The Sacramento Bee is celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. This story is part of our ongoing coverage.
April 1, 1979: Thirteen nuclear protesters scaled the main gate to SMUD’s Rancho Seco plant Saturday and were arrested by sheriff’s deputies for trespassing.
A few of the 150 others who cheered them on with cries of “Shut down now, no meltdown later” vowed to remain at the site on a hunger strike until the 13 are freed.
The well-organized but peaceful demonstration, touched off by an accident at a similar nuclear plant near Harrisburg, Pa., began Friday night with a candlelight vigil. Some participants stayed in a nearby farmhouse overnight.
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SMUD’s low-key response included providing coffee and doughnuts and arranging to have one of the group’s songs copied. But the utility was firm in saying no one could be inside the plant’s 8-foot security fence.
“We had hoped no one would feel obliged to go over the fence,” said William Hammond, official in charge of security and personnel for the Sacramento Municipal Utility District. “We don’t like arresting people.”
Guards warned the protesters they had vice minutes to retreat but deputies delayed 20 minutes before separating the handlocked demonstrators and carrying them carefully to a paddy wagon about 12:30 p.m.
When some remaining demonstrators blocked the gate on the outside, SMUD officials told sheriff’s deputies not to arrest them. Deputies used an alternate gate to transport the arrested demonstrators to county jail in downtown Sacramento.
Many demonstrators were veterans of the months-long campaign against Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s Diablo Canyon reactor near San Luis Obispo.
Not a gem, ‘Sutter’s Gold’ debuts at Alhambra Theatre
1936: Although Sacramento had served as a background for the filming of many movies in both the silent and talkie eras, it hadn’t played host to a major film premiere. That changed on March 25, 1936, when “Sutter’s Gold,” a drama based – loosely – on the life of the city’s founder, John Sutter, had its first showing at the glitzy Alhambra Theatre. The film, starring Edward Arnold, opened to an audience estimated by The Bee at about 4,000 – half of them in the theater and half outside, hoping “to get a taste of how Hollywood does things.”
Here’s a bit of what The Bee’s reviewer thought of the movie:
Sacramentans will be inclined to give the picture a more critical appraisal than will audiences elsewhere, and anyone disposed to find fault could do so, although the general merit of the film overshadows the weaknesses and the picture is one that will find general approval. No doubt the close students of Sutter and early California events will find discrepancies, but that could be done with any production, however good. … The picture is without the element of suspense and a romance injected to give heart interest appears as a sterile concession to audience interest. … The picture is not without its light moments.
Actually, most audiences everywhere thought the movie stank. Reportedly one of the most expensive films made by Universal Studios during the 1930s, it was a box-office disaster.