Tue 11 Feb 2014
Approximately 15 inches of badly needed rain fell in drought-stricken West Marin during the past week, with much of it falling last weekend.
Although the rain flooded numerous roadways, including sections of Highway 1, roughly 50 people showed up at Tomales Regional History Center Sunday to hear Jacoba Charles and me read a few selections from our book, The Light on the Coast: 65 Years of News Big and Small as Reported in The Point Reyes Light.
In December, the History Center published the book, which draws upon news coverage in The Light to tell the post-World War II “history of West Marin’s lively little towns and their Pulitzer Prize-winning weekly newspaper.”
Jacoba and I looked through more than 3,300 back issues in choosing representative selections of writing, photography, and political cartoons to include in the book. We then wrote background narratives for many of the news stories.
The crowd filled the History Center’s conference room, where awards and other mementos from the newspaper’s past were on display. After our readings, Jacoba and I signed copies of the book while directors of the History Center served refreshments. (Photos by Lynn Axelrod)
Jacoba started the readings with Wilma Van Peer’s 1998 account of working for the paper’s founders, Dave and Wilma Rogers, half a century earlier. Mrs. Van Peer described Dave as a “little man” with a “nose for news” who liked to “tease” people.
The Light, which was called The Baywood Press for its first 18 years, has had 10 sets of owners in the past 65 years. I published the paper for 27 of those years and wrote the chapters covering news from the first eight ownerships.
Jacoba reported for The Light during its previous ownership and is on the paper’s board of directors under today’s owner, Marin Media Institute. She compiled the chapters dealing with news coverage under the last two sets of publishers.
I unexpectedly found myself getting choked up while reading aloud an item from a June 22, 1950, column of social news:
“Mr. and Mrs. Anton Kooy and sons Peter, 13 years, and Walter, 11 years, have arrived at Blake’s Landing ranch from Amsterdam, Holland. They have come to join their friends Herbert Angress and Bill Straus, and Anton is going into business with Bill and Herbert. The Kooys will live at the Clark home, which the Harold Johnstones now occupy, near Marshall.
“During the last war, Mr. and Mrs. Kooy took Herbert Angress in to stay with them, thus saving his life from the Nazis. The two boys will be attending the Tomales schools — Peter being of high school age.”
While reading this short item to the crowd, I was once again struck by the horrendous danger in which Herb Angress had found himself and by the Kooy family’s heroism in putting themselves at risk to shelter him. Then — five years after World War II ended — they followed him to West Marin.
What choked me up was the sudden realization that when this potentially tragic drama came to a happy ending in Marshall, it made West Marin seem like part of a wartime miracle.
Jacoba reads the late historian Jack Mason’s account of former publisher Don DeWolfe changing the paper’s name from Baywood Press to Point Reyes Light in 1966. Full of wry humor, the story is set in the Station House Café, which Mason operated for awhile after he retired from an editor’s post at The Oakland Tribune.
Víctor Reyes, who writes a Spanish-language column for The Light, filled in for Dewey Livingston during the readings.
The book’s designer, Dewey Livingston, lives in Inverness where he is the historian at the Jack Mason Museum of West Marin History. He had been scheduled to take part in the readings but had to bow out at the last minute. Second Valley Creek behind his house was flooding and undercutting his bedroom, forcing Dewey to stay home and deal with the rising water.
The Light on the Coast reprints the paper’s entire series on the five waves of ethnic immigration to West Marin during the past 160 years. To research the series, the newspaper sent reporters abroad four times in nine years — to Croatia, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Canton of Ticino, Portugal’s mid-Atlantic Azores, and the Jalostotitlán region of Mexico.
Víctor, who was one of the reporters on the immigration stories from Mexico, described Jalostotitlán and two neighboring towns. Most of West Marin’s Mexican-immigrant families hail from that area.
He stressed how traditional and conservative people are in Jalos (the city’s nickname) although it is only a 90-minute drive from Guadalajara. The priest virtually runs the city, Víctor said.
West Marin’s non-Latino residents that are familiar with large Mexican municipalities, such as Mexico City, may think they understand the culture of Mexican-immigrant residents here, Víctor said, but Jalos is a world apart, and the difference can sometimes lead to confusion.
Two more readings and book signings are scheduled in West Marin. From 3 to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 1, there will be a reading, a public open house, and a reunion of former Light staff in the newspaper’s new office behind the Inverness Post Office.
Point Reyes Books will sponsor a third reading and book signing at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 9, in Point Reyes Station’s Presbyterian Church.