Paper trail

SN&R has a tough north Sacramento newspaper legacy to follow

The North Sacramento Journal occupied this Del Paso Boulevard building for half a century. SN&R will move to the boulevard within the next couple years.

The North Sacramento Journal occupied this Del Paso Boulevard building for half a century. SN&R will move to the boulevard within the next couple years.

SN&R Photo by Anne Stokes

SN&R has reported on its impending move to Del Paso Boulevard through sporadic news briefs on north Sacramento redevelopment and a weekly play-by-play report on the “greening” of SN&R’s future headquarters. Missing from Sena Christian’s Green House column and the other articles are references to the journalistic past of SN&R’s new neighborhood, however.

Signs of that past remain a mere seven blocks from SN&R’s future home. The building at 1808 Del Paso Boulevard was occupied for half a century by the North Sacramento Journal, a long-defunct weekly you could get for 10 cents a copy off the rack or $3 per year by subscription.

On a community information board hanging outside the front door of the old Journal building, people still post messages about lost pets, guitar lessons and garage sales. It’s fitting since neighborhood news is what the Journal was all about from the 1920s through the 1970s, a period during which North Sacramento went from a town of its own to being formally swallowed up by the city of Sacramento.

The Journal’s front pages typically were filled with stories on the location of the Mineral Society meeting, the start time of the local Jaycee pancake breakfast or the reason the parks department fired its custodian. But syndicated columnists of the Red Scare-era kept Journal readers up to date on the bigger world. For instance, Howard Kershner of the Christian Freedom Foundation warned that “socialism is the real explanation of the population explosion” among “the less responsible segment of society.”

But Journal editor and publisher John T. Holden Jr. had real reporter’s blood flowing through his veins. His father had been a newspaperman in New Jersey before founding the Journal in 1923. The younger Holden was in the International Typographical and Typesetters Union, an affiliation that didn’t stop him from turning out a product riddled with typos, misaligned columns and unmarked story jumps.

“I remember John Holden,” recalled Dick Taber, whose family business, Taber Furniture, has been a boulevard fixture since 1935. And he recalls where the Journal stood on North Sacramento’s hottest-ever hot-button issue: the 1964 vote to merge with Sacramento. “They pretty much were for North Sacramento [remaining independent]. Lots of merchants on the boulevard, including us, wanted to keep a city of their own.”

Holden covered the merger campaign with the same sense of “fair and balanced” that guides Fox News today. In 1963, he reported: “Anti-merger leaders constitute the most responsible elements in the community … who sincerely wish to keep North Sacramento unspoiled and untrampled by the iron hooves of metropolitanism.” In contrast, the pro-mergers were painted as “the malcontent and the disloyal,” numbering just “a few people who are being beguiled by downtown propaganda.” (Actually, public opinion was split 50-50, as the final 15-vote pro-merge margin showed.)

Holden also relished playing David to the two-headed Goliath known as The Sacramento Bee and Sacramento Union. “The downtown press has never played coy about its desire to see the advancing carpet of concrete jungle growth engulf North Sacramento,” Holden wrote. “Nor has it always let the facts stand in its way.”

It was not a carpet of concrete but fire that threatened the Journal in 1961. Holden moved the editorial department across the boulevard. The printing department had to rent space at a downtown Sacramento printing press and work the night shift to keep the presses rolling. “We didn’t miss an issue,” recalled a proud Tom Marino, the Journal’s former printing manager and Holden’s son-in-law, who still lives in Sacramento with his wife, Dorothy.

The setback was only temporary; the office at 1808 Del Paso was cleared for occupancy within a couple of months. The Journal remained a family operation there until Holden sold it in 1967. (Dorothy Marino and her sister, Jeanne Mangum, of Modesto, both worked there as “printer’s devils,” or assistants in the printing department.) The new owner, California Central Press, “flubbed it,” according to Tom Marino, “because they didn’t make it a community paper.” In the early 1970s, it was bought by The Green Sheet advertiser, and ceased to exist as a newspaper. Holden died in 1986.

In a time when there was no thoroughfare called Del Paso Road cutting through a place called north Natomas, the North Sacramento Journal kept to a modest mission: “Published weekly on Thursdays for the benefit of the people of the entire North Area.”

SN&R has a tough act to follow.