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In the News - Friday, March 19, 2010

 

—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)

 

      CELEBRATING 15 YEARS

MARCH 1995 ~ MARCH 2010

The Kaweah Commonwealth has been telling readers things

they won't read, hear, or see anywhere else for

771

issues!

LOOKING BACK...


Welcome to the 771st issue of THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH, which is entirely dedicated to looking back 15 years to our first months of publishing this newspaper, beginning with the inaugural issue of Wednesday, March 1, 1995. We enjoyed this retrospective journey that also helped us better organize the Commonwealth archives, which will continue to be a community resource long after we are gone. —John and Sarah Elliott

All the news that fits we print

by John Elliott

  There is no better catch-phrase than the headline above to describe what we were doing in those early first-year issues. In retrospect, we charged a little too hard out of the gate.

  I stubbornly insisted that we were a 16-page weekly; we were not. In reality, we were a 12-page paper, but Sarah and I resolutely stuck to the notion that we could paste up 16 pages week after week. The June 1995 graduation issue was a nightmarish 20 pages, the largest newspaper ever published in Three Rivers.

  In fact, we published at least 16 pages week in, week out, until the Dec. 29, 1995 , issue. It was a defeat of sorts to admit I was wrong from the outset about being able to sustain 16 pages. I rationalized the switch to 12 pages as an adjustment to the slower pace of the off-season.

  That first year was exhausting and totally consuming. After wrapping each issue, I would throw the box containing the original paste-up copies of the “boards” into my pickup and drive to the Valley Voice newspaper office in Visalia .

  Then my job, or so I thought, was to ride herd on their production department and wait not so patiently as they tried to prep and print each of our 3,000 papers.

  I say “tried to” because printing at the Valley Voice was really a crapshoot. We did everything humanly possible to meet our 1 p.m. deadline in Visalia; their production people bent over backwards to help us screen the half-tones for the photos and then shoot the negatives on the image processor to produce the film of the Commonwealth's sheets. There was so much hand work, mostly cutting and pasting. In those days we all had our own personal X-acto knife and a plug-in waxer.

  It was so tedious to print one issue in those early days we might as well have been composing our own type, one character at a time. Finally, an hour or two later, newsprint rolls of the cheapest paper available were positioned and ready to accept the watered-down ink spewed forth by the 1960s vintage web press.

  A pressroom operator would push the button and we were off… or so we were supposed to be, running at dozens of copies per minute.

“Wait! Stop the press!” I would yell as I noticed that the registration was way off on the red or processed blue, orange, or purple; the one color we added because of the great deal we were getting from John Lindt, the former publisher of the Voice.

  Lindt was more than happy to have a weekly to print. After all, this was an annual account that was worth $30,000.

In those days, the Valley Voice was a biweekly so there were a number of ways we could supplement their business including the fact that we could run public notices for Valley Voice customers. A biweekly is not permitted to run public notices; the weekly Commonwealth was adjudicated — a process of qualification and approval by the Superior Court — so therefore running “legals” was an important source of revenue over the years.

  When our relationship worked, it was a win-win for the Voice and the Commonwealth.

  Unfortunately, the old printing press was forever breaking down and the process rarely ran smoothly.

  On at least one occasion, I waited many hours into the night while a Voice pressman made a backdoor visit to the nearby Times-Delta to job a press part from a buddy who worked at that print shop. Thanks to an unwritten code, there exists a spirit of cooperation among pressmen.

  The cooperation is based upon “been there and had to do that… just to finish a print job.” In the three press operations we have used in 15 years — Valley Voice , Selma Enterprise and, currently, the Sanger Herald — I've noticed the operators often change jobs but it's mostly the same group of guys (yes, the pressroom is all male) circulating from shop to shop.

  In my publishing experience, which included another decade working on books and magazines in Orange County before I started in newspapers, I've never noticed a female press operator. Getting covered with ink and washing up dozens of times each shift evidently does not appeal to women.

