by Harmony Hamilton
Life could be hard in the 1930s and 1940s. One of five children raised by a single mother, Hiram Torres didn’t always have things come easily, so that just meant he worked harder. He worked hard at being a paper boy and then in circulation and all the way up to a newspaper vice president.
Torres was born a twin on October 18, 1930. He grew up with four other siblings in a shotgun house in Algiers, Louisiana. His father died when he was only five years old and his mother supported the family by playing piano for silent movies and cleaning houses. He and his siblings would gather to sing around the piano with his mother.
“We would gather in the front room of our shotgun house. One time, she picked out a song for me to sing called Last Night on the Back Porch (I Loved Her Most of All).”
Hiram attended grammar school at Swartz School in on the West Bank of New Orleans. Since his mother was parenting five children alone, Hiram says they only wore shoes when school was in session since they had to walk there every day. If their shoes got a hole, they would have to put a piece of cardboard in the bottom of them.
He delivered newspapers as a teenager and, instead of being called paperboys, they were called carriers. Sadly for Hiram, his bike was stolen during his route one day, landing him as a story in the very papers he threw daily. Hiram eventually earned enough money to buy a new bicycle. In addition to this job, Torres also built a shoeshine box. He said he would ride the Algiers Ferry and charge ten cents to shine the passengers’ shoes.
Overall, Hiram says his childhood was good with many fond memories. He remembers days when he and his close friends could walk the streets when drugs, violence, and other modern issues were not a problem.
But some big events leave an impression. When he was 11, Hiram remembers President Roosevelt’s speech after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He was playing at a friend’s house on December 7, 1941, on the West Bank of New Orleans, Louisiana, when news quickly spread of the bombing. He and his friend ran inside to hear Roosevelt’s historic speech.
During Hiram’s youth, segregation and Civil Rights was a pressing issue; however, he was not affected by the racial antics surrounding him. He lived across the street from a mixed neighborhood and was friendly to local African-American kids. In school, Hiram says the racial barrier was not that strong and that the adults were the ones deeply rooted in the segregation.
Hiram joined the Navy in 1951 because he did not want to be drafted into the army and remained in service until 1955. He married his wife Joyce in his uniform in 1952. The two met when they were teenagers and Hiram remembers walking Joyce home after her shift had ended at the local drug store. Together, they had five children. One of their children, Gregory, is currently in his twenty-fourth year as the director of bands at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux.
Before and during his time as a Navy man, Torres found himself back in the newspaper industry. In 1948 he started working for The Times-Picayune. He began working in the circulation department, then was transferred to the credit department and then was promoted to vice president. He spent 48 years at The Times-Picayune, retiring in 1996. Torres says his boss asked him why he did not stay for 50 years.
“Forty-eight is enough.”
Check out what news the New Orleans Times-Picayune is covering today: