By Herman Sillas
Charlie Ericksen had been a copy boy at a newspaper in Los Angeles. He joined the Army and was sent to Korea and Japan. He also wrote for the Army. When he got out of the service, he went back to the Los Angeles Mirror afternoon tabloid and wrote ghosts columns for its reporters. He then went to Mexico to write an American novel, but it didn’t work out. He fell in love with and married Tana, a young Mexican woman and later he returned to Los Angeles with his wife and their two children.
Charlie again returned to the Mirror newspaper and ghost-wrote for columnist Paul Coates for about three years. That is when I met Charlie and liked him. He was then hired and began writing various reports for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission for the Western Office in Los Angeles. I was a member of the California State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. Charlie wrote our reports and I marveled at his work.
I was appointed the Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles by Gov. Jerry Brown and I called Charlie to help me because l loved his writing. He came and brought his family from Washington, D.C. We had three great years together. I was offered another job and left.
At that point, Charlie and his wife Tana made history. They returned to Washington D.C. and started the Hispanic Link News Service. Having been in the media world most of his adult life, Charlie was aware that Mexican-American reporters were not numerous in the English media world, and he and Tana wanted to change that. Mexican-Americans had increased in population but not in the newspaper business and no one was covering the issues that were relevant to Hispanics.
Charlie contacted newspapers and said the Hispanic Link would provide three articles a week written by Mexican-Americans on their issues to help reach the newspapers of Latino readers. Newspapers agreed to pay Hispanic Link for the articles and Mexican-American writers were eager to have their views and work available to the rest of the world.
Hispanic Link then hired Mexican-American students to come work for them. They were sent to press conferences held in Washington D.C. by politician office holders and officials. The students attended the press conferences and learned from Charlie how to ask questions.
The students came back to the Hispanic Link office and wrote stories of the press conferences. Some of those stories were sent to the newspapers who had signed up for three articles provided by Hispanic Link. The students stayed at Hispanic Link working at various lengths of time and then returned to their school with experiences that were not available at any other locations.
They were subsequently hired by newspapers throughout the United States. Two of Charlie and Tana’s sons went to work at the Link as well. Students remained in contact with Charlie long after they were hired by newspapers of this nation. The hiring newspapers realized the valuable experience that these employees had gotten from their time spent at the Hispanic Link.
Tana passed away and Charlie has now retired, but his former employees now get their pay from newspapers throughout this country.
Charlie closed the Hispanic Link and returned to California to be with his children. I have attended functions where Charlie has been presented a certificate of appreciation from schools and professional writer organizations for his effort in preparing Hispanic news writers. I’m sure we all have come across things we think should be changed, but do nothing about it. I am grateful to know a person who did bring about change in this world we occupy.
That’s the view from the Pier.
Herman Sillas is an artist, writer and formally the United States Attorney of the Eastern District of California. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.