  The workers of a traditional press room are subject to difficult conditions that until recently included exposure to an array of toxic chemicals and cleaning agents. Today, the print process is somewhat more environmentally friendly due to government regulation.

  It never ceases to amaze me when customers drop by the office for the first time and ask: “So this is where you print the paper?”

  “No,” I dutifully reply. “To print a newspaper, you must be zoned for heavy industrial.”

  We just can't picture ourselves pouring the toxic sludge into the Kaweah River, so instead these days make the Thursday drive to Fresno County to retrieve the final product and deliver it back to Kaweah Country.

Advertisements: The backbone of a newspaper

by Sarah Elliott

  For all of the readers out there who grab a free paper each Friday and never even think about paying for the privilege of having a quality newspaper to keep them informed about the life and times of their community, you should thank the advertisers and subscribers who over the years have ensured that Three Rivers is one of the lucky few small towns who continue to be served by a newspaper.
   These businesses and individuals are the ones who are financing this venture while also investing in the quality of life of Three Rivers.
   Publishing a newspaper each week is an expensive operation. There is equipment to buy, maintain, and upgrade — computers, printers, cameras, cell phones, and the accompanying service plans and software. We also buy printing services, rent office space, pay for mailing, compensate workers for time and travel, maintain vehicles, and more.
   What do we do with these things we buy? We use them to assist us in gathering information from throughout the community, sorting it into an easily comprehensible and graphically pleasing form, and widely distributing it in print and online every Friday.
   Here are some of the advertisers who were in the Commonwealth’s inaugural issue on Wednesday, March 1, 1995, and where they are today:
   Anne Lang’s Emporium— Same owner, 30 years in Three Rivers.
   Loose Change— The video-rental store is now out of business.
   Angelina’s Family Dining— Out of business.
   Bank of the Sierra— In Three Rivers since 1993.
   Sierra Garden Center— Still in business; new owner.
   First Baptist Church— Same location; new pastor.
   Silver Spur Wines & Spirits— Out of business.
   Heart’s Delight Pizza & Ice Cream— Out of business.
   Sierra High Chiropractic— Practice closed.
   Arthur Molina, M.D.— Practice closed.
   Flora Bella Farm— Still growing and selling organic produce in Three Rivers.
   Frank Perkins, Monarch Ford— He has been a regular Commonwealth advertiser for 15 years (see Neighbor Profile on page 4).
   Foothill Fruit Company—On Highway 198 at the Woodlake turnoff, now out of business as are the several other businesses that have occupied the building since then.
   The Gateway Restaurant & Lodge— Still in business as it has been since the 1920s, but the owner has changed since 1995.
   Casey’s Auto Parts— Out of business.
   Three Rivers Drug— Still in business, same owner/pharmacist.
   Cider Mill Restaurant— Still in business; new owner.
   The Phoenix Salon— Out of business.
   The Naturedome— Out of business.
   Sequoia Real Estate— Out of business.
   Realty World Avant, Cal Western Realty— Broker-owners are now broker associates that consolidated into Three Rivers Realty.
   Three Rivers Realty— New owner.
   Century 21 Three Rivers— New owner.
   Ete (Vines) Rothenberg, Country Properties— In business since 1985. She has been a biweekly Commonwealth advertiser for 15 years.
   Affairs Real Estate— Still in business with same broker-owner.
   On March 1, 1995, the Kaweah Network was called “At Your Service.” Out of those 34 ads on March 1, 1995, five remain viable Three Rivers businesses and three are still advertising —
   Gene Castro’s Tree Service, F & M Plumbing, and Veynascape.

Where do we go from here?

