Former newsboy recalls Leader Times past
A former Leader Times newsboy and frequent school truant credits those on his Kittanning route with setting him on the right path.
Herman “Buss” Cravener, 68, who lives in Balcony Towers on South McKean Street, was about 11 years old when he started delivering papers for what was then called the Simpsons' Daily Leader-Times.
Dressed in denim, his white hair pulled back in a ponytail under a black Neil Young ball cap, Cravener recalled those early days in Kittanning with a twinkle in his eye.
“I was an incorrigible student — I ran the truant officer ragged,” he said.
Cravener was one of 10 children, born at home on Union Way near Queen Street. He was born with a type of hereditary vision impairment, but could see well enough to read large print and get by most of the time.
“I could pass by picking up cues and would try and get along without drawing attention to myself,” Cravener said.
And even though he was inquisitive and loved to check out the newspaper's sports' page, his intellectual interests throughout his childhood and teen years didn't extend to school work. His chronic truancy landed him in reform school, and he eventually dropped out of school at 16.
But during his years delivering papers in East Kittanning — a route that included the Armstrong County Courthouse — Cravener got to know the professionals who worked there and found a measure of support from them.
He recalled the murder trial of Robert Tally Davis during the summer of 1957, which riveted the town.
“I would grab 30 extra papers and unload them at the courthouse during the trial,” he said. “Everyone would come out of the courtroom and read the story.”
Prothonotary Fred McElhenny was among the courthouse employees who befriended the newspaper boy and encouraged Cravener to believe in himself despite his poor track record in school.
“He must have thought I had something of value,” Cravener said.
“Mr. McElhenny mentored me without really knowing it,” he said, adding that McElhenny helped get him a job at a local nursery after he quit working as a paperboy.
The encouragement Cravener received stuck with him.
And even though it took quite a few years, Cravener eventually headed back to the classroom.
He was married to his former wife and had two sons when he went through the General Education Development (GED) Program in Kittanning before attending Clarion University. He graduated in 1983, earning a bachelor of arts in history, a bachelor of science in communications and a master's degree in communications.
Cravener is retired after working in a variety of jobs, including a stint as a weatherman for a television station in Parksville, W.Va.
His sense of inquisitiveness has never left him, and he likes to spend time researching whatever piques his interest.
“I like how you start looking for one thing and wind up somewhere else,” he said — which says something about his outlook on life.
“You never know what's around the corner,” he said.
Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.