Most Almanac readers can't remember a time when Jane Knoerle didn't work for the paper. That's probably because Ms. Knoerle has been an Almanac lifestyle editor or writer for 40 years.
Later this month, however, she is moving to Carlsbad in San Diego County. Although she will turn 91 on Sept. 7, Ms. Knoerle says she's not retiring, but will continue to work for the Almanac from her new home.
She is moving close to one of her four children, daughter Nancy Peterson, and giving up the home in Menlo Park's Sharon Heights that she and her then-husband built in 1961.
"This is a big move for Jane and the Almanac," says Almanac Editor Richard Hine. As an editor and writer, Ms. Knoerle focused "on the things people really care about: their homes, gardens and gastronomical pleasures," he says.
Ms. Knoerle was also responsible for countless stories about interesting people, new businesses, and major galas, benefits and other local events important to the Almanac's readers, Mr. Hine says. "It was her stories and her style that helped make the Almanac must reading from cover to cover, as residents so often told us," Mr. Hine says.
Ms. Knoerle began working for the Almanac in 1974, but her journalism career began much earlier. Even before she graduated from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in 1946, Ms. Knoerle worked for what is now the Star Press in Muncie, Indiana. "They needed girl reporters because all the guys were drafted," she says. "I got to do the police beat and all the heavy news."
"It was fun," she says of the job. "The cops would all kind of kid around with a cute young girl. I liked it."
When the men returned from the war, she says, she happily went back to "society stuff." "I expected it," she says.
Working in a city newsroom was memorable, she says. "Newspaper people have a good sense of humor. There was a lot of joking and horsing around."
She also recalls that "the newsroom was pretty rough," and often the male reporters would hang out in a bar across the street. "If the editor needed a reporter, he would send me over to get them," Ms. Knoerle says. "They all smoked, and they wore those green eyeshades." She remembers one editor who was never seen without a cigar hanging from the side of his mouth.
Ms. Knoerle later worked for a company magazine before she took time off to raise her four children.
After years in Cleveland, Ms. Knoerle and her then-husband Hal moved to the Bay Area. "I knew that Shirley Temple lived in Atherton, so I figured that must be a very nice place," Ms. Knoerle says. One day she took the bus from San Francisco. "So they let me off at Atherton Avenue," she says. "I said, there's nothing here."
A real estate agent she found in a phone book at the train station showed her homes for sale in Atherton, but nothing she liked. Then he told her about a new area just being developed in Menlo Park called Sharon Heights. They built a home there, and Ms. Knoerle has lived in it ever since.
"I love Sharon Heights. It has everything," she says. "I really like Menlo Park."
Ms. Knoerle also became a reader of the Country Almanac, as it was then called when it was founded in 1965.
"I always hoped somehow I would get back to journalism," she says. When she "realized these were women who were putting (the Almanac) out," she got the nerve to send some clips of her work to editor Hedy Boissevain.
When there was no response, she gave Ms. Boissevain a call. The editor admitted she hadn't read the clips, but asked Ms. Knoerle to stop by the office in Woodside, across from Roberts Market. After a chat, Ms. Boissevain "said fine can you cover a meeting tonight?" Ms. Knoerle recalls. "I hadn't done anything in over 20 years," but she jumped right back in.
"I remember Hedy said you'll be paid $3 an hour," she says.
Pam Jones, who is now director of the Coro Foundation's fellows program, says she came to work for the Almanac at about the same time. "I was six months out of journalism school, and I was 22, and I was hired to be the full-time reporter and be the managing editor," she says.
"They taught me a lot," Ms. Jones says of those at the newspaper at the time, including Ms. Knoerle, Marjorie Mader, Carol Blitzer and Marion Softky."It was just such a camaraderie," she says. "We would work, work, work and then we'd walk to Roberts" and get lunch, she says. "We would have serious conversations punctuated by laughter."
Ms. Knoerle, she says, could always be relied on to come up with a story when something else fell through. "We could always rely on Jane to have a good story, a home story or an interesting person story," she says. "Jane had more stories up her sleeve than you could imagine.
"She was very interested in people, and she was a very good listener, and would pay attention to people, and could make a story out of anything," Ms. Jones says.
Ms. Knoerle says she wrote "just about everything but sports."
"Marion Softky always called my stuff fluff," she says. "I liked it, and I think a lot of people liked to read it."
Food writing was one of her loves. "I went on 12 trips with the American Association of Food Journalists," she says, including China, Thailand and Europe. "That might have been the highlight of my life," she says. Ms. Knoerle says the food writers paid for everything, and her expenses came out of her own pocket. "
Why has she kept going when many of her colleagues have retired?
"I liked it. I enjoyed it. I felt that was what I was trained to do," she says. "It's not fun it's work. But it's satisfying work. I'm using what talents I have."
She says she plans to keep on doing some work for the Almanac. But she'll miss her time in the office. "I'm going to miss the camaraderie," she says. "I'm going to miss that kind of feeling you have ... of being in on things. You know what's happening in town."
One thing she won't be doing in her Carlsbad complex, though. "I won't run the newsletter," she says.