Newspapering was his love as well as his profession. The familiar newspaper description of a man with “printer’s ink in his veins” could well have applied to Gordon Hadley, who, for more than 45 years, lived and breathed newspapering. He liked people and enjoyed life. He was active in community and civic affairs, becoming personally involved and using the columns of his newspapers for the betterment of the communities they served.
Although Hadley sold his newspaper business to his son, Craig L. Hadley, in 1972, Gordon remained in the business. He was president of Hadley Newspapers Inc., head of commercial printing and consultant to the corporation until shortly before his death from cancer in 1981, age 69.
Gordon Hadley had seen much of the world, particularly the Orient and Middle East, during his youth. After being graduated from Arcata High School in 1929, and before entering Humboldt State College (now University), he took the first of three around-the-world trips as a merchant seaman on the SS President Johnson of the Dollar Steamship Line. He made two trips later with the Dollar Line, alternating a semester of college with a stint at sea. It was more than a coincidence that each year he managed to return to college in time to play varsity basketball.
Hadley’s interest in newspapering was triggered in college when he took a class in journalism and was a reporter and one-year editor of the college newspaper, The Lumberjack. In 1934 Hadley went to work for the Humboldt Times, a morning daily newspaper in Eureka, Calif., as a cub reporter covering police and courtroom news and other stories of the day. He supplemented his meager salary by scoring baseball games on weekends. He became sports editor in 1937 and wrote a daily column, Here, There and Everywhere.
In March 1939 he was given the opportunity to become publisher and purchase a major interest (later full interest) in the Arcata Union, a weekly newspaper in Arcata, seven miles north of Eureka. Not only was Hadley publisher during those early days of ownership, he was also editor, wrote a weekly front page column, This Week, sold advertising, handled commercial printing and often rolled up his shirtsleeves, put on an apron and arranged galleys of type in the chases for the old flatbed press.
As Arcata and north Humboldt County grew, so did the newspaper. As subdivisions sprung up on the fringe areas The Union carried on a vigorous campaign and educational program supporting annexation. In the late ’40s Arcata became known as the “sawmill center of the world” and, because of Humboldt State College, Arcata was considered the cultural center of Humboldt County. The need for a more efficient city government was soon evident. The Union played a leading role in achieving the change from a city council to a council/manager form of government. Arcata’s city manager was the first in Humboldt County. The Union also started a weekly feature, Town and Gown, in an attempt to bring the college and townspeople closer together. Correspondents were hired to cover surrounding communities and were offered bonuses for front-page stories and pictures.
Hadley also started the Shopping News for free circulation in Arcata and surrounding communities in northern Humboldt County.
In 1952 Hadley purchased the Del Norte Triplicate in Crescent City, Del Norte County, Calif., and incorporated the two businesses as Hadley Newspapers Inc. Hadley already had ties in Del Norte County as he owned property and a summer home in Klamath Glen. The Triplicate editor, James Yarbrough, remembers that “Gordon would come up almost every week. Accounts receivable were a big problem and he would take a list and go out and be our bill collector. He was a good one. He also wanted to meet people and get the feel of things. Many times we would talk business and politics until the wee hours.”
In 1969 the corporation purchased the Crescent City American, a rival weekly, and merged it with The Triplicate to be published twice a week and later three times a week. In 1972 Hadley purchased the McKinleyville Journal, a small weekly north of Arcata, and consolidated it with The Union.
Statistics seldom reveal those highly dramatic events that sometimes challenge newspapers and the men who run them. For Gordon Hadley and Hadley Newspapers Inc., 1964 was the year of drama and challenge.
Nature seemed to vent her wrath on Northern California in 1964. In March of that year came the tsunami (tidal wave). Caused by the Alaska earthquake, the tsunami hit Crescent City, wiping out a 29-block area, most of it business district, including the Del Norte Triplicate plant.
James Yarbrough, editor of The Triplicate at the time, recalls theevent vividly: “The newspaper was flooded, linotypes filled with hot metal exploded as the water hit them, sparks flew from electrical wiring, and 1,300-pound rolls of newsprint floated around the inside of the building breaking equipment and punching holes in the walls. When the water receded and daylight came, The Triplicate was awash with mud and debris. There were even some fish in water standing in the press pit.
“I had called Gordon about 2:30 a.m. and I remember he took the bad news quite well. He came up the next morning early. We moved what typewriters we could salvage to my home and Gordon alerted the crew at the Arcata Union that they would be setting our type, building the pages (then hot type) and printing the paper. We shipped copy to Arcata by bus and I followed with more copy and worked a couple of days a week there as a printer. We never missed an issue.
