Special delivery: Piece of Sierra Sun’s history returned to its newsroom
Special to the Sierra Sun
(Walter M. Barrett - Jan. 29, 1959)
The daily press frequently carries stories of the outrageous prices being asked by property owners throughout this region for rentals and accommodations during the 1960 Winter Olympic Games period. The point they miss is that these are only asking prices and that no takers are being found. It is true that “gouging” is premeditated and there are those who still make unreasonable demands. This can be expected. On the other hand, the majority of business people recognize the tremendous value for the future which lies in the games if our guests are given a fair treatment, and they will not abuse the opportunity. Most people will be reasonable, but the few who are inclined to “get rich quick” unfortunately may leave a bad impression on the visitors which will reflect on the more conservative. A determined effort must be continued to keep prices at a reasonable figure. Never before and probably never again will the area have such an opportunity to place itself in such good position as an ideal recreation center. Hotel and motel owners, for the most part, have pledged full cooperation, but these occasional news stories would tend to blacken the area as a nest of vultures. It would be well to determine the prices asked by the majority of places and publicize these instead of picking out rare cases to use as examples.
A part of the Sierra Sun’s history came back to its newsroom recently when Marcy (Leamon) Walker, donated it to the newspaper.
Walker is the granddaughter of Walter Barrett, who was owner and editor of the Sierra Sun from 1936 to 1967. She donated the vintage Underwood typewriter used by her grandfather to write news and his column “Sunbeams,” for Truckee’s now 150-year-old newspaper.
“I have had it in my garage all these years,” she said, “And I just thought the Sierra Sun would like it for their newsroom as part of their sesquicentennial.”
Walker, 72, is a Truckee native who now lives in Sacramento after a teaching career. She was a part of the family workforce which teamed up to publish the weekly newspaper back when Truckee barely had more than 1,000 inhabitants.
THE PAPER WAS A FAMILY AFFAIR
“We all did something at the paper. I would get out of school and my brother Barry and I would be setting type, inserting ad fliers or delivering the paper to the post office on Main Street with a wagon,” Walker said. “We even had to drop off a pile of papers at the Tourist Club Bar. My mother told us not to hang around too long in there.”
Walker’s father, Bob, was the only family member to not work at the paper because he delivered Standard Oil heating in Truckee for decades.
Walker’s grandmother, Harriet, worked at the paper as the office manager and reporter for local social events like weddings and birthday parties. Walker’s mother, Dorothy, sold ads for the newspaper and even Walker’s younger brother, Bruce, had to help insert ad fliers and wrap papers for out-of-town delivery.
Walter Barrett’s younger brother, Douglas, wrote a column for the paper entitled “My Place in the Sun,” until 1953 when he went to Sacramento to be the press secretary for Gov. Goodwin “Goody” Knight.
The only non-family staff were pressman Les Grow and linotype operator Buster Brown. One of the original presses used by the Sierra Sun is still displayed in the front window of a downtown Truckee storefront that served as the Sierra Sun office until they moved to the Gateway shops in the 1970s. Walter and Harriet sold the newspaper to the Scripps League in 1967.
The paper is now owned by Nevada County Publishing Company, an affiliate of Swift Communications, which also publishes the Tahoe Daily Tribune of South Lake Tahoe, and The Union in Grass Valley.
Walter Barrett used the typewriter to editorialize for Truckee’s schools, hospitals, parks and the Interstate 80 freeway. Walker said her grandfather’s most exciting story was the 1960 Winter Olympic Games at Squaw Valley.
‘GREAT YEARS IN OLD TRUCKEE’
Barrett was a member of the California Olympic Commission that was chaired by San Francisco financier Charles R. Blyth, namesake for Blyth Arena where the U.S. Olympic hockey team famously defeated Russia that year.
“The Olympics were a lot of fun for Truckee. I think everyone in town lined up on Main Street and got to pass the Olympic torch,” said Walker.
She and her brother Barry Leamon went to watch the competition every day with their grandfather who had a seat in the press box. They did not miss any classes because Truckee’s schools declared a recess for the Olympics.
But some news events were not so much fun according to Barry.
“When the Southern Pacific train got stuck in the snow near Donner Lake in 1952,” Barry said, “Dr. Larry Nelson had to be taken to the train by dog sled to make sure passengers were all right.”
The famous City of San Francisco luxury locomotive had 226 passengers and crew who were stuck for more than a day in the freezing blizzard. They all survived, but two rescue workers died because of the record snow fall (13 feet during that week) and avalanches.
Barry said that January blizzard cut Truckee off for a month, but the residents were used to being snowed in every winter until old U.S. Highway 40 was replaced by Interstate 80 in the 1970s.
“The freeway changed everything in Truckee,” he said. “All of a sudden, we became a destination for recreation. I still miss the old Truckee. I grew up hunting, fishing and skiing.
“Those were great years in old Truckee, but I guess everything changes.”
UPDATE: This story has been updated to correct the timeline for the Sierra Sun’s move from downtown to the Gateway shopping center.