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George deVilbiss: He still has the outdoors locked in

Writer celebrates 40 years providing coverage for Press Tribune
By: George deVilbiss/Special to Gold Country News Service
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EDITOR’S NOTE: In this edition, the Press Tribune honors George deVilbiss, who recently celebrated his 40th anniversary providing outdoors coverage to readers. It was George’s mother-in-law who suggested he call the Press Tribune to inquire about writing an outdoors column. Today, George has never failed to file his weekly column, and his stories and notes on hunting and fishing continue to receive some of the greatest number of views online at www.rosevillept.com.

Funds in 1971 were tight.

My mother-in-law worked as a telephone solicitor selling newspaper subscriptions.
She was familiar with the Roseville Press Tribune and with my love of the outdoors. It was her suggestion that I call the Press Tribune, stating that as far as she knew, they had no outdoors coverage.

I made the call, and sports editor Bill James came to the phone.

“I’ve been following the Press Tribune for some time now and notice that you don’t have anybody doing an outdoor column,” I explained.

Truth was, I had never seen the Press Tribune. I gave him a verbal outline of what I might do.

“Let me check with the owner,” James responded. “Give me a call back tomorrow and I should have an answer for you.”

I nervously called the next day, and James told me it was a go, adding that two columns a week is what they would like. Because I was a stringer and not a staff employee, no paperwork would be required.

The Press Tribune at that time was published six days a week, Monday through Saturday.

The newsroom was stereotypical of the time, heavily laden in smoke. Those were the days before computerization. Reporters pounded out stories on manual typewriters. When they finished, it was handed to a typesetter.

The typesetter’s completed copy would be put through a waxer, carved with an X-acto knife and pasted onto the page.

Just the smell of the newsroom was magic to me. It had an aura of mysticism, the lingering cigarette smoke, the unique smell and click-clack of hot lead linotype machines and a constant noise of telephones and staff.

My beginning pay rate was 5 cents per printed inch of text. An expected column length was 20 inches.

A good friend and I pondered what to call the column. A number of names were looked at and discarded, then Doug said, “What about ‘Antlers and Anglers’?”

I loved it. My first column appeared in May 1971, the exact date long forgotten.

The name implied hunting and fishing, but there just wasn’t enough news, especially when two columns each week were expected.

Therefore, it quickly expanded to any news of the out-of-doors that affected readers in the south Placer County area. The column simply became “OUTDOORS.”

There were full-page features, how-to columns. At times, I’d fill two full pages in the sports section with text and photos.

And, it opened additional doors. As a summer intern, I became the associate editor to the California Wildlife Federation, wrote for numerous other newspapers and magazines and was a hunting guide for California Sportsmen, including writing and editing its quarterly newsletter.

Through it all, I maintained my status as a full-time student at California State University Sacramento, graduating in 1974 with a B.S. in business and a minor in journalism, six units short in the minor to qualify as a double major. Plus, I continued my full-time employment with the state of California.

There were times, with the wildly varying demands, I’d get no more than one hour of sleep in a night.

The column continued much longer than I anticipated. I’ve seen the newspaper office move from its location on Judah Street to a building in old Roseville and to its current location on Cirby Way.

I’ve survived numerous ownership changes and gone through more sports editors that I could ever try to count. Some sports editors were highly supportive of “OUTDOORS” while others didn’t think it was sports unless it involved some kind of ball. I had to fight regularly to maintain the column and satisfy the outdoors enthusiast.

Jim Jansen was a main fixture of the Press Tribune. He lasted about 40 years with the paper. Jim was an active employee at the time of his passing a few years ago, and I can proudly say Jim was a friend.

The one thing I am most proud of with my 40 years with the Press Tribune is that I have never missed a column despite vacations, illnesses and a variety of surgeries.

I’ve enjoyed a close relationship with my readers. For the most part, they’ve come to know I’m out there doing it with them.

I’ve met some wonderful people throughout those 40 years, and without them sharing their knowledge, this column wouldn’t have had the success it has had over those years.