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Barry Schrader
Columnist

 

I currently have columns running in 3 newspapers;

  • Tri-Valley Herald : Looking Back
  • Valley Times : Do You Remember?
  • The Independent : Do You Remember?

The Articles appear in the Herald and Independent on Thursdays,
and the Times on Sundays.

They will also be found on this page each week as well.

 

If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

Archive Page

Memories of a small town newspaper

By Barry Schrader.................................August 26, 2005

Since my wife and I published three small weeklies in DeKalb County, Illinois back in the 1960s, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for anyone who tackles the challenge of starting their own newspaper.

Talking with veteran Independent staffer Bob Several recently, he reminded me of the spunky little monthly paper that first appeared in Sunol in 1981 and lasted until 1988. I went to the Museum on Main and perused old copies of “The Sunolian” that had been donated by the paper’s founding editor and publisher Geraldine Baldassarre.

I then tracked down Geraldine who now lives with her husband, a United Church of Christ minister, on the big island of Hawaii where they plan to build a home. In a phone conversation she managed to convey some of the deep feelings she holds for Sunol and its hardy band of activists.

Back in April 1981 Geraldine and a handful of her neighbors in Alameda County’s smallest burg got together and decided they needed a local newspaper. Many people come up with such an idea in communities around the nation each year; however, few are able to turn it into a reality. But Ms. Baldassarre did!

She recalls that the little 8-page tabloid paper was first produced on a borrowed electric typewriter and pasted up by hand (that means the pages were made up by cutting up the typed columns and pasting them into page layouts before taking them to a printer). A few of her early volunteer staff members included Joanne Hendrix, Julie Banta, Mary Marshall, Alice-Ann Cantelow, Paula Dovholuk, Pamela Hood, Frank Louthan, Stacey Wyatt, and young Demian Lindberg from Sunol Glen School.

Some highlights of the early issues include a story on a Zone 7 water district controversy affecting Sunol, an opinion piece on hot rodding on Kilkare Road, the discovery of a rabid skunk by a local resident, and an interview with the late Ray and Amy Awtrey who were going before the county planning commission to try and start a small winery with the vines they had planted around their old mansion called Elliston. A little later the paper reported on Frank Loughan’s plans to restore a century-old building, to be named Lyon’s Brewery Depot.

Issue Number 5 revealed there had been an election of sorts at the Sunol Lounge on August 29, 1981 and an “underdog” named Bosco Ramos (aka “Boss”) had beaten out two humans for the title of Mayor of Sunol. This canine had as his campaign slogan “Two cats in every tree and a bone in every dish.” The victors also appointed a cabinet to serve with Boss and they included: Geraldine as press secretary, David Parker as secretary of energy, Benjamin Lei as secretary of commerce, Don Crothers as secretary of defense (today that’s known as Homeland Security), Bruce Rogers as chief of police, and Todd Light as chief of the council on physical fitness.

Then in June 1982 the paper told about a Save the Vineyards celebration on May 22 involving hundreds at Stony Ridge Winery (then owned by Hank Schneider and Bob Atkinson) which had tentatively been saved from destruction (but not for long unfortunately).

Probably the paper’s greatest days came in 1983 when it rallied support for a move to stop development on the Pleasanton-Sunol Ridge. Local activists collected 40,000 signatures and in April 1983 succeeded in passing a county-wide referendum to “Save Pleasanton Ridge.” As a result today we have the enjoyment of an East Bay Regional Park along that ridge that should remain in open space forever.

Bob Several, who became a frequent contributor to the paper’s news and feature columns, said “The Sunolian was crucial to the success of the Sunol referendum and it was a miracle that it passed. He added that the little paper created a strong sense of community among residents, and “its main contribution was fostering a sense of community and activism that helped Sunol control its own destiny. A small place like Sunol could be exploited and preyed upon by outside forces” but the paper was ever vigilant in making sure that didn’t happen.

Probably the saddest story to appear in the paper was after the catastrophic fire in December 1987 when a big part of the business district was destroyed. It consumed the Sunol Feed & Hay store, the Farmer’s Insurance Office, and Lyon’s Brewery Depot. The downtown had a long struggle to recover from the loss of those businesses.

In April 1986 Geraldine, who made her living as a nurse, decided to move on to a new life in Ashland, Oregon, where she was to meet her future husband. The paper continued with a dedicated volunteer staff under other editors, including Ruth Pearl (now Hendrickson) and D. Cerena White, until March 1988 when the time and effort required to keep it alive just petered out.

This week Geraldine reminisced that “I found Sunol to be a caring community and it really has blossomed. I was just there at the right time, in the right place with the right people to bring it all together and make it happen.”

A postscript: Another paper, the Sunol Community News, was started in the 1995 by Bree James and was published periodically until 2000. Bree now resides in Sebastapol.

* * *

History mystery for this week: What Cub pack formed a drum & bugle corps in 1945 to march in area parades and take part in rodeo ceremonies?

 

The columnist can be reached via email at :

Historian2sbcglobal.net

or by snailmail at:

Barry Schrader
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551

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