quite a bit. The column was about people around Compton.
RR: You grew up in Compton?
DOUG DILTZ: She was editor of the Compton College newspaper.
RR: What high school did you go to?
KITANO: Compton High. The 11th and 12th graders went to the same
place as the 13th and 14th graders did. It was a big campus.
RR: Were your parents immigrants?
KITANO: Yeah. My father came early in the century, and my mother came
about 1920. My father was a teacher in Japan. My mother---I just can't
believe it, a conventional family, letting their daughter go to the U.S.. I
understand that she just wanted to go. They put her on a train. Her mother
and father accompanied her to Yokohama, and she boarded a ship, steerage,
and came to this country. I guess she arrived in Seattle. Most of them came
through there. One day I'm going to go up there and find out.
RR: What kind of work did your family do?
KITANO: We farmed. I guess my father decided, well, what are you
going to do? You can't teach. You don't speak English. Just like everybody
else. First he went around with gangs of workers on railroad projects, and I
guess he even got as far as Colorado. Then he came here and decided to
settle down, working a farm in Gardena. And after a couple of years, he must
have notified somebody that he needed a bride, so she came over. It was an
arranged marriage. I guess most of them were. The only thing I remember the
farm on Main Street in Gardena was that they were harvesting cauliflowers.
These wooden carts that were being pulled by horses went by, as the workers
clopped off the cabbages and tossed them---
DD: You're aging yourself.
KITANO: (laughing) Oh, I don't care. Well, they didn't have tractors
Librarian Mary Kitano at her desk in the Daily News city room,
(photo courtesy UCLA Young Library.)
RR: You were in the camp for one year. Did you get an early release?
KITANO: Oh, yeah, I think we were the first entire family to leave
the place. About '42 or '43. Most were released probably in '43, but a lot
of them got furloughs to work the beet fields in Idaho and all those places.
Some of it was good, and some people never got paid.
RR: So you were "sprung" in '43. . .
KITANO: Mr. Heath called me in and said, "You've been cleared to get
out of here," so I just hurried home as fast as I could and told my folks.
We had an apartment in barracks. There were four apartments in barracks.
RR: Have you been to the Japanese-American Museum downtown to see the
actual barracks that were reconstructed?
KITANO: I haven't yet.
RR: Did your family get your property back?
KITANO: Eventually, just so many cents on the dollar. It wasn't very
much. There was no home to go back to, because we had sold it, and the
ranch, when we left. After we left camp, you had to tell them where you were
going, so I got busy writing to a man who owned a farm, so he said he could
use us, so come. So I had to take the confirmation that we had a job in
Colorado, and the clearing process began. We left on a Greyhound Bus one
day, and had to go through Reno, and then the train to Grand Junction,
Colorado, where the farm was. My mom, dad, two brothers and a sister. And a
dog. When we arrived, there were people waiting for us, because they needed
farm workers. I still remember the restaurant they took us to, and they
said, "now eat whatever you want." And somebody said, "Why don't we all
order steaks?" And it turned out quite well. The farmer, Mr. Hinshaw, was
the richest man on the western part of Colorado, and he had about 200 acres,
with quite a bit in sugar beets. Have you ever been on a sugar beet farm?
They plant the seeds, and the rows are long---I mean they're long! So we
were first to start thinning, then hoeing, then another hoeing after that.
We went through the whole process, from the beginning to the end, doing the
crops. To get them ready to pick, they hire something that goes quite a bit
underground and just lifts it, and a knife-like thing with hooks on it. Pick
it up, knock off the leaves, and throw 'em some place.
|SEE Mary Kitano's March 20, 1943
"Shooting the Breeze" column for the Manzanar Free Press
RR: How long did you do this?
KITANO: Just the fall harvesting season. And we also harvested his
tomatoes. I don't know how much they paid us.
RR: Did the family have any plans to go back to California?
KITANO: Oh, yeah! My father just did not want to raise kids in a
camp. I was 21.
RR: Were there many Japanese-American laborers with you?
