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We were all readers: Gloria McNeely shared life's details as Valley Record editor in the 1950s
“I was born with a streak of curiosity a mile wide,” insists Gloria McNeely. “And I still want to know what’s happening around the corner and what’s happening tomorrow.”
McNeely, has spent her adult life in the Valley, chronicled its history, championed causes, and for 10 years, wrote up the news of the day as associate editor of the Valley Record. She has to be the only editor here ever to start work as the paper’s bookkeeper.
Born in New York City, McNeely grew up from the age of 5 in Seattle. Her father, a civil engineer, had gone back east for work, then died in the Spanish Influenza epidemic that swept the world, when she was seven months old.
Her connection to the Valley came through her brother, who came here to work at the Falls lumber mill. But it quickly expanded to another boy. At 16, Gloria met Denton McNeely at a coffee bar at the back of the Mount Si Tavern at Tanner.
“He was tall. He had the most beautiful blue eyes in the United States of America,” she remembered.
They were meant to be together.
“I knew the day I saw him,” she said. “He said later that he did, too.”
They married in 1938, when she was 19.
Denton drove trucks for a living, and with a trusty record, wound up at Weyerhaeuser.
Gloria, meanwhile, raised their young children. But she had a talent with numbers, as well as words, that was waiting for an outlet.
“Math and words have always been my favorite things,” says McNeely, who had taken classes as an accountant. Those skills came in handy when she took a job at the Falls Printing Company, on the ides of March, 1951, at age 32, working for Charlotte Paul Groshell and her husband Ed, who had taken over publication of the Record in 1949. The company wanted a full-service bookkeeper. Part-time for a year, McNeely’s job description later multiplied.
“People would come in and tell me who they had for tea, or where they went over the weekend, and I’d write notes and give them to Charlotte. She said, ‘write them up!”
Letter from Ed
“For 10 years, she was my right hand in the weekly publishing business,” wrote Ed Groshell in the letter of recommendation he penned for Gloria in October of 1961. “She handled our bookkeeping, wrote and edited thousands of news stories, handled my business correspondence and during several long absences on my part, she virtually ran the ‘show.’”
Writing came naturally for McNeely, a born reader.
“We were all readers,” she said. Growing up, “we read armloads of books from the branch library two miles from where we lived.”
And, people were eager to share the details of life.
“If you go through the old papers, you’ll see it’s all about people’s lives—what they were doing, what they were interested in, where they went.” Some folks were more private than others.
“There are still those who want to have it known, and those who don’t. So, you’ll see a lot of the same names.”
McNeely was promoted to associate editor, her name on the Page 2 masthead.
To McNeely, Charlotte Paul Groshell was a mentor. Five years older than her, she was never afraid to be the voice of a community, and champion causes.
“A very bright woman,” a Wellesley graduate, she had been an editor and a foreign correspondent.
Nine years later, after the paper sold and the Groshells moved on, McNeely did too, working for the county.
Working for the Record “introduced me to things I would not ever have been involved in,” McNeely said.
About the time she took over as editor, McNeely was allowed to take off from the office and cover freshman sports at Mount Si High.
“Ed took over at one point, because it wasn’t fair to my kids,” she remembers. “They were both excelling. I had to soft-pedal it because I was their mother.”
As editor, McNeely made sure she got it right: “Keep one eye on ‘libel’ as a distinct possibility,” she advises, “and always verify—always—never guess, never ever.”
Reading “was our connection to the world,” said McNeely. Newsreels and radio were the quick connection. “But you only got the highlights. If you wanted to know the meat and the heart of it, you had to read. It just makes me sick that we’re losing that.”