Fran

Fran DeLancey shows off his collection of political buttons at an event at Bradford Area Public Library in 2015.

The average time a person stays at a job in the U.S. is 4.1 years. But Fran DeLancey is anything but average.

DeLancey retired last month after 43 years at The Bradford Era, where he was the Smethport-area correspondent. He described some of the changes he’s seen over his career.

When he started, correspondents called in their stories over the phone, “and then we went to faxes and then to computers. In the days of roll film, John Dragoone who worked in composing used to” take his film to The Era office.

“If you had one photo, you had to get the whole roll in to the paper. Later on, I started to roll my own film,” he said, explaining you could buy 100-foot rolls of film and spool them yourself. “Now the dark room (at The Era) is for storage.”

DeLancey acknowledged that computers and email made his job much simpler.

Over the years, he had covered Smethport Borough council, school board, IU9, McKean County commissioners, planning commission, conservation district, fair association and whatever else he may have been assigned. “I figure I average six meetings a month, so I covered almost 3,000 meetings,” he said with a laugh.

So many parts of his long and storied career stand out in his memory, like winning an Associated Press Managing Editors’ Award in 2006 with The Era staff for coverage of Hazel Hurst native Jamie Himes getting presidential permission to adopt her military dog Rex that was injured with her in Iraq.

DeLancey recalled that in 1981, he accompanied a local union for air traffic controllers to Washington, D.C., to cover a protest after President Reagan fired 11,345 striking controllers.

In 2009, he covered the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh. “We had to get a state department clearance to attend that as official reporters,” he recalled. “Every morning before we went to the convention center we had to drop off our gear so it could be searched.”

His goal for the event was to get a photo of President Barack Obama, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown; he succeeded.

“Some of those have given me a front seat of history,” DeLancey said, “like the G20, it was impressive to see these world leaders who are making the news.”

Over the years, DeLancey interviewed many newsmakers, like Kitty Wells, Tricia Yearwood, Aaron Tippen, the Hager Brothers from Hee Haw, Sonny James, Morgan Wallen, Marie Osmond and the Confederate Railroad. All performed at the McKean County Fair.

“I talked to Tim Chitwood for the Thrill Show,” he said, referring to the Joie Chitwood Thrill Show, an auto stunt show that was a staple at the county fair for years. “Our fair was the oldest one on the Chitwood schedule. They started coming to McKean County shortly after World War II.”

With DeLancey’s coverage of the Smethport area, geography played a role in some interesting stories.

“With Route 6 going through Smethport … because of that road going across the U.S., we’ve had a lot of walkers and bikers,” he said. “One guy was walking backwards across the U.S. One kid was riding his bike from San Diego to Massachusetts for his grandmother’s birthday.”

He also mentioned the visit of the Vietnam Moving Wall to Smethport.

“It rained most of the time the wall was here, but we still had 14,000 people visit,” DeLancey said. “They had daily programs that increased the attendance.”

DeLancey taught at Smethport Area School District for 34 years, with 22 of those years at the same time as his Era career.

Reminiscing over the thousands of events he had covered and multitudes of people he had met, DeLancey said, “It’s been a great career and I’ve met so many great people, not just through Smethport but with the different assignments I’ve been given out of town.”

Newspapers may be lagging in popularity with younger generations, but DeLancey shared a few pearls of wisdom for students who may be thinking of a media career.

“It’s a chance to be part of history and you’re always searching for the truth,” he said. “Newspapers give stories in more detail, more depth than the bite on the 6 o’clock news.

“There’s an urge to beat your competition, but it’s not who is first, it is who is the most accurate,” DeLancey said.

“I’ve had enough memories for a lifetime and they’ve all been good.”

Jim Eckstrom, editor of The Era and Olean Times Herald, said DeLancey has been by far the most dedicated, longest-serving correspondent in his time with The Era and Bradford Publishing Co.

“I’ve been here for nearly 32 years and Fran has been a fixture of covering the Smethport area for that entire time,” Eckstrom said. “Having that extra set of eyes and ears over there has benefited not just the newspaper but all the readers in McKean County.”

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