Neither press problems nor fire stopped Sentinel since 1893

The Daily Sentinel has again retained its proud record of never missing a day of publication.

Events last Sunday in which the newspaper had to be published by the Montrose Daily Press because of electrical problems with the Sentinel’s press brought back starkly the day the Sentinel pressroom caught on fire on Tuesday, April 9, 1974.

My husband, Teddy, and I were working at The Daily Sentinel then and had gone to see the movie “The Sting” that night. As we came out of the theater, we could see the sky in the south part of town was glowing red.

We weren’t sure what was ablaze, but we knew the fire was somewhere in the neighborhood of the Sentinel.

We got in our car and drove over the Fifth Street viaduct to see what was burning. We couldn’t get down Seventh Street because, of course, the street was blocked off.

Our hearts sank when we saw that it was Mesa Flour Mill, the Sentinel and surrounding buildings that were causing the glow in the sky.

The high winds we were experiencing were fanning the flames. Embers from the fire were being carried in the wind as far north as our home at North Seventh Street and Ouray Avenue.

The radio was warning people within the downtown area to have their garden hoses ready in case our roofs caught on fire. So we went home and dragged out our garden hoses in case we needed them. Fortunately, we never had to use them.

We waited by the phone for word from someone at the Sentinel to tell us what the next step would be. The call came late that night telling us that we should report for work as usual the next morning.

Both of us breathed sighs of relief.

The local TV station was reporting the death of the Sentinel. They reported that the Sentinel wasn’t going to be able to publish a paper because the pressroom was on fire, and the press would be a heap of melted metal once the fire was out.

The next morning as we headed south on Seventh toward the Sentinel, we were flagged down at the corner of Seventh and Main. As a member of the production crew, I was to go to a building on the north side of Main in the 600 block, across the alley from the Sentinel’s previous location. Teddy, a member of the pressroom crew, was to continue to the Sentinel building on South Seventh Street.

The upstairs of the building on Main was abuzz with composing room employees being directed by the publisher’s secretary, Marion Fletcher, telling us what we were to do.

Someone — I don’t know who — had gathered all the electric typewriters from the Sentinel and had taken them to the building on Main Street.

Reporters were operating out of the Sentinel newsroom, where bare light bulbs on drop cords hung over their desks as they worked on manual typewriters. After a reporter finished a story, an editor looked it over and sent it to the Main Street building where we typed it on the electric typewriters.

Meanwhile, Teddy and the other pressmen were waiting at the Sentinel for the pages we typed. When they got the pages, they made page plates and then they were on their way to Glenwood Springs, where the paper was printed that day and for the next six weeks.

The Wednesday afternoon paper came out on time, although it looked nothing like the Sentinel subscribers were used to. But no doubt it was one paper that many people saved as part of our history.

What brought back this flood of memories was that Teddy wanted to drive by the Sentinel on Sunday afternoon to see if the paper was printed yet.

Sentinel Publisher Jay Seaton was standing by the dock, and he took time to answer Teddy’s questions.

Jay told us how all the newspaper employees had come together to make sure the Sentinel didn’t miss a day of publication, and it reminded me how all the Sentinel family pitched in after the 1974 fire.

As Mark Twain said of erroneous reports on his own demise, the death of The Daily Sentinel was “greatly exaggerated” by television. To me, the Sentinel remains the best record of the history of the Grand Valley and I am elated that it has yet to miss a day of publication.

Kathy Jordan is retired from The Daily Sentinel. She is involved in many local preservation efforts and is on the board of directors for Colorado Preservation Inc.

 

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734 S. Seventh St.
Grand Junction, CO 81501
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