Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Life in the Newspaper World

Downtown Port Arthur, Texas, ca. 1950

            I loved broadcasting and the newspaper business, and thought my future was there. I got a job at The Port Arthur (Texas) News as an engraver operator, which meant I operated the Fairchild machine that scanned photographs and burned dots onto plastic on a rotating drum.  These became the “cuts” used in the printing process.  I also operated the machine that received daily transmissions of United Press Telephoto.  This would be an 8” x 10” sheet filled with UP photos of newsworthy events for the day, sent down from UP in Dallas.  The editor would choose the ones he wanted, and I’d engrave them for cuts.
            I also took photos for the paper, using one of those wonderful old Speed Graphic cameras with film in plastic or metal holders.  I was simply an adjunct to the regular photographer, Jimmy Everett.   Between developing the telephotos and my pictures, I spent over an hour a day in the darkroom, which was a small closet that smelled of the hypo used to stop and fix the photos.  Since the telephotos arrived sharply at noon, I would eat my lunch while I waited for the photos to dry on the photo drier.  My mother usually made tuna fish sandwiches, so my darkroom smelled of a combination of hypo and tuna fish. 
            I also had writing duties.  Sometimes I’d get assigned a fire or a storm to cover, or perhaps an interesting local death.  Also I was “The Inquiring Reporter” and had a daily piece in which I asked a question of five local people.  Usually the editor, John Ayres, thought up the questions, but as time went on, I came up with my own.  Sometimes, when the answers I was getting were too dull, I would make up people and give them more unique answers.  We gave away one ticket to the Strand movie theater for each answer, so I managed to have a supply of tickets at all times.  I also dug into 25 year old files of the News and picked out interesting tidbits for a daily “25 Years Ago in The News” piece.  That also allowed me to pick things that appealed to a 17-year-old mind.  Also, I wrote “Teen Talk”, a weekly column about things I thought would interest local teens. It was usually one or two sentences about individual teens, but sometimes I would feature a story like our efforts to develop a teen center, called “The Beehive” from an old, abandoned nightclub. 
            The newsroom of this mid 20th century newspaper was a large room with a central table for the city editor,  the managing editor, the wire editor, and a couple of reporters.  At the near end of the room were the Society section ladies:  Society editor Grace Foote; and two other women.  At the far end of the room was the Sports section.  I usually sat at an empty typewriter in the Sports section. 
            Next to the sports section was a glassed-in room that housed the teletype machines and my telephoto machine.  It was pretty noisy, with those INS, AP and UP machines all clacking away, then at noon my telephoto machine would go “beep-beep” as the black and white dots would come over the telephone line.  An addition arrived during my time there, when Associated Press would send their stories on a punched tape, so our wire editor could take them right to the linotype people and they would feed the tape to a linotype machine and it would make the little slugs of type without a human at the keyboard.  In our union shop, that was not greatly appreciated. 
            The linotype machines and the stereotype department were all at the back on the same floor as the newsroom.  It was hot in there, with the hot lead being used to make the type, and then the slugs would be mounted in large page-size forms by the stereotypers and then a sheet of paperlike material would be placed over it and pressed to make a page.  Then this would be put into a mould and hot metal would be injected to make a cylinder that would be sent down to the press room below. 
            One exciting vignette I recall was when I was about the first to arrive in the newsroom one morning and the teletype machines were all going crazy, ringing their warning bells.  I looked at their printout, and it said “Flash:  King George VI dies Sandringham.”  It was the first word arriving that Britain’s King George had died at his Norfolk estate.  We spent the next several hours preparing a special edition, and I was on the phone talking to telephoto people sending the first photos over from London.  That was exciting, in those days before satellite television, to see the first photos coming directly across the Atlantic by cable, of Princess Elizabeth in a limousine, and of soldiers firing a cannon salute to the dead King.
            I loved every bit of this, and often spent so many hours at work that, in spite of attending school daily, I put in over a 40-hour week. 
            The most fun was seeing a story I had written appear on Page one, with my byline.  If I had taken the photos that went with it, that was even better. 
            On Saturday night we all worked to get out the Sunday edition.  We would usually work toward a late night deadline, and then the presses would start running at about midnight.  Sometimes when there was a knifing or a murder in the Black part of town, down around Houston Avenue, we would hold the presses and insert the story.
            As the first issues came off the press, sometimes we’d take them and go to an all-night restaurant and have supper, and look through the paper as we ate. 
            I really enjoyed my life in the newspaper world. 

