At Star-News, we saw changes

Published 12:14 am Wednesday, August 4, 2010

I saw our good friend Hazel Jordan at the farmer’s market a few days ago. She was selling the beautiful pine straw baskets she makes. We always have plenty to reminisce. She worked in the cafeteria at Andalusia High School where my husband taught JROTC; her late husband Paul was a linotype operator at the Andalusia Star-News when I joined the Star-News staff. We got acquainted when she began work in the print shop at the Star-News alongside Paul. They worked well as a team.
My first memories of Paul place him at one of the linotype machines in the news office. It was late in the afternoon on deadline day. His long fingers danced at break-neck speed on Editor-Publisher Ed Dannelly’s weekly column, The Andy Swing. Occasionally Paul stopped abruptly, jumped up, made some adjustments at the back of the big, black, noisy, ugly machine, sat back down, and resumed typing. Sometimes when that happened, the kind, usually calm fellow, uttered some words under his breath I didn’t hear.
That was in the days when you smelled hot lead in newspaper offices and had to be careful not to get ink smears on your clothes.
My job at that stage was typing articles dropped into my copy box. As the other typesetters and I typed, we punched holes in tapes, and then transferred the tapes to another typewriter. It transformed the holes into letters. Proofreading came next. Whoever had typed the original copy read it aloud to another person who filled in missing words and marked incorrect grammar and misspelled words. Any and all errors meant a trip back to that punching typewriter where we retyped the line in which the error occurred and the following line so we could paste them over the error. As time passed, I sometimes helped with lay-out under Paul’s supervision. His patience and encouraging words helped me over the humps.
The three of us were there when things started changing in the newspaper world. Suddenly the linotype machines and typewriters with keys that took so much energy to push meshed into relics of the past. The first new, different machines set before us allowed the typist to see two lines on a small screen. O happy day, if you saw an error on those lines, you could back up and correct it right then before it appeared on paper. I loved that as well as the fact that I didn’t have to exert nearly as much energy as I had on the typewriters. I think they must have been wonderful for Paul after working on frustrating linotype machines and dealing with hot metal for many years.
We probably didn’t think much about it then, but upon reflection I realize that the Jordans and I witnessed momentous changes, a switch to computers, at the Star-News during those years—changes that were occurring all over the newspaper world.