Editor’s note: This is the first of two parts. The second part will be published in The Cambrian’s Aug. 20 issue.
When the Tanners moved six years ago, I thought that would be the last time I’d ever have to sort, pack, toss and clean to relocate. I so looked forward to chuckling sympathetically any time I saw a U-Haul truck or trailer, remembering the firm’s classic, sadistically understated logo line of “An Adventure in Moving.”
No such luck.
Fortunately, my family isn’t moving again (please, no!).
This time, it’s for work: The Cambrian is meandering down the street to a sweet, recently remodeled historic house at 2068 Main St., slightly behind and to the side of Hauser Brothers Goldsmiths.
Packing up to move brings out my nostalgic side and my sulky little-kid persona, with many clashes between my packrat and minimalist tendencies.
And my goodness, does moving trigger a lot of memories!
Three decades plus
The Cambrian began in 1931, but there’s been a Cambria newspaper for 145 years. I think that’s remarkable, especially in today’s weird market for periodicals.
It’s amazing what a profound effect a little award-
winning community weekly can have on a town, on the people who read the paper, on those who owned the paper, loved it and produced it … and on my life.
So far, I’ve been part of The Cambrian for 34 years. I’ve worked side-by-side with nine editors and a host of wonderful compatriots.
Together, we wrote tomorrow’s history today, covering: the bombing of Hearst Castle; the 1995 flood; the 13-month closure of Highway 1; plane crashes; eternal water-supply woes; the loss of thousands of native trees to stormy winds, pests, disease or drought; fires; other floods and road-closing landslides; tragedies and victories; horrendous accidents and incredible saves; cold-hearted crimes and incredibly supportive communitywide efforts; the conservation setting-aside of thousands of acres of land; and movie filming (“Commando” and “Arachnophobia,” for openers).
But most of all, we wrote about dedicated, caring townspeople who know what their town needs and are willing to work hard to make it happen.
Do they always agree on what that is? Get real. This is Cambria.
History and 1981
As it turned out, 1981 was a watershed year for the paper and for me.
But first, a little history.
The Waltz family started The Cambrian in 1931, and a year later, moved it into its new building on Roosevelt Highway, Lot 25 of Unit 7, Cambria Pines (now 783 Main St.). For more than two decades, the paper was a Waltz family business in every sense of the phrase.
Then, in 1954, the Waltzes sold the paper to Ralph Winthrop “Scoop” Morgan Jr., and his mother, Lucile M. Morgan. Again, for more than two decades, it was a family business, and for part of that time, the family lived upstairs.
A little context here? In 1958, the state took over ownership of Hearst Castle, an event that eventually had a huge impact on the North Coast.
Editor Scoop was best known for his conservatism, rapier wit, his predilection for stirring up a rousing exchange of opinions in the paper’s “letters to the editor” section, occasional “hoax” stories, his hilarious April Fool’s Day editions and the piercing expression in his eyes when he was about to skewer someone.
I knew Scoop. I respected him, although he frequently infuriated me, as he fully intended to do.
Reporter-editor Kathy Campbell was among those who worked for Scoop. She recalled how he would walk “daily to the post office at the other end of town. Often, he was gone for hours, leaving us to tell callers and visitors that he was out of the office and no, we didn’t know when he would be back.”
She also recalled the paper’s “daily visits from Art Beal, who so wanted us to publish his poetry.”
Campbell said she still sits daily at “Scoop’s old library-table desk, which Virginia let me have when she insisted he get a roll-top — probably to cover up the mess of his desk — which, of course, didn’t work. He did not care for that roll-top.”
Scoop died of a sudden heart attack at 60 on June 9, 1980. Almost exactly a year later, his second wife, Virginia Morgan, sold the 50-year-old newspaper to John P. Scripps Newspapers. She said she picked that offer because “this has always been a newspaper that cared about Cambria and its people. I am assured that it will remain so under the new ownership.”
Eventually, John P. Scripps sold to E.W. Scripps Co. (Scripps Howard), which eventually sold to Knight-Ridder, which was bought out by The McClatchy Company.
How I got here
My personal link to the paper began in early 1981. I offered to write a food column, which made sense, because I was co-owner/operator of our two-year-old Upper Crust Bakery and Tearoom (now the French Corner).
Managing Editor Sam Vigil signed me up. Yes, I’m still writing the column for The Cambrian and The Tribune, although the column’s rarely about food these days.
When Virginia Morgan sold the paper in June, 1981, Claudia Snow (now Claudia Elliott) became editor-publisher, a job she held for about four years.
In a recent Facebook exchange, Claudia said that “there was a circular staircase in the corner of one of the downstairs offices that went up to a door that had been nailed shut. We weren’t using the upper part of the building.” But eventually, “we replaced the original staircase and opened up the top area for office space.”
(I remember that “new” staircase: Narrow, steep and scary, especially on a dark, late-winter’s evening or Halloween.)
Reporter Karen Clare (1983-84) remembers the office as “a homey place where another employee brought her dog to work every day. The shotgun-style building had the cutest gingerbread façade and was down the street from an English pub which served some of the best soup I’ve ever had.”
She recalled listening to a piano-bar singer at the lodge (maybe Rudy de la Mor?), spending sun-drenched Sundays at The Cove, and having “a wine-soaked dinner one night with artist Warren Talcott.” She also remembered “walking up the street from my apartment to photograph Capt. Nitt Witt’s sprawling repurposed ‘house,’ and having him come out and shout at us to leave.”
Karen wrote of a moment “that’s seared in my memory — a gorgeous drive south down the coast one sunny weekday morning past Harmony to Morro Bay to lay out/paste-up the paper,” listening to new wave music on her car radio “and a feeling of having the world by the tail.”