This week is an anniversary of sorts – at least for this newspaper.

During this week 100 years ago, ownership of the Patterson Irrigator passed from the hands of its founder, Elwyn Hoffman, who with the backing of the Patterson Ranch Co., started publication of the Irrigator on Aug. 31, 1911.

Hoffman, from all indications, was an interesting man. Tall, very conservative, and an ardent teetotaler, he never married but brought his mother to live in Patterson. He also was a friend of author Jack London, who occasionally wrote letters to the editor that were published in the Irrigator. To some of his contemporaries, Hoffman was known as the Jackrabbit Editor.

In mid-1919, Hoffman sold the Irrigator to Rolland C. Fleharty, who had only recently returned from World War I duty in Europe. At that time Fleharty’s father owned the Newman Index.

Until then, the Irrigator’s office had been on the second floor of the Plaza Mercantile Co. building, now Oak Valley Community Bank. Fleharty immediately moved it to the first floor of the Leverton building, now Schut Insurance on North Third Street. There it stayed until Fleharty 10 years later built the present Irrigator building next door.

He continued ownership of the Irrigator for nearly 30 years, retiring after selling the business in the late 1940s.

It should be mentioned that under Hoffman’s ownership, the Irrigator was printed weekly in San Francisco and distributed locally on Saturdays. That required Hoffman to make a train trip to and from the city late each week. Under Fleharty’s ownership, the Irrigator was printed in Newman. A press was finally moved into the Patterson shop in the early 1950s.


The opening of a Round Table Pizza facility on Ward Avenue is apparently on track again, according to a large sign posted on the building. Its location will be in the same building as Burger King, now open on Ward Avenue just north of Walgreen’s.


The death of billionaire philanthropist Kenneth Behring was announced last week. He was the developer of the Blackhawk gated communities in Contra Costa County, one-time owner of the Seattle Seahawks football team, and founder of the Blackhawk auto museum.

But a few locals may remember his proposal some three decades ago to develop a gated community here south of Sperry Avenue and West of Ward. It also was proposed to include a golf course.

Another name in the news is that of Loren Lighthall, who has accepted an administrative position in Stanislaus County with the Hughson School District. For the past two years he was the principal at Paradise High School, moving his family of nine from Southern California to land in a dream community for raising kids.

Then this past school year came the disastrous fire in that area that destroyed his home, his school, and took the lives of 85 people. His school finished the year in impromptu quarters, his oldest son graduated in early June, and the Lighthalls sadly made their move.


When you get to be a certain age – I’ve certainly arrived – time just flies by.

Here we are, already halfway through the year 2019, and that 2020 election everyone has been talking about on the telly is just around the corner.

I was reminded just the other day about how fast the current year is speeding along. In the mail came my first complimentary 2020 calendar – this one from the National Wildlife Association.

I also realized that in just five-and-a-half weeks, the kids will be back in school. Yes, time flies.


We Persons of Maturity were known to climb trees on a regular schedule in our youth. It was a challenging activity.

I haven’t seen a youngster up a tree in decades.


Oh - the American women’s soccer team may not visit the White House this year, thus missing the gourmet hot dog feast.


This year’s fireworks at the Apricot Fiesta were a great improvement over a year ago.

For that reason, I didn’t purchase fireworks for the 4th of July.

Oh, to be honest, I didn’t purchase any last year or the previous 10 years either. Therefore the street was clean of debris in front of our house.

Ron Swift is editor/publisher emeritus of the Patterson Irrigator. He can be reached at

PI editor/publisher emeritus

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