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Picturing the Past 98: T-G's old press

Posted Tuesday, February 1, 2011, at 3:01 PM

(Photo)
Madison Street Junior High students inspect the Times-Gazette's press in 1958. That press is long gone, but today's newspaper is still printed in the same pressroom. (T-G file photo)
Subscribers to the Times-Gazette from 1948 to early November 1963 got their news from this press, known to industry old-timers as a "flatbed letterpress."

Students from the old Madison Street Junior High were touring the Times-Gazette in 1958 and got a close look at the press. Sorry the people in the photo can't be seen any better but apparently the lighting wasn't right.

The story behind the press is interesting. Franklin Yates, when he bought the weekly Bedford County Times, was stuck with a press which printed well for its time but was too slow for the daily newspaper he envisioned. So, according to what I've been told over the years, he bought the press above, even though it was already 50 years old, to get the faster speed.

The T-G was so much different then, with no color capability and, like most other newspapers of the time, much poorer print quality due to the press limitations. In those days a 10-page issue was big and many of the early 1950s editions had all of four pages.

I've seen our back copies from November 1963 and the sudden change from fuzzy-looking photos to those as clear as today's had to be amazing to readers.

But I look at the stories and photos (especially considering the equipment in use as compared to today's digital cameras) and in most cases they're as well-done as today's.

I'm planning to get more photos from the 1960s and 1970s in this blog within the next few weeks; the quality should improve since the equipment I'm using handles 35-millimeter negatives much better than the old large-format negatives from the film the T-G used in earlier years.

Picturing the Past is featured each Tuesday in this blog. Reader contributions are welcome.


Comments
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Must have been for heating. Bedford Cheese stopped making cheese and went out of business in the late 70's or early 80's, so there was no longer a need for the large boilers they had. Based on David's comment, the TG apparently did a remodel and changed their heating source.

Note-Mr Maddio(sp) reopened Bedford Cheese sometime after the original Bedford Cheese went out of business but only as a retail seller,e.g. he did not make cheese but bought it wholesale from other sources, primarily in Wisconsin I think.

-- Posted by tenn49 on Thu, Feb 3, 2011, at 9:26 PM

David and tenn49: I don't remember any steam either, but I know for sure that the press did not use any steam. It must have been for heating.

-- Posted by marnold1118 on Thu, Feb 3, 2011, at 11:17 AM

That's news to me. As far as I know we've never used steam for anything since I started here in the mid-1970s. But anytime a tile is removed from our newsroom ceiling a maze of pipes and old light fixtures becomes visible - and on cold winter nights when I wrote ball games in the 1970s and 1980s those pipes rattled like crazy. Maybe marnold1118 can shed some light on this.

-- Posted by David Melson on Thu, Feb 3, 2011, at 6:24 AM

David, Bedford Cheese supplied steam to the TG from it boilers which were located in a building behind the TG. Did this press use steam in some way or was it used for heating the TG building or possibly both?

-- Posted by tenn49 on Wed, Feb 2, 2011, at 7:42 PM

marnold1118, you have caused me to call up another memory. My high school principal (C.O. Jett) was also a two finger typist. It was told to me by some of the office girls that he could type 60 words per minute. Mrs. J.K. Breast also taught us the importance of accuracy. She would show us what 60 words per minute looked like by giving us a demonstration of error-free typing. Her hands appeared to be moving as slow as pouring cold molasses out of a bucket, but when she was finished she would let one of us check her typing, and it was always in the 60 words per minute range.

-- Posted by leeiii on Wed, Feb 2, 2011, at 4:37 PM

David, the photo of the old press brings back memories. Thanks for using it this week.

The old letterpress was vastly different than the offset printing method of the new Fairchild ColorKing press that Franklin bought in the 60's. It wasn't just the press that was different the entire printing process was vastly different. Type for the letterpress was set by a Linotype machine--a behemoth of a machine that had a keyboard and when a key was struck, a brass mold of that letter would fall into place and when an entire line was assembled, molten lead was squirted into the molds to make a line of type. This was how the small text type was created. Headlines were either set by a Ludlow machine also using molten lead, but with larger molds or with movable wooden type. Photos were engraved into a clear sheet of plastic and the best quality obtainable was very poor--this whole process was very crude, but it worked.

One roll of wide newsprint was all the press could print at one time, thereby limiting the issue to 8 pages. A larger issue would require a separate press run and hand gathering the two sections together. Other options were to use a half roll for a 4-page section or a 3/4 size roll for a 6-page issue. The old press was positioned over a large pit (much like a auto lube station today) and the pressman would have to crawl under, over and around the press to set it up for printing, or to re-thread a broken web of paper.

With the new offset press, color was easily available, aluminum plates held the image vs. the very heavy page forms of the old days. The quality of the newsprint itself was better. It was generally a photographic process that lasted for many years, before giving way to electronics and computers.

The early newspaper days hold a lot of memories for me, but one always stands out. It was when Ben Green was a reporter. He had an old Royal typewriter and he would sit at his desk with his glasses barely clinging to his nose and type. He only used his two forefingers, but he could make that old Royal clatter. I really believe he was faster (but not as accurate) as my high school typing teacher.

-- Posted by marnold1118 on Wed, Feb 2, 2011, at 3:05 PM

David, I very well remember that old press when it was in the little brick building behind the Gunter Building. I think that the pressmen were named John and Ralph. Ralph worked there many more years after operations were moved to Depot Street. Four pages made a good folded four-cornered paper.

-- Posted by leeiii on Tue, Feb 1, 2011, at 4:19 PM


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David Melson is a copy editor and staff writer for the Times-Gazette.