On a rainy night in October, 1968, my family moved to Nevada City from Quincy, CA. My sisters, with me following, explored the old Victorian house in darkness, with lightening striking outside the windows. We opened what we thought was a closet, to find a narrow dark staircase curving up to the second floor. My sister Betsy began making up stories about a murder that had taken place in the back bedroom, just to spook us.
I had started Kindergarten in Quincy, and would continue it in Nevada City. At that time, the classes were in the building between Main and Winter St., just behind the Courthouse. Two of my sisters were in elementary school just up the street, and one was going to Seven Hills School which was on Zion Street, at the time.
Naturally, my memory of that time is mostly visual. I knew nothing of Nevada City and its environs. My experience extended in a triangular area between our first house on Nevada Street (rented) at one point, the Kindergarten yard at another point, and my parent’s print shop on Commercial Street, as the third point. Frankly my memories are not properly sequential, but I remember crossing the freeway at Washington St. I also remember climbing the wall across from the church, and sometimes going up the incredibly (still!) steep Court Street that connects Coyote to Main north of Washington. That winter, ice covered it, and we were nearly late for school trying to get up it. We could have gone around, but it was too much fun!
Through stories told by my parents I learned that Nevada City’s downtown was about half-occupied when we came in 1968. There were several bars, and not much else. I remember Scotch Broom and Grimblefinger Book store (this might have come later) across the street from my parent’s print shop, which was in the building where Mecca is now. It was called DeCrepit Press… With my father’s peculiar sense of humor he had created a “backstory” of the founder being one Lucius Van Der Lewellyn DeCrepit. I remember exploring the space on Commercial St. with it’s brick walls and iron shutters, and mysterious basement with a creek running through it!
As I grew up in Nevada City, I saw many changes. The preservation movement, which turned Nevada City from a run-down, past-its-prime, down-at-the-heels logging town with people longing for the good old days of mining prosperity, to being a historical tourist draw with art and culture aplenty. The burying of the phone and electricity lines and the installation of gaslights and the restoration of the Theatre and Ott’s Assay Office building that created all the momentum… the burst of population growth that followed in the late ‘70’s… There are certainly things I miss, but overall, Nevada City continues to be a truly great place.
I’m hoping a few people who read this will come up with their own memories to share. I’ve got a few more, as well: The first Malakoff homecoming celebrations after the state park was established, the burning of the Torino and the old Carriage house, the Nevada City Independent, and much more.
This post by Richard Webster