In the News - Friday, March 19,
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
CELEBRATING 15 YEARS
1995 ~ MARCH 2010
Kaweah Commonwealth has been telling readers things
won't read, hear, or see anywhere else for
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
the news that fits we print
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
The backbone of a newspaper
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
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
Sierra Garden Center— Still in
business; new owner.
First Baptist Church— Same location;
Silver Spur Wines & Spirits—
Out of business.
Heart’s Delight Pizza & Ice
Cream— Out of business.
Sierra High Chiropractic— Practice
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
Three Rivers Drug— Still in business,
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.
do we go from here?
and a new business model
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
A couple of quotes I recall from newspaper
publishers with whom we have crossed paths over the
don’t have kids, do you?” —Ed Marston,
High Country News, a monthly in Paonia, Colo.
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:
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.”
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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:
was a benchmark in local history; one which deserves
to be remembered in this inaugural issue of the new
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.
of the first TKC headlines
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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).
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
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
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
of Three Rivers newspapers
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ledbetter took over as owner, changed the name of
the newspaper back to Sequoia Sentinel, and published
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
March 2010— The
Kaweah Commonwealth celebrates 15 years of publication,
the longest-running newspaper in nearly 120 years
of community publications in Three Rivers.