Newspapers and a new business model

by Sarah Elliott

  I am rarely at a loss for knowing what to write. After 771 deadlines, I’ve learned that I don’t have time to not know what to write because the clock never stops to wait for me.
   So here it is, our 15th anniversary issue and there is not a single profound idea in my head about how best to describe this roller-coaster ride. I certainly know that 15 years ago I could have never envisioned that I would still be here.
   In my early adult life, I had never lived in one place for more than two years, been in a relationship for more than two years, or had the same job for more than two years. I also didn’t think I would ever want to have children.
   Now, I’ve been married for 22 years, lived in the same house for 17 years, and worked at this career for 15 years. And I am the hopelessly devoted mother to two fantastic, now-grown children.
   How mainstream. The game of life definitely throws some curve balls.
   Fifteen years ago— Until now, I’ve never spent any time looking back at the 1995 newspaper issues. When we embarked on this gig, I was working on the newspaper full-time while also being a full-time mom to two young children.
   I didn’t have time to look back. And since we were learning on the fly, I wasn’t satisfied with the product and didn’t want to see the tangible reminder of how far I still had to go.
   A couple of quotes I recall from newspaper publishers with whom we have crossed paths over the years:

  “You don’t have kids, do you?” —Ed Marston, High Country News, a monthly in Paonia, Colo.

  “Thinking about publishing a weekly makes me go weak in the knees.” —Jim Stiles, Canyon Country Zephyr, a biweekly in Moab, Utah
   Only the people who have published a newspaper can understand what the job entails: your entire body and soul.
   Write right— Here is a quote by which I work:

  “Good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds or fails on the strength of its ability to engage... —Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker
   We hope that over the past 15 years we have become adept enough at what we do to engage you and make you think. After all, it’s in this newspaper’s masthead — “A journal for those who labor and who think.”
   Looking forward— Newspapers are currently searching for relevance in these contemporary times of instant electronic communication. Many are shrinking, so many others are disappearing altogether. In Tulare County, the Commonwealth is the only newspaper that is based in an unincorporated community.
   Historically, newspapers have been very profitable (not long ago, you could become very rich by owning one). Nowadays, even at newspapers that aren’t in any danger of going out of business, the industry’s shrinking revenue base means cutbacks.
   The past couple of years have been cause for some belt-tightening around here, no doubt. But community journalism — also known these days by the buzzword “hyper-local” — is where the larger dailies are now looking to convince readers to return.
   These newspapers realize that the national and international news and issues are available via so many outlets — 24-hour cable news networks, the Internet, social media, and blogs and other common-man journalism sources. But a compilation of the hyper-local news can still only be found in one place: the community newspaper.
   Can the old business model — the classic print-advertising model — sustain local newspapers that depend largely on advertisers who may themselves be trying these new outlets in order to reach potential customers? See the dilemma?
   I honestly believe that The Kaweah Commonwealth is a viable model to be emulated in the big-city dailies. We operate with a skeleton staff with John and I doing the majority of the work, we have a thorough understanding of our coverage area, have no personal agenda, embrace all points of view, strive to be accurate and fair, keep the news local or somehow pertaining to the local area, and engage our readers.
   Our motto, which we developed in 1999, is: “We tell you things you won’t read, hear, or see anywhere else.” And therein is the secret to a successful newspaper.
   And, remember, as we embark on the next chapter of Kaweah Country journalism, your loyalty to The Kaweah Commonwealth and its advertisers will be as much appreciated as it has been for the last 15 years.

15 / 771

by John Elliott

  What a long, strange roller- coaster ride it has been. The Friday, March 5, issue marked 15 years that Sarah and I have published The Kaweah Commonwealth. No one could ever imagine without actually doing one for so long a time all the blood, sweat, and tears that go into producing and sustaining a weekly newspaper.
   It was and still is the best of times and the worst of times all rolled into a dozen pages. This inauspicious-looking little 12-page tabloid that on special occasions mushrooms to 16 pages now boasts an archive of 771 issues. It’s an epic story of a community and the life and times of its contributors, supporters and, of course, its newsmakers.
   Along the way we raised two good kids and searched for meaning in our own lives beyond just producing a quality newspaper and making a living. The digital archive that is currently in process will outlast all of us and its true significance will not be fully understood for maybe a century or more.
   But to be fully cognizant that what we are doing is meaningful while we’re doing it is a product of my training and experience as a public historian, and Sarah’s zeal to document the people, places, and events of her beloved Three Rivers and Kaweah Country.
   The year 1995 and these early issues are really the key to understanding where we have been and where we are going as a community, a region, and a newspaper.
   So in these difficult economic times, celebrate with us 15 years of TKC and the fact that our tightly knit community still has a viable newspaper. We need your support and that means, most of all, your paid subscriptions and advertisements to continue. We need each and every one of you who read this paper to do your part, and if you do, we pledge to you we will be able do our part at least awhile longer.

