One of my favorite recurring features in the Weekly is our popular Take Us Along series, where readers bring our print newspaper with them on vacation and snap a photograph at locations near and far -- and then send the picture to us with caption information for future publication.
I'm often in awe of the beautiful, historical or personal settings our readers choose, not to mention the creativity and detail of their anecdotes and the dedication to bring our paper along on trip after trip, with some young adults now continuing the family tradition for a second generation.
Wanting to shine a special spotlight on the program in my column, I decided to reach out to our founding editors for their recollections a couple weeks ago. Jeb Bing and Dolores Fox Ciardelli, who are now enjoying retirement, each answered quickly and reiterated the same origin story.
Very fortuitous timing by me, as it turns out.
It was 23 years ago, midway through our first year in operation, that then-Pleasanton police chief Tim Neal decided to bring the Pleasanton Weekly with him on vacation to New York City and his wife snapped a picture of him leafing through the paper in front of the Statue of Liberty. They gave Jeb a copy of their photo, and he published it ... in the July 21, 2000 edition.
"After Tim's picture ran, other readers began sending in their shots and the feature was born!" Dolores recalled.
And boy did grow. We've now run thousands of Take Us Alongs (as it would eventually be named) over the years: some as solo photo items, some grouped together on an entire page and occasionally on our cover.
We still have boxes filled with printed photos people would bring to our office or send us in the mail. For years, we maintained a bulletin board in the office with the reader submissions. Now, thankfully for my organizational needs, all of the photos and captions are sent to me via email -- and I finally have a healthy queue stocked up again after the travel dip during the pandemic.
Thanks to our readers, the Weekly has visited all seven continents and nearly 100 countries. In 2005, we reported that the paper had been to every U.S. state except for Mississippi and North Dakota; I sure hope we crossed those final two off the list at some point, though we don't keep formal records, haha.
In that same year, we ran a Take Us Along featuring actor/comedian Mike Myers with our paper in Hawaii on the cover of our fifth anniversary edition. I haven't been able to track down the whole story behind it, but I've been assured it's a legit photo.
We do get celebrities and public figures featured on occasion. We were at Opening Day in Yankee Stadium earlier this year as San Francisco Giants shortstop and Pleasanton's own Brandon Crawford was in the Bronx with his family while taking on the New York Yankees.
I've turned in my share of Take Us Alongs over the years, including my own at MLB Opening Week in Japan in 2019 when the Oakland A's took on the Seattle Mariners in the Tokyo Dome.
I also had memorable Take Us Alongs at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland in 2018, at the historic Welty's General Store in Dubois, Wyo., (formerly operated by my grandpa's family) in summer 2021 and on our couch in Pleasant Hill in early 2022 weeks after my son Francis was born.
Another thing I love is when people who are featured on our front page bring that newspaper on their trip. Recently, Nichelle Baviera submitted a Take Us Along (shown above) from a visit earlier this year with her pen pal Diana Harris in Sedona, Ariz. The paper she used? The March 2, 2018 edition featuring Dolores' cover story about their enduring friendship: "The power of pen pals: After four decades of corresponding, two women finally meet".
Capturing memories with family and friends, or just by oneself, is why the Take Us Along is so popular in Pleasanton.
I also appreciate that it's a way so many readers show their support for our paper and our connection in their community; while implicit support is great, explicit support for our local journalism business -- and our print newspaper -- is that much more impactful in these increasingly tough times for our industry.
So if you're going on vacation and bringing the Weekly along, don't hesitate to send me your Take Us Along afterward. I can't wait for our readers to see it.
To submit your "Take Us Along" entry, email your photograph to email@example.com. Be sure to identify who is in the photo (names listed from left to right), the location, the date and any relevant details about where you took your Weekly.