BRENTWOOD -- The history of a small community is woven through the pulpy fibers of its town newspaper, and one of the East Bay's oldest is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Founded on June 26, 1914 by publisher J.B. Dickson, the Brentwood News has continuously chronicled the triumphs, tragedies, births, weddings, funerals, politics and sports scores of generations of East Contra Costa families. Its stories have found their way into countless scrapbooks and onto bulletin boards of schools and businesses, turning everyday residents into local celebrities, bringing strangers together, keeping readers in touch with old friends.

Over the years, newspaper styles have changed. In Dickson's time, it was common for front-page stories to include news of who purchased a new car and what family was visiting, from where, and whether they were staying with family members or at a local hotel.

When local historian Kathy Leighton thinks back on the Brentwood News, she remembers when she went away to college in Utah during the 1960s and decided to subscribe to the newspaper while she was away to keep up with everyone back home.

"There used to be a column by Laura Crumlyn who would write local gossip stories like, 'Mr. so and so motored to Stockton this week,' " Leighton said. "My roommate and I used to wait for the paper to come in the mail. We couldn't wait to hear who motored where or whatever the news was at the time."

Leighton's own great aunt, Annie Pendry, wrote a local gossip-type column for the paper for some years as well, called "Over the Backyard Fence," where she would share similar stories of the town people's news.

When Leighton first started keeping track of regional history, she had the chance to work with then-Brentwood News publisher Lynn Clousing, who introduced her to the backroom at the Brentwood News office on Third Street, where years of the newspaper were kept.

"Lynn let me spend hours going through the old papers," Leighton said. "It's how I got started with my interest in regional history."

Clousing passed away several years ago; however, his wife, Elaine Palmer, remembers when he worked as publisher in the mid-1980s. At the time, Brentwood was much smaller, with fewer than 6,000 residents.

"Whenever anyone mentioned shopping or needing to purchase anything, Lynn would say, without fail, 'Tell them you saw it in the Brentwood News!' and often that was the case," Palmer said.

"The local ads and the local columnists made it a fun read every issue, and it was often a topic of discussion over lunch."

When Clousing began at the Brentwood News, Palmer said, he was the jack-of-all-trades, from changing light bulbs to loading newsstands.

"He loved it. Everyone knew everyone. My daughter used to say, 'In Brentwood, you don't go to Liberty Drug, you go to Joe's; It's not Brentwood Furniture, it's Barbara's; It isn't the Farmhouse Cafe, it's Bob's."

Clousing was just one in a long line of publishers and editors since Dickson began publishing the News in 1914. There was often confusion about early ownership because of a fire that occurred July 4, 1920. Records did show that between 1915 and 1920, there were four editors of the paper, and the location of the offices moved each time.

From 1920 to 1931, Sam Hill owned the paper. In 1931, Edgar Allen purchased the paper from Hill and kept hold of it until 1955.

Not a real fan of Sam Hill, it was said that Allen took all the extra copies left from the time that Hill ran the paper and burned them in an effort to erase any copies from Hill's rein.

Other owners of the paper included Loyal Bisby from 1955 to 1957, Gentry Durham from 1957-1965, John Henderson from 1965-1966, Ernie Cox from 1966-1969 and William Brewer from 1969-1971.

In 1971, Tracy Press owners Tom and Sam Mathews purchased the Brentwood News, and Bethel Island's Bob Gromm was the managing editor. Gromm later stayed on as a columnist of the newspaper after Dean Lesher purchased the paper in 1986. Since Lesher's death in 1993, the company has passed hands multiple times, and the paper, which now serves of all East County as an extension of the East County Times, is part of Bay Area News Group.

"In the past century, Brentwood has evolved from a small agricultural community to a booming Bay Area suburb," said current Brentwood News Editor Judith Prieve.

"But no matter how large the city and its surrounding towns grow, one thing remains the same: the thirst for local news.

"For 100 years, our reporters, photographers and editors have captured East Contra Costa's history, and we plan to continue to keep our fingers on the pulse of the communities we cover. As always, we welcome story tips, ideas, letters and guest commentaries because no matter how we expand, the News is still the community's voice, and we always want to hear from you."

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