Today is The Ardmoreite's birthday (obligatory applause and singing of "Happy Birthday")!

Most people make a big deal about themselves when they turn a year older, but The Ardmoreite has done this 119 times already before.

It's time to make it all about the big picture.

While The Ardmoreite comprises one building, one entity in Ardmore and southern Oklahoma, it's much more than a single "thing." It takes dozens of people to operate today, and as many as a hundred in the past. Keeping in mind that we're 120 years old today, you have to really wonder how many people have actually passed through the doors of your newspaper.

But there's a group of people who are rarely thought of when The Ardmoreite is mentioned — the children.

Yes, The Ardmoreite is still known to be a kid-friendly place, opening the doors for Trick-or-Treaters during Halloween or drawings of Santa and letters to Santa during Christmas. And let's face it, it's a cool place to come if you're still in your youth.

For some children, they got much more than a few trips through the front doors. In fact, they were practically raised by The Ardmoreite.

Gary Dillard, Mark Riesen and Lisa Martin all grew up under their parents and former Ardmoreite owners Buddy and John Riesen and Betty Dillard.

Despite a few recent trips to the building, the three came to their interview with The Ardmoreite Wednesday with a bit of a skip in their step.

"So much of it is exactly the same," Mark said, walking through the press room. "It's almost like stepping back in time."

Memories quickly began to resurface about running around on the upper floors of the building, and sneaking around the back shop where papers were printed and inserted. Upon walking into the back shop, both Gary and Mark immediately looked up and noticed the catwalk from the theater side of the building was still in place.

"This building used to be a theater, I believe Ardmore Little Theater owned it then," Gary recalled. "Boy, they weren't happy when we bought the building."

While touring the press room, Mark happened to bump into some of his former counterparts from when he was an employee in the back shop — Don and Bill Scruggs, who still work at The Ardmoreite.

"I went to school with those guys and worked with them back here, and they're still here," Mark said. "That's the kind of employees we used to have all the time around here. They would stay for long periods of time."

In fact, the biggest talking point of the "Riesen 3" was the family atmosphere that the business had.

"Employees would stay with us for 20, 30, 40 years," Gary said. "We all really were treated like one big family. Everyone cared about everyone, and we knew what we were doing was important.

"This was the hub of information for this area. It was all local, no wire at that time. So if something happened in town, you could be sure it would be in The Ardmoreite."

The family even managed to keep all employees staffed during depression eras in the country.

"I remember, that was one of Buddy's proudest moments," Gary said. "He didn't have to let anyone go during the Depression, he kept a full staff. That was very important to him."

The family even went so far as to keep an elevator operator on staff when the building was built and the elevator was updated.

"It used to be one of those manual elevators," Gary said. "He couldn't let the elderly lady go that had been doing it for years, so we got her a chair and she sat in the elevator and pushed the buttons for everyone until she left."

Martin, the granddaughter of early Ardmoreite owner John Easley, said her childhood memories of The Ardmoreite were almost entirely good ones.

In a submission to The Ardmoreite, she says, "The noise from the huge typesetters echoed throughout the entire building. When the presses started rolling, it sounded like an explosion. It was orchestrated chaos, and I just loved every moment."

Martin also said she "unofficially" started working for The Ardmoreite when she would help her father proof pages before going to press.

But all three mentioned a name synonymous, still today, with the images that The Ardmoreite put out each and every day — Joyce Franks.

"He would take us out on photo runs, on wrecks, fires, everything," Gary said. "It was so cool. He lived for that stuff, and to see some of the things we did with that was great."

In addition to the Riesen children, Franks brought his son with him to many of his assignments.

Greg Franks is younger than the Riesens, but has many of the same memories.

"Dad would take me to wrecks, to football games, OU and Dallas Cowboy games," Franks said. "It was really neat to get to go to the places where not everyone could go, only the photographer."

Greg said nobody on staff ever wanted to attend the Dallas Cowboy games, so he and his dad would more-often-than-not get the field passes.

"I remember, he'd give me the camera and let me shoot a few pictures," Greg said. "It was so cool to think that I was there. That moment I captured on camera, I was there."

He even recalled a photo that Joyce picked to run in the paper that he didn't know he took.

"I said, 'That's a great picture AP sent of them diving into the endzone'," Franks said. "But he told me it was mine. I was shocked. It was so cool to have my photo in the paper."

Greg recalled many of the features of the building, but was most taken aback when walking through the old dark room of The Ardmoreite.

"This used to be lined with cabinets and trays, the red light, all of that stuff," he said. "Now it's all gone. Just gutted. But it's like I can still see it."

Franks would help his father develop the film, and gained a strong interest in photography, taking several classes and eventually working for The Ardmoreite.

"I remember when they made the movie 'Dillinger' in town," Greg said. "We got to go around to the movie sets, see the movie stars. Dad got to hang around those people. It was just neat to be behind the scenes of a movie.

"He would get a call in the middle of the night to go on an assignment and didn't want to go alone, so he'd take us with him. It was just the neatest thing in the world to hang around up here and with him."

When the Riesens sold the newspaper, the "Riesen 3" and Franks were all sad to see it change hands. They had all moved on with their own careers, but said it was as if someone important had been taken from their lives.

"Selling the newspaper was like losing a loved one," Lisa said. "Our family grew up there, and it will always be a special place in our souls."

Gary echoed Lisa's comments, and said despite their family letting it go, he was glad it wasn't just abandoned.

"It's been here for 120 years, and our family had it for a lot of that time," he said. "But even when we let it go, it was sad. But to see it's still here and still going is wonderful. Even as newspapers are on the decline, The Ardmoreite still does a great job, and we're proud to have been a part of that."