Recent birthday reminds of old times at the paper

Published 8:57 am Monday, November 17, 2014

There had been big changes at The Daily News when I went to work there in September 1971. Not only was there was a brand new building, but the entire printing process had been changed. They had only moved into the building a few months when I came on board.

I knew very little about the old printing process, so it wasn’t hard for me to adapt to the new. But for some of the old timers who had worked with hot lead for making printing plates, it was a big change as they switched from the old hot, dirty letterpress system to the new clean photographic process of off-set printing.

It was mostly men who had done this work, including Wayne Smith, Martin Knight, Bud Hymel and Leonard Parker. With them in the new composing room were the two typesetters — Charlene Travis and Joanne Stringer. We always laughed and said long-time friends Charlene and Joanne could carry on a full conversation while they typed but rarely made a mistake. This made proofreading easier for Annette Risner, who was in the newsroom and read everything that went into the paper every day — six days a week.

The powers that be learned quickly that women could handle the new process in the composing room, so after a while Martin Knight went to Delta Printing, Leonard Parker went to the press room, Wayne Smith became the composing room manager and Bud Hymel kept on typesetting all the headlines and material for the ads in the paper. Darryl Fortenberry was photographer and also “shot” the clean aluminum plates for the press.

I was the “society” editor in the newsroom, working along with Lou Major Sr., who was the editor at the time and covered the news along with Al Hansen and Bob Lawrence, and Buck Bennett, who was sports editor. Lou Major Jr. wasn’t there yet. He was about to graduate from college, get married and go to work in Silver City, N.M. We were still typing on manual typewriters in the newsroom. We never used electric typewriters — we went straight from manuals to computers.

I can’t remember everyone in the advertising department at the time, but I do remember Dorothy Seal, Boots Adams and a little later Frances Dunaway and Daisy Lang. Harold Jung was circulation manager. He had been in the newspaper business since he was a little boy helping his dad deliver papers.

Herb Travis had been there since he was a teenager and worked on the press along with Leonard Parker and Reggie Necaise. Jewel Lowe and Lois Blackwell were the bookkeeping staff. And that was about it.

We all worked closely in those days and were like a big family. We had a lot of people to come and go because newspaper work isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. You either love it or you can’t tolerate it. I think I was born with ink in my veins as were many of these other old timers.

Time has passed and a lot of these people are no longer with us — either in distance or they have passed away — but I still think about our old crew and the good times we had working together. We knew each other well and could call each other’s children by name.

I got a chance to renew a couple of those friendships two weeks ago when Leonard Parker celebrated his 90th birthday with a gathering at First Baptist Church fellowship hall. We have pretty well kept up with each other over the years, and I was happy to see those who came, mostly family and friends. However two of us Daily News veterans were there to help him celebrate. Looking back, I can see there aren’t too many of us left.

Charlene Travis and I had a long conversation and caught up with family happenings and events. She and Herb Travis were our Daily News love story. They met there, fell in love and got married. Both had been there forever when they retired — Herb longer than most anybody.

Over the years I have worked with many, many people as times have changed and staff members have come and gone. I’ve often thought we should have a Daily News reunion one of these days. I think everybody would be shocked at the number of people who have worked there over the years.

At the party, I told Leonard he will live to be 100 just like his mother. He laughed, but those things do tend to be genetic. I wrote a story about Mrs. Parker along about her 100th birthday. She was still vibrant and her mind sharp as a tack. I remember her well.

It used to be that when a person in the parish reached their 100th birthday, it was a front page story. I have written many 100 years old and fifth generation stories. In fact, I wrote two sixth generation stories! It was a very interesting career.

Modern medicine is allowing so many people to live longer so it is no longer startling to hear someone is 100 years old. I think it is a beautiful thing.

My claim to fame at the Daily News is just before Katrina hit, it was my turn to work as the newsroom staff alternated working on Saturdays. I sent the completed Sunday paper to the press and we covered up all the computers with plastic as the storm approached. It was the very last daily paper printed at The Daily News.

I was in a reminiscing mood and was also remembering the hundreds of wonderful people I have worked with and those I have met over my many years working at the newspaper. I am the only one of that real old crew still with input at the paper.

I have always felt I was where God wanted me to be and I was doing what I was supposed to do with my life. I am still blessed to be doing it through this colomn.

Happy Birthday Leonard! I hope I am there when you celebrate your 100th!