Diablo Views: Living at the newspaper
Ever feel like you can relate to someone who was in your position 60 years ago? I recently met the son of the founding editor of the old Valley Pioneer, Beverlee Holly, and she sounds like someone I would have liked.
The office for the popular San Ramon Valley paper was located on Prospect Avenue and its first issue was Feb. 2, 1945. The old Danville Meat Market was converted into offices for the newspaper with living quarters in back. Beverlee was at the Lafayette Sun, and when its publishers C.C. Morse and Eugene Haney began the Valley Pioneer, they appointed her editor. She moved to Danville with her toddler, Ernest D. Holly III, and they lived at the office. Beverlee went about covering the news in Danville while her husband Ernest D. Holly II served in the Army in Belgium.
Ernie (III) and his wife Cyndie came by the Danville Weekly last week and shared early editions of the Valley Pioneer.
"My mother took pride in the fact that I was with her," Ernie told me. "She used to say she put me in the window to amuse the people - and the people amused me."
Beverlee also edited the State Farm Insurance magazine, "Tempo," and Ernie has a 1943 letter from them acknowledging her request for a "State Farm Nursery." This was a woman ahead of her time in childcare issues. Beverlee's middle name was Peace because she was born Nov. 11, 1918, the day the Great War ended, and the headlines proclaimed "Peace!"
Those old newspapers reported on all aspects of everyday life, including Alamo School seventh- and eighth-graders taking a trip to the archery shop in Oakland; Mrs. Rose Peters opening her home for a card party; cattlemen meeting; and Girls Scout enjoying an eight-mile hike to Rock City on Mount Diablo. It also included news from farther afield, such as a Christian World Facts report that a chaplain overseas was making communion cups from empty 50-calibre shells.
Beverlee had a calendar that doubled as a diary and was published as a way for mothers to document their baby's early days, which she did through the eyes of her son, intertwining national, work and baby news.
* Jan. 28, 1945: "We moved out to Danville today."
* Jan. 30: "Mother is editor of the Valley Pioneer & I'm the assistant."
* March 1: "Mama and I went into Lafayette to get the paper off the press."
* March 3: "It's cold and there is snow on Mt. Diablo."
* March 5: "The war new sounds good in Europe and Mama and Daddy got an income tax refund today."
* April 25: "Peace conference started in S.F. today. Paul opened his Danville Hotel."
* May 1: "We went to the Van Gordon's for dinner. Hitler reported dead."
* May 24: "NO mail from daddy. Mama folded all the papers tonight alone."
Beverlee and little Ernie moved back to Lafayette that summer and she went back to work at the Lafayette Sun, which eventually became the Contra Costa Sun (where I used to work as a copy editor). She also wrote a column called "East Bay Banter" for the San Francisco Chronicle and later became public relations director for Merritt Hospital in Oakland. She retired to Oroville and pursued her lifelong love of hiking and camping; she passed away in 1999.
The more I talked to Ernie and Cyndie, the more we found in common. After leaving Danville and living for awhile in Berkeley, Beverlee and Ernie II raised their family on Grandview Place in Walnut Creek, right across the street from my son's piano teacher of many years, Doris Marliave. Ernie was a Scout in the 1950s and his leader was John Nejedly, who later became a state senator and whose daughter Mary Nejedly Piepho has her supervisor's office right next to the Danville Weekly. Ernie II was discharged at Camp Beale, which later became Beale Air Force Base where I (OK, my husband) was stationed. Ernie III's son-in-law works for Wilson so his daughter parties with all the stars - and I like tennis. (Maybe that one is a stretch but I liked seeing a photo of her with Roger Federer.) And, of course, Ernie and his mom had lived at the hometown newspaper office - and sometimes it feels like I live here, too.
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.