Newspaper work runs in the family

Housebound, with nothing but swirling snow to look at last weekend, gave some time for daydreams and reflection. I was going over some research I had done for a story about past Record-Courier news editor and Topaz Ranch Estates resident Sally Lyda, who died Sept. 1, 1980.

As I was trying to absorb the information I had found, I realized that the only thing I was really thinking about was my grandma. Even though I never had the honor of meeting Sally, the more I studied her writing, the more I felt the presence of my grandma. More than a generation separated the two of them in age, even so, these two women were so much alike.

First, I have to say, Grandma and I were not blood related. She was really my stepgrandmother, but the "step" part was never a consideration in our relationship. No more consideration than I had to use any other name for my stepfather than Daddy and that is how I reference those two people in my life to this day. After all, I was barely 5 years old when Daddy and Grandma became such a huge part of my life and both of them treated me totally as their own little girl.

Grandma always seemed to be a generation ahead of her time. She was a writer, a connoisseur of the arts, of music, of creativity in general. With great patience, she tried to encourage these appreciations in me and she was a constant reminder to be open-minded to ideas, opinions, politics, religious beliefs, ethnicity and possibilities.

She encouraged every creative thought in my head and helped them grow. She was painfully honest, an honesty that sometimes hurt my feelings but, as I look back on it all now, the hurt feelings healed and the complete honesty guided me down the path to what I do today. Where my mother would always tell me I had done a perfect job with my various artistic endeavors, Grandma was quick to point things out when she felt I hadn't lived up to my full potential. As mad as I sometimes got, (the hurt feeling thing again), it didn't take me very long to realize she was more right than wrong most of the time.

Grandma was the society editor (comparable to the people editor here at The R-C). She worked for the Mountain Democrat, a newspaper in Placerville, and I was allowed to have the run of the front offices. I remember tapping the windows and waving at Grandma as I walked past the front windows of the newspaper office overlooking Main Street. There she would be, in her cramped little cubbyhole, a desk piled high with papers and projects, pouring over a clunky manual Royal typewriter, state of the art at the time, but she always made time for me. The Mountain Democrat had been produced from that location for more than 60 years at that time and the building was showing its age. I remember the noises and the smells of the old building as cigarette smoke fogged the air, stacks of paper, printer's ink, the clackety-clack of typewriters, phones ringing, the typesetting trays that were still in use, I remember it all and it was an exciting time for me.

I remember when Grandma requested that my mother make her a couple pair of slacks to wear. Remember, Grandma was from the "ladies wore only dresses" era and my other grandma, from the same generation, a whole lot more primly proper and conservative, was rather shocked at the prospect of Grandma appearing in public looking like a man. The whole scenario didn't seem to bother Grandma one bit.

So, as I read Sally Lyda's articles, her thoughts and opinions, finding pictures of her hard at work surrounded by stacks of papers, the old Royal typewriter in front of her, a look of intense concentration on her face, memories of my grandmother were foremost in my mind. And the beauty of it all, the copies of the works created by both these women will perpetuate their memory and keep on keepin' on.

n Jonni Hill can be reached at or at 782-5121, ext. 213, or after hours at


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