Borrego Beginnings – The Borrego Sun
Last updated 3/14/2023 at 11:56am
May, 1949, saw the birth of the Borrego Sun. Paul Strand (1907 – 1994), a Glendale real estate agent, had become interested in the development of Borrego Springs and decided that what the new desert community needed was a newspaper. Although he had only limited newspaper experience, Strand plunged right in as editor, publisher and everything else. “I tracked down all the news, took pictures, plus I did all the ad sales, layout and artwork,” he recalled years later. The four-page monthly was printed in Los Angeles and available to subscribers at a cost of one dollar per year. The initial circulation was about one hundred.
Despite Strand’s lack of experience and the hardships of starting a newspaper in a new, isolated desert community, the early issues of the Borrego Sun aren’t half bad. Printed on quality white paper, the original masthead tip-toed around the then-current controversy over the correct spelling of “Borrego” by spelling it correctly with two “r”s, but leaving the second “r” shaded out to cater to the old “one r” crowd. The contents of the first issue are typical of the Sun’s coverage during the years to come: road work, wildflowers, local businesses, and society notes from the local resorts. Later, more news on local agriculture and organizations would be added.
In 1951, Strand decided to leave the desert heat and return to his home in Glendale, so he sold the Sun to the Borrego Springs Company. At the time, the circulation was around two hundred, but the Borrego Springs Company soon began using the paper as a promotional tool, printing thousands of copies that they distributed for free throughout Southern California. By the end of 1952 the company was claiming ten thousand readers for each issue.
During the years the Borrego Springs Company owned the Sun, the paper went through a rapid succession of editors, including Ed Phillips, Jim Downs, Bill DeMarais, Dick Wear, and Sandy Bothman. It was during DeMarais’ tenure that his wife, Virginia, began her association with the paper, which would survive through all the changes in editors and owners for the next forty-two years.
At the beginning of 1954, Borrego Valley Associates (Bud Kuhrts and Jack Benson) took over the paper, just as they had taken over many of the old functions of the Borrego Springs Company. The Associates held the paper for barely three months before turning it over to a new owner who would have much to do with the valley’s future, Jim Copley, the president of The Copley Press. Included in the deal was the Associates’ new editor, Polly Baker. Copley then appointed Dick Johnson of his flagship publication, The San Diego Union, as general manager.
With the new owner, the Sun finally got a new masthead, the original shaded-r artwork being replaced by the current script design.
A year later, the Sun, now printed at Copley’s La Jolla plant, opened its first local office, with chamber of commerce secretary Paula Sullivan handling ad sales. Copley also moved his annual “Copley Conferences” to Borrego Springs, beginning with the forty-sixth annual conference in 1955, held in the new Kiva Room at the Desert Lodge. The conferences, still held in Borrego, bring together all of Copley’s executive staff from across the nation for workshops and discussions and to hear prominent guest speakers.
In 1959, Copley announced plans to build a separate office building for the Sun along Christmas Circle. By then, circulation had risen to over eighteen hundred paid subscribers. When completed in 1960, the building was also home to the new First Borrego Finance Company. Today the Sun occupies the entire building.
– Borrego Desert Heritage Series, Volume 2
Early Days in the Borrego Valley 1910 – 1960