KITANO: No, we were the first ones from camp. And a fellow in camp
said "When you go there, I know a fellow who has a restaurant, so go see
him." I did, and found out there weren't very many Japanese in that area of
Colorado. We met some of them, but after we finished working on the farm, we
bought our own place in Grand Junction, and grew other things: peach trees,
different things. We needed workers, so we told my brothers to find out if
they could get some of their friends to come out and help. So we had about
three of them come out to help. Then the next thing you know, other people
are doing the same thing. There's a lot of stuff in there. . .
So let's see, we worked one year for Mr. Hinshaw. Then my folks bought the
farm. So I worked the first year there. . .’43?
DD: And then you went to Chicago.
RR: And you wound up in Chicago?
KITANO: My friends were writing, saying “it’s fun.” I told my mother, “Emily
writes and says why don’t I come to Chicago---it’s great and they’re having
a good time.” I’m sure there was some reason---well, she didn’t want me to
get stuck in Colorado. So I went to Chicago. They sent my younger brother
along with me. And I think I went to the War Relocation Office to report in.
They didn’t do much, didn’t give us much help (in finding jobs), but I went
to that big publishing company in Chicago, Donnelly. Never had a job before,
and I was just startled to see all these things. I had to learn to get to
the place on a streetcar. . .Rode the subways.
RR: So here you were, from a camp to the farm to the big city, in
KITANO: Oh yes, very short! And then, while I’m working a day job, a
couple of friends were working in the YWCA in Chicago, in the kitchen. They
said, why don’t you work with us at night? I said, I’ve got a brother and a
girlfriend, can they come, too? And they showed up, and they hired all of
us. The Harriet McCormick Y. So I stayed there until I was ready to come
back home. And in the mean time, my girlfriend said the dietician wanted to
see me. I thought, what did I do? Well, she said, “Would you be interested
in running our coffee shop? It’s been closed since the war started, and they
couldn’t get any help. But if you would, we’d sure appreciate it.” I said,
“What am I supposed to do?” She said, “We’ll show you.” I asked if I had any
helpers, and she said “We’ll have to get some.” I said, “What about my
brother and my girlfriend,” and she said, “Fine!” So she showed us how to
boil eggs and make toast, and everything. And the first day it was very
crowded. We were really busy. Did everything, cleaned up everything, put the
money where they told us to put it. They thanked us very much, and in the
second week, it was just jammed. They were tyring to come through the doors.
And I’m working there, trying to get the toast ready, and the juices and the
coffee and so forth---and I see these people squeezing in! So I went and
closed the door. Then the dietician called back and I said, “I closed the
door and locked them out,” and she laughed and said, “You can’t do
that---the fire department won’t let you!” So I opened it, and they surged
in! We made a lot of money for them. Of course, it was nickels and dimes
then. I remember getting breakfast for 39 cents down the street, before I
went to work. . .
RR: How did you get back to L.A.?
KITANO: One night my father called me and said that the ban on
Japanese on the west coast had been lifted, and said, “Why don’t you come
down and help us?”
RR: So he called you from Colorado and it was decided that the family
would go back to L.A.
KITANO: Oh, to tell you something in between, I was looking for a
job, and I went to Chicago’s City News Bureau. I had to do the application,
and it asked, “What do you want out of life,” and I wrote, “Well, I’m sure
tired of being pushed around! I want to do things my way.” You know, they
wanted to interview me? So they called me in, and this fellow said, “How
long have you been in Chicago,” and I said, “One week.” He said, “I’ll tell
you what. I want you to spend the next six months learning the streets of
Chicago.” I said, “Okay.” But then, my father’s call ended that. I kind of
regretted that. Oh, when I went to that office at the City News Bureau, I
heard something that sounded like, “Coffee! Coffee!” And I thought, why
don’t they get their own coffee? What they were saying was “Copy!” I’d never
been in a newsroom before.
RR: (former copyboy) It’s almost the same thing. Most of the time
they yell “copy!” they want coffee.
