My Own Downtown - Paula Wonnacott
Most long-time residents/cable TV users remember watching the local news at 6 pm on Channel 6 over 20 years ago with News Director, Paula Wonnacott.
As a native in our community, Paula has seen several changes in Downtown Rock Springs.
“I grew up here and returned after college to work in Downtown,” Paula shared.
According to Paula, “Fair time” meant “back to school.”
“I shopped for clothes at Union Merc and school supplies at Dye’s Office Supply (on Pilot Butte Avenue),” Paula revealed.
Fall was always a busy season for students at Rock Springs High School.
“I marched in the Rock Springs High School Band for Homecoming and had a great time playing Tiger Rag as loudly as possible in the underpass,” Paula said.
She added, “On weekends with friends, we’d walk through Downtown shopping at Sweet Briar (on K Street) or Mode ‘o Day (on North Front Street) and have gravy on French fries at the New Grand Café.”
As a local reporter, Paula informed residents on current affairs that had a huge impact.
“Working at Sweetwater T.V., I attended numerous Rock Springs City Council meetings and met with economic development organizations,” she began to say. “Ideas to reinvigorate the area were discussed and plans were made.”
Paula added, “Funding a grand plan was always difficult. But, the City placed decorative lighting during the rebuild of Broadway, South Main and North Front and addressed the perennial concern of parking.”
“The most significant Downtown story to me is the Flood of 1989,” Paula revealed. “It was a complete surprise.”
“The warnings came into the newsroom after I had been beaten back to the office by a wall of water,” she said. “I grabbed the camera and I was out recording the damage.”
The video footage can be seen on YouTube.
She continued to say, “Then, as now, the community rallied to help neighbors and businesses cleanup.”
“Throughout the history of Downtown, there have been entrepreneurs hoping to build a business and a future,” she pointed out. “Sweetwater T.V. was such a business that began in the 1950’s.”
One of Paula’s favorite times of the year at Sweetwater TV was the Christmas season.
“Christmas was a special time for me while working at Sweetwater T.V.,” she expressed. “Children came to visit with Santa and the line would extend down the block. I will never forget the excitement of the winners of one of 100 bikes and trikes that were given away live on Channel 6 days before Christmas.”
To support her Downtown, Paula likes to encourage people to have a cup of coffee or craft brew, enjoy a burger, explore stores for local artists’ works and take in a performance.
“If family or friends are visiting, take them for a stroll to view the murals, visit the museum and the Fine Arts Center or enjoy the cooling shade of the trees in the park,” she advises. “The late summer is a great time to wander the Farmers’ Market, and, while there, stop into a shop for a look.”
It takes confidence and passion to be a success in Downtown.
“Throughout my life, there have always been people of vision in Downtown,” Paula observed. “They have built businesses, supported their neighbors, attended numerous meetings and worked tirelessly to find funding for major public works projects – the optimism in Downtown is so amazing.”
…And that’s why Downtown Rock Springs is My Own Downtown