            I still enjoy newspapers, and have quite a few that I offer, most older than I am.  The great thing about newspapers is that if you know something of the history of that time, you'll see a story in one of these papers, from 1812, or 1841 or 1863 and it's HISTORY.  Except, the writers of the story in the newspaper didn't know how that would all turn out.  Take a look at some of these descriptions and you'll see:

Zion's Advocate, Portland, ME, 1836

Boston Gazette, Monday, October 19, 1812  Boston, MA: Russell & Cutler. 4 pp. 35 x 52 cm. Published as the War of 1812 was raging, this issue contains numerous mentions of the War.  Letter to publishers refers to war a "Mr. Madison's War" and suggested that the President was not only duped, but also insulted,  by Bonaparte. Long report of arrivals and clearances of ships in American ports, detailed report of arrivals and departures in Port of Boston. Report from Charleston, SC of capture of British Packet Princess Amelia by American Privateer Schooner Rossie, commanded by Commodore Barney. Report from Halifax of Court Martial of Capt. Dacres of HMS Guerriere, for giving up his ship to USS Constitution. Report from British Canada notes that loss of the masts of Guerriere was occasioned more by their defective state than from the fire of the Americans. Report also notes that British prisoners were offered high bribes to enter into the land and sea service of the U.S. Report  from Secretary of the Navy exonerates Lieut. Crane in loss of the U.S. Brig Nautilus. Advertisements for Russian Feathers, Gauze Flannels, Woollen goods, fresh flour, Petersburg hemp, elegant Canton China, more. Newspaper, edges frayed, perforations in folds, fair. (7487) $59.00. Newspapers/History

Newburyport Herald and Country Gazette, Friday, July 2, 1813 Newburyport, MA: Newburyport Herald and Country Gazette, 16 State St. Newburyport Board of Selectmen announces a quarantine for any vessels from the West-India Islands…"who shall have been visited with the Plague, Small Pox, Pestilential or Malignant Fever." Members of the Association for the Suppression of Vice and Immorality will meet at Newburyport Bank on Saturday, 3d July next.  News of the Discovery of the body of King Charles in a lead coffin at Windsor Castle. When the coffin was unsealed, the Prince Regent and others recognized the body of the Martyred King; when they lifted it up, the head fell off, owing to the fact that it had been cut off with an axe, and cemented later.  Long report from the Missouri Gazette about the journey of the gentlemen from the New York Fur Company from the Columbia River of the west across the Rockies to St. Louis. They met with a party of Crow Indians who behaved "with almost unbounded insolence" and stole all the party's horses.  At St. Louis the party first learned of the current war with England. "By the Mails" Report from Norfolk: "British Reinforcements in the Cheasapeake"  Thirteen British ships under Admirals Cockburn and Warren have anchored at Willoughby's up to Hampton Bar. Report of attack on British by Captain Tarbell and his gun-boats. British attempt to land near Crany Island. Letter from New York notes that former Secretary of War Henry Dearborn has resigned as general in charge of the Niagara Defense sector, and General Morgan Lewis has taken over. Advertisements for auctions at Newburyport for real estate of William Hunt, late of Newburyport; also Samuel Brown, Jr., late of Newburyport, and at Union Wharf, rigging, blocks, water casks, cannon, cask of powder, 3 boxes of chocolate, and more. 4 pp. 30 x 50 cm. Newspaper, small tears in folds, good. (7276) $51.00. Newspapers/History

