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.
Describing the late Bob Wyckoff as a “cantankerous son of a bitch” is perfect –– and I think he would smile with a nod of approval if he could see what you wrote about him. But being a cantankerous SOB is a hell of lot better than being a mean-spirted SOB, and we have both known that kind SOB, haven’t we?
In 1983, I served with Wyckoff on a committee appointed by Mayor Cathy Wilcox-Barnes to take an objective look at the future of the Father’s Day bicycle race. Truth is, we were about as objective and open-minded as some members of The Union’s current editorial board. We all had a vision for the race and fought like hell to get our vision into the final report.
Stan Miller, who then owned The Tour of Nevada City bicycle shop, chaired the committee and did a great job trying to keep order. Other committee members included David Parker and Keith Davies, (wish my aging brain cells could remember the other members).
The process got so snarled with conflicting opinions and conflicting visions, that when all was said and done we issued a report with three sections: Observations and suggestions we could all agree with, observations and suggestions a majority of the committee could agree with, and then a long list of items reflecting concerns and/or recommendations of individual members.
The report was 6-7 pages long, but very few items involved aspects of the race we all agreed with.
On the day we met at City Hall to finalize the report before sending it to the city council, we went around the table and each committee member offered their final comments. When it was Wyckoff’s turn, he rose from his chair, held the report in his hands, shouted, “Here’s what I think of the report!” and promptly tore it into little pieces. He then threw the pieces on the table and stormed out of the room.
Yeah, he was a cantankerous SOB, and often it was his way or the highway, but like you mention, he wasn’t the kind of guy most folks could stay mad at for long. Over the years, Bob and I would hiss at each other every so often, but as we both grew older the hissing got quieter.
Nice piece, Bob; glad you posted it.
Glad I found this site as I met Bob at grammar school when I played the violin and Mr. Mac Sems was the music teacher. I was about 13 when I played in the orchestra for ‘Never Come, Never Go” play at the Ice House. I am 69 now and just read the article in the 12/14/2017 Prospector re. Community Players Trust annual funding program which mentioned Bob and the Ice House Players, now named Community Players. I corrected them on the actual physical address and building where the play was first performed. The building is now Century 21 Cornerstone Realty (101 Boulder)
not the Stone House. I am certain Bob would have made the correction if he was still alive.
Not quite sure why I was unable to to attend Bob’s memorial service. Anyway, for me, it’s always good to remember him. He had quite the zest for life and certainly didn’t waste any of it “people pleasing.” He was a good friend to me.