KITANO: It’s just as well that I didn’t work there, though, because I
have a problem with directions. In Colorado, the sun would come out of the
west and set in the east. And once in the whole time, it would straighten
itself out. And that would confuse me, and I’d have to think, “No it
doesn’t---it’s the other way around.” Even out here it happens. Your mind
just makes up its mind! I remember being on a streetcar on my way home from
work and all of a sudden the streets all straightened out, and I’m thinking,
what am I doing on this streetcar---I don’t know where it’s going. So the
first thing I did was get off and go into a Walgreen’s and ask, “Which way
is north?” She looked at me a little funny and pointed.
RR: If you’d said, “Which way is east,” they might have arrested you.
KITANO: In the mean time, my brother had gone back to L.A.. He called
me and I took the first train, “The City of Colorado” or something. Stayed
there about a day, and my father says, “Okay, this is the plan. I want you
to get on the bus and go back to L.A., get yourself a place at the Evergreen
Hostel, and we’ll proceed from there. Get acclimated, etc.” So I stayed at
the Evergreen Hostel in East L.A. for some time, a couple months, maybe.
RR: What was the plan?
KITANO: Get yourself a job, whatever you can do, and see what the
climate is. I said okay. And I liked the climate---it was a nice place to
be. I couldn’t believe how warm it was.
RR: Oh, you mean the actual climate---
KITANO: Both. I didn’t have any problems. I’m optimistic, I think. If
they gave me a bad time, I try to find some way to avoid it, and find
something else. Now what did I do? Oh, I reported to the War Relocations
Authority people, because they like to keep track of where people are going.
And Herb Walker was there. He was an advertising man from Santa Barbara,
working for the WRA. He was very nice, and asked if he could help me. I told
him I was looking for work. He said, “What kind?” I said, “Newspaper work.”
He said, “I’ve got just the fellow you can talk to.” So he takes me to see
this man who was head of the WRA in L.A., and he’s the city editor of the
Daily News who is on leave to work on the WRA. And he talked to me, and
makes a call to Rob Voight, managing editor of City News Service. And he’s
selling me over the phone. He says, “You’ll like her.” Then tells me to go
down to City News at First and Spring, right across from the Times. Because
every morning, they’d say, come here and look---Otis is coming to work,
being driven to work in the family limosine! So I went to Rob Voight, and he
liked me, and he said, you’re fine, but referred me to another fellow. A
girlfriend of mine wanted a job, so I said come along, and we were
interviewed, and then this fellow said to me, “You get $110 a month, and you
get $100 a month.” In Chicago, I think I must have been working for two-bits
an hour! I didn’t know the difference.
So I started working at City News as a reporter and rewrite person.
Some of the astoundingly multi-ethnic staff of City News Service,
1945. Left to right: Betty Lyou, (a Korean-American), Fusako
Takemoto, seated; Mary Kitano (beind Takemoto); Vera Haprov and Mary
Planin, both from Russia.-- Photographer: Mace, Charles E. -- Los
Angeles, California. 5/14/45 (photo and caption courtesy
Online Archive of California.)
RR: The office was right on the edge of Little Tokyo, which was twice
the size then---before the city took half of it and built Parker Center.
KITANO: You know, you’re so green. Rob sent me out on a story. I
remember going out in the late afternoon to find out something. I had no
idea where the courts were. I had never seen a (law)suit before. I get this
huge amount of paper, and can’t figure out what’s going on. I later learned
that on the very back page, everything is condensed. Nobody told me! It was
DD: I don’t know if it was different when you were working. Mary and
I sort of span that time. In that era, I think too many had seen too many
Hollywood movies about reporters---Lee Tracy, and that kind of stuff. And
that had this sort of idea that ---it’s like if you’re in the army or
marines. They’d tell you to do something, and you’d figure it out for
yourself. They’d just throw you to the wolves, and expect you to figure it
out for yourself.
RR: So here you are in downtown, full of streetcars, electric buses,
Red Cars, and people were still wearing hats, and it was still a nice place.
