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One Last, Year-End Look at the Passing Parade of People in the News : Last But Not Least

December 26, 1985|ANN JAPENGA

View has revisited some of the people and places it reported on in the last several months. Among them:

--Hollywood's Masquers Club, which because of declining funds sold its building and moved.

--Jimmy and Ricky Sperry, blinded in an accident 11 years ago, who received cornea transplants in August.

--Balu Natarajan, who triumphed over 167 other youngsters to win the National Spelling Bee in June.

Willie's Barber Shop in Yuba City became a symbol of the most unloved town in the United States after a wire-service picture of the establishment appeared in March in newspapers around the country. The photo accompanied a story that said the hamlet was declared the nation's worst place to live in Rand McNally's 1985 Places Rated Almanac. Today, chief barber Willie Forsman believes his town is more loved than ever. "I think it (the incident of nine months ago) was the best thing that ever happened, really," he said. "Nobody's mad anymore."

When a reporter visited the farm town north of Sacramento in March, residents were indeed angry at the slur, and showed their ire by staging a "GO YUBA CITY" rally during which they burned Rand McNally maps. But in the following months, the bucolic community has soared in popularity. Travelers on Interstate 5 detoured out of their way to see the abused city, and while they were there, they bought meals and sometimes took a hotel room.

Morale Booster

"It kind of boosted the economy," said former Mayor Charles Pappageorge. At the time of the outrage, then-Mayor Pappageorge was called upon to defend his city to the world. He took the opportunity to boast to reporters of the tranquil living, clear skies and temperate climate Yuba City offered.

As a result, a rice cake manufacturer from Japan was inspired to check out the town and decided to set up a West Coast plant there; other businesses have looked over the area for possible relocation; and some of the curiosity seekers who passed through will undoubtedly come back someday to live and work, said Pappageorge, manager of a grain company.

During the troubles of March, Yuba City funeral director Chuck McBride, 41, presented an urn containing the ashes of Rand McNally publications to an executive of the publishing firm in San Francisco. His is a straight-laced business, McBride said, and he took some heat in the ensuing months for "making a spoof of a funeral."

But McBride agreed that more good than bad came out of the public trashing of Yuba City. For one thing, it united the neighboring towns of Marysville and Yuba City (both indicted by Rand McNally) which previously had been so polarized, you would have thought that the Feather River that separates them was the Mason-Dixon Line, McBride said.

And mortician McBride, like almost everyone in Yuba City, got calls from people he hadn't heard from in years after the photo of Willie's Barber Shop went out coast-to-coast. One of the long-lost callers was a boyhood crony from Louisiana. "I had the chance to remind him he still owed me $10 from high school," McBride said.

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