Fond memories at the S.F. Chronicle

I’ve been reminiscing about The Chronicle this week. So many fond memories. I worked there from the mid-’80s through mid-’90s, writing and editing about energy and natural resource companies, the buyout of S.F. stalwarts such as Crown Zelllerbach, airlines such as PSA and United and the IPOs of Yahoo, Ebay and others in Silicon Valley. Among them:

•Herb Caen. My wife and I were good friends of Herb. He and I would visit daily at the office and have lunch together sometimes. Herb wrote us a thoughtful note (on his old Royal) when we were married, “Shannon, what a lovely name,” it read. We remember faxing him an item from the Albertville, France, Winter Olympics: We ran into the owner of the San Jose Sharks hockey team handing out pins at the match between Sweden and Germany. It ran the next day.

•The M&M Tavern. I was one of the youngest reporters, in my 20s, to join The Chronicle. I would join Harre Demoro, the transportation writer, and some other colleages for lunch or drinks after work. Then I’d ride the cable car home to my studio (with a futon) on Nob Hill, across from Huntington Park.

•Pacific Lumber Co. By reading SEC filings, I discovered that a Texas corporate raider was going to double the timber cut of the old-school redwood lumber company to pay off junk his bond debt. The Wall Street Journal followed the story, and credited The Chronicle, and it became corporate lore in books and a movie. Sadly, Pacific Lumber, with its quaint company town in Scotia, filed for bankruptcy later.

•George Keller. George was the chairman of Chevron Corp. He and I hit it off, and he gave me so many scoops that the P.R. people were running in circles. George’s son, Bill, is now the editor of the N.Y. Times.

•Randy Shilts. Randy was a colleague who broke the story about AIDS. He was so funny and such a professional to work with on stories. He later died of AIDS. I was glad to see “Milk” win an Oscar this week, because it was stemmed from Randy’s work.

•Labor strike. We had a labor strike when I worked there. It was sad to see non-union colleagues being bussed into work. The paper suffered. Striking workers put out a daily paper that was a free tabloid — the same business model that is popular now. I was proud of a scoop that TCI was buying the S.F. cable franchise in a multi-million deal. (A longtime friend was veteran cable guy Leo Hindery, who now is bidding on the Cubs). It ran on TV.

•Brandy Ho’s. An excellent Hunan restaurant within walking distance from the flat Shannon and I had on Telegraph Hill. It still is going strong and opening a restaurant in the East Bay. We ate there on a trip to S.F. earlier this month.

•Meeting Shannon. My wife and I met at a Super Bowl party (49’ers versus the Bengals) in Noe Valley. I had a strange haircut (the one with the angled buzz cut in the back), but she joined me for a wonderful first date. The rest is history.

•The IPOs of Netscape and Yahoo. I remember reading the regulatory filings about all the risks of the startups. It’s hard to think, from reading that sober-sounding narrative, how they would change our world.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website SierraCulture.com. Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

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