Martha Gibbons and Terry Mommi Clayton mark 40 years this month as employees at The Union Democrat.
They began their careers in 1972, when the price of gas was 36 cents a gallon, a first-class stamp cost 10 cents, a new house could be had for $30,500, and the unemployment rate was 5.9 percent. On the flip side, the median household income was $9,697.
At 19 years old, Clayton was the youngest employee at the newspaper. She started as a typesetter, retyping stories into a press computer that had been written by reporters on typewriters.
As a 21-year-old, Gibbons started in the production department “pasting up” newspaper pages when that actually meant cutting and pasting stories onto a page, a process that is done exclusively by computer today.
Neither of those jobs still exists, but Gibbons, 61, and Clayton, 59, both evolved as technology changed. Both remained in production for many years, working on getting stories and advertisements onto the printed page.
Today, Gibbons is an in-house advertising representative and “dummies” the paper, taking in the needs of the newsroom, advertising department, production and press to figure out ad placements and the amount of space for stories, which pages will have color and which will be black and white.
Clayton is an advertising representative with a territory representing customers in Jamestown, Copperopolis, Groveland and parts of Sonora.
“It’s a totally different job than I had when I started here,” she said, adding that she really enjoys working with her advertising clients and helping them promote their businesses through The Union Democrat.
Gibbons moved to Tuolumne County permanently in 1963 when she was 13, although she was a frequent visitor to the county all her life. Her grandparents moved to the county in the 1940s. She was married to Jeff Gibbons for 28 years, until his death in 2001.
Clayton is a Tuolumne County native. She grew up in Jamestown and married her high school sweetheart, which didn’t work out.
Gibbons and her husband brought together Clayton and her second husband, Adriano Mommi, after both ended relationships. The Gibbons invited them to stay and play pool after The Union Democrat’s annual Christmas party at the old Mono Inn at Standard Road and Mono Way. That was the beginning of their relationship.
Clayton and Mommi were married for 26 years before divorcing in 2000. They had two daughters, Nicole, 27, and Katrina, 26, and remained friends after the divorce. She met her current husband, Rick Clayton, through the Internet dating site Match.com.
Gibbons and Clayton both credit the late Harvey McGee, who owned The Union Democrat, from 1959 until his death in 1998, and his managing editor, Sally Scott, with mentoring them.
“Harvey was a fantastic person, employer, teacher, everything,” Gibbons said. “Everything I learned, I learned from him and Sally.”
Clayton said, “Harvey really took care of his employees. He was a generous man, and he was so professional. He always pushed to get the job done right.”
Union Democrat Advertising Manager Gary Piech said he has worked with Gibbons and Clayton for more than 25 years.
“I’ve always appreciated their commitment to excellent customer service and their loyalty to the newspaper,” he said. “Forty years is an amazing accomplishment. I congratulate both of them.”
Gibbons, 61, and Clayton, 59, said they plan to continue working alongside one another and the rest of the Union Democrat staff for several more years before retiring.
Clayton said she learned the meaning of the word, “teamwork,” working for the paper.
“One day I scanned pictures for a full color, full page ad for the first time, and I was so excited, I went to grab one of the first papers off the press to see it. It looked just great.”
Then the advertising representative came in and said her client would love the ad she put together, Then the pressman said he pulled the ad together and balanced the colors to make it look good.
“That’s when I realized that it takes all of us to put the paper
together,” she said. “We all work as a team to make the newspaper what