Yesterday's Technology . . . Today!

The Bumpy Road

HERE I sit in beautiful Dunedin, Pinellas County, Florida. 68 years old, semi-retired, working part-time for a direct mail operation where I make plates for the offset presses, run an MBO folder and bore the kids with my stories about the "good?" old days. How did I get here?

It starts with my great grandfather. He was a dabbler in printing. His son, Arthur C.Turner, my grandfather, was more than a dabbler. He started a newspaper, The West Hillsborough Times, in Clearwater, Florida, in 1884 with a few fonts and a Washington hand press. He eventually sold this equipment to some guy named R. J. Morgan who used it to start what today is the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times.

In 1893 one of his sons accompanied him to Statesboro, Georgia, my great grandfathers home town, where they established the Bulloch County Times. A. C. returned to Clearwater and the son, David (Uncle Dave) B. Turner continued to run the weekly paper until 1954. He became sort of a legend in the annals of Georgia journalism.

Another of A.C.s sons, Robert B. Turner, my father, learned printing and Linotype operation on the Clearwater Sun. My Uncle Joe did likewise. My Aunt Lillian was a proofreader at the same paper. At a young age my dad migrated to Tampa for a short time then went north to Ann Arbor, Michigan and eventually settled in Cleveland, Ohio, working on the Cleveland News. He had three kids, one of which is yours truly. During WWII he moved the family back to Clearwater and went back to work at the Clearwater Sun. I used to visit him on the job and sometimes the printers would let me play with some of the equipment. I got to feel like I was "one of the boys". After the war we went back to Cleveland and my father went back to work on the Cleveland News. My Uncle Joe stayed in Clearwater and bought his own print shop, Turner Printing, which is still in business today with my cousin, Joe, Jr. and his sons and families running the business.

Fast forward to 1952. Having been exposed to printing all my life and my becoming a printer was foreordained, I signed up for the printing class at West Tech High School in Cleveland where I honed my skills on the California Job case, the stone, the paper cutter, the C & P hand-fed, a C & P with Craftsman feeder, a Little Giant and some weird thing called a Davidson offset duplicator. In 1953 I took a part-time job after school and Saturdays as a printer's devil working on the Cleveland News with my old man. I graduated high school in 1954 and on September 13 of that year, my 18th birthday, I started my Printer's Apprenticeship on The Cleveland Plain Dealer under the auspices of The International Typographical Union, Local #53.

There were two watering holes the News guys patronized to cut the ink from their throats. The A & A at 17th and Superior, later to become the Headliner Cafe, and the Express Grill at 21st and Rockwell. The Express had its own unique identity and the Greek brothers that owned it were two such real local characters that when Dorothy Kilgallen came to town to cover the Shephard Trial for the New York Journal American, she fell in love with the place and in a column singing the praises of this "joint" declared "there's no place like this in New York City".

After two years into the Apprenticeship I "beat the draft" by signing up for four years in the U. S. Coast Guard. I also still carry U. S. Merchant Marine papers.

Back to the Plain Dealer, finished the Apprenticeship after my fifth year, got my Journeyman's Card and started my journey. It took me to the Cleveland Press, Prompt Printing, Judson Brooks Printing and Scripps Howard's NEA. After returning to the Plain Dealer I eventually became a forman in the "Ad Alley". Left Cleveland and journeyed to Chicago for a while. The unofficial show-up room was the Ohio Inn on Ohio St., a few short blocks from the Trib, next to the Berkshire and Devonshire Hotels, the official residences of the "Tramps". Credit extended if you had a "Traveler". Then went back to Florida; the Clearwater Sun. Went to Georgia; the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Left Atlanta and went to Flowery Branch, Georgia, to print white-page Southern Bell phone books for Georgia Ruralist Press. Back to Florida and the Tampa Tribune. Left Florida again and went to San Francisco; the San Francisco Chronicle, Bertrand's Printing, Morosi Fine Printing and Patrick & Co. The watering holes were the Tic Toc Lounge behind the Sun, the Paddock across the street from the Tampa Trib, Hanno's in the alley behind the S. F. Chron. and the S. F. Printer's Club.

Left California to go to Morganton, North Carolina to help my brother set up a quick-copy and printing brokerage business. After six years took a job as night manager of a Sir Speedy shop in Charlotte, North Carolina. After six years--six months after my 66th birthday I quit and came back to Florida.

In between some of these printing jobs I found time to pursue other paths. Sailor, charter fishing guide, car salesman, bum. All these paths lead right back to my present semi-retired, part-time employment in a cutting-edge direct-mail operation printing "junk mail". One man's trash (garbage), another man's treasure (gold).

I have seen it all; from hand-set to Linotype to phototype to laser type. Letterpress to offset to flexo. Lead, rubber, photopolymer plastic and aluminium plates. Or no plates. In addition to our offset presses at the junk-mail shop, we also have six high-speed black and white laser printers and the latest Xerox that prints 12 x 18 in full color, two sides, with bleeds and variable graphics and text on each impression, all at or near press speeds. Everything is produced and printed from digital files.

I've had to roll with some punches, adapt to some far-out technology, bend with the force of change over a lifetime in printing. It was and still is a bumpy, rough, wondeful ride and I wouldn't hesitate doing it all over again if I could. I can't wait to see what's coming down the pipeline next. In the mean time, I've been there, done that, and probably printed the T-shirt. ~ Bob Turner, Printer

Copyright © Dave Hughes 2000-2015. All rights reserved.