Hello, Viewpoint! 40 years ago, neighborhood in transition needed a chronicle

My wife, Marty, and I knew right off the bat that Curtis Park was going to be our home when I landed the job of political cartoonist for McClatchy Newspapers in Sacramento in 1972.

The community people, the character of its homes, the park and the small elementary school were all welcoming signs. Additionally, it’s an easy bike ride to downtown employment at public or private jobs.

Younger couples were moving into the area, fixing up homes built in the 1920s and ’30s that had been in decline – some recently with original owners. The 1970s were a time of change, but who would record it and why? Hello, Viewpoint.

Also in decline were two significant landmarks, first the 1923 Sierra School, with its two stories of broken windows and leaking roofs, which had closed because of the earthquake risk and was being considered by the state for a Department of Motor Vehicles parking lot.

Second, the Western Pacific Railroad yard, dating from early in the 20th century, was causing serious health concerns for the neighbors. Hello, again, Viewpoint.

There was no place to go but up and there was nobody to chronicle this transformation except a little monthly publication that would initially be printed on an old mimeograph machine at a helpful neighbor’s office and distributed free by volunteers. Other volunteers wrote stories profiling their neighbors and their families, reported on the evolution of the old elementary school into the Sierra 2 Center for Arts and the Community, and then described fundraising activities such as the annual Home Tour and the Pickle Family Circus – plus a lot of parties in the former school’s cafeteria.

The effort to save the school building led to the creation of a neighborhood group, initially called Sierra School Neighborhood Association and later Sierra Curtis Neighborhood Association. Neighborhood leaders encouraged residents to participate in decisions at both community and municipal levels. With a residential population of folks working at legislative, municipal, academic, construction and media jobs, in addition to shop owners, sales people, other employees and retirees, the organization developed a talented volunteer workforce to support the neighborhood and its concerns.

After 40 years of Viewpoint delivery, neighbors can likely add to their own list of things this little newspaper has represented in print.

To all those neighbors who work or have worked on this powerful little newspaper collecting news, writing and editing the stories, displaying them in an attractive manner, distributing monthly copies to front porches and selling advertising space – Happy Fortieth Anniversary, Viewpoint, and many, many more to come!

Dennis Renault, now living in Monterey, was the first editor of Viewpoint and the catalyst to motivate neighbors to develop what he calls “a truly neighborhood newspaper.”

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