Recently, at a funeral, I ran into one of my favorite local people: Frank Kruse.
Now, I hear that Frank was a school teacher, but I didn’t know him then.
He was also the son of the man that used to own the newspaper (and I’ll remind you that we are NOT associated with, and YES people still think that we are. ) and I didn’t know him then either.
I did meet Frank when Dean was still the editor at the Times.
Because we were at the funeral of a friend and co-worker from the Times, Bob Lutz, we of course had to talk about the “good old days” of working at the newspaper.
The hardest we ever had it was when there was a deadline and I had to drag 4 or 5 kids to the newspaper at night to help lay out pages. This was easy compared to the work that Bob did, but much harder and time consuming than this form of publishing that I am using right now.
The stories were typed and printed. Then the page was run through a “wax” machine which applied wax to the back of the page so that it would stick to a full size sheet of graph paper. We’d attach the stories into columns then add pictures where they were needed.
After you applied the pictures you had to “tape” them. This meant running tape along the picture which had a black line in the middle that gave the pictures a nice border.
Dean also had to take pictures and then develop the film which required work in the “dark room”. The one thing I would have loved to do.
So of course, back then they couldn’t or wouldn’t shoot 3-400 pictures of an event like we can do today.
We started talking about the hours that our friend that had put into working there and how he did all of the hardest work before computers. Noting that he had spent his life in the bowels of the newspaper office, and recalling the stories he told of melting lead to make the letters and plates for the newspapers to be printed on the machines at the time. Our friend Bob, had told stories about how the smoke was so thick from the melting lead, that he couldn’t see anything in the basement.
Of course, we noted all of the employees and bosses that showed up to honor him for his decades of hard work and to thank him for dedicating his life to the work.
In a way, Bob made Vinton Today possible.
Sure, he only worked on the computer if he had to, and he never did work at Vinton Today, and I got the impression that a computer was not his favorite means of work, and I’m sure he had never imagined that this is the way we’d get news today. But when you think about it, if he hadn’t been making the plates that made a newspaper, there wouldn’t be this concept of getting local news.
So anyway, back to Frank.
Frank’s family as I mentioned, had owned the newspaper waaaay back before the Livewire and Cedar Valley Daily Times were one and the same company. (I had assumed they were always a package deal, but they weren’t until the Times bought the Livewire.)
He shared about how his dad used to run the paper, along with his uncles. Apparently sometimes they didn’t get along so well. One of the stories he shared was of how his dad had written a column. He would type it up and the employees would find each of the small letters, lay it on a tray in reverse then stack them together to prepare it for printing.
So there were thousands of letters laid out carefully to print this story, and it was sitting out where one of his brothers saw it.
The brother came along and asked whose story it was. Upon finding it was his brothers, he dumped the whole thing out. We assume that “dad” had it put together again, but we aren’t really sure what the result was for the story.
Of course, while talking, I asked something I had always wondered “How did they make the art for the ads?” Of course, I’m thinking of the metal plates that I had seen on a desk that they used for printing the words. But he explained they had molds that were carved and were made of material somewhat like cardboard. They would carve the design in and then pour the hot lead into the mold, using the form for the plate.
About this time, Mert Alpers (one of the guys that also worked with Bob back when it was okay for the two of them to see what their cars would do on 5th street according to Bob’s family) happened to be walking past, so Frank nabbed him to to see if he could remember the name that the plates had for making the ads. After some thought, he of course remembered it, and of course, now I can’t.
There was a few minutes of swapping more old stories about working at the newspaper. Some laughs and some reminiscing of how hard the work was.
I admit it, I love to sit and listen to people reminiscing. If you sit back, you’ll learn something.
I learned on that day, that thanks to guys like Bob, and Mert, and Frank’s dad and brothers, these older guys that spent their lives in conditions that wouldn’t be considered safe or acceptable by today’s standards, and thanks to the technology of today, I can sit here in my jammies and do what it took an army to do not so long ago.
In the course of the discussion, Frank told how his dad used to write a column. It was about whatever his thoughts were on that day. He called it, “It’s not news but…” and I found that it described exactly what I’d like to write about sometimes, but I didn’t have a title for these random thought.
I told Frank that I loved the title and that I might steal it for Vinton Today.
“I’d be honored if you would!” he said, and of course, he had the biggest grin on his face. Of course, Frank is still old school. He doesn’t have a computer, and relies on someone printing and sending him a copy of something on Vinton Today.
“If you do use it, would you print and send me a copy of it?” he said excitedly.
So here’s to Frank’s dad. Thanks for the idea, and I hope I do you proud!
Now I will print and deliver a copy to Frank, just like in the good ol’ days!