The newspaper you are now reading was, at the time, called The Newhall Signal.
Costing 25 cents, it was printed in black-and-white. You dialed an 805 area code to reach its offices on 6th Street in Newhall, and there was no such thing as an online version.
It was Sept. 8, 1986, and The Signal had just dedicated a brand-new, state-of-the-art newspaper building at 24000 Creekside Road in Valencia on what is now known as auto row.
As Signal Staff Writer Sophi Buetens wrote in the Sept. 10 edition of the paper, “More than 1,000 people shared in the grand opening celebration of The Signal’s new headquarters Monday – ‘one of the brighter days in the newspaper’s history.’
“Those were the words of Signal Publisher Tony Newhall describing the day he said demonstrated the ‘revelry of the human spirit in the Santa Clarita Valley.’
“For more than a year a state-of-the-art newspaper building has been under construction. The building, which cost more than $3 million, was built by the newspaper’s owner, Morris Newspaper Corp., a Savannah, Ga.-based chain of 19 newspapers.
“The Signal will move into its new quarters this weekend.”
Friday, Oct. 7, 2016
Now fast-forward to the present. Friday marked the last day The Signal will publish from that grand and memory-filled old building on Creekside, with the ancient linotype machine in the lobby.
Our Creekside offices will be closed on Saturday and, starting Monday at 8 a.m., our new headquarters will be at 26330 Diamond Place in Centre Pointe in Santa Clarita.
Earlier this year, a group headed by publisher and president Charles Champion bought The Signal from Morris, and the old building was sold to Auto Nation, which already has numerous car-sales facilities along Creekside.
Since the presses were shut down on Creekside in 2011 – the paper is now printed in Riverside – there was more space than the paper needed at the old building.
So the new owners sought a smaller, more modern facility — our new digs on Diamond Place.
As boxes were being packed ahead of this weekend’s move across town, there was lots of reminiscing, and even a few tears, among staffers who’ve called Creekside their professional home for years.
And amid the chaos of packing and moving, reporters remained busy developing leads and reporting on stories for today’s newspaper.
Director of photography Dan Watson has done two stints at The Signal – from 1998 to 2003, and from 2009 to the present.
“I vividly remember coming back to the Signal building after shooting Friday night football games,’’ Watson recalled. “The whole building would rumble as the Goss printing press would run the news pages of the day in the press room.
“After years of trying to sell the press, I remember the sad day on Nov. 24, 2012, when a salvage company cut the press into pieces and hauled it away for scrap. When you think of the all Santa Clarita history that rolled off that 1960’s-era Goss printing press, it’s sad to think of it as scrap.
“I’m glad I was able to be part of the film era and smell the ink, see and hear the rumble of The Signal printing press. ’’
But you don’t have to be a longtime news veteran like Watson to appreciate the history of 24000 Creekside.
“The Signal building has always had a sense of nostalgia about it,’’ said Senior Video Producer Austin Dave, who’s worked for the paper about 2 ½ years.
“To work in a structure that has served as the hub of information for 30 years has held a significance like no other. When you walk in, you can feel it,’’ Dave said.
Jim Holt, a reporter at the paper since 2007, said he got that feeling the minute he set foot inside Creekside’s glass doors.
“As a Canadian who moved to California, I never felt at home as much as I did as when I walked into the newsroom on Creekside,’’ Holt said.
“As soon as I walked through the main doors, the smell of newsprint hit me immediately and, immediately, my first feeling – not even articulated – was: ‘I’m home.’ When I saw the linotype machine, it became real.’’
Alas, the old linotype machine that’s sat in the Creekside lobby – a reminder of the days when type was set with molten lead — will not make the trip to The Signal’s new home. However, it is expected to go on display at the Saugus library when it is built.
Other staffers recalled how the old-time newspaper technology which predates today’s computerized, internet-connected production facilities was always a highlight to the Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts who toured the building on field trips.
Particularly enthralling were the presses and the opaque, black, revolving door that led into the photo department’s darkroom. In those pre-digital days, the door allowed entry and exit without allowing light to expose the film being processed for the next day’s paper.
That door, now long gone, delighted youngsters who loved to twirl around in it. The presses were mammoth and, even when silent, awe-inspiring to young eyes.
For many staffers, the Creekside building was more than just an office.
Pam Conley, a 16-year veteran of The Signal’s circulation department, recalled how the Creekside building’s proximity to the mall — where the city-Westfield Valencia Town Center-sponsored fireworks show is set off every July 4 — offered a perfect location to view the show.
“We would just come and sit on the loading dock – we could bring all our family members and just sit back there and enjoy, have a picnic and watch the fireworks,” Conley said.
As other staffers recalled, over the years, the crowd collecting at the loading dock on Fourth of July night varied some, morphing into an unofficial editorial department party with friends.
Occasionally the event migrated to the building’s roof — until that drew too much attention and management shut it down.
Christmas was another time that brought staffers together, Holt recalled.
“One of my fondest memories of this place is celebrating Christmas with everyone in the newsroom, amid towers of stacked newsprint in the press room,’’ he said. “Red and green, mashed potatoes, stuffing and newsprint. Excellent.”
Of course, this being L.A., the Creekside building has had its share of star turns as well.
Home away from home
Monica Harrison, owner of L.A. Film Locations – which has shared building space with The Signal for about three years – recalled that the warehouse area in back of the building provided perfect accommodations for a zombie apocalypse in the 2015 movie, “Freaks of Nature.”
The high ceilings also proved a nice fit, she said, for the 28-foot-tall monster in the film.
In addition, parts of the 2014 Beach Boys movie “Love and Mercy” were filmed at Creekside, and over the years it was been home to numerous TV shoots (“NCIS,” “NCIS-L.A.”), commercials (Farmers Insurance, AT&T) and even a rap video (Nicki Minaj and will.i.am).
More than anything, for 30 years, 24000 Creekside was a home away from home for hundreds of staff and alumni.
Now the boxes are packed, and new memories await at 26330 Diamond Place.
“The Signal was always about the people, not the building,” said Maureen Daniels, The Signal’s marketing director.
That’s not going to change.