“In the meantime Gordon had been talking to the Small Business Administration and to the bank. After a Redevelopment Agency was created for Crescent City, Gordon decided to rebuild the Triplicate plant at a new (its present) location.”
Jean Yarbrough, also of The Triplicate staff, wrote later: “That was probably the most difficult business decision he (Gordon) ever made. There we were, down to sand and mud. Gordon came up from Arcata to view the whole mess and assess the damages. He decided to go ahead and rebuild the business, but he could just as easily have decided not to.”
Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, arriving in Crescent City the day after the tidal wave, was quoted as saying, “This is the worst disaster I’ve ever seen.”
Since The Triplicate press was beyond repair, it seemed the opportune time to switch from letterpress to offset. A central printing plant was built in Arcata for the four-unit web offset press, the first to be installed in the north coast area of California.
But 1964 was not over. The great flood that ravaged Northern California, destroying entire communities in Humboldt and Del Norte counties, came in December during the Christmas holidays. In Del Norte County, a raging Klamath River overflowed its banks, sweeping before it the entire town of Klamath and the Klamath Glen colony. The flood washed out the Klamath River Bridge, the only connecting link between Crescent City and Arcata where The Triplicate continued to be printed because of the tidal wave in March.
With the bridge out, Hadley had to charter a plane to fly to Crescent City, taking pictures en route of the damage in the Klamath area. He flew back with copy to be set in the Arcata plant. For at least two editions news copy and newspapers were delivered between Crescent City and Arcata by plane. After the river calmed somewhat, and before a ferry could be put in operation, the newspapers were hauled across the river by jet boat.
Twice each week after dark (sometimes in the middle of the night), the papers were trucked from Arcata 60 miles to the south bank of the Klamath River. There the transporting of the papers across the river took on a contraband flavor as the driver blinked the truck lights to alert waiting drivers on the other side that the transfer of goods was about to begin. A return blinking signal and a jet boat, loaded with bundles of newspapers, began the precarious passage across the Klamath River. The papers werethen loaded on the waiting truck for another 30 miles north to Crescent City.
Gordon Hadley contributed greatly to the community and county in which he lived as well as to all of Northern California and the Redwood Region.
Transportation has always been a major problem for the North Coast area. Hadley was a member of the Redwood Empire Association and worked closely with Carney Campion of the R.E.A., the California Department of Transportation and state and federal government officials for improvement of north coast highways — Redwood Highway 101, the Michael J. Burns freeway between Eureka and Arcata, the Collier Tunnel, which eliminated the hairpin turns over Oregon Mountain. The campaign for a tunnel through Oregon Mountain had long been the subject of editorials and a campaign by the Del Norte Triplicate. Finally a definite commitment was secured from Sen. Randolf Collier, and the tunnel became a reality in 1963.
Congressman Don Clausen was a personal friend and ardent supporter of these projects. He flew his own plane over Oregon Mountain to get pictures for use by the newspaper and to show to legislators.
The Triplicate played a key role in harbor development in Crescent City after the tidal wave. When the Harbor District was short of funds to complete its first fish processing plant, The Triplicate donated $500 and carried many editorials and full-page picture spreads to stimulate additional support. James Yarbrough, editor of The Triplicate, spent 12 years on the HarborBoard, during which time some projects achieved were: completion of two seafood processing plants, a new boat basin for commercial vessels, a sports boat marina, an inner breakwater and an RV park. Speaking of his role on the board, Yarbrough says: “My participation would not have been possible had not Gordon agreed that it was vital (to Crescent City) for us to spend the time it required to revitalize the harbor. He endorsed the role of the newspaper as an advocate of economic development.”
Hadley was a strong supporter of Humboldt State University. He realized its importance to both the economic and cultural life of the City of Arcata and the county of Humboldt. He also knew that it gave students in the northcoast area an opportunity to attend college when otherwise it might not be possible for them to do so. The Union sponsored journalism scholarships, and many a journalism graduate received his first job as a member of The Union staff.
Gordon Hadley was honored by Humboldt State University during commencement exercises in 1979 when he was presented with the HSU President’s Distinguished Service Award. He was serving his second term on the HSU Advisory Board and was president of the board at the time of his death in 1981. At that time the Gordon Hadley Memorial Academic Trust was set up by a group of friends in the area and by his peers among California newspaper publishers.
An active participant during his younger days in the 20/30 Club, the Jaycees and Arcata Volunteer Firemen, Hadley continued his service to the community through his membership and work with the Arcata Chamber of Commerce,the Greater Eureka Chamber of Commerce and the one-time Humboldt County Board of Trade. He also served on Humboldt County’s Juvenile Hall Board and was a director of Humboldt National Bank.
