Ben Ehrhardt's relationship with the Lodi News-Sentinel goes back a long way. He was in third grade when he began reading the paper's sports and comics back in 1933.
He became a carrier in 1940-41, getting paid $7 per month when he started.
"My dad bought me a bicycle at Western Auto and said, 'Now go to work,'" Ehrhardt said.
Now 83, Ehrhardt still subscribes to the News-Sentinel, looking for local news at his Woodbridge home. He never read the local paper for national and international news because he could get what he needed to know on TV newscasts, and before that, the radio.
Ehrhardt was a News-Sentinel carrier in 1940-41, when he met Paul Zimmerman, who was a photographer and later editor. He also recalls Arthur Marquardt's daily front-page column, "Over the Morning Coffee," which Marquardt wrote until his retirement in 1959 — except for in 1942, when he was called to National Guard duty.
"It was kind of a Herb Caen-kind of column," Ehrhardt recalls.
Except for a stint in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II, Ehrhardt lived his whole life in Lodi and Acampo. His parents moved to the area from Kansas in 1920.
Despite living through the Depression, Ehrhardt's father provided well — with a radio, telephone and a News-Sentinel subscription.
"I can remember that our telephone number was 939-R," Ehrhardt said. "My father was very upset when we went to a rotary phone."
Back in Kansas, Ehrhardt recalls his father saying that you had to turn the handle on the phone and ask an operator for who they wanted, just like on the old "Andy Griffith Show" that was popular in the early 1960s. Farmers throughout the area would listen in to your conversation to find out the local gossip.
Ehrhardt's family grew up on 80 acres on Jahant Road, where the family grew table and winegrapes. During his childhood, the family moved to 801 S. Washington St., where Lodi House now stands.
Washington Street was quite rural in those days, so the family was able to bring with them a cow, chickens and geese.
Ehrhardt attended first and second grades at Oak View School in Acampo, third grade at Garfield Elementary in Lodi, fourth through sixth grades at Lincoln School, and seventh and eighth grade at Needham School. He graduated from Lodi High in 1944.
A short time later, Ehrhardt joined the Army Air Corps. He was a B-29 flight engineer in Amarillo, Texas, when World War II ended.
"Aug. 6, 1945, — I'll never forget that day," he said, recalling the day the United States bombed Hiroshima.
Upon returning home to Lodi, Ehrhardt enjoyed a 30-year career at Supermold. In 1976, he worked at Concrete Pipe and Products in Lockeford, retiring in 1988.
His wife, Arlie, died in 2007. She taught second grade for 30 years — three years at the old Galt Elementary School and 27 years at Leroy Nichols Elementary in Lodi.
Ehrhardt spent his earlier days playing the clarinet, saxophone and sometimes drums during weekend gigs with large and small bands. He also played with the Lodi Community Band for several years.
He was also a 38-year member of the Woodbridge Golf & Country Club, serving as president in 1988.
Despite being 83 years old, Ehrhardt enjoys gardening and dabbles on the computer. He's busy creating an e-card for a relative's upcoming birthday, and he e-mails to keep in touch with relatives and a couple of friends.
He also cooks for himself and has dinner once a week with his daughter and son-in-law, Carol and Frank Grenko.
On Sunday, he was busy watching the San Francisco Giants-Boston Red Sox game on TV. He marveled at how Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum could control his pitches with his unorthodox wind-up. He also objected to Lincecum's long air as it came out of his cap to his neck.
"When he takes off his cap, he looks like a homely woman," Ehrhardt said.