Not a day seemed to go by this year that questions weren't flying.
What happened to that guy you wrote about last week? a caller would ask. Did things turn out OK for that woman? someone else would wonder. What are those people in your story going to do? a letter writer would inquire.
The answers were often unexpected. Sometimes things improved dramatically for people after their tale was told in The Times.
But sometimes things didn't.
Duarte resident Nancy Edwards didn't have a clue how interesting 1996 would be when a story was written that described her as America's first baby boomer.
No one read that account with more interest than Ralph Naveda, a retired movie studio production supervisor from North Hollywood.
Edwards, who works in the business office at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena, observed her 50th birthday on New Year's Day. She was profiled after a search of newspaper archives revealed that she had been born at the stroke of midnight as the year 1945 gave way to 1946. Since official records listed her date of birth as 1/1/46, she was the first of the group that would come to define American tastes and trends for decades.
The story recounted Edwards' life, explaining how her mother had split up with her serviceman-husband six weeks after her birth and that Edwards never knew him. Naveda said that when he read the story in February, "my heart started pounding. The more I read the more I knew this was my daughter."
A few tentative phone calls and letters later, Naveda had proved to Edwards that he, not the serviceman, was her father.
He explained that he had been a 19-year-old Los Angeles hospital orderly when he had a brief affair with her mother, who also worked there.
"We had a Labor Day barbecue at his house, Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve dinner together. We have lunch together once a week. It's wonderful," Edwards said.
Naveda said: "I find she's grown up to be a strong woman. The best thing about it is her sense of humor. She's made my life much happier."
Chuck Welch's hopes never got off the ground this year.
Details of his proposal for an aerial tramway to take tourists to the Hollywood sign set tongues wagging in March in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood where he lives. But it caused heads to shake at City Hall.
Welch, a retired furniture company owner, contends that a Palm Springs-style tram built on the San Fernando Valley side of Mt. Lee would end traffic jams caused by looky-loo tourists in the narrow lanes beneath the sign where he has lived for 45 years.
It also would be a moneymaker for the city, which started the year with an appeal from Mayor Richard Riordan for innovative ideas to increase municipal revenues, Welch said.
A story about the tram idea sparked a summer-long debate among residents, environmentalists and others in hillside homeowner association newsletters. But both Riordan and parks chief Jackie Tatum voiced doubts that it would be either ecologically or economically viable.
Welch has ended the year disillusioned about its prospects.
"I haven't given up. But I'm not putting a lot of energy in it now."
His new campaign, he said, is to reform city government by reorganizing it.
"I'm tired of fighting City Hall," he said. "We need a city of Hollywood. If we break the city into smaller pieces, then we can accomplish something."
For more than a dozen years, letter carrier Bob Tattsuki offered special delivery--mail and friendship--to a grateful generation of Mar Vista residents. And, as 1996 ends, he is about to start the tradition anew.
"You see a lot of old marriages here--it's nice to see couples still happy and taking care of each other," Tattsuki said in a June story. "There are a lot of smiles here. You have to smile back."
Those living in the 211 households on his route recounted how Tattsuki always watched for things like front doors left ajar and purses left in parked cars. They marveled at how he hand-carried mail to ill people and returned after work with certified letters to save residents a trip of their own to the post office.
Typical was the way Tattsuki, 57, stepped forward after Colbert Avenue homeowner Clyde Pesley suffered a stroke. The mailman volunteered to regularly chauffeur Pesley's wife, Ellie, to the grocery store. When she took ill, he drove Pesley to the hospital to visit her.
Ellie Pesley died early this year. And Tattsuki began spending his days off and evenings driving Clyde Pesley to the market, to the bank and to doctor's appointments. "Bob was even there the other day cleaning Clyde's bathroom," is the way neighbor Lee Levey put it in June.
That kind of praise would eventually prompt a personal commendation from U.S. Postmaster General Marvin Runyon.
Clyde Pesley died in July. His home was recently sold to a young couple who are expected to move in after the first of the year, Levey said the other day.
The consensus on Colbert Street, she said, is that Tattsuki will be among the first to welcome the newcomers to the neighborhood.