This is the third article of a series about Yelm which was prepared by a Daily Olympian reporter. The articles are being printed to acquaint Olympians and other Southwest Washington residents with the achievements and activities of a progressive community which has become important to the economy of this region.
By Bill Fox The Olympian. January 11, 1949
The first edition of The Nisqually Valley News rolled off the press in February 1922, published in Yelm, by Elmer Fristoe.
Yelm is a neighboring community, 22 miles south and east of Olympia, and it was there that Mr. Fristoe had to make a decision 27 years ago. He had been a traveling advertising salesman and was growing tired of living out of a suitcase. His wife was expecting their first child so the Fristoes decided to settle in Yelm, because Mrs. Fristoe’s parents lived there.
In his own words, Elmer tells why he became a newspaperman. “I had my choice of the road or a real home and a steady job, so I chose the latter. I had an opportunity to go into partnership with another man who had the idea of starting a newspaper in Yelm, so it seemed pretty logical to us to make our home near my wife’s folks.”
At first, Mr. Fristoe handled the outside work for the publication, selling advertising and promoting new accounts. But his partner, after a year, gave in to his wanderlust and sold out to Elmer, who has been the sole operator of The Nisqually Valley News ever since. He has printed more than 1,400 editions in his 27 years of publishing and estimates that he has turned out enough newsprint to stretch coast to coast.
Handling everything from the editor’s job down to copy boy, Mr. Fristoe has been a week-by-week historian for the residents of Yelm.
“I’ve recorded their marriages, births and deaths; I’ve written of their joys and sorrows, their ambitions and their disappointments,” he remarked. “Why, I guess that I know just about everyone around here—at least, they all know me, because they want to make sure I spell their names correctly!”
The Nisqually Valley News moved into its present building in 1924, right after the big fire which destroyed most of the town. Mr. and Mrs. Fristoe also live in the same structure because, as they put it, “We like to be close to our work.”
While The Daily Olympian reporter was talking with Mr. Fristoe, one of the residents dropped in to give him a bit of news. Excusing himself, the editor took out a copy pencil and in a matter of minutes had chronicled another personal incident about Yelm.
“Yes, that’s the way it goes,” Publisher Fristoe explained when his visitor had left. “We put out a weekly newspaper that is all about Yelm and this vicinity, and we think it’s pretty interesting to the people around here. Because it’s about their activities. We don’t try to compete with the metropolitan newspapers because we’re well-supplied from Olympia and surrounding cities. But the one thing that everyone likes to see in a newspaper is his own name—and that’s what the people of Yelm read in The Nisqually Valley News.”
Elmer believes that the expected cannery and food processing plant will bring many more persons to the neighborhood. This means more money spent and, consequently, more homes and interests.
As pointed out in a previous article in this series, a large corporation plans to build a modern cannery and a processing plant in Yelm for handling frozen foods—primarily berries, for which the community is noted.
“When we came here in 1921 from Seattle, we liked it right away,” the venerable newspaperman said. “Our early circulation figures showed we were distributing only 200 copies weekly, during the first year, in 1922, but now my wife and I are printing more than 1,000 copies every week.”
In speaking of the original purpose for which Yelm was founded, Mr. Fristoe said that to his knowledge, The Hudson’s Bay Company came into the territory in 1840 bringing cattle with it. The region was not only a herding area for beef cattle, but also a jumping-off place for persons traveling to Mount Rainier. It was in this manner, Mr. Fristoe believes, that Yelm began.
Farmers realized the wonderful opportunities of the soil and moved in to work it. They brought their families with them, necessitating the construction of schools, shops, stores, churches, and the introduction of doctors and civil government. The irrigation project has saved thousands of dollars for these farmers and they are proud of what they have done on their lands.
Elmer’s family life has been a happy one. He has two daughters living in Olympia. One is the wife of Robert G. Herness, who is a teacher at Tumwater School. The other, Mrs. Donald R. Miller, lives at twenty-second Avenue West. The State Department of Employment Security employs her husband. A son, Elmer Robert is head of Phi Alpha Delta, which is an honorary legal fraternity at the University of Washington. Hw is also a member of the State Law Review Board, and according to his father, will take his examination before the bar in approximately six months.
As he prepared to sit down at his linotype machine, Printer Fristoe commented, “Yes, I get a big kick out of this newspaper business. If you print things people agree with, you’re a nice guy and a good reporter, so far as your readers are concerned. However, if you write something that doesn’t exactly please everyone, your telephone rings like everything; you catch the dickens,” he smiled.
With his remark, Elmer Fristoe adjusted his eye-shade and went to work, writing news as he believes it should be, and which is his newspaper’s unwritten motto; “The news—true and timely.”