Top Local Stories of 1969
Sanitation Progress, Parking Meters
The Rogue Valley is known for its livability, and news stories tied to this theme dominated local headlines during 1969.
There were unhappy events--deaths and fires--but for the most part the local news was "good news" this past year.
Seventeen members of the Mail Tribune editorial staff, participating in the newspaper's annual ballot on the top local stories of the year, selected the strides made in cleaning up the valley's sewage problem as No. 1.
During 1969 the Bear Creek Valley Sanitary Authority and the City of Medford reached agreement on an area-wide plan for sewage collection and treatment. Bond issues were passed. Construction is under way on the new Medford treatment plant, and the BCVSA has called for bids on the major part of its interceptor.
But sewers narrowly defeated parking meters.
Very Close SecondA very close second in the balloting was the parking issue: the removal of meters in downtown Medford, the putting in of paid parking at the Medford-Jackson County Airport, and related developments.
The parking story actually netted one more first place vote than sanitation progress, but ran behind in total points. Each staff member was asked to pick 15 top stories in order of preference. A first-place vote then was worth 15 points, second place 14, and so on.
Coming in third in the poll was the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's receipt of an $896,000 grant for the new Angus Bowmer Theater, and the fact that the theater neared completion.
The achievements of the Medford, St. Mary's and Prospect high school football teams was rated fourth most significant local story of the year. Jackson County had three teams in state championship games, and two of them, Medford and St. Mary's, won.
Construction Funds BoostedRanked fifth was the progress made on obtaining funds for the Lost Creek Dam project. Through the efforts of the congressional delegation, $3.65 million in construction funds was approved, after President Nixon's budget had called for only $1.75 million.
Coming in sixth were the events within Medford's city government during the past year. The city started off with a new mayor and three new councilmen. City Manager Gilbert Gutjahr left and was succeeded by Archie Twitchell. Planning Director James Wasden submitted his resignation, effective this year.
The seventh- through tenth-place stories leaned toward the unpleasant: the Obremski case, the defeat of school budgets, the Fluhrer Building fire and the state of [the] local economy.
Two Medford women were murdered in February, and Russell Loren Obremski was arrested, tried and found guilty of first-degree murder.
The defeat of school budgets, virtually an annual occurrence these days, was considered highly newsworthy by some staff members and just the opposite by others. Two rated it the top story of the year, but seven out of the 17 didn't vote for it at all.
Major Event of FebruaryThe Fluhrer Building fire, which destroyed a number of businesses and offices in the structure at Main Street and Central Avenue, was a major event last February. It came just one week after the Obremski murders.
The local economy story, which ranked 10th, took into consideration the rise in unemployment to 8 percent and the layoffs which occurred in the timber products industry during the year.
Twenty-three other stories received votes in the balloting. In respective order, they were:
--The area community vocational college proposal, with hearings held, interest shown and a voting day for district and directors set.
--O&C funds threatened, and Proxmire's order for a study of them.
--The county court studied river zoning, river erosion and road standards, and approved ordinances on solid waste abatement and on business licenses.
--The Medford-Jackson County Airport's future, a county study on who is to have it, need for firefighting equipment, expansion work done and needed.
--The retirement of Dr. Elmo Stevenson as president of Southern Oregon College and the appointment of Dr. James K. Sours as his successor.
--Termination of the duties of the Rev. Dan Fuesz.
Parks and Recreation Plans--Parks and recreation stories. County purchase of several sites on the Rogue River, the county asking for first refusal on Britt property sale, the offer of Cascade Village pool to the county, sewer system construction at Emigrant Lake, the formation of a Medford Parks Development Commission, and the Medford Parks Department proposal of a six-year plan for a Bear Creek park chain.
--Establishment of an historic preservation district in Jacksonville and approval of an ordinance to govern changes within the district.
--Fire destroying part of the Griffin Creek School.
--Controversy over a proposed dump site near Roxy Ann. Persons concerned with the livability of the area protest.
--More wigwam burners phased out by the lumber industry, and Jerry Lausmann introduced a new, more efficient process for burning waste material.
--There were 59 fatal accidents last year: 39 in traffic accidents, seven in fires (two children at home, two men working with a propane truck, three from smoke inhalation), one when a girl fell from a horse, one when a man drowned in the Rogue River, and nine industrial fatalities.
Curator of Museum Retires--Mary Hanley, curator of the Jacksonville Museum for many years, retired during 1969, and the Southern Oregon Historical Society hired Lowell Hocking as director-curator.
--Construction of new buildings and business changes. The $3.5-million townhouse development was started. J. C. Penney Co. approved store plans in Medford Mall.
--After considerable discussion, an agreement was reached between the City of Medford and the Odd Fellows Lodge on the future of the IOOF Cemetery.
--Dr. Clifford Cordy retired as county horticultural agent.
--A second Jackson County District Court was opened. A judge was appointed, and the court will be held in Ashland part of each week.
--Glenn Jackson termed by a Portland labor newspaper as "most powerful man in the state."
--Highway news. Oregon 140 opened a new section between White City and Brownsboro, Biddle Road was widened in Medford, and crews worked to correct a slide on Interstate 5 south of Ashland.
--Several new groups instituted, including Planned Parenthood Association, the Council on Alcoholism, the Housing Authority of Jackson County and an area chapter of the Kidney Association.
--Labor strikes, against area restaurants, and one at Medford Ice and Storage.
--Finally, and as usual, the weather made news last year. The winter of 1969 was a snowy one with a record number of days with measurable snow and the lowest barometric pressures.
Medford Mail Tribune, January 4, 1970, page B1
Last revised June 27, 2010