The old Huntington Beach News has been defunct as a street publication for a long time now, but I haven’t forgotten it.
It currently exists as an E-newspaper.
I grew up in Costa Mesa and Newport Beach in the 1950s and ‘60s without exposure to the News. The newspapers I cut my teeth on were the Costa Mesa Globe-Herald, Newport Harbor News-Press and Santa Ana Register.
I didn’t encounter the weekly Huntington Beach News until I was a media professional.
In the summer of 1971, I was a newly hired assistant in Orange Coast College’s public information office. At that time, the News employed eight people and had been publishing for seven decades. It had a paid circulation of 4,000.
The newspaper was headquartered in an ancient building on Main Street, a block from the ocean in Surf City. The News was known for its full-size format, “juicy” local coverage and huge photographs.
The paper ran an engaging front-page column each week by owner-publisher George Farquhar. The column offered Farquhar’s take on local politics and local characters, or words about his latest surfing exploits or his romances. There was a fifth category he covered that he labeled “just plain monkey business.”
Even as a senior citizen in the 1970s, Farquhar went surfing daily and was one of the better senior surfers along our coast. When I’d visit the News office, I’d see his surfboard propped against the wall near his desk.
Farquhar’s “editorial touch” could be seen throughout the newspaper. In addition to his column, the front page usually included a glamour shot of a bikini-clad beauty.
One of my early responsibilities at OCC was writing and editing programs for the college’s half-dozen home football games each season. During my first five or six years on staff, the eight-page programs were printed at the News.
I’d deliver the copy, photos and layout to the News on Monday the week of a home game, and proof it mid-week. I’d return Friday — or, if a press broke down, Saturday — to pick up the printed copies.
The News probably made $200 off each game, or $1,200 per season. It wasn’t much, but the newspaper came to depend upon our business over the years. As a consequence, the News was decidedly displeased when, in about 1976, we elected to more cheaply produce the programs on campus.
While we were a client of the News, the newspaper regularly ran my press releases in its pages. We helped fill the publication’s weekly news hole, and the residents of Huntington Beach learned more about the college.
The News’ back shop in the early 1970s featured several printing presses and an antique Linotype Machine. When you walked into the shop, the smell of hot metal and the clanking of the Linotype overpowered your senses. It was heavenly!
By ’71, the 57-year-old Farquhar had been the News’ owner and publisher for decades. Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he moved west with his family and graduated from Huntington Beach High School. He earned a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.
Farquhar sold the newspaper in 1979, and sometime later publicly referred to it as “a real cornball country weekly.” He died in 1985 at age 71.
Farquhar’s half-brother, Tom Wyllie, assisted in running the publication.
My perception was that Farquhar was the journalist and Wyllie was the business manager. Wyllie made certain we stayed current with our printing account, and occasionally would call when the college was slow in issuing a check.
Wyllie’s wife, Florence, worked at the newspaper’s “front counter.”
Farquhar was mercurial and quirky; Tom Wyllie aloof and stern. Florence Wyllie, a sweetheart, was the newspaper’s gracious public face.
When I visited the paper, Tom and Florence were always hard at work. Farquhar was … well, almost never there. Farquhar loved the fact that he answered to no one. It’s said that he could usually be found “digging up a story” at a Main Street eatery.
The news biz has changed a lot since Farquhar and Tom Wyllie left the scene. It’s not nearly so colorful as it once was!
JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Wednesdays.