Vail Daily: Thrillin’ at thirty
VAIL, Colorado – The lead story of the Vail Daily’s first edition, published 30 years ago today, ends with, “A good time was had by all …”
That’s been true for most of the dozens of Vail Daily staffers who’ve come and gone over three decades. In those early days, the hours were long, the pay was short, but you lived in Vail, it was fun and you were in it together.
Find some longtime locals with salt and pepper hair (by now, more salt than pepper), and they might remember that first edition – one page, front and back, on legal-sized paper.
Now, it’s the Vail Daily’s 30th birthday. That’s great, but as co-founder Jim Pavelich points out, it’s reaching that first birthday that’s really hard.
Legends tend to grow, says Jon Van Housen, who co-founded the Daily with Pavelich.
“The stories might be romanticized over time, but I can assure you I found it far from romantic on many a day,” Van Housen wrote. “We worked very, very hard, and I for one never came up for air long enough to realize that we were starting something that would prove to be of such significance to the community.”
These days, Van Housen is a senior business editor at the China Daily newspaper in Beijing.
It went like this:
There was this trip to Mexico in the spring of 1980, a year before he and Pavelich launched the Daily in June 1981. Recollections tend to be a bit hazy due to the nature of the “trip.”
They talked about a great many things during mezcal-fueled evenings and long days of driving over a rutted highway down the Baja of Mexico, in an increasingly battered 1965 Chevrolet Impala.
They didn’t come up with the idea; that was some “old guy,” “who must have been over 40,” Van Housen wrote.
Anyway, the guy started the Vail Daily Mail in about 1979. He had the habit of trading ad space for food and drinks at a couple of bars, Van Housen says.
“I thought it a good idea, though, and thought I could do a bit better, which wasn’t a big leap,” Van Housen wrote.
They quickly learned that starting a newspaper is not complicated, it’s just a lot of work.
As they were putting together that first two-page edition, Van Housen was working with Bucko Clark, pouring concrete foundations for new homes, mostly in Eagle-Vail. Pavelich was waiting tables in Vail Village restaurants.
Van Housen wrote in the afternoons and often late into the night, after pouring concrete all day.
“I actually typed the first and only draft of stories in the galley columns that would be printed,” Van Housen wrote. “Mistakes – and there were many – were corrected with White-Out and the page carefully reinserted in the typewriter and revised. But many typos found their way into print.”
Early in the morning, they took their pages to Bill the Printer, who would crank them out as fast as he could.
“Locals working the day shift at shops and restaurants were eager to get their Vail Daily, so we were under pressure to get it out before noon,” Van Housen wrote. “Jim and I would collate the pages and then deliver them across town.”
He didn’t like delivering, but people seemed happy to get them.
When they finished delivering, Pavelich cajoled advertisers and Van Housen scrounged up news.
By the third day they’d added Gary Smith’s sports column, “Sportsmith.” Former Vail Recreation Department Manager Moses Gonzales was dubbed The Commissioner of Softball. He penned a column called “Holy Moses.”
Town Talk was Van Housen’s idea and it ran front and center. The first one mentioned Ford Amphitheater guru Rick Richards, who’s still the Ford Amphitheater guru.
Pavelich was waiting tables at Sweet Basil when they launched the Daily, and Sweet Basil’s Kevin Clair bought an ad on the front page of that first one. The Daily grabbed a vacant room above Sweet Basil and moved out of Pavelich’s and Van Housen’s Vail Sandstone living room – eventually. There was such a backlog for phone service that it took six months for them to hook up with Ma Bell.
Pavelich bought out Van Housen in 1984 to become The Owner Guy. The Daily moved to the Crossroads Center, and eventually to the Eagle-Vail building it currently occupies.
• There was the time, when Reade Bailey was editor, there was a blackout at deadline. They sat around in the dark, wondering what they’d do next. The power came back on, as it always does, and the next day’s front page featured a giant black square with the photo caption, “Last night in Vail.”
• Or the time when the shiny new computer system broke down and the staff went scrambling for that IBM Selectric. Their search took them to the Bully for beers, where their enthusiasm for the hunt fizzled.
• Former photographer Jack Affleck is now a photographer with Vail Resorts. Affleck could remind the current crop of photographers that in the early days he had to walk 87 steps from his darkroom to a janitor’s closet in the Crossroads where the Daily was located at the time, because his darkroom had no running water. Many of his photos appeared in this 30-year retrospective.
• Many of the others were from photographer Scott Martin. Love was in the air and soon he and staff writer Amy Dressel tied the nuptial knot.
• Curtis Robinson and Donna Dowling met in the Vail Daily newsroom. If it wasn’t love at first sight, it came on pretty fast.
• Marketing assistant Diana Fawcett took what was supposed to be a fill-in job more than a decade and a half ago. Since then she has been through two heart attacks and quadruple bypass surgery.
• Art Kittay was what we’ll call conversant. He used to come into the Vail Daily so often to chat that Pavelich finally hired him to sell classifieds.
• Weather watcher Frank Doll started keeping the valley’s weather records in October 1968, at the long defunct Meadow Mountain ski area. He told readers that it has snowed every month of the year, and that Vail’s Fourth of July parade has twice been greeted by snowflakes.
• On Sept. 6, 1997, Chris Freud’s byline appeared for the first time in the Vail Daily, over a story extolling the glories of Battle Mountain football’s 42-0 win over Soroco. Princess Diana’s funeral was the same day, so she bumped him off the front page.
By 1993, it was adios for Pavelich, who sold the Vail Daily and Summit Daily News (launched in 1989) to Swift Newspapers Inc., and Bob Brown took over. Like the rest of the valley, the Vail Daily’s growth has been strong.
“The editor of the Vail Daily has the best job in journalism,” says current editor/publisher Don Rogers. “When Tom Brokaw needed a vacation, he came here. Eventually we see them all, living in the Big City, counting down the days until they visit us again.”
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or email@example.com.
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