Yesterday's Technology . . . Today!

This poem is reproduced by kind permission of the author, Frank Granger.

The New Apprentice in 1904

I like this printing job I just got.
But there are things I wish were not.

For example, some task assigned just today
Were useless work, I'd hazard to say.

"A paper stretcher!" the pressman did call,
"You might find one over by the wall."

I looked and looked, but couldn't find it.
Later he said to never-mind it!

But the engraver needed some halftone dots,
And by the paper drill I found lots and lots!

The Linotype man was very concerned.
He had a serious problem, I later learned.

The type lice had invaded our shop
And I was sent out and told not to stop.

Until I had warned every printer near,
Which I did and then came right back here.

I got back just a little bit after lunch
A little too late, I had a hunch.

Because the "pie" they said I could clean up
Was all gone and all I got was to pick-up

Some jumbled type spilled on the floor.
It was a tedious job and quite a bore.

When I went for the poke-a-dot ink,
I thought I saw the foreman wink.

At the guy needing the left-hand wrench,
Which was supposed to be at the bindery bench.

Yes, they sure keep me on the run,
But, I don't mind since I am having fun,

And our shop is a right friendly place.
When I come in there's a smile on every face.

Note: Good-natured tricks were commonly played on the novice printers. Paper stretchers and halftone dots were common. Type that was not cast at the right temperature had tiny pinholes and type lice were blamed. A printer's "pi" was a jumble of type. Pi Sheng was the first inventor of printing in China over a thousand years before Gutenberg. It is thought that printers honored Pi by naming odd type characters and jumbled letters after him.

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