Editor’s note: This is the second of two parts. The first part was published in The Cambrian’s Aug. 13 issue.
As we get ready to move to The Cambrian’s third location since 1931, I’ve been reflecting on years past and how The Cambrian got from concept to newspaper each week.
For years, Editor Scoop Morgan wrote the news, set the type on an antiquated Linotype machine and printed the paper on a cylinder press that had survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
The process has evolved quite a bit since then, but gradually.
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Former editor Claudia Snow (Elliott) recalled recently that in the 1980s, after Morgan’s death, “Our reporters used manual typewriters to write their stories, and we had a darkroom to process black-and-white film and make prints.”
“We had no fax machine,” she continued. “In fact, when I first started we had only one phone line. Three phones, but only one line, so reporters had to take turns with it — in between people calling in classified ads and subscription orders!”
Claudia said, “Linda Cashdan Tinker, the fastest typist anywhere, ‘set’ type using a Compugraphic phototypesetting machine. ‘Paste-up’ was done by hand, and we delivered our finished pages (pasted onto wooden “flats”) to San Luis Obispo, where the paper was printed at what was then the Telegram-Tribune.”
Claudia and Nancy Carr (19-year ad-side veteran at The Cambrian) both remembered that, for a while, they paid 50 cents per issue so a little transit bus could deliver the paste-ups to the now-defunct Sun-Bulletin in Morro Bay. Nancy remembered that “someone would run across the street, rain or shine, to wait for the bus. Usually, one of the smokers would volunteer for that duty, so they could grab a smoke while they waited.”
(Anyone who wants to know more about that paste-up process can go to a February 2004 story at http://creativepro.com/heavy-metal-madness-waxing-nostalgic-over-paste-up/.)
The Cambrian continued Scoop’s April Fools’ Day tradition, Claudia said, drawing guffaws for such stories as “Honorary Mayor Henry Cooper standing in top hat and tails in the surf off Moonstone Beach with a
ribbon-cutting for what was to be Cambria’s offshore parking lot … and another with a ‘For Sale’ sign on Hearst Castle.”
Ari Soglin, a Cambrian reporter from 1984 into 1986, recently recalled his time there, when the reportorial staff consisted of him, Jeff DeLong and Tim Parsons, all single men in their 20s.
“Even at that tender age, I knew we had caught lightning in a bottle: Working in the most beautiful spot on the California coast, doing what we loved with colleagues we liked and respected.”
However, “One afternoon, we needed to blow off some steam but didn’t feel we could take the rest of the day off. So, we put card tables, phones (landlines, as we had no other kind) and manual typewriters (don’t ask) into our cars and drove to San Simeon Cove. We set up shop on the beach. For some reason, the phones weren’t very effective. And, of course, beer was involved.
“I don’t think we got much done that day.”
Toni Booth (now Barnett) was the 1986-88 editor, including when The Cambrian went from tabloid size to “broadsheet” (July 30, 1987), and during the angst-ridden time when we switched from typewriters to computers. (Earlier, she was a reporter at The Sun-Bulletin.)
Among other things, Toni told me recently about another Scoop, The Cambrian’s cat during that period.
The paper’s publisher, “made us get rid of the cat,” Toni said, “saying it was ‘unprofessional to see a cat sleeping in the in-box on the front counter.’ ” (The Cambrian has had a couple of other office cats since then, so there!)
Toni and Nancy both recalled that the same publisher also “made us change the paper’s longtime phone number, 927-8666,” Toni said, “because readers had called, wanting to join our coven … thought we were Satanists or something, I guess.”
(In popular culture and Chapter 13 of most manuscripts of the Book of Revelation, 666 is considered “the number of the beast.”)
Other editors I’ve worked with at The Cambrian have included Chuck Thomas, John Read, Susan McDonald (who was a Cambrian reporter in 1988-90, and left her editor’s post here in 1997 to work at The Tribune), Jay Thompson (now at Cal Poly’s communications department), Bill Morem (now retired, who was also managing editor for Scoop Morgan, and later worked at the Sun-Bulletin and The Tribune), Bert Etling (for 14 years; now editing the Daily Tidings newspaper in Ashland, Ore.) and our current editor, Steve Provost.
Some of the many other delightful Cambrian alumni (in no particular order) include: Lee Sutter, Kathy Richter Jiron (now Barnes), Mike Jiron, Forrest and Geri Warren, Kelly Des Ermia (now Vandenheuvel), Meg McConahey, Jane Ridgeway (now Lowry), Tim Ryan, Shirley Howell, Brittany Keatts Hensley, Mark Derry, Roger Hardy, Jeff Nelligan, Maggie White, Larissa Van Beurden (now Doust), Cynthia Barakatt, Peggy Yeyna, Karen Clare, Joyce Stone (now Hannum), Della Weaver, Margaret and John Sherrick, Charlotte and Ken McLean, Vicki Murtagh, Dean Goodwin, Mike Wixted, Betty Ford, Marty Gale, Judy Fitzhugh, Joan Rainville, Steve Larrum, Nicole Spisak (now Hill), Martha Goodwin, Mike Shawver, Tim Carr, Carolyn Meadows, Barbara Barber, Anabelle Royer and Yvette Messenger, plus a lot of delightful columnists and stringers. I know there are dozens more, but … my mental Rolodex is fried, and all our reference issues are packed.
Then and now
As for me? For a decade, I plugged along with my column, which also ran off-and-on in The Telegram-Tribune.
Then in 1992, Editor John Read cut off some toes with his lawnmower (flinch) and was understandably off duty for quite a while. I volunteered to help News Editor Lee Sutter through the rough spots.
“Oh, that’s right,” she said of my offer. “You can write hard news, too.” So I could, and so I have.
In August 1992, The Cambrian moved to the circa-1914 Steiner-Shaw house at 2442 Main St., former home of a judge and a dentist. In the late 1990s, the paper shifted back to tabloid size. And the newsroom switched from PC computers to Macs (after a four-hour lesson, we were told, “Now, put out a paper.” Really?)
We’re about to switch back. Sigh.
I’m still here, as is Art Van Rhyn, who began contributing weekly cartoons in 1991. Some of us are just too stubborn to give up.
And now, it’s time for another move. The whole packing process is also making me highly nostalgic about people and times past.
But if you think about it, isn’t that exactly what old newspapers are supposed to do?