Sun 8 Dec 2013
The April 12, 1956, edition of Point Reyes Station’s Baywood Press reported: “Mrs. Joe Curtiss’ television set caught fire last week, and the wall behind the set began burning.
“Before the fire department could answer the call, Margie picked up the set, threw it out the window, and proceeded to extinguish the blaze.”
That was the entire report, but Margie must have been a hardy soul because that early TV would have been big and heavy as well as hot.
The newspaper’s coverage of the past 65 years of West Marin news, big and small, is the focus of a book its publisher, the Tomales Regional History Center, has just released.
The book’s cover at left.
I’m particularly interested in the book, The Light on the Coast, because I, along with Jacoba Charles, authored it.
The graphic artist was Dewey Livingston, formerly production manager at The Light. He is now the historian at the Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History and is an historian for the National Park Service.
The Light is in its 10th ownership, Marin Media Institute, and the evolution of the newspaper itself is part of the story. As editor and publisher for 27 years, I was responsible for the chapters covering the first eight ownerships. Jacoba, who is on The Light’s board of directors and formerly was a reporter for the paper, was responsible for the most recent two.
Flooding in Bolinas. The ferocious storms that periodically hit the coast have always received extensive coverage in The Light.
Highlights of the 354-page book include the evolution of West Marin agriculture; the effects of the arrival of the counterculture on local politics, law enforcement, and the arts; the creation of the Point Reyes National Seashore and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Examples of The Light’s Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of violence and other illegal activities by the Synanon cult are, of course, included in The Light on the Coast.
The newspaper’s complete series on the five historic waves of immigration to West Marin is also a central chapter.
The forefathers of many longtime families in West Marin arrived in immigrations from specific locales in: Ireland, Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Canton of Ticino, Croatia, and Portugal’s mid-Atlantic Azores. Researching their journeys to West Marin, as well as the more-recent immigration from Mexico, involved sending Light reporters abroad four times between 1988 and 1997.
This illustration for Sheriff’s Calls by cartoonist Kathryn LeMieux’s was often used in Western Weekend editions. The final section of our book consists of some of the more unusual Sheriff’s Calls from the the past 38 years.
The Light on the Coast features, along with a variety of news and commentary, a sampling of cartoons, advertising, and photography (including 10 portraits by Art Rogers). My partner Lynn Axelrod and I reviewed almost 3,000 back issues of The Point Reyes Light/Baywood Press in compiling the book. Jacoba reviewed more than 400. After making our selections, she and I wrote background narratives for many of them.
Those who’ve read the book have had good things to say about this approach of presenting West Marin’s history through the pages of The Light. Commenting on the book, San Francisco Chronicle reporter and columnist Carl Nolte writes: “The Point Reyes Light is a great window into a fabulous small world.”
Dr. Chad Stebbins, executive director of the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, is likewise enthusiastic: “Dave Mitchell and The Point Reyes Light are synonymous with top-shelf newspapering. Dave is one of the few small-town editors ever to win a Pulitzer Prize; his investigation of the Synanon cult is a textbook example of tenacious reporting. His witty and colorful anecdotes always make for good reading.”
The Light on the Coast is available at Point Reyes Books for $24.95 plus tax.
It can be ordered online from the Tomales Regional History Center bookstore for $29.95 including tax and shipping.