  The community newspaper concept: In 1995, believe it or not, there was no Kaweah Country. At least there was no term “Kaweah Country” (see page 1) yet in common usage. In one of the features we published in an early issue, I referred to our coverage area as anywhere that was located in or adjacent to the Kaweah River drainage from its source way up in the Sierra Nevada to its tributaries below Terminus Dam at Lake Kaweah.
   We realized early on that a coverage area was like an ecosystem. A holistic approach to news and events coverage must include Three Rivers, Woodlake, Lemon Cove, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks while, on occasion, spilling over into Exeter, Visalia, Sacramento, Yosemite National Park, Death Valley National Park, U.C. Merced, Washington D.C., Hotel California, Orange County, Miami, Fla., Indonesia, Israel, the South Pacific… in other words anywhere we could make a Kaweah Country connection.
   In truth, we weren’t really sure where to begin in that inaugural issue — March 1, 1995 — or what precisely to cover that entire first year. In the Commonwealth office, we have a selection of the first year’s issues’ cover pages laminated and mounted on a wall.
   It’s an allegorical dart board to me that is an everyday reminder of how we struggled to find our true voice and what editorial was appropriate to be included in the local newspaper. Each represents a dart that we threw as subject matter in those early issues that in reality landed all over the board.
  In those early days, local-boy-gone-to-Hollywood Jay O’Connell, w ho had and still has an insatiable appetite for local history, was our primary sounding board for our ideas and plans for what we wanted the Commonwealth to become. We — Jay, Sarah, and I — felt very comfortable with local history so many of the newspaper’s substantive articles in those early issues had a historical perspective.
   In our view, what was missing most from the former Sequoia Sentinel, the weekly that we purchased and put to bed, was ongoing coverage of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Not only are these nearby national parks our biggest employer and the engine that drives our economy, nowadays they are the raison d’être for Three Rivers and The Kaweah Commonwealth.
   Here are the historic headlines from page one of that historic first issue March 1, 1995: Extra! Extra! Century-old Journal Revived in Three Rivers and Sequoia’s new chief: Meet Mike Tollefson.
Jay was right at home writing about the original Commonwealth, first published on January 18, 1890:

  “This was a benchmark in local history; one which deserves to be remembered in this inaugural issue of the new Commonwealth.”
   For me interviewing Mike Tollefson, the new superintendent of Sequoia-Kings Canyon, and writing a succinct news story was a different sort of challenge. I knew how to interview and research a subject but soon discovered that the most difficult part was figuring out what not to include.
   It took me five published installments of the “Meet Mike Tollefson” saga that first year but finally I was satisfied that I had adequately covered the subject. One thing I knew for certain was that there were lots of column inches to fill week after week — but I could have never imagined I would be writing this piece trying to recall how we did it 771 issues later.

