Clinton Gardner is 93. He’s lived in the same house high above Main Street for 71 years and he remembers when there was a Placerville Times newspaper as well as the Mountain Democrat. The Placerville Times was absorbed by the Democrat in 1958.
Gardner doesn’t remember when he first began reading the Mountain Democrat, but before he became a subscriber, he walked downtown to buy his newspaper from the Placerville News Stand on Main Street. “I got my exercise that way and I got to see people I knew,” he said.
One of nine children, Gardner came to Placerville in 1935 when his parents sold their ranch in the Imperial Valley. “We were going to homestead 360 acres in Washington and on the way we stopped in Modesto,” he said. “My father saw an ad for a 650-acre ranch for sale in El Dorado County, so we came here.”
The ranch was off Newtown Road, at a fork of Weber Creek, a mile and a half from the Weber Creek Dam. The property, complete with large farmhouse, was selling for $3,300 but Gardner’s dad offered $2,700 cash.His mother wore a money belt with $6,500 sewn into it from the sale of their Imperial Valley ranch and had the cash handy.
After graduation from El Dorado High School in 1937, Gardner and his older brother, George, spent the summer picking fruit and then he got a job packing pears at the Placerville Fruit Growers Association.
“Everybody worked in the fruit sheds,” said Gardner. “Women especially looked forward to that time of year because they could make some money and it got them out of the house.”
He watched the fastest packer in the shed for techniques and then improved them, becoming the fastest pear packer himself. ” I made $2 an hour, much better than loading the pear trucks.”
Gardner went to work at the Raffles Hotel as a night manager. “Dano Raffeto had an ice cream making plant in the basement and I made ice cream down there,”said Gardner. “I made 48 different flavors in the five years I worked there and was trying to make it 50. My last flavor was eggnog. I really liked that one.”
In 1939, he met Elsie. George was dating a girl from the ranch next door and told Gardner that he needed to meet her sister who was visiting from Long Beach. The 16-year-old blonde and Gardner hit it off and were married while she was still in high school.
“Her dad told her that she had to promise to finish high school,” said Diana Sorensen, Clint and Elsie’s daughter. “She did graduate from El Dorado High School and she went to college when I was in high school.”
Gardner went to work for PG&E like his father and his brother, working as a trouble shooter before retiring in 1980 after 32 years with the company.
He and Elsie had three daughters and one son, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Elsie passed away in November 2009 after 70 years of marriage and daughter Diana Sorensen now lives with her father.
Except for a knee that bothers him and a little deafness, Gardner is hale, hearty and active. He reads the Mountain Democrat sitting in his favorite easy chair where he can check out the view in three different directions, something he planned when building onto the house. ”I read every part of the paper except the ads,” said Gardner. “But the first thing I look at is the obituaries. I’m 93 and I’ve outlived most of my friends.”
He doesn’t pay a lot of attention to the court cases. “I can’t help them so it’s out of my league.”
The newspaper is delivered nowadays and Gardner doesn’t need to trek down the steep hill into town anymore to get his local news.
“There wasn’t anyone I didn’t know in town and everyone I met came up to say hello,” he said. “When our relatives from Southern California came up to visit, they’d say,’Do you know everyone here ?’ and I’d say, ‘Yes, I do.’”