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.
Memories of a small town newspaper
By Barry Schrader.................................August
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 papers 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
Countys 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.
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 Loughans plans to restore a century-old building,
to be named Lyons 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 thats 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 papers 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 papers 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 didnt 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 Farmers Insurance
Office, and Lyons 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
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
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 :
or by snailmail at:
PO Box 446
Livermore, CA. 94551