Cynthia Sweeney mug

Cynthia Sweeney 

Well, it’s been two months since The Weekly Calistogan took up residence in the new office on Washington Street, and I’m happy to report things are working out well.

As well as things can go with any move, that is.

There are the logistical details to work out, like transferring phone and internet service, and finding someone to help you with some of the heavy lifting.

The funny thing is, for a paper that’s been in business for more than 140 years, you would think there would have been more than a desk and a couple of boxes to move. But that was pretty much it. In this digital age, just about the only things you need to put out a paper are a computer and a phone.

Oh, and power. The timing of the move was made a little more complicated by PG&E’s PSPS events in October. The paper is laid out Wednesday mornings, and that, so far is pretty much when the utility has decided to initially cut power for these shutoff events... oh dear, I did promise myself not to digress on that topic, again. So soon.

Anyway, the new office is quiet and comfortable with plenty of windows. Its former occupant was Sunrise Horse Rescue, so the place has a good vibe. And I swear, when you walk in first thing in the morning, the office has a faint smell of hay about it.

I hadn’t really looked in every nook and cranny of the office at the Depot, in the converted train cars, small as it was, since taking the helm in July 2018. Cleaning the place out, no skeletons to report, though I was kind of hoping to find one.

By the way, and while I think of it, the latest rumor on plans for the Depot are to move Sam’s Social Club in there, temporarily, while the folks at Indian Springs are renovating the restaurant over there.

So anyway, moving got me to thinking about the history of the paper and its physical location. The weight of all that history is not lost on me, and initially there was a little anxiety about not being located on Lincoln Avenue. I wondered how often, in the paper’s history, it had not been so.

I turned to two former Weekly Calistogan employees for some perspective. Here’s what they had to say.

From former Weekly Calistogan editor, and now Napa Valley Register editor Sean Scully, whose office was in the small yellow building behind the Depot:

“Being behind the Depot was great fun. The office became a hub of gossip and news. People on their way to and from City Hall or ACE Hardware would stop by to chat, and people fresh from the political cauldron that is the Roastery would drop in to fill me in on the latest. I could take the temperature of the various factions in the city every day just based on who came by. It was also a great location to tell how business was doing downtown — if I could walk from my office to the bank and not recognize anyone, I knew business was booming. If I only saw people I knew, things were slow.

From St. Helena Star Editor Dave Stoneberg:

“When I first arrived for a job interview at The Weekly Calistogan in October 1979, the offices were at 1360 Lincoln Ave. in downtown Calistoga (where the Lee Youngman Galleries are now.) The owner of the newspaper was Marjorie Brandon.

The offices were in the middle of town, close to city offices, the various restaurants, the fire station and the post office. The office building was split into two equal spaces, with the newspaper offices on the left and offices for Dr. Steven Ticen, a chiropractor on the right. (He left the space shortly after I started working there.)

One desk was in the front office for a receptionist and behind a door were the main newspaper offices, with one or two desks. There were two of us working there at the time, besides Brandon and her escort, Jack Kenny.

My desk was in the front and I used an electric IBM Selectric typewriter to write stories. Newspaper offices have always been strange places, this one was no different. A huge oak rolltop desk owned by a former editor, Winston Carroll, was in a corner … in the office on the wall was a framed black-and-white photo of him with his feet on the desk.

High up above the doorway was a shelf with all the bound volumes of the newspaper. In my five years of working there, I never touched those bound volumes, fearing either the pages or the binding would fall apart.

Being in an office downtown was handy … and because people knew where you were, they dropped by — to chat, tell you the latest bit of gossip or to turn in typed or handwritten news releases.

When I worked at The Weekly Calistogan it was before fax machines were widely in use and way before email and the Internet. If you wanted to find out the latest news from city hall, you’d have to make a phone call or walk down Washington Street. In those years, the city officials I remember included Mayor Peter Kagel, for example, or Mayor Bill Berkhout, who had a thick German accent or Councilman Nick Rulli, whose Italian accent was also very strong. I also remember the late Edy Wilkinson and Gayle Keller, who both served on the council.”

Well, there you have it, a little history of The Weekly Calistogan, and I hope, upon reflection someday, the stories that come out of the current office are worth retelling as well. If any of this has sparked a memory don’t be shy, our address is 1712 Washington St. and you’re welcome any time to stop in and share a memory.

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You can reach Cynthia Sweeney at 942-4035 or csweeney@weeklycalistogan.com.


The Weekly Calistogan Editor

Cynthia Sweeney has been editor of The Weekly Calistogan since July, 2018. Previously, she was a reporter for the St. Helena Star, and North Bay Business Journal. She also spent a significant amount of time freelancing in Hawaii.