Immortalized: A 1970s Nevada County publication is laid to rest in the Searls Historical Library
KNOW & GO
What: Searls Historical Library
Where: 161 Nevada City Highway, Nevada City
When: 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday
“She had amazing dreams.”
Darshan Zenith was recalling subconscious visions his wife was having, which drove the couple and their two young children to leave Santa Cruz and move to Nevada County in 1969.
The family drove up the hill, landing in Auburn before their Volkswagen broke down, he said. They had believed Ananda Village — their final destination — was only 30 minutes away. When they finally arrived, Zenith’s wife burst into tears.
The family was just one of many to participate in the back-to-the-land movement, increasing in popularity at the time.
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Zenith, formerly a sign designer, became involved with the alternative publication in Nevada City, the Western Slopes Connection, lasting from 1975-79.
Shirley DicKard, who wrote a few articles for the Connection, turned in four volumes of the publication to the Searls Historical Library Tuesday for community reflection and commemoration.
“It really birthed the renaissance of Nevada County into what it is today,” said DicKard.
DicKard donated the weekly (or bi-weekly, according to a different source) publication after inheriting it from a friend and using it as research for her novel, “The Desk: Three Women, Three Eras, and the Earth’s Survival.”
The Connection, run by former New York professor Michael Rosenberg, operated the paper out of 408 Broad Street in Nevada City, said DicKard. It was meant to be a megaphone for people who valued a return to nature and tried to empower non-normative ideals, according to previous employees.
“(Rosenberg) felt that the community needed a voice, an alternative paper that would say things that weren’t printed in the regular news,” said Zenith.
PEOPLE BEHIND THE PAPER
The Western Slopes Connection attracted and represented individuals who were looking for something not offered in crowded, urban areas.
“(It was the) voice of the people who were fleeing the city” and trying to shed the corporate world, said DicKard.
Zenith, who designed logos and drew advertisements for the paper, said he wanted to live closer to agricultural societies, chopping wood, drinking water from a well and living geographically closer to the environment.
“I wanted to be in nature,” he said. “From an early age, I didn’t want to live in the city. I wanted to live in nature with the trees and the rivers and the animals.”
Hank Meals, a photographer for the paper, moved to the area from San Francisco. He said people coming to North San Juan and Nevada City then were learning skills, some even started businesses still around today.
“We opted for living more simply, and it was possible to do it,” said Meals.
Each published news edition was about 20 pages, said DicKard.
The Western Slopes Connection covered topics on marijuana and advocated for things like Class K, a special law allowing people who constructed their own homes to avoid housing codes, said Zenith.
The paper was starkly different than The Union in Grass Valley, said Meals, as it included works of poetry and covered many issues considered taboo for the time.
“It was great,” said Meals. “At that time, there was a lot of emphasis on what we saw as investigative journalism. There’s always a story behind a story.”
The paper didn’t last because of poor financial planning, said DicKard, but it left an indelible mark on the county.
It fostered an underground movement, said Meals, which provided the building blocks for many activists and civically engaged residents today.
“We have a huge number of environmental nonprofits in the area,” said Meals.
Former volunteers and employees of the paper hope residents — especially those who lived here after the 1970s — visit the historical library to better understand the time period.
“It’s history,” said Zenith. “It’s Nevada County history and it’s a big slice of it too.”
Contact Sam Corey 530-477-4219 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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