Some of the first TKC headlines

  Here are some of the stories that were covered during the first three months of the Commonwealth:
   March 1, 1995— Sequoia’s new chief: Meet Mike Tollefson; PTA honors Man of the Year (it was Ray Murry); Skier, 14, dies after fall from Big Baldy.
   March 8, 1995— Tulare County Grand Jury to review CSD; NPS may ban cars on Crescent Meadow Road.
   March 15, 1995— River’s rise recalls floods of ‘69 and ‘55; Proposed agreement between CSD and Cemetery District.
   March 22, 1995— Thorn Ranch zoning: Planning Commission to hear proposed spa plan; Sierra Preschool dinner to benefit youngsters; Three Rivers Hospice hosts open house; A reverent conversation: New pastor at Community Presbyterian Church.
   March 29, 1995— Thorn Ranch zoning decision postponed; High Sierra hosts Jazzaffair jam; MAC meeting: A process at its best; Dixon Bros. Racing wins March Meet.
   April 7, 1995— NPS snow survey confirms near-record run-off; Welcome 22nd Jazzaffair (and all that jazz).
   April 14, 1995— Cowboys to compete in 45th annual Roping; Local residents donate collection to Fresno Art Museum; Kaweah Land Trust hosts historic ranch tour; Changing seasons, and seasonals, in the parks; Postmaster announces mailing deadlines for tax returns.
   April 21, 1995— Lions Roping features 700 ropers; Mountain Arts: A dream weaved 20 years ago; Woodlake Rodeo: A message from the grand marshal; Minivan rolls off road near Giant Forest; John Britten recognized for 20 years of service on Grazing Advisory Board. Also, the Kaweah Kalendar debuted in this issue.
   April 28, 1995— Thorn Ranch zone change: Proponents win round one; Thorn Ranch: The early history; New 3R ambulance arrives in town; Flora Bella Farm organic produce available at Lemon Cove Farmers’ Market; March for Parks sponsored by Sequoia Natural History Association; Accessibility for all is priority at Sequoia-Kings Canyon; Remembering Van Dixon of Mineral King.
   May 5, 1995— 21st annual Redbud Festival features handmade arts and crafts; Municipal Advisory Council votes to disband; Obituaries: Thelma Britten, Marion Gray, Jean Caulfeild; Spring openings at Sequoia-Kings Canyon; Concessions contracts signal changes in parks; “Welcome Home” new moms group forms in Three Rivers; Adrian Green hosts Garden Gate Arts Show.
   May 12, 1995— Archaeology preserves cultural heritage of Kaweah Country; Woodlake Lions Rodeo this weekend; Sierra snowmelt swells rivers; Lodgepole snow at 39 inches and melting.
   May 19, 1995— The MAC: What’s next?; Three Rivers students learn water safety; Indian Oaks Residential Care offers assisted living care in Three Rivers; The end of an era: Bobbie Harris to retire from Three Rivers School; Obituary: Leon Ross; Tree falls across both lanes of Sierra Drive; Sequoia Park continues highway reconstruction; Sequoia proposes new trail from soon-to-be Wuksachi Village; Redbud Garden Club announces winners of 3R garden contest.
   May 26, 1995— Snow limits campsites during Memorial Day weekend; Commonwealth poll results show readers want to save the MAC; Three Rivers Lions host annual Phil Caruthers Flea Market; Riata Ranch: History, entertainment, family values; Three Rivers Youth church group host “Tacos to Go” fundraiser; WHS coaches to run 3R sports camps; School volunteers honored at luncheon.

Dear Editors...