KITANO: Oh, yeah! And the streetcars would stop at a corner, and all
the newsboys would rush out. That’s nice! That’s colorful. . .And one day
they sent me to the police beat. I didn’t even know where it was. What a
maze that place was.
RR: Before Parker Center.
KITANO: Oh, yeah, the old place. Well, they were all men, and I don’t
think they looked at this kid---
DD: Little Japanese-American girl.
KITANO: So they never paid much attention to me, and they’d say, “Oh,
nothing happened today.”
DD: (laughing) Great---there’s my lede!
KITANO: (laughing) So I called the desk and said, “They tell me
nothing’s happening there!” They probably figured that I didn’t know what to
ask. Later I had to go back to the police beat, and I ran into---do you
remember Dick Reynolds? Real nice guy. Looks like he was sleeping. And when
I showed up, he brightened and said, “Ah, change!” He didn’t give me any
stories, but it was a nice welcome from the time before. He was a reporter
at the Daily News.
RR: You’re talking about the press room, then.
KITANO: Right. . .I went to cover the Tower beat, the D.A.’s
beat---the Tower covered some of the courts. And I remember a girl, Nadine
Taylor, who was most helpful. . .They had a syndicate down there. That
beat---the Times, Herald, major newspapers---they covered the big courts.
They’d divide them up. . .
My knack was I could write ledes with twists. So I get story, and it runs on
the wire (CNS), and one of the reporters got a call from their editor,
saying how come you didn’t have that story.
RR: They couldn’t believe you’d come up with a decent story?
KITANO: They couldn’t cover everything. They wanted just the big
stories. I’d look at the little stuff, too.
DD: The real motive behind these guys. . .They were competent
reporters, but they all got together and decided that the best way to do
this was so they wouldn’t have to work all day---and could talk on the phone
to their girlfriends all day or whatever. There were dirty dishes all over
the place (in the press room.) They decided that in order that you don’t
scoop me---you’re the Daily News, and I’m the Herald-Express, etc.---to make
sure we don’t scoop each other and make each other look bad---if you get a
story, oh, there’s a body over in the La Brea Tar Pits or something, then
somebody tips all of us off. And we all pick up the phones at the same time
(and call respective city desks), and say, ‘I got something. . .’ Nobody
gets fired that way. It was really job protection. And if somebody else came
in, and was a ‘troublemaker,’ showing initiative, especially the Daily News
reporter, who’s sitting at the table playing poker, and he sees that he’s
been scooped in his own newspaper by a little Japanese girl, five-foot
tall---well, he’d feel betrayed and suckered.
RR: Did you deal with a lot of that kind of thing, Mary?
KITANO: No, not too much because I wasn’t on the beats long enough. I
filled in spots.
RR: I get the idea that it wouldn’t have fazed you very much. . .
KITANO: No. In the first place, because I wasn’t on the beat
permanently. But even if I was, I think I would have survived. They weren’t
very nice to the UP reporter, either. With wire services, right away it’s on
the wire. . .
RR: So you were at City News for how long?
KITANO: Almost two years.
RR: You must have been pretty tough. It was novel enough just to be a
woman reporter at that time, but to be a Japanese-American woman---
KITANO: You had to be naďve!
RR: I don’t know how naďve you can be after you’d been to a
concentration camp for a year. So you were at City News for---
KITANO: Almost two years. Then we had labor problems and City News
closed down. (Garbled here. . .Kitano applied for other jobs in journalism,
but was offered only secretarial positions.) So I thought, gee if I’m going
to be a secretary, I could have spent this past couple years and done well.
Because I would have made a good secretary. I could have run an
office---anything. . .So I’m getting very uncomfortable, and I’m thinking,
I’ve just got to get a regular job.
RR: What do you mean by “regular job?”
