As technology eliminates print newspapers, especially in smaller markets, the need to continue their ability to keep us informed is endangered.
Stories in this paper last week by Antelope Valley Press writer Julie Drake were a classic example of the value of home-town print newspapers.
I normally don’t read stories about local governments south of Avenue A, but Julie’s reporting on the actions of three new Antelope Valley High School District board members caught my eye, possibly because I graduated from “A. V.” in 1953 and attended A.V. College when it was between the high school and the cemetery.
Julie reported on a number of decisions taken by these board members that stunned me.
For many years I covered school districts and other local government agencies in East Kern for the Mojave Desert News, as my late mother Marion Mack Deaver did for the Bakersfield Californian in the 1950s through the 1970s.
In one way or another I have been attending public meetings all my life and am currently a member of the Mojave Air & Spaceport board of directors.
I’ll not go into detail on Julie’s stories, but in all those years I never observed behavior like she reported.
Her stories have generated letters to the editor from concerned readers, another valuable feature of community newspapers, especially when they are intelligently and politely written.
Stories like those written by Julie, Allison Gatlin and the sports department perform an unbelievably valuable service to our participatory system of government.
Let’s hope they will continue to play a vital role in maintaining our freedoms.
Mojave lost a great lady, hard worker, and good friend last week with the passing of Rheta Scott.
A longtime friend, Rheta worked for my wife Billye and I when we published the Mojave Desert News from 1979 until 1982.
Her primary job was operating the darkroom.
In those days between newspapers printed with lead type and today’s high tech digital systems, newspaper copy, ads, photos, and everything else was created on computers, printed on a type of photo paper, and pasted-up into full pages, which were photographed on a special camera.
The resulting full-page negatives were loaded into a box each Wednesday which I took to our printer, Tony Reed, at his Roadrunner newspaper in Bakersfield.
Tony’s printer John made metal plates from the negatives, which were placed on a big rotary press which spewed-out newspapers.
It was a big job and Rheta played a vital role in getting the paper out each week, always aided by her wonderful sense of humor.
Sense of humor
My favorite examples of Rheta’s outlook on life are two stories.
One Wednesday morning as we were getting down to the short rows I announced that we were “running out of space — write tight.”
To which the unflappable Rheta responded, “Oh good. I’ll have a Martini.”
The darkroom where Rheta did most of her work was in the back of our building on K Street in Mojave.
The paper’s bathroom was in its back corner of the darkroom and, like many buildings in Mojave, closing doors often involves dealing with air pressure.
One day Rheta came out of the darkroom laughing.
She had closed the door and then gone back to close the bathroom door, which we always did by slamming it as hard as possible because of the air pressure (unless the small window was open to relieve it).
When she slammed the door with a crash, she told us, she heard a small voice squeak, “I’m in here.”
The voice was that of another employee who was a bit of a wimp, and who wore a stunned expression when he emerged from the loo.
Great with people
Rheta was great with people and also handled the front counter, selling ads, copies of papers, and dealing with salespeople and other time-wasters.
Working with us was good training for her next job as a clerk at the Mojave Court.
Throughout her life Rheta was a willing and valuable volunteer for many local organizations including the Senior Citizens and at monthly Plane Crazy Saturdays at the Mojave Air & Spaceport selling souvenirs and answering questions from the event’s local and international visitors.
We have missed Rheta since she moved to the Kern River Valley and we shall miss her even more now that she is gone forever but will always be in our hearts.
To EDF Renewables of Mojave, for donating the cost of replacing the Mojave Chamber of Commerce “Welcome to Mojave” billboard on Highway 14 south of town, and to Lamar Advertising for printing and installing the new sign at the original price.
The billboard was designed several years ago by Mike Massee, formerly of XCOR Aerospace, and is illuminated at night by solar lighting installed by Mike.
Our new governor Gavin Newsom has made doing something about the housing shortage in California a major priority.
One of the many articles I’ve read about his efforts noted that “moderate income” housing for working people is one of his major priorities.
That’s fine, except that the only “moderate income” apartments in Mojave, which currently have no vacancies, set their income limit so low that almost everyone employed at the Mojave Air & Spaceport makes too much money to live there.
Because no new houses or apartments are being built in Mojave, many people working here must commute daily to work from somewhere else, which, as I know from experience elsewhere, is costly and wastes time.
Yes, I know Mojave is not Beverly Hills, but additional rooftops will bring more retail and other services and improve the local quality of life.
Mojave is also about the only community in Kern County without dedicated housing for senior citizens.
As I keep complaining, Mojave seems to be “red lined” by the banks and builders in its efforts to get market-rate homes and apartment built for the many people who work here every day but must commute to neighboring communities.
If we could ever get some homes and apartments built they would be very affordable, the biggest housing problem facing California residents.
We are currently working with some folks to remedy this situation.