The Way Printing Used to Be in 1968

I’m not just talking through my hat here. Today I can’t help but remember what the print world was like when I was green.  I was eighteen, it was the summer of 1968 and I was working for Hi-Color Lithographers, a newspaper printer in Tucson, Arizona. I was hired as a fly boy and a year later became an assistant pressman. A fly boy’s job was to stand at the end of the press, scoop up newspapers  as they came off the delivery, rush over to the string bundler, step on the pedal and backup quickly to prevent fingers getting tied up with the newspapers. I learned this lesson the painful way. I then had to take the packages over to a pallet and stack them so they wouldn’t fall over when the pallet jack moved it. That accomplished, I had to rush back to the delivery end of the press and scoop up another load before they all dumped on the floor. I did this all day long. Boring, boring, boring.

When the press ran low on paper I had to go over to the area where we stored the half-ton rolls and roll them toward the press. I was taught how to jackass a turn by running the roll up on a quarter inch thick, approximately one foot square of plywood. This allowed the roll to pivot. Otherwise it would take six men to turn the roll.

Once I aligned the roll of paper with the press, I had to knock out the wooden chucks that keep the cardboard core from collapsing.  I had to muscle a heavy iron shaft, run it through the core, and tighten metal core cuffs to prevent the roll from slipping on press. Then came my favorite part. I got to push the button to move the hoist over to the shafted roll. After securing the hooks to the shaft, the hoist was employed again to lift the roll onto the press. I had to make sure that it fit in it’s grooves, and ta-da, we were ready to keep printing.

Needless to say, this kind of manual labor has largely been replaced with automated systems. I doubt that any web printer uses plywood pivots any more. Instead they have modified fork lifts that grab the rolls around the middle with curved arms to haul them to the press.

I’m not sure why I wrote this today. Maybe the rain outside my office window is making me feel nostalgic.

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