Recording a perfect attendance, Hadley was a 39-year member and a past president of the Arcata Rotary Club. He also served as District Representative for Area 513. This interest led to his attendance at two Rotary International conventions In Switzerland and Japan. He was a member of Semper Virens Masonic Lodge No. 552, Humboldt Royal Arch Masons, Aahmes Redwood Shrine Club of Eureka, Aahmes Temple of Oakland and was a 25-year member of Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Oakland.
One of the organizers of Baywood Golf and Country Club in Arcata, Hadley served as the club’s second president in 1958. He was an early member and past president of the Ingomar Club, a men’s club that has preserved the historical Victorian Carson Mansion in Eureka. Club historian at the time of his death, Hadley had been able to secure vintage antique clothing and special effects belonging to the original owners, the William Carson and Belle LeBoyteaux families, for a special historical display room. He was also in charge of producing a historical brochure in color of the Carson Mansion, which is reputed to be the most photographed Victorian mansion in the world.
Active in sports and a star basketball player in both high school and college, Hadley’s interest in sports continued throughout his life. He supported the Babe Ruth League, the Humboldt State athletic program and the Humboldt Crabs semi-pro baseball team. He was an avid fly fisherman andtrue sportsman. His favorite stream was the Klamath River, along which he had many friends among the Native Americans (Klamath, Yurok and Hupa tribes). Also a conservationist, he and his fishermen friends took only those steelhead from the river which were to be used. He was a member of Ducks Unlimited and belonged to the Salmon Creek Fish and Game Club, the oldest chartered Fish and Game Club In California.
For more than 30 years, Hadley had been a member of the California Newspaper Publishers Association and served two years on its Board of Directors and was a member of the Executive Committee in 1978. He was a long-time member of the California Press Association, the San Francisco Press Club, Sigma Delta Chi and the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco.
At the time of Hadley’s death, Philip N. McCombs, secretary/treasurer emeritus of the California Press Association, wrote: “Gordon Hadley, in a unique section of California, was one of the outstanding publishers and newspaper association members of our generation.”
Gordon Hadley is remembered not only for his dedication to his profession but for his integrity and loyalty to his community and friends. His close friend and business associate James Yarbrough, who became publisher of The Triplicate and a stockholder in the corporation, reminisces: “One thing I remember about Gordon was the fun we had in talking about business or editorial problems and meeting difficulties in gaining our objectives. If we had a tough nut to crack, he would say, ‘James, if we can’t do it, nobody can.’ I can’t remember any failures. We would sometimes argue hot and heavy, but when it was over, it was over and we moved forwardfrom there.”
Marilee Hadley, in her tribute to Gordon Hadley, wrote: “Though a serious businessman — as well as being a man of commanding stature at many levels of city, county and state government and society in general — Gordon’s family and friends recall him as a man like no other in his love of people and personalities. At ease and on a first-name basis with government statesmen, Gordon extended the same warmth and friendship to include all whose circles he touched — the big and the little people. His interest was always sincere. He was a down-to-earth man. Their problems were his if he could help, and he did. Many a distinguished CNPA and California Press colleague will remember with a smile and some chuckles numerous anecdotes involving the fun and friendship they enjoyed over those long years of association with Gordon Hadley — a key publisher who helped anchor the northern end of the state in newspapering in California.”
Gordon Hadley was born in Arcata in 1912, the son of Dr. James Hadley and Hildegarde Hadley. He had one brother, the late Lt. Col. Channing L. Hadley. In 1935 Gordon married Monica Wright, a teacher at Humboldt State College. She joined her husband at The Union in 1947 as a columnist and Women’s News editor. The couple had one son, Craig L. Hadley, who grew up in the newspaper business and as a youth worked as “printer’s devil,” “pouring pigs” and sweeping out. Craig was graduated from the University of Oregon in journalism in 1964 and returned to Arcata to join his father in the family owned business. Craig became assistant publisher and production manager of The Union in 1970. In 1972 Gordon sold his newspaper business to his son.
Gordon Hadley was proud of his newspapers and the many awards they had won. Undoubtedly he received pleasure from personal tributes paid him. But nothing could have equaled the pride and pleasure he felt by having his son join him in the newspaper business he had built up for more than 30 years. When he turned the reins of that business over to his son in 1972 it was with confidence that Hadley Newspapers Inc. would continue to move forward under his son’s leadership.
Epilogue: Three years after his father’s death, Craig Hadley died of a rare form of melanoma.
*Hall of Fame inductees are selected annually by a committee appointed by the California Press Foundation. They recognize career achievements of weekly and daily publishers in California who were important and influential in their era, as judged by their peers in the association. The write-ups are a historical and journalistic snapshot in time and not official biographies.*