Yesterday's Technology . . . Today!

Terry Foster's Elrod restoration story brought back memories for Dan Williams.

Elrod Memories

ANY PRINT SHOP of the letterpress era needed loads of spacing material. My dad's type shop was no exception.

His name was Eugene Williams and he operated his commercial type shop on Mayfair Boulevard, Houston, Texas from the mid 1950s until he died in 1985.

I recall those occasional weekend trips to the family shop where so many sweep-up, piglet hauling and other tasks were assigned to my young hands. From my earliest memory of those weekend trips, dad produced spacing material using an old, torn-down composition caster.

Sometime during my grammer school years, I recall our procuring a replacement for this old caster. The "new" machine was an Elrod. I regarded this Elrod as a very odd mechanism not so much for its impossibly top-heavy appearance (from a childs eye-view), but more for the mysterious attention it seemed to draw from the extended family and customers. "Casts bulk 18 and 24 point" I recall hearing.

This brought form to an interesting childhood experience. On that Saturday of the Elrod inauguration, I had left the shop for a brief playground visit. On my return, I could sense commotion. From somewhere in that shop, deep far back, there was a cacaphony. Mechanical and verbal excitement.

Gathering some courage, I forced myself inside to see the action. Peering around the brick, I gasped at the scene: impressive bursts of steam, bursts of molten lead and smoke shooting out from the monstrosity's gut.

Thankfully, my father stood clear. In that corner behind the Elrod flywheel, I could see him one-arm wrestle the big pump handle, slapping the lower control panel (I speculate now, for the switch) with his other free hand. Looking rather serious and intent, he caught my eye, hand-motioned wildly with one newly-silvered glove, and in my general direction loudly uttered something very direct, yet completely unintelligible. Who was going to win the battle? I could not bear to see. I ran out of the building and hid outside, hoping dad could eventually fight his way out. Thankfully I was not disappointed, for my father soon emerged, apologized for the confusion, and thanked me for leaving the machine. He stammered something about a stuck pin or lost mold.

I do not recall a similar problem ever again. The Elrod was frequently used, producing such prolific quantities of spacing material that for a short time, it became a saleable commodity for the family business.

Eventually I overcame my fear of the machine. By the time I was a senior in high school, I was sufficiently competent that I could pull 2 pt strip on the first try.

My last visual memory of our Elrod was my having to pull it, with comealong and pipes, out of the building (now estate property), leaving it near the street for nightly "junk elves" to pick up.

Technology and human life cycle being its demise.




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