Columbian Centinel, Boston (Massachusetts) Wednesday Morning, June 5, 1816 Boston, MA: E.G. House. Report of cavalcade which drove to Medford to escort Governor Brooks to Boston, in a long procession of carriages.  When the cavalcade arrived, they found Gov. Brooks mounted  and ready to set out for Boston. There were speeches; His Excellency Gov. Brooks noted that he had been a soldier of the Revolution under the immortal Washington. Inundation in New Orleans: Letters of May 8th report that the levee of the river has given way and water in the back streets was above a foot deep.  Report from Milledgeville, Georgia  that Indians have surprised soldiers near Fort Gaines and driven off 30 head of cattle. The Seminoles have been drinking their war physic, and dancing for several days, and it was understood that they were preparing to strike a blow somewhere. Report from Spanish America that Royal Spanish Army has defeated the insurgents,  part of force has been ordered back to Venezuela, part to reinforce royalists at Lima, and others to overturn the revolutionary government of Buenos Ayres (now Buenos Aires). 4 pp. 36 x 52 cm. Newspaper, quite frayed at edges, but very readable. Fair. (6874) $38.00. Newspapers/History

Zion's Advocate, Vol. IX No. 376, Wednesday, January 20, 1836 Portland, ME: Adam Wilson, Editor and Proprietor. Missionary report from Armenia; The Dying Mother; Anecdote about Chief Justice Marshall; in U.S. Congress, appeals for abolition of slavery; Dr. Channing on Slavery. 4 pp. 39 x 54 cm. Newspaper, edges creased, small tears where folds intersect, address "Cap M. Woodman, N. Gloucester" on top edge. Good. History (4380) $26.00.

Zion's Advocate, Vol. IX No. 383, Wednesday, March 9, 1836  Portland, ME: Adam Wilson, Editor and Proprietor. News of revivals; Anti-slavery hymn; Missionary report of Maulmein, up the Attaran; Article on Vulgar language; Mexican government claims visitors landing on Texas coast will be declared pirates. 4 pp. 39 x 54 cm. Newspaper, edges creased, small tears where folds intersect, address "Cap M. Woodman, N. Gloucester" on top edge. Good. History (4382) $26.00.

Zion's Advocate Vol. IX No. 15, Portland, Wednesday, April 13, 1836 Portland, ME: Adam Wilson. In Sandwich Islands, sailors given bibles are selling them for rum. Solution: wait till ship is at sea to give bibles to sailors. Temperance in Louisiana. Anti-slavery Society in New York City. Temperance in Buxton, ME. 4 pp. 40 x 56 cm. Newspaper, some tears in folds, good. (6170) $15.00. Religious

Senator Simmons of Rhode Island "has not yet
 electrified the Senate with his eloquence."

Republican Herald, Providence (RI) Saturday morning, July 3, 1841 Providence, RI: William Simons, Jr. Death of Major General Macomb; U.S. Congress resolved to attend his funeral.    Reader complains that The Herald does not publish the speeches of Senators from RI, Dixon and Simmons. "Balaam's Ass once spoke, and a woman has been known to be dumb!"  Senator Dixon takes the subject of his speeches from the Providence Journal and therefore we have no need to repeat them. Senator Simmons has not yet electrified the Senate with his eloquence, nor shed the effulgent radiance of his towering genius on the nation.... nevertheless we have a TIllinghast in the other House, who can talk and say nothing as long as any man living."  Since the Fourth of July falls on a Sunday, the celebration of the American Independence will take place on Monday the Fifth. Order of Procession for Suffrage Parade on the 5th of July, 1841, Col. Eaton W. Maxey will be Chief Marshal of the day; Revolutionary Soldiers will proceed in carriages; Canoe drawn by two horses, representing Roger Williams landing on What-cheer Point. Etc., etc.  Small article notes that General Harrison and John Tyler have made more removals from office in three months than did Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J.Q. Adams, Jackson and Van Buren did in 52 years. Ads for Boston and Providence Rail Road; Steamboat Balloon, Capt. B.F. Woolsey, leaves Providence daily at 9 1/2 o'clock a.m., leaves Newport same days at 3 p.m. Landing at Bristol. East Douglass and Providence Daily (Stage) Line; N. Jersey Steam Navigation Co. Daily Line between Stonington and New York, steamers Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Ad for Arkansas Bounty Lands--see Shubael Blanding, Providence. Ad for Pure Lemon Syrup made from Sicily Lemons, which, by weight and flavor, cannot be surpassed. Ad for Ladies Boots and Shoes made to order, J.C. Martain, 20 1/2 Westminster St. 4 pp. 40 x 54 cm. Newspaper, many small holes in folds, poor. (7405) $34.00. Newspapers/History

