Friday, August 22, 2008

Newburg, MO, Moveable Type And A 1948 Chevrolet

Years ago my father owned a printing company and an advertising agency. One of the printing presses was a letterpress, with moveable type. I remember watching him set type.*

My brothers and I had the job of busting up the type and putting it back in the type drawers which were called 'cases'. The trade term for the kids who busted up the type was "printer's devil". Each font went into a different case and each letter went to a specific bin in the case. Woe to the devil who put a sort (pieces of type) in the wrong space! Now you know where the term 'out of sorts' originated!

I can still remember the layout of the cases and where each sort belonged. The type was made out of lead.

I remember how amazed I was the first time I saw a linotype machine.

One day I was talking to my dad while he was running the press. I stumbled and laid my hand on the press for balance. The press was running and I about cut my index finger off. The finger, my right index finger, is crooked and shorter than my other fingers. I don't have much feeling in it and I don't use the finger much. I was maybe eleven or twelve years old.

Back in the 1960's there used to be a gas station / restaurant in Newburg, MO, about halfway between Springfield and St. Louis, on old Highway 66, on the north side of the road, that my grandfather liked to stop at. They probably sold beer. The gas station attendant had only one arm. I remember riding in my grandfather's 1948 Chevrolet sedan, stopping at this gas station, getting a bite to eat and having this one armed guy fill our car up with gas.

Man's car looked just like this one I saw today at the auto swap meet at the fairgrounds. If I would have had an extra $7900.00 I woulda bought it. This was the first car I ever drove. Just looking at this car makes me feel happy. The gas station is now a flea market. The PVT RN and I stopped there Thurday on our way back from Hannibal. I told the woman running the cash register about the one armed guy. She said, yes, his name was....she knew the guy, said he used to work for her husband's grandfather who owned the station and he rented a room from them.

I said, as we were leaving, tell your husband you met a guy who remembered the one armed guy. She said she definately would.

On the front porch of the building was an old letter press like the one that mangled my finger. Just inside the door was a cabinet full of drawers of type. If I would have had an extre $850.00, I woulda bought it all. Just looking at that press made me feel happy.

*The plate says, "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog and feels as if he were in the seventh heaven of typography together with Herman Zapf, the most famous artist of the typeface "Palatino"


Józef Jan Hughes said...

Just reading this post made me happy.

longrooffan said...

Just in total awe of how you are able to gather these stray bits of the web together to make your point. Memories, old school typesetting and the place where Alphonse picked up a cold Schlitz in Hannibal are awesome. Keep it up. Glad to see you survived that rear end collision to continue to blog another day.

admin said...

Chop the top, drop that bucket and it could make a pretty sweet lead sled. Is the heresy in your book?

My first ride was a 1957 Chevrolet, Tudor, post. Loved it. Red and white, with red and white leather interior. CD player (without cutting the dash), a 350 turbo tranny on the floor.

Got into some trouble with it during my teen years. First kiss from a girl came in the car. I didn't care a kit nor kabble for the girl, but loved the car.

Was that too much information? Oh well. That's what blogs are for.

Anonymous said...

Where's that press,
7530 Nottingham in the Ratskellar, Dad also put a TV under the stairs that looked built in. Black tile on the floor???
Or was is 19 St Charles Place???
When I saw the pic of the press, I got a vivid memory of the smell of the ink, and if a business card got smudge by one of us kids, oh boy.

thanks for the memories??

Ian McGibboney said...

Wow! I learned so much from this. I see the allure of the mimeograph. It does look really dangerous, though, the way the guy moves his arm so fast so frequently. That said, I'd love for him to take a crack at printing some blog letterhead for me. Best of two very different eras.

Thanks for the link!