by Jay O'Connell

  I meant to write this letter for the 10-year anniversary of the new Kaweah Commonwealth — but must admit that I’m not as good at meeting writing deadlines as I used to be. So one could say this letter has been years in the making (but ultimately a rush job at the last minute) for I now understand that The Kaweah Commonwealth is celebrating 15 years of its current incarnation. In a word: Wow!
   Wow because I know how much work goes in to producing each and every issue. And while I know it has probably gotten easier — remembering those early days, how could it be any more difficult? — it is still a remarkable task that I’m sure the average reader doesn’t appreciate. (Of course, this is not to imply any reader of the Commonwealth is merely average. So I feel the appreciation out there.)
   Wow because time really does fly. It seemed like just yesterday I began writing a history column for the Commonwealth. It was a biweekly (and by “bi” I mean every other week) column that started out telling the story of the Kaweah Colony and eventually covered various other aspects of local history and beyond.
   To this day, that column is one of my proudest accomplishments. It was a sense of pride not so much for what I wrote, but for being a part of a greater whole — a remarkable small-town weekly newspaper and, thus, in turn, a remarkable community that I will always call home.
   Wow because it’s been far too long since I’ve had the pleasure of seeing my articles published by the Commonwealth. I truly do miss it.
It was where I learned to write. It was where the ideas (and early drafts) for two of my books were born. Indeed, without the experience, education, and support I got from The Kaweah Commonwealth, book projects about the Kaweah Colony, Dr. Forest Grunigen, or a certain Train Robber’s Daughter would never exist.
   One of these days — I know, I know, I keep saying this — I’ll start writing articles for the Commonwealth again. Until then, I can only flip through yellowed issues from years past and revel in my past glory. (I hope my joking tone comes across via the written word.)
   And so, dear editors, I say congratulations. Keep up the good work.
“Dear editors.” John and Sarah are certainly that. Of course, to me, they are more than just dear editors. John and Sarah are dear friends. But I’m not letting that cloud my judgment here. They produce, week in and week out, a remarkable newspaper. Not an opinion there, folks. A fact.
   How impressed am I with The Kaweah Commonwealth? Let me just say that on the wall in the living room of my home, handsomely framed and prominently displayed, is an issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth.
   Okay, it’s an issue of the original Kaweah Commonwealth, published by the Kaweah Colony in 1891. (It’s like 120 years old — it’s got to be worth something!) But I guarantee you, there are several issues of the new Kaweah Commonwealth lying about the house somewhere. 

  Ed. Note— Jay O’Connell was raised in Three Rivers, attending kindergarten through eighth grade at Three Rivers School and graduating from Woodlake Union High School and College of the Sequoias before moving to Southern California to attend University of California at Irvine. These days, he is a unit production manager at Warner Bros. in Hollywood and busy raising his two sons, JP, 12, and Colin, 6, with wife Susie. He is the author of three books on local history: Co-Operative Dreams: A History of the Kaweah Colony (1999); A Strength Born of Giants: The Life and Times of Dr. Forest Grunigen (2002); and Train Robber’s Daughter: The Melodramatic Life of Eva Evans, 1876-1970 (2008).

Jay O'Connell contributes

100 Colony Corners

  Jay O’Connell wrote the Colony Corner column for The Kaweah Commonwealth from March 8, 1995, to March 6, 1998. Every other week or so, he chronicled the fascinating exploits of the Kaweah Colony.
   After 99 Colony Corner installments, Jay devoted his 100th column on March 6, 1998, to gracefully bowing out of the non-stop, every-other-week commitment of writing and submitting 1,000 words or so.

  “When the Colony Corner began,” Jay wrote in column 100, “I never dreamed it would last this long. For one thing, who would imagine anyone could drone on so long about the Kaweah Colony?”
   In addition to a thorough account of Kaweah Colony history — by his count: 150,000 words — Jay also wrote a three-part series on Captain Charles Young (during the summer of 1903, Capt., later Colonel, Young and his all-black troops of the 9th Cavalry were assigned to patrol and protect Sequoia National Park and General Grant National Park).
   In 1997, the Corner presented “The Power to Move Water,” a 10-part series on the Mt. Whitney Power Company.
   The Commonwealth wrote in response to Jay that: “The Kaweah Commonwealth without Jay would like playing baseball without a first baseman... a complete forfeit and a total loss.”
   To this day, we miss his contributions although he is still often sought out for his input and advice.

