Lifestyle

The early days: Looking back on Valley Record's roots as newspaper observes its centennial

No one shaped the early Record more than Robert Sawyer, who published the Record as R.D. Sawyer, buying it in 1928 and selling it in 1942. A big booster of business, he touted the Record’s services, and those of other business, every week.  - Photo from the Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection |
No one shaped the early Record more than Robert Sawyer, who published the Record as R.D. Sawyer, buying it in 1928 and selling it in 1942. A big booster of business, he touted the Record’s services, and those of other business, every week.
— image credit: Photo from the Snoqualmie Valley Museum Collection |

The Snoqualmie Valley Record traces its roots back to the North Bend Post, which started operations in the Tanner district east of North Bend on October 16, 1913, published by B.N. Kennedy.

Older fragments of the newspaper exist, but the earliest extant copy, scanned into microfilm at the North Bend Library, is from March 2, 1917.

That newspaper was later published as the Snoqualmie Post on the other side of the Upper Valley. The name of the paper evolved over time, from the Snoqualmie Valley Record and North Bend Valley Record to today’s Snoqualmie Valley Record.

 

A house ad from the 1930s explains what the paper considers news—just about everything.

 

Slices of life

In those early days, and for decades afterward, every aspect of life made the weekly edition.

“If you went to Seattle, that was in the paper,” said local historian Gardiner Vinnedge, who researched the paper’s history for the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum’s latest magazine.

In the 1940s, publisher Robert Sawyer gave full coverage all the way to Duvall.

“We don’t know how many staff he had,” said Vinnedge. Only two staff members are credited, but Sawyer may have also pulled from correspondents, some under pen names.

When Sawyer got an interesting advertisement, he ran it as a news story. Headlines praised the latest products and services, with three paragraphs following on a front page packed with 25 different stories and advertisements. He made sure to run front-page pieces, clearly written by a Hollywood hand, about the movies playing at the local theaters. Residents were always sure to be thrilled, it seems, by these movies.

“It was just doubled advertising,” says Vinnedge.

“It is a very diplomatic paper,” Vinnedge describes Sawyer’s product. “There are not a lot of searing editorials denouncing people.”

But he does sense an edge to Sawyer’s coverage of politics. For decades, well into the 1980s, the paper not only covered national politics, it also printed the results of every electoral race, precinct by precinct, from U.S. president to county auditor. On the front, too, Sawyer regularly ran political cartoons. These are pretty tame by today’s standards. Many praise home virtues and portray Uncle Sam and common folk engaged in wholesome, prosperity-boosting activities.

In those days, Washington was much more conservative than today. Mill workers were in the union, but “if you follow the returns downriver, it gets very much more Republican,” said Vinnedge.

It’s not clear whether Sawyer was a Republican or just tired of Franklin Roosevelt.

“But what killed him in 1940 was, he clearly didn’t want Roosevelt to have a third term. But you couldn’t say that!” Vinnedge said.

His headline of Roosevelt’s unprecedented third term was “Democrats sweep nation and state. Valley goes along.” Sawyer congratulates Roosevelt’s triumph, but also was effusive in his praise of Wendell Willkie. When the GOP candidate visited Seattle, Sawyer made sure to report how Valley people turned out to hear him.

“And he’s got an ad for Willkie at the bottom of the paper. Maybe he gave it to him.”

The ad-lib beat

Charlotte and Ed Groshell bought the paper in 1949. Ed was adept at writing for the “Ad-Lib” beat: Small front-page snippets announcing what was being advertised in the pages of the paper that week.

“Ed was really good at this column, ad-libbing the ad beat, in which anybody who placed an ad got a little joke, a quote, a little personal thing.”

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