KITANO: On one of the papers. ‘Cause I’m not doing any newswriting,
not going anyplace. And I thought, well, the only newspaper I can go is the
Daily News, because I knew they were liberal. By this time. When I first got
here, I didn’t even know what a liberal was! So then I heard that the Daily
News had an opening, that somebody had quit in the library. I thought, oh,
gee, I could get my feet in there, see what’s going on. I applied for the
job, and I bugged them all the time---“Have you decided yet?” And they’d
say, “Not yet, not yet.” Finally they gave it to a guy named Jack Gintner.
He showed up for a couple days, then didn’t. They checked up on him, and
found that he and his brother had inherited money from an uncle, and were on
a drinking binge.
DD: They’d passed out. It launched her career! God intervened!
RR: So you started in the library in. . .
RR: When you walked into the city room, the library was where?
KITANO: To the left. West.
RR: Near the publisher and managing editor’s offices.
KITANO: Third floor. You’d go right through the city room, left to
RR: The offices are still intact.
KITANO: Really? Who’s in there?
RR: Sweat shop. Garment workers.
DD: (Who worked in the same building, across the hall at UP.) Ever
hear any stories about the glorious elevator at the Daily News? The elevator
didn’t work right. Frequently the doors would slam on you when you were
trying to get out. Mary hurt her back on it. Not only that, but the doors
into the city room would sometimes stick. So you’d run into the city room
with a big story, and you go to push the (swinging) door, and you’d get hit
in the face. One of the classic stories was about a fellow named Don
Dwiggins. Very talented guy. Very eccentric guy, as a lot of guys were
there. There weren’t the---what would you call it---the amenities that you’d
find at the L.A. Times. And right around from the elevator, you’d go into
the men’s room. There was no sign on it. You were just supposed to guess
where these things were, and know where they were. And there was a classic
story of this woman from some big PR firm who came in, and asked where’s the
city room, and the guy said, “Oh, turn right” or something, and she made the
wrong turn into the can, where Dwiggins was sitting with his pants down,
reading the paper. There were no doors on the toilet. She lets out a scream,
and Dwiggins says, “Can I help you, lady?” And she says, “City room!” And he
points, and goes right on reading. So these kinds of things were commonplace
in that building.
RR: Somebody told me that the elevator had a sign on it that said it
was good for x-number of trips, guaranteed. And somebody had crossed it out,
and considerably lowered the number.
DD: Yes. They had a lot of guys drinking, of course. And there was
one guy who was a character who was on the copy desk, and he never used a
belt. Tied his pants with a rope. Little red-headed guy, very quiet. He
drank all day long. I had just come to work for UP, and they used copy from
the pressroom---big rolls of leftover paper---for paper towels. So I went
over to dry my hands on this stuff, and this guy started screaming at me. I
said, what’s wrong? And he reached into the roll and pulled out a bottle. I
don’t know what he thought I was going to do, but. . .
RR: So the drinking was right out in the open.
DD: One guy sat there, eating his lunch, with a fifth of booze right
there, taking drinks like it was a Coke or something.
RR: One of the stories I was told was that Boddy issued an edict that
booze bottles were not to be in evidence. So one of the night city editors
made an arrangement with a copyboy to lower a teapot out the window---
DD: Oh, they did that a lot, yeah.
RR: And the copyboy would go over to Don’s Bar and fill it up with
booze, and bring it back. My dad always said that the library was also a
bar, and drinks were a quarter.
KITANO: I never heard that one!
RR: And you would know! Maybe he was embellishing.
DD: Maybe he was thinking of that back room behind the photography
area. Wasn’t there a lunchroom there?
KITANO: No. The lunchroom was in the library. Where we cooked the
DD: Right. Was that room part of the library? Oh, I thought it was
separate. Behind the photography place.
RR: Well, okay. You were about 24 years old. You went to work at the
Daily News because you heard it was a liberal paper. And it was. They did
hire some minorities, and deal with minority issues. Was it notoriously
KITANO: There weren’t that many minorities hired at that time.
DD: There were some right-wing people there as well. But it was
largely a liberal paper.
KITANO: Did Paul Weeks ever tell you the story that he used to work
for the Arizona Republic, and his whole aim in life was to go to Los Angeles
and work for the Daily News?
