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The city of La Feria is celebrating its 100th year anniversary and to commemorate the occasion we are digging deep into our archives each week to bring you images and stories from La Feria’s colorful past.

The following is part of a series of historical articles written by Michael Lamm that originally ran in the La Feria News in 2003. They are being reprinted with the author’s permission.

My newspapering career began and ended in the summer of 1946. I was 10 at the time. My boss, Eleanor Galt, ran the La Feria bureau of the Valley Morning Star. Mrs. Galt called me her Star cub reporter.

The two of us worked out of a tiny office in the Alto movie theater on Oleander Avenue. The one-room office contained a desk, two chairs, a phone, a police radio and a filing cabinet.

Mrs. Galt was then about 35 years old: a tall, dark-haired, pleasant-looking woman with glasses. I remember her as constantly cheerful and very energetic, always going full tilt. Mrs. Galt loved photography, had won numerous prizes, and several magazines had published her pictures. She owned a great, huge 4×5 Speed Graphic, and I think her energy and that camera were really why the Star hired her. They sent her all over the Valley to take pictures.

unfolded-crown-speed-graphic

She kept film holders and flashbulbs everywhere: in her purse, inside her old Mercury coupe and all over our office. She had a darkroom in her home on the lake in Adams Gardens, and when she wasn’t out shooting for the Star, she’d be processing film and making prints.
Typically, Mrs. Galt would listen to the police scanner until she heard something interesting—news of a fire, an auto accident, whatever. Then she’d dash out with her Speed Graphic, take pictures, get names and information, rush back to her house, develop and print the photos, write the copy and whip everything over to the Star’s headquarters in Harlingen.

Meanwhile, it was my job mostly to stay at the office and mind the phone. I also had a day-to-day assignment that involved reporting on La Feria’s city activities. My beat took me to the mayor’s office, police department and water works. I’d hop on my bike first thing in the morning and pedal over to the mayor’s office, talk to his secretary and ask if she had any news. Same at the police station and the water office. Most mornings were pretty quiet.

One thing about being a 10-year-old cub reporter: I wasn’t a threat to my news sources. The city secretaries indulged me and treated me with good-natured amusement. And yet I was very serious about my job.

When something newsworthy did happen, the secretaries would usually tell me about it. I’d write the story in long-hand, and if Mrs. Galt felt it was significant or interesting, she’d type it up and pass it along to her editor in Harlingen.

Mrs. Galt paid me out of her own pocket. The arrangement was that I got 50 cents per column inch of printed copy. I kept track of my stories, cut them out of the paper and pasted them in a scrapbook. At the end of the week, Mrs. Galt would get out her ruler, measure the text and pay me. I’d typically earn a couple of dollars a week.

Whenever I wasn’t gathering news, which took half an hour or so each morning, I’d sit in Mrs. Galt’s office and wait for the phone to ring. The office had a rear door that opened into the Alto theater, and I’d often go back there and savor the cool darkness. Of course, I’d spent many a happy Saturday afternoon watching B westerns in the theater, both before and after working for Mrs. Galt.

When I sat there in the dark, I could smell the popcorn and disinfectant and feel the sticky floor under my feet. Since I had such easy access to the theater, it occurred to me to let friends in through our office door on Saturdays when movies were playing, but I never worked up the courage.

By far the biggest news story I ever wrote for Mrs. Galt was about the six-year-old La Feria boy who dropped down a chimney. The kid’s name was Dougie something, and I knew him vaguely. Seems Dougie decided one afternoon to enter his house by sliding down the chimney. He promptly found himself stuck.

Luckily someone heard him yell, and even more fortunately, he’d gone down with his arms up over his head. Dougie’s dad and a couple of neighbors climbed on the roof, lowered a rope and pulled Dougie out. His family then delivered him to my dad’s medical office to get him a tetanus shot, and that’s where I heard about Dougie’s ordeal.

Mrs. Galt took pictures of the still-sooty Dougie, I wrote up the story. It made the front page of the next day’s Valley Morning Star under my byline. I was thrilled to see my name in print and doubly pleased when Mrs. Galt measured the text and handed me $5.50.

At summer’s end, I returned to school, and that pretty much ended my newspaper career. But Mrs. Galt had already pointed me in the direction of my eventual life’s work: writing, editing and book publishing. So I’ve been eternally grateful to her. Thank you, Eleanor Galt.

MichaelLamm2ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Lamm’s family moved to La Feria in 1939, when Mike was three. Both his parents practiced medicine in La Feria. Mike grew up here and went away to college in 1954, first in Oregon and then in New York. He and his wife, JoAnne, and their three sons live in California, where Mike publishes books about cars. His company website – www.LammMorada.com.


Do YOU have any photos, books, or stories that might help us piece together La Feria’s storied history? If so please email us or call our office at 956-797-9920 and let us know!

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