Warmest regards: Printer’s ink in my blood
The day I was hired for my first full-time newspaper job was one of the most exciting days of my life.
I was so excited that I ran all the way home in high heels. I was also wearing little white gloves and a floppy little hat, so that will tell you how long ago it was.
When I waited to be interviewed I was intimidated by another applicant who had her master’s degree in journalism.
But I had one thing she didn’t have - a book full of my published newspaper stories. Writing those columns while I was still in high school didn’t pay much, but it paved the way for landing my first reporter’s job on our weekly newspaper.
At the time, so long ago, women weren’t being hired for newspaper jobs, unless it was as a society reporter.
During my interview the publisher asked me what I would do if there were a fire on Bunker Hill - the steep mountain at the end of town. I told him I would probably be the first one there because I grew up playing on that mountain. He hired me on the spot.
While I loved everything I did for that newspaper, a favorite time at work was every Thursday when the printing press ran off the week’s edition.
I loved the sound of that printing press so much and the smell of printer ink that I volunteered to work on Thursday stuffing inserts, even though it wasn’t part of my job.
I remember telling everyone printer’s ink was my favorite perfume.
I was strictly a reporter and columnist, but there was an infamous time when I felt compelled to lie about that.
When I was out dancing with my girlfriends, one fellow who liked to tell everyone how rich he was kept asking me to dance.
The guy was so braggadocious that I was sure if one looked up the word “pretentious” in the dictionary his photo would be there.
After he bragged to us about his rich family, he asked what I did for a living.
That’s when I lied. I told him I was a newspaper carrier. He didn’t believe me so I made the story bigger by telling him I delivered the paper each week to his parents’ furniture store.
It was fun bribing the real newspaper carrier, slinging a news bag over my shoulder and walking into the furniture store where the boss’ son was waiting.
If he bothered to read the paper he would have seen my photo and column. But he didn’t. Instead his face looked like he stepped in dog dirt when he looked at me. To him, I was now far beneath his social status.
I met so many incredible people during my journalism career. He wasn’t one.
I had so much fun each day I thought I should have been paying to work there instead of the other way around.
After I moved to another part of the state and started working for the Times News, that job was even more rewarding. Bosses and co-workers were terrific, adding to the enjoyment.
I also liked the fact that the pressroom was beneath our editorial offices because I got to hear the press run every day.
I became great buddies with Lenny, our Times News press foreman, after he came to visit while I was home recovering from neurosurgery. He gave me a pink bubble gum cigar to celebrate the birth of his third child.
Lenny and his wife, RoseAnn, became close friends with my husband and me. Once, when Len’s wife asked me what Len and I had in common, I told her we both spoke an obscure language - newspapereze.
We still do. Whenever they come to visit me in Florida, Len and I will lapse into speaking newspapereze as we talk about what’s going on in the industry we both love.
The other day The Wall Street Journal ran an article called “Requiem for the Printing Press.”
Written by syndicated columnist Bob Greene, it told how printing presses are disappearing from the scene as many papers close and others contract their printing to distant places.
There aren’t too many people who love hearing the roar of the printing press, at least not like there used to be.
Like me, Bob Greene loved hearing the presses run.
“When those presses in a newspaper building would start up the reporters and editors upstairs could feel it in their feet. The vibrations from the presses would shoot up though their shoes. It was glorious, part of the romance of newspapering,” Greene wrote.
I called my friend Lenny to talk about the article.
Now the Times News plant manager, he has more than 50 years experience running presses.
Len said today’s printing presses are not like the ones of old. They no longer sound like a big steam engine because smaller motors and modifications result in a much quieter press.
Lenny also explained there are no longer stuffers adding the inserts to each paper because everything is automated.
I may never hear another printing press, but I’ll always be grateful for the memory of hearing the heavy music that was the rumbling of the press.
And when you’re young and filled with the glamour of working for a newspaper, getting smeared with printer’s ink is just part of the experience.
Contact Pattie Mihalik at firstname.lastname@example.org.