KITANO: That’s how much reputation The News had.
RR: So how was it for you when you walked in there and saw all
DD: Wayward souls---
RR: Free spirits, madmen. . .
KITANO: There were some people I knew. So I’d wave and say hello, and
that would help break the ice. And everyone had to come to us (in the
library), because we were doing whatever research they wanted.
DD: At the Daily News, everything was in one big city room---all the
sections, all the departments. Society people, the sports people. The
society people was right next to the city desk, where there was all sorts of
yelling and foul language and everything else. Mildred Norton was the
society editor. Very pretty woman.
RR: Were you comfortable there? Did you fit in?
KITANO: Oh, I loved it! Nobody gave me any problems. I was lucky.
DD: You were just so lucky to get in the news business in that era.
You’d drink out of a sewer if you thought you could get a job in a
newspaper, you know. It was very glamorous in those days. From Hollywood,
you know. Like the old “Night Beat” story, with Frank Lovejoy. The reporter
was a big protagonist in film. There were a lot of movies. Women played
reporters too. Rosalind Russell. It was a big thing to go to work for a
paper. It was like going to work for the studios.
RR: I had no idea.
DD: Oh, yeah! People out of journalism schools---you might go to a
very fancy journalism school, but if they gave you a job on the Daily News,
you were willing to go in there. You didn’t care if somebody hit you over
the head with a book every five minutes. You kept saying to yourself, I got
a job! I’m working for a paper! It was a romantic thing, like somebody gives
you a job in the police department. . .
RR: Was it more true in that era?
DD: I think so. Movies were the big thing, not television. And if you
tell somebody you work for a newspaper, you were a big shot. There was one
guy who had seen too many movies. Remember Lee Tracy? The actor who played a
lot of newspaper reporters, press agents? Well, this guy would always go
over to Don’s Bar, and all his compatriots would be in there, drunk. And
he’d always walk in with a trenchcoat on, and his hat with a press card in
it. And he wasn’t even a reporter, he was a photographer. But he always
played the role to the hilt, you know. And this guy was completely enamored
with this whole thing. You’d talk to him, and you’d think you were hearing
dialogue from a script, you know. He must have sat there and watched 30 or
40 movies and got the idea that he wanted to be Frank Lovejoy or something.
Today it means absolutely nothing.
KITANO: Well, when I was growing up, I think I was in first year of
high school, 9th grade, and I found myself listening to Edward G. Robinson
and Claire Trevor (on radio) playing a newspaper editor and reporter, and I
thought, gee, I’d like that!
DD: Reporters were big shots. Humphrey Bogart, Lee Tracy. . .I mean,
when I was going to L.A. City College, they had a great journalism school
and newspaper. A lot of people became very successful from there. I remember
distinctly that there were guys who were taking jobs at the La Puente Times
or something like that, and they were glad. If you got a job on the Daily
News, they’d step over bodies to do it.
RR: Same at all the big papers of the time?
DD: Oh, yeah! Absolutely!
KITANO: When I was thinking about getting jobs at that time, I
thought, well, I just can’t go to the Examiner because Hearst hates
Japanese. I thought maybe I could go to the Herald-Express and work for
Aggie Underwood. Thought I’d say, “I’d like to work for you because I hear
you’re terrific,” that kind of stuff. And she was terrific. But I thought,
the heck with that, it probably won’t work. But it could have worked,
because she liked gutsy women.
RR: I have this rosy idea that the Daily News was more reflective of
L.A. than the other papers of the time, in its peculiarity, almost.
Oversized tabloid, peach-colored---
KITANO: Only two or three cents!
RR: Right. It had panache. Somebody was telling that if they had two
photos of the mayor, and in one he was picking his nose, that’s the one
they’d run. My kind of paper! And the other papers were not irreverent and
playful in that way. Is that true?
DD: Yeah, I think so. The Herald and Examiner were separate then, and
they were equally every interesting papers, but I think the Daily News was
more wide open. They didn’t care who they attacked.