Boston Evening Transcript, Thursday Evening, January 17, 1861 Boston, MA: Henry W. Dutton & Son. Filled with Civil War news. Telegraph dispatch reports that Mississippi Senator Jefferson Davis is urging moderation, and vouches for Major Anderson, now commanding Fort Sumter, in Charleston (SC) Harbor.  President Buchanan is very anxious to avoid bloodshed as messages and messengers fly back and forth.  The President, it is reported, will be willing to recognize a de facto government embracing three or more states. "The Secession Theory of Debt" is indignant editorial about South Carolinians who have passed a bill in their House to stay the collection of debts by Carolinians to men in non-slaveholding states. "A non-slaveholder may be, purely in consequence of his lack of 'niggers,' a very contemptible creature, unworthy of a Southern gentleman's notice..."  Major Robert Anderson, a 56-year-old Kentuckian who commands the Union forces at Fort Sumter, is much in the news.  Discussion of selections for President-elect Lincoln's cabinet. Ban on "ardent spirits" in Massachusetts State House. Editorial questions whether this is enthusiasts, fanatics or liquors.  Poem on page one ridicules idea of South Carolinians leaning toward monarchy. Discussion on Slavery reports from recent sermon by Dr. Leonard Bacon in New Haven.  Discussion of necessity and feasibility of constructing a Cape Cod Canal, to connect the waters of Barnstable Bay and Buzzard's Bay. Humor about "The Star of the West", the Union ship fired upon by southerners at Charleston. Lincoln to be escorted to Washington by the Illinois Zouaves. 4 pp. 49 x 68 cm. Newspaper, tears in some folds, 5 cm closed tear in pp. 1-2, poor. (7406) $26.00. Civil War/Newspapers

Libby Prison, Richmond

Republican Herald and Rhode Island Gazetteer, Providence, Saturday, August 14, 1869 Providence, RI:  Noah D. Payne.  4 pp. 50 x 72 cm. Reminiscence about Federal prisoners in Libby Prison (in Richmond, VA).  Murder in Boston: Story of a Tennessee Major, a patient living in the home of a prominent doctor, gets called for reading too loud, and goes on rampage, shooting and killing doctor's wife. Barbarity in the U.S. Navy: Story of Lieutenant Commander H.B. Seely, in USS Pawnee, who caused a sailor in his ship to be hung by his arms for three days for theft, and now the poor man must have one or both arms amputated.  Now it turns out that two or three negroes were the guilty parties. Report that the United States Government has opened negotiations with Spain for the independence of Cuba. What the Mosquito is Good For. Newspaper, edges frayed and tattered so that portion of text on page ends is unreadable. Poor. (7200) Civil War/History Newspapers

 Manila Bulletin, Manila, Philippine Islands, Saturday, November 24, 1928; also front page of Nov. 27, 1928 issue  Manila, PI: The Manila Bulletin Publishing Co., Inc. "Typhoon Causing Widespread Damage, Japan Ship Aground"--Saka Maru Hits Land Near Masbate, Engine Room Flooded; Bicol and Visayan Provinces Hard Hit.  "Dollar Line to enter P.I. Shipping Trade" --vessels will be 350 ft. in length and ply between 11 islands. Dolar Company to advertise P.I. as Tourist's Mecca. Canadian passenger liner Empress of Canada arrived yesterday at Manila.  Ship was buffeted about by mountainous winds on voyage from Victoria, BC to Yokohama. Senator King (D-UT) is talking with President Coolidge about Independence for the Philippines.  "Tries to Burn San Lazaro"--- patients in panic when Insane man tries to destroy San Lazaro Hospital.  November 27 issue has large banner headline: "25 DIE, VAST LOSS IN TYPHOON; STIMSON TELLS WAR DEPARTMENT P.I. MAY NEED U.S. ASSISTANCE." 8 pp.+ 4 pp. 44 x 58 cm. Newspaper, small chips in edges, tear in horizontal center fold of page one, fair. (7863) $26.00. Newspapers/Philippines

No comments:

Post a Comment