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Full-time newspaper work was an interesting way to make a living

As most folks who read this column know, I was a full time employee of The Tomahawk newspaper for over 30 years. Retirement came the last Friday of June in 2003.

With a month off, I began writing this column 11 years ago. This is my 542nd column. This task has been and is now a great honor for me as I work to spread Johnson County and Mountain City History as well as a bit of U. S. History and other topics as well. I’m still enjoying writing this column and hope to continue it on into the future.

As a full-time employee I covered Johnson County High School and Johnson County Middle School sports. I also covered other sports of local interest as well as local news at times. I was also tasked with being advertising manager for several years while covering sports and being responsible for the sports section of the paper. In other words I took sports pictures, wrote the sports stories, developed the pictures, processed the pictures, and placed the pictures and copy (sports stories) on the sports section pages as appealing and interesting as I could. It’s called making up the pages.

Early in my employment, the make-up work was a hands-on process. Copy was set (the stories were typed in the correct type style and size with the correct column-width.) The copy and pictures were then cut out with a pair of scissors or a razor blade, put through a waxing machine and affixed to the page dummies. Wax was used instead of glue so the pictures andor copy could be changed around. With glue it would be impossible to take the copy or pictures up and rearrange them. Sports pages as well as other pages were all made up in that way. Of course before that pages were made up with metal type.

In the early days of newspapers type was picked by hand from bins of metal type or later set on Linotype Machines. Linotype Machines set type from molten lead and set a line at a time instead of a letter at a time.

When I began my work at The Tomahawk, I had just missed the use of the Linotype Machine and letterpress printing in the newspaper business. When metal raised type was used, the type made an impression with ink on paper. That is called Letterpress printing. Following that a relatively new process of printing called Offset printing was used. If I remember right, that process is based on the principle that oil and water don’t mix. In other words, where there is type on the plate, the ink sticks and where there is no type, the ink doesn’t stick or something similar to that.

Now almost everything about the making of a newspaper is done with computers. Type is set, pictures are processed and pages are made up using a computer. I found that the computer made my job easier and faster. Still, the making of a newspaper, whether it is a daily or weekly is rather complicated. Many things are different but basically much is the same. Advances continue to be made. Scientists and engineers continue to discover and develop new and better ways of doing things.

There were a lot of changes during the 30-plus years I spent as a full-time employee of The Tomahawk, but it was always interesting and there was rarely a dull moment during that time in my life.