Contributors from 1995

  Here are those who helped us fill space during the first year of publishing while we were learning how to compile the local news:
Jay O’Connell (Colony Corner), Jean Darsey (Garden Goodies), Harry Ison (Musings), John Holden (Kaweah Common Reader), Kaye Cannarozzi (Heard in Hicksville), Jack Slater (Captain’s Log), Hijinio Reynoso (Greetings from Woodlake High), Tom Marshall (Travel Bits and Pieces), Mary Anne Savage (Clips by Pip), Lona Swanson (My Turn), Keith Edwards (A Word on the Word), Thelma Crain (Letters from Three Rivers), Mike LaCoss (Inside Pitch), Holly Crain (Balk Talk).
   We also received submissions from Cathy Fitzpatrick, Paul Bischoff, David Brothwell, Carolyn Pistilli, Sophie Britten, Nancy Brunson, Elizabeth LaMar, Adam Harris, Jeanne Christensen, Bill Crawford, Lisa Lieberman, and Alfred Goldman.
   There were many acts of kindness as we struggled through that first year. I will never forget when I was working late at the office one night, skipping lunch and dinner, when there was a knock on the door. Tam Lineback was there with a plate of homemade cookies. That simple gesture meant so much... —Sarah Elliott

TIMELINE 2010:

