This “Santa dollar” was given out by the now defunct Home Federal bank, which according to Angela Carter of West Covina, was once located behind the K mart on Orange Avenue.
In journalism school, professors teach you not to become friends with sources. It’s a mindset that’s served me well these past 29 years.
Not so easy to do with letter writers.
They are a passionate breed. People who want so much to get their opinion “out there” that they’re willing to go public and even face opposition. They know the art of cajoling you to print their letter.
I respect that, a lot. I used to tell my young journalism students that “friendly nagging” is a good habit to nurture for a reporter or a public relations person. I was used to that because I have an Italian mother.
Milford Walker of West Covina was all of the above. Passionate. Colored unmistakably by a definite point of view. And a bit of a nag, to be honest.
So when he would call, I didn’t always look forward to it.
“Steve, I don’t want to take up too much of your time,” was the polite way he would start every conversation. It usually led to me hearing his well-informed opinion on such issues as unions, health care, government or the automobile industry. By the time we were done conversing, I had learned a lot and couldn’t care less about the deadline that had just passed (though my bosses could!).
Milford passed away on Dec. 29. He was 82. And although it has been less than a month, I miss his pointed calls and compassionate stances.
“He was always up and ready for a debate,” said his widow, Melba, who spoke to me by phone Thursday.
Former West Covina Mayor Nancy Manners sent me an e-mail about her remembrances of Milford. They met in 1984 during a precinct walk when she was running for City Council. He told her he wanted a ban on fireworks and Manners picked up the mantle. Eventually they were banned by a vote of the people. “When we prevailed I was his hero forever,” she joked.
Milford worked for Ford Motor Co. in Pico Rivera. During his retirement, he would write letters to the editor urging us to buy American cars. “… what better way to start showing your fellow neighbor you care for him or her? What better way to fly the American flag?” he wrote in a published letter about a year ago.
He was an unabashed union booster who was greatly upset over the recent failures of the American automobile industry. He supported universal healthcare and was a big fan of filmmaker Michael Moore, especially his movie on the topic, “Sicko.”
“He was a very dedicated Democrat and he didn’t care who knew it,” Manners told me. A liberal in the early 1980s in West Covina was much more of an anomaly than today, when Democratic voters outnumber Republicans. Yet Walker held to his convictions even though “he was willing to listen and learn from opposing views,” Manners wrote.
Milford always had trouble working computers and had a friend e-mail his letters these last few years. I pray now he’s sitting at a computer posting links with ease while advocating for the working man.
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Letter writer Angela Carter remembers the old Home Federal bank in West Covina behind the K-mart on Orange Avenue. When it went out of business, the tellers handed out “limited edition Christmas Dollars” (see photo above) and she mailed one to me in its original envelope. The legal tender was “adorned with Santa’s smiling face” affixed over Washington’s headshot.
Her handwritten note melted my heart: “I was thinking back to your column about your mail carrier dad and his pockets full of Christmas cards that he would let you open. I wanted to send you one of these so maybe as he looks down from heaven, he can watch you open this card.”
Maybe those J-school profs were wrong.