I was a teen-aged stringer.In 1943, with all the young men away at war in
My cousin in
I brought in my prized possession, a portable Royal typewriter that had no keys for the numbers one or zero (capital “I” and “O” served instead.) Sid squeezed in a battered little desk out by the job printing presses in the back room, and I was a journalist!
Each story was written first for the Penn Yan paper, deadline Wednesday for publication on Thursday. (One of my first assignments was keeping in touch with the hospital on Wednesday mornings to see if anyone was going to die in time.) Then, if the item seemed important enough, I wrote it with two different leads. One was intended for the state edition of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, the other for that city's Times-Union. With each I typed a carbon copy, and those went to the
I remember interviewing an old man who had piloted steamboats on
I remember counting the coded blasts on the fire whistle that told where a blaze was located, and seeing all the shopkeepers on the two blocks of Main Street dash out for a little excitement as volunteer firemen. I remember being sent out on D-Day, sixth of June, 1944, to write about the village’s reaction. It was a beautiful sunny day, and all the church doors were open. Inside, people simply sitting in the pews or kneeling, nothing going on, not a sound. Silence.
After a few weeks, the elderly journeymen in the back room offered to teach me something about printing. They promised to show me type lice, which nested in between lines of metal linotype slugs.
“You have to look close,” they said, “bend right down and we’ll pull the slugs apart so you can see them.” And of course, as soon as I did, they slapped the column of slugs back together and I got a faceful of ink and cleaning fluid.
“Now you’re a real printer” they chortled, and wasn’t I proud!
I believe Sid paid me $15 a week, the equivalent of perhaps $200 today. And in addition, he showed me how to bill the
Why I wasn't instructed to just measure the roll of paper itself, I have no idea, but I’ve always assumed the process was what made me a stringer.
I never got to see the glamorous press rooms of those
“It has been a pleasure receiving your copy.”