Question: I just read "Eighty Days" about the historic around-the-world race between Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland in 1889-1890. The book refers to Bly stopping in Fresno on Jan. 22, 1890, where she is interviewed by reporters from the Fresno Evening Expositor. Is it possible to find the story they wrote?
-- Denise Sciandra, Fresno
Both the Fresno Daily Evening Expositor and Fresno Morning Republican ran stories about Bly's Jan. 22, 1890, stop at the Southern Pacific depot in Fresno. Their stories provide an interesting glimpse into writing styles and culture of the late 1800s.
"At 11 o'clock this morning a dispatch was received at the Expositor office stating that Nellie Bly would pass through Fresno on a special train at 1:45 p.m.," the Expositor's story began. "At once the news gatherers of the Expositor scented a great item, especially as it was learned that the newspaper men of San Francisco had missed her entirely."
The Expositor sent three reporters to cover Bly's arrival in Fresno, which was near the end of her round-the-world trip. The reporters brought along a large gift basket for Bly from the paper, filled with local fruits and wine.
"Arriving at the depot at 1:30 a large crowd was found who were eagerly and patiently awaiting the arrival of the train," the story continued. "At 1:45 it was not in sight, though a thousand eyes were keenly piercing the hazy horizon in the distance." The train arrived a few minutes after 2 p.m.
The Expositor and Republican reporters gave detailed descriptions of Bly, the pen name of pioneer journalist Elizabeth Jane Cochran, 25.
"She is slight of figure, rather sharp of feature, has a pleasant face," the Expositor wrote. "Her eyes are brown and when she smiles they sparkle like diamonds.
"Her mouth is small, teeth white and regular, nose piquant and a beautiful suit of brown hair crowns her head. She was attired in a traveling dress of plaid woolen and wore a woolen, knit, close-fitting cap. She has not changed her dress during the whole trip."
The Republican's description gives more details: "Miss Bly is about the medium height, with a neat, girlish figure, a small hand and a very neat foot and ankle. She wore the traveling dress that she started with, a dark blue woolen gown, fitting her corsets closely with a plaid front and reaching only to her ankles. On her head is a buff-colored woolen cap that gave her a rakish Britisher expression.
"The only ornament she wore was a silver filigree pin with Chinese characters. This was presented to her at Hongkong (sic) as a mascot."
The Expositor reporters asked Bly if she had enjoyed the historic trip.
" 'Have I not,' the little lady replied, and the joyous smile that crept out of her eyes and swept over her face attested that she was telling the truth. 'It has been one round of pleasure to me from the hour I set foot on the steamer in New York to the present moment.' "
Asked if she was tired from the trip, Bly said, "Oh no, not a bit. I never get tired, don't you know."
An Expositor reporter told Bly her trip was a great achievement. Bly replied, "Oh, I don't know. It is not so very much for an American woman to do who has the pluck, energy and independence which characterize very many of the women of our country in this day."
Bly denied her trip was a race against Bisland and said she hadn't known Bisland was trying to beat her until she reached Asia. "I am only doing the best I can to break the record and get back to New York as speedily as possible," she said.
The fictional 80-day trip popularized by Jules Verne's 1873 novel "Around the World in 80 Days" had been accomplished by George F. Train in 1870.
When Bly reached Fresno on Wednesday, Jan. 22, she predicted she would reach New York the following weekend. She arrived in New York on Saturday, Jan. 25, beating the record by eight days. Bisland returned to New York five days after Bly.
The Expositor was published from 1870 to 1898. The Republican began in 1876. McClatchy Newspapers -- which owns The Fresno Bee, founded in 1922 -- bought the Republican in 1926, and the two papers merged in 1932.
Q:What is the history of the Big Brothers-Big Sisters in Fresno?
-- Carol Tickvitza, Fresno
A committee of local men met in January 1968 to lay the groundwork for a Big Brothers program to befriend Fresno boys ages 8 to 17, according to Fresno Bee clip files. It would be modeled after and affiliated with the national organization started in New York City in 1904.
Fresno dentist Dr. Robert Trombetta led the local effort, along with Barry Gambini, Paul Myers and Patrick Newton. Their goal for the local Big Brothers chapter was to "develop good citizenship and prevent delinquency." They recruited volunteers and raised money, and the local chapter was in operation by October 1968.
The four founders plus Dr. Kenneth Kerr, Carmen Eanii, Ray Wilson and Robert Garabedian served on the early executive committee.
A drive to start a local Big Sisters group was led by Enid Saiki in May 1973 and was affiliated with the Big Brothers group by December of that year.
Big Brothers-Big Sisters is still active in the Central Valley, where 281 children currently are being mentored by adult volunteers, according to spokesperson Chris Toth. The goal remains the same, Toth said, "to serve children and give them a positive outlook on their future."
More about: After the answer to a question about Huntington Boulevard ran on Sept. 14, two readers sent their memories of the historic street.
Linley Brinker-Harding of Fresno wrote to say her father, Richard F. Brinker, lived in the house at 3965 E. Huntington Blvd. until the 1940s, when his parents, Eugene and Elsie Brinker, sold the house.
The Brinker home is a Tudor Revival cottage built in 1930. It features a hexagonal bay window and decorative strapwork.
Mary Anne Wells of Fresno wrote that she grew up in a bungalow-style house at 3720 Kerckhoff Ave. "which was in back of the McClatchy home."
Known as the Bekins-McClatchy home on the Local Register of Historic Resources, the Tudor Revival house was built in 1926 by Floyd Bekins, owner of Bekins Van and Storage Co. In 1930, he sold the house to Carlos McClatchy, first editor of The Fresno Bee, and his wife, Phebe.