History of Three Rivers newspapers

by Sarah Elliott

  The pulse of any community can only be recorded in its newspapers, which are read one day, then folded up and preserved for posterity.   From the earliest days in Three Rivers to the present, publishing a newspaper has demanded ingenuity, perseverance and, at times, unconventional procedures.
   Newspapers, especially those that are independently owned, are only as strong as their advertising base and circulation. The downfall of previous newspapers in Three Rivers was that the circulation has never been enough to attract sufficient advertisers to support them.   That is still a challenge today. In addition, dedication and commitment are necessary to meet the always looming publication deadline.
   Three Rivers newspapers have been sporadic through the years. This leaves many gaps in the documentation of local history. Towns should place priority on supporting their community newspaper, if only for this reason.
   1890-1892— The first newspaper in the area was The Kaweah Commonwealth, first published by the Kaweah Co-Operative Colony on Jan. 18, 1890. Although mainly used as a propaganda tool for the socialist society, each of the 96 issues (last issue was printed March 1892) offered a first-hand glimpse of Colony life, from business matters to recreational pursuits to births, marriages, and deaths. The weekly paper was printed on the first steam-operated press in Tulare County, given to the Colony by Dr. M.A. Hunter in exchange for membership. The printing office was in a canvas tent at a Colony settlement on the upper North Fork.
   1948— The first Three Rivers Current was published. The Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce, headed by Gene Gray, sponsored the weekly newspaper and the publisher was John Van Leuven. Van Leuven mimeographed the news stories in his home and had the paper printed in Visalia. Van Leuven paid most of the subsequent expenses of publishing the newspaper, but discontinued publication after one year.
   1949— Rev. Pooley, pastor of Community Presbyterian Church, began a monthly four-page newspaper for church members. It contained local news and photographs in a community with no newspaper, so it was passed around town. This publication lasted one year.
   1949— Russ and Verna Curtis tackled the task of reviving the weekly Current newspaper, changing the masthead to The Current of Three Rivers. It was adjudicated as a newspaper of general circulation in 1951. It was printed on a small offset press in the chicken house behind the Curtis home on Dinely Drive. It was six pages, printed front and back on 8½”x14” paper and attached by a staple.
   1951— The Curtises moved away, so Virginia Williams bought the press for $100. Unable to take the helm of the weekly publication immediately, Virginia loaned the press to Rev. Fritz, pastor of the Presbyterian Church. For the next few months, the Current was printed in the manse, located where the Harrison Fellowship Hall now stands. In the fall, Virginia installed the press in the spare bedroom of her home. It was later moved into what Virginia called “a cubbyhole,” next to the present-day The Kaweah Commonwealth office. The name of the publication was changed back to the Three Rivers Current and the paid circulation reached 555 subscribers (this is more than that of the present-day Commonwealth).
   1952— A fire in the office of the Current destroyed all equipment, including the press and cameras.
   1954— The Current was destined to persevere as Virginia bought another offset printing press and set it up once more in the bedroom of her home. When the press wore out, Virginia switched to mimeographing and taking the publication to Visalia for printing.
   1956— The weekly Three Rivers Current ceased publication.
   1960— The Kaweah Magazine began monthly publication. The publisher was Malden Grange Bishop, a writer by trade, and he gleaned the best of Three Rivers’s talent for his staff — Gene Gray, Sam and Juanita Pusateri, Rosemary Packard, Ester Peck, Carolyn Opitz, Carroll and Evangeline Barnes, Dr. Vernon Van Zandt, Curt Siodmak, and Frankie Welch all contributed to the first issue, published in July. A print shop was installed in Malden’s home, and his wife, daughter, and son-in-law all worked on the project. But illness struck the Bishop family and after less than a year, The Kaweah Magazine was no longer in existence.
   1972-1984— Jack and Virginia Albee moved to Three Rivers and started the Sequoia Sentinel. The first issue was published Friday, June 30; the couple was married the next day. They lived and worked in the A-frame house across from the White Horse Inn. The newspaper lasted as long as the Albees’ marriage; when the couple divorced, the Sentinel was sold.
   1984-1985— The Albees sold the Sequoia Sentinel at a minimum price to an inexperienced couple (names unknown) who ceased publication upon leaving the area.
   Late 1980s to 1993— Mineral King Publishing, publishers of the Lindsay Gazette and the Exeter Sun, took over the rights to the newspaper names Three Rivers Current and Woodlake Echo (which was previously an independently owned weekly newspaper serving Woodlake from 1913 to the 1980s) and revived publication. With its main office located in Exeter, the Current was never able to regain a firm foothold in Three Rivers.
   1985— Louise Duke, who operated the “Ice Creamery” in Three Rivers, tried her hand at publishing the Sequoia Sentinel. She had no newspaper experience but was assisted by Norm Sargent of Porterville, a veteran newspaperman. After less than one year, publication ceased.
   1985-1986— Rick and Judi Kimball and Bob and Judy Gauld purchased the Sequoia Sentinel from Louise Duke for one dollar. The partnership formed Kaweah Publishing and while the Gaulds published the Sentinel, Rick and Judi pursued other forms of publishing to make the venture viable. When the Gaulds’ teenage daughter passed away, the couple relocated to Montana to be near family. The Kimballs took over the entire publishing schedule, but when a key sales employee had to leave due to personal reasons, they passed the Sentinel torch along. The struggle of the Sequoia Sentinel during this decade was in part due to two newspapers serving the Three Rivers area concurrently.
   1986— Thelma Barrios became publisher and changed the name of the Sequoia Sentinel to the Three Rivers-Sequoia-Lemon Cove Independent. Rachelle Ledbetter was editor of the weekly publication.
   1987-1995— Rachelle Ledbetter took over as owner, changed the name of the newspaper back to Sequoia Sentinel, and published weekly.
   1995-present— John and Sarah Elliott of Three Rivers purchased the Sequoia Sentinel in March and changed the name to The Kaweah Commonwealth, in honor of the first newspaper published in the area, bringing the journey of a Three Rivers newspaper full circle. In April 1995, the newspaper’s publication day was changed from Wednesday to Friday and the office was relocated from the back side of the Village Shopping Center to the old Three Rivers Library building (41841 Sierra Drive).
   2003— In March, The Kaweah Commonwealth debuted its website (www.kaweahcommonwealth.com).
   2003— An alternative newspaper entitled Muddwumpus began publication. The newspaper, published by Steven Harris, was printed approximately once a month with a mission of promoting “art, music, and nature” in Three Rivers. Publication ceased after six months.
   2004— The April 2 issue of The Kaweah Commonwealth debuted color images. Color continues to be used for special issues. Also in April, a live web cam with a view of the Kaweah canyon was added to the Commonwealth’s website as another means of promoting Three Rivers to the world.
   March 2010— The Kaweah Commonwealth celebrates 15 years of publication, the longest-running newspaper in nearly 120 years of community publications in Three Rivers.

 

 
THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
editor@kaweahcommonwealth.com
© Copyright 2003-2009 The Kaweah Commonwealth