RR: And I always hear that it attracted free spirits and people of
independent spirit---Jack Smith, Matt Weinstock, sports editor Ned Cronin,
Jack Jones. . .
KITANO: What a nice man. (Jones.)
RR: Doug, you were at UP in the same building as the Daily News for
DD: I was in that building for twelve years or so. Until they closed
the place, and that was quite a scene. Started about 1950, and Mary was in
the library at the Daily News.
RR: And everybody at UP knew everybody at the Daily News, right?
DD: Pretty much. Some of the people were kind of strange, and you
learned not to talk to them. Like any place. There was a guy by the name of
John Clark, a genius rewrite man, and I got along with him fine. But if John
Clark didn’t like you, he’d get up and throw you out of the city room. He
tried to throw one guy out the (third floor) window when I was there. And
one time I was holed up across the street (at the bar.) The way I met Clark
was, well, they had a place with only about five stools, and I had a
horrible hangover and I was hungry. And I had to have something. I figured
I’d get an egg sandwich and take it back to the office. And I go in there,
and sit down next to John Clark. And he was talking to the gal who was
working there. And it was like a scene out of Dashiell Hammett. He was
saying, “Where the hell do you get this crap?” And “What the hell is in
these eggs?” And she was saying, “Eat it and shut your mouth.” And he says,
“What did you say your name was?” I said, “Doug.” He said, “Oh, yeah, you
work for UP. What do you think of this stuff?” I said, “Well, it doesn’t
look very good to me.” And she says, “I don’t want any more reporters in
here. You guys get your asses out of here.” So later, back at work, some guy
comes running in there from the pressroom, and says, “There’s been a hold-up
across the street. They held up the restaurant.” Clark says, “It’s about
time.” And there are fire engines, and people are yelling, “It’s a big
story, there might be somebody shot over there,” and Clark just sat there
and said, “I hope it was that broad.” I mean, caustic, but funny. . .They
had a lot of drifters at the Daily News, and getting hired. They’d get fired
somewhere, like the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and they’d get hired at the
Daily News. Somebody would tell them, go to the Daily News. . .They had some
really strange people in there, too.
RR: One of the staff photos during the war has more women than men---
DD: Well, they put the accounting department in there, probably. . .
KITANO: Probably during the war. When the men came back, they got the
jobs. And they should have.
RR: And the presses really used to break down once in a while, and
DD: (Laughing) They’d break down all the time. Smoke would be coming
out of the city room, and somebody would be saying, “Oh, God, the presses
are broken again.”
KITANO: And people would come running, with pliers---
DD: Oh, yeah, some of that equipment, they never had any money to fix
it. All the big presses were all wired up. Everybody was afraid they were
going to explode. The whole building would shake from them---
KITANO: Oh, yeah, you knew the paper was going to press because the
whole building shook!
RR: How many editions a day?
KITANO: Oh, quite a few. Maybe eight? They hit the streets
RR: So eight times a day, the building shook like that.
RR: Did the Daily News reporters mingle with the reporters from the
other papers in town? The Daily News was kidded about being a “commie rag,”
and the reporters a “bunch of pinkos,” etc.---
KITANO: That’s probably because we had contracts at the Daily News.
And the Herald did, too. Newspaper Guild contracts.
RR: Everything started falling apart after Boddy sold the place in
’51 or so, yes?
KITANO: Right, and Robert L Smith took over.
RR: Handwriting was on the wall? People could sense the end coming?
KITANO, DILTZ: Yeah, yeah.
RR: There is sadness in both your voices after all these years.
KITANO: It was your home! It was your whole life!
DD: It was a unique voice in town. They thought the Mirror might pick
up on it (the Daily News was eventually purchased by the L.A. Times, and
“merged” with its own tabloid competitor, The Mirror, though the merger was
largely cosmetic.) The Mirror was too much under control of the Times.
KITANO: It was sad. You spent so much time there, and had such good
times, and made such good friends. I mean, it was really sad because you
didn’t know where some of these people were going when the paper closed. . .
DD: There was a reporter named Frank Rutherford. He was one of the
most agile and most competent police reporters in the town. He was always
scooping people. He could barely fit into a car. He was almost 300 pounds.
He’d hang around the News a lot, because he didn’t want to go back (to his
job) at the Examiner. He’d phone the Examiner and say he was out working on
RR: When it closed, what did it mean to the city? Did the city care?
KITANO: People who could plant stories probably cared a lot. I
imagine the Democratic Party was very sad about it. One voice was gone, and
the other papers couldn’t do it.
RR: The only Democratic voice---
RR: Best columnists in town?
KITANO: Weinstock. . .I think that’s a good assessment.
DD: The Times was so dull. I worked for AP for a year as a copyboy,
and I used to look in there, and it was just like working for an ad agency.
KITANO: Press agents and what-not used to be able to just walk right
in, and have immediate access to editors, reporters. Now you can’t get past
the guards downstairs.
RR: Papers were a lot more approachable, and more direct connection
with the community. Not removed, aloof. . .
KITANO: It builds up community contact.
RR: You were not just librarian, but also wrote about TV and radio,
KITANO: I think it was 1952, Lee Payne asked if I would do this, and
he said, “You’re it.” I became the good cop, and Paul Price (TV columnist)
was the bad cop.
DD: Irascible one.
KITANO: But he was sure of himself. Wrote a good column.
DD: Somebody broke his leg one day. He was walking around with a big
cast on. Somebody got to him. He’d write the nastiest stuff. . .Everybody
was in love with Mary. They’d read her stuff and call her (instead.) One guy
came in there one day, from NBC, and put his feet up on Paul’s desk, and
Paul threw him out.
KITANO: Physically. Oh, he was furious. “Don’t ever come back!”
DD: Your father used to make a lot of jokes about the place. He had a
lot of respect for the place, but he’d also laugh like hell about all the
craziness. You’d mentioned how the typewriters stuck, or keys were missing,
and he’d go into hysterics.
KITANO: We had wooden chairs, and they had cracks in them that
pinched your fanny when you sat down. So I called people to complain about
them, and instead of a new chair, they came with wires, pliers, and wired
the whole thing together! (Laughing.)
DD: And Janet Vernon the artist (who became wife of Lu Haas) was over
near a window overlooking the restaurant, and all this commotion would be
going on right in the city room, and books would be flying through the air,
and she’d work in her own little microcosm.
KITANO: There was a photographer, a very good one, named Cliff
Wesselman, and something ticked him off one night when he came in. And he
was so angry that he swung the door closed and it came off its hinges! It
was a little askew the next day, but somebody put it back together. With
DD: Probably Paul Weeks put it back together.
RR: The swinging door is still up there!
DD: Now the immigrants have to put up with it. Who else would inherit
the Daily News than a bunch of impoverished immigrants?
RR: It was a car dealership in the 20’s.
DD: Right. Packard, I think.
RR: Tell me about some of the other people you remember fondly.
DD: Chuck Chappell. He and Paul Weeks always held things together.
Very determined, nice guys.
KITANO: Paul was one great, nice guy. . .I remember that Chuck and
maybe Paul had me in for the preparation of the 1984 Daily News reunion.
They were trying to figure out how to get money, and I said, why don’t you
guys go shake some corporate trees? And they said, we can’t anymore!
I'D LIKE THAT HEADLINE MEDIUM-RARE: One of the famous steak
fry-ups at the Daily News. The sirloins were grilled in the library
on a hot plate or two, newspapers were spread out, and the staff
chowed down. Kitano, evidently finished eating, smokes on a desktop
by the open window. DN reporter Paul Weeks (center, black tie),
butters toast. L to R: rewrite man John Clark, city editor Aaron
Dudley (foreground), Kitano, copyboy Archie Lee, Weeks, night city
editor Joseph "Sparky" Saldana. (Collection of Paul Weeks.)