I got a few emails asking if I was going to the rally in San Francisco to remember the fallen Charlie Hebdo cartoonists this weekend. No, I didn’t make it. Instead, I attended a memorial service for another fallen newspaper comrade, Robert (Bob) Wyckoff, who passed away last year. Bob was a reporter, editor, publisher, photographer, author, songwriter, and historian. He was also the father of three children.
It was a beautiful, simple service, with an honor guard and testimonials from his brother Jim, retired Nevada City city manager Beryl Robinson, Union editor Brian Hamilton, former mayor Paul Matson, and Bill MacSems, the co-creator of the musical about the Narrow Gauge railroad, Never Come, Never Go. The local group, Buffalo Gals, played several songs from his 1985 production of Songs and Stories of the Gold Rush.
After the ceremonies, we all had a great time reminiscing about our experiences with Bob. It was pretty much agreed that he was a cantankerous son of a bitch, and most of us hated him at one time or another. I was reminded of a cartoon I did of him hanging from a gallows and calling him a “dumbass.” (It was a disagreement over the legality of David Parker’s legendary mural on the wall of the Wiley’s Bar patio.)
He was also a gregarious personality with a boundless enthusiasm for Nevada City, his adopted home. No matter what our disagreements, we were never mad for very long.
In a roundabout way, Bob was responsible for me getting my first job as a newspaper cartoonist. He was the editor and founder of The Independent, a weekly newspaper based on Broad Street in Nevada City. (You can still see the name on the building at the corner of Broad and Pine, above Utopian Stone jewelers.)
Bob had experienced financial problems with the paper, which led to investors, which led to a confrontation over the direction of the publication, which led to Wyckoff walking out in a huff, which led to investor Dave Fluke taking over as publisher. Fluke hired a whole new crew, led by editor Dan O’Neill, to guide the paper into the Reagan era. I was the cub cartoonist, dark room developer, and in charge of color separations. It was quite a learning experience and way too much fun. It lasted two years, until Fluke got tired of burning money to support us.
A few years ago, I suggested that the two of us commandeer a table at The Union’s Home & Garden show to sell the books we had published under their banner. We had a great time talking about history and local gossip, and occasionally someone would attempt to buy a book. “You don’t want to pay twenty bucks for this thing, do you?” was Bob’s sales pitch. (“Yes, we do,” I’d whisper while kicking him under the table.)
I miss his weekly forays into local history in The Union, and I dearly miss the man himself. There will never be another like him.