by Joyce Beland
In 1960, the Auburn Democrats opened an office in Old Town Auburn. Support for the Kennedy/Johnson ticket was increasing, and the office was busy during the campaign. On election day, November 1, 1960, the Democratic office experienced a strange phenomenon—its phones were mysteriously disconnected. When members arrived at the office, they discovered no working phones. Club leaders immediately contacted Pacific Bell and informed them of the incident and requested service be restored. The phone company stated service could not be restored that day. Sadly no phone calls were placed from the office that day. Was this the beginning of the “dirty tricks” made famous by Richard Nixon a few years later? Or was it just a mistake by PacBell?
During the Civil Rights Movement a group of local citizens went to then Sheriff Will Scott and volunteered to be vigilantes at the Newcastle Tunnel so that “the ‘n __ s’ won’t blow up the tunnel.” At that time the Southern Pacific Railroad was a major company in the area and employed significant numbers of African Americans. George Beland and Hal Rubin went to the Sheriff and suggested that he not approve the request of the local “vigilantes.” The Sheriff agreed and stated, “I am in close capitulation with ‘negroes’.”
In 1964 the Democratic Headquarters was located in an office on the ground floor of the State Theater Building (where KAHI is now). Republican Headquarters was located on Lincoln Way, next to what was then Foothill Furniture and is now The General Gomez Arts and Events Center. Lyndon B. Johnson and Hubert Humphrey won in a landslide victory against Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater. Earlier that year President Johnson had signed Civil Rights legislation in a highly partisan and heated environment. Subsequent to that landmark bill. many Southern Democrats switched allegiance and joined the Republican Party. Placer County, once a stronghold of the Democrats, became Republican territory.
During the War in Vietnam, and in response to the Nixon Administration’s bombing of Cambodia and continued troop increases in Vietnam, Auburn Democrats led ongoing anti-war marches. During some of the marches, groups of citizens in vehicles at the side of the road, brandished their weapons. The marches continued in spite of the intimidation tactics.
The first formation of a Democratic Club in Auburn occurred on September 30, 1976, when the members adopted a set of bylaws. The small but dedicated group of some thirty people met monthly through the early nineties. The group’s main source of income was a highly successful annual Oktoberfest held at the Gold Country Fairgrounds, with the proceeds going to local Democratic candidates.
Interest waned until a revival in 2004, spurred by a desire for a Democratic presence in the Auburn area. This second incarnation was achieved by new members, spearheaded by Lindsay Rand, Hillary Grenier, Jeff Sanchez, and Trish Grenfell, who drew up a new constitution and bylaws in April, 2004. The Auburn Area Democratic Club was officially chartered by the Placer County Central Committee on June 10, 2004. The Bylaws were subsequently revised, updated and adopted on May 7, 2009.
The late Joyce Beland and her husband George Beland were life-long members of the Auburn Area Democratic